Craps Strategies: Which Bets Give the Best Odds?
Craps Strategies: Which Bets Give the Best Odds?
If you had to wager on who was having the most fun in the casino, the smart money would bet on the patrons hooting and hollering at the craps table.
This raucous, fast-paced game may have roots as deep as the Crusades … but it blossomed in the gutters of The Big Easy itself—in New Orleans.
In 1805, Louisiana dandy Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville fell in love with an old-world dice game called Hazard on a trip to London.
He returned with his dice to the plantation drawing rooms of his peers and tried to share his newfound passion with the buttoned-up aristocrats of his upbringing. However, even when de Marigny simplified the rules, his social circle rejected Hazard as boorish.
De Marigny responded by looking for some other boors to play with. He duly found them in the slums and red light districts of New Orleans, and “craps” was born as a mispronunciation of “crabs” (British slang for a losing die roll of 1 or 2).
Shooting craps is still a popular pastime in the back alleys of working-class New Orleans, but craps eventually also caught on at high-end casinos in Las Vegas, Monte Carlo, and Macau … Craps gameplay, however, is anything but restrained and patrician. No one uses their indoor voices at the craps table—it’s a place to shout, cheer, and bet like a drunken sailor on Bourbon Street.
The craps table is consequently an easy place to lose your whole bankroll in the ensuing melee. Not only does the excitement get the better of many players, but also a plethora of betting strategies exist, some of which heavily favor the house.
However, with the right craps strategy, you might even win some money at this notoriously house-friendly table where your fate hinges on a literal roll of the dice.
The Basics of Craps: How to Play
At a basic level, craps players bet on the outcome of the roll of two six-sided dice. In “street craps,” players can bet against each other. In a casino setting, players typically bet against the house.
Players gather around a large, basin-like table with high padded walls. The chance to roll the dice passes counter-clockwise around the table. The player throwing the dice is called the “shooter.”
A dealer, representing the casino and sometimes referred to as the “stickman” (due to the cane-like tool (s)he uses to maneuver dice around the table), typically offers the shooter a selection of five dice. From those five dice, the shooter may select his lucky pair of dice to throw. Casinos keep tight control over the production and storage of their dice to prevent cheating. After a few dozen throws, the well-worn dice are usually retired so that wear and tear don’t affect the outcome of the throws.
Once bets are placed, the shooter makes a first roll, called a “Come-Out” roll. The dice must bounce off the back padded wall of the craps table for the shoot to be legitimate.
Many types of bets can be placed before the Come-Out shoot, but the two most important bets to understand at this point are:
Pass Line Bet. A bet that the shooter will in.
Don’t Pass Line Bet. A bet that the house will win.
The shooter must place a Pass Line bet—sensible, since it would be weird if the shooter bet on him/herself to lose. Other players, however, may place Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line bets on the shoot.
There is a chance that both Pass Line and Don’t Pass Line bets could win or lose on the Come-Out shoot, without moving on to the next round (called the “Point” round).
If the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12, these rolls are called “craps,” aka “crapping out.” If the shooter craps out, all Pass Line bets lose. Don’t Pass Line bets win and double their money on a roll of 2 or 3, or “push” (tie) on a roll of 12.
If the shooter craps out, (s)he does not necessarily lose the right to shoot the dice—(s)he just loses that Pass Line bet. The shooter may keep shooting (and betting) in an attempt to get to the Point round.
Another possible outcome of a Come-Out shoot is a “natural,” craps terminology for a roll of 7 or 11. Pass Line bets win and double their money on a natural, while Don’t Pass Line bets lose.
However many craps or naturals the shooter rolls, (s)he keeps rolling until a “Point” is established. Any roll between 4 and 10 establishes the Point for the next round.
The craps table is usually decorated with the numbers 4 through 10, among other illustrations. Once the Point is established, the dealer flips a button to the “On” position and places it on the number that matches the established Point value.
Now we’re in a new round of the shooter’s turn—the “Point” round. The shooter rolls the dice until (s)he rolls a 7. If the shooter hits the Point value again, Pass Line bets double their money while Don’t Pass Line bets lose.
Rolling a 7 is no longer good news for the shooter in the Point round—it’s called “sevening out.” If the shooter sevens out, Pass Line bets lose, Don’t Pass Line bets double their money, and the shooter’s turn is over. The chance to shoot passes to the next player at the table.
Pass Line and Don’t Pass Line bets are two of the most basic wagers at the craps table, but other kinds of bets can be made on the shoot and must be understood to build a winning craps strategy:
Same rules as a Pass Line bet, but placed during the Point round rather than the Come-Out round.
Don’t Come Bets
Same rules as a Don’t Pass Line bet, but placed during the Point round rather than the Come-Out round.
After the Point has been established, you may complement any of your other bets (Come, Don’t Come, Pass Line, Don’t Pass Line) with an “Odds” bet, a kind of side bet that multiplies the payout of your bet. This is referred to as “taking odds.”
How big of a multiplier are we talking about? It depends on the Point. Some rolls of the dice are more likely than others. Naturally, more unlikely rolls have longer odds.
For example, only a few dice combinations will produce a 4 or a 10, so Pass Line Odds on a 4 Point or 10 Point will be 2:1, Don’t Pass Line Odds 1:2.
However, many more dice combinations can produce a roll of 6 or 8, so Pass Line Odds on a 6 Point or an 8 Point will be 6:5; Don’t Pass Line Odds 6:5.
Place Win Bet
Players aren’t stuck betting on the Point or 7 once the Point is established. They can bet on any dice roll by making a “Place Win” bet on that outcome. Again, Place Win bets on 4 or 10 have longer odds (9:5) than Place Win bets on 6 or 8 (7:6) because 4 and 10 rolls are less likely.
Place Lose Bet
As with a Place Lose bet, the player bets on a number between 4 and 10 that isn’t the Point. If no roll of the dice produces that number before the shooter sevens out, the Place Lose bet wins.
Payout odds once again depend on the likelihood of the chosen outcome, with a bigger payout for the more likely outcome since you’re betting against that outcome. Ergo, smaller payout for 4 and 10, bigger payout for 6 and 8.
Similar to a Place Win bet, but with a higher payout … and a 5% commission to the casino.
Similar to a Place Lose bet, but with a higher payout … and a 5% commission to the casino.
Big 6 or Big 8
A bet on a roll of 6 or 8 in the Point phase that doubles the bet if the target value (6 or 8) is rolled.
If a double is rolled, it’s called the “hard way” or “hardway.” Both dice showing 4 is an eight, the “hard way,” or a “Hard 8.”
Betting on Hard 4 or Hard 10 in the Point round pays out 7:1 if you win. Betting on Hard 6 or Hard 5 pays out 9:1 if you win.
A field bet is won or lost on the next roll. Rolls of 5, 6, 7, or 8 lose. Rolls of 2, 3, 4, 8, 10, or 11 doubles your money; a roll of 12 quadruples your money.
High-payout bets on a single roll to produce a specified outcome. The options are:
Any 7 (4:1)
Any 11 (15:1)
Any Craps (7:1)
Ace Deuce aka a roll of 3 (15:1)
Aces aka a roll of 2 (30:1)
Boxcar aka a roll of 12 (30:1).
Which Craps Bets Are Best?
With so many betting options, what is the best craps strategy?
The answer is the one you don’t want to hear--that It all depends. Are you trying to win big, or come out ahead after a long, fun night of gameplay?
We’re going with Option B—come out ahead after a long and fun night of gameplay. If you have unlimited money that you’re willing to lose, you can bet to your heart’s content without any kind of craps strategy. Enjoy it while it lasts—as even large bankrolls can go up in smoke quickly at the craps table.
If you want your bankroll to last as long as possible and have a chance of coming out ahead, you should concentrate your gameplay on bets with the lowest house edge, giving yourself the best chance to win while minimizing the losses you incur along the way.
The meat and potatoes of any winning craps strategy are the Pass Line, Don’t Pass Line, Come, and Don’t Come bets. Whereas some of the longer bets have a double-digit house edge and commissions paid to the house, Pass Line and Don’t Pass Line bets are close to even odds to win, as in blackjack. Come and Don’t Come bets have similar odds; they just get made in the Point round instead of the Come-Out.
The house edge on Pass Line bets works out to about 1.41%, meaning for every $100 you bet, you are most likely to wind up with $98.58 after an extended period of gameplay. With each individual bet, you could end up ahead or behind, but the longer you play, the more likely your bankroll is to reflect the house edge.
Don’t Pass Line bets have a slightly smaller house edge, making them some of the best on the craps table. Continually betting Don’t Pass and Don’t Come is called “Betting Against the Line.” Your odds might be slightly better, but be advised—with this strategy, you are constantly betting against every player. You might keep a little more money, but won’t make any friends. Remember, when your turn as the shooter comes around, you will have to make a Pass Line bet.
If you get tired of Pass and Don’t Pass bets and want to expand your repertoire, consider a Place Win bet on 6 or 8 in the Point round. You have a decent chance of winning because 6 and 8 are likely outcomes.
You could also Buy on 4 or 10. Buy bets are cheaper and pay out bigger, which is what you want on an outcome like 4 or 10 which are less likely.
What Craps Betting System Should I Use?
Several established betting systems can give you guidelines to follow as you develop your craps strategy.
Pass and Come with Odds
Some casinos offer free Odds bets, which actually carry no extra house edge. That means the more Odds you buy, the better your chances of winning big on your Pass Line or Come bets while at the same time limiting the amount of money at risk.
This strategy is called “Pass and Come with Odds.” In this strategy, players bet the Pass Line and often place several Come bets in the Point round, then lay as many odds as they can afford. Some casinos offer free odds up to 100x.
While you should never bet more than you are willing to lose, adding free Odds to your Pass and Come bets actually decreases the house edge on these low-risk bets even further. Pass Line bets, for example, have a house edge of 1.41%. Add 2x Odds, and the house edge drops to 0.8%. 3x Odds? Down below 0.4%. 5x Odds, below 0.3%, and with 10x Odds, the house edge declines as low as 0.2%.
You can execute the same strategy with Don’t Pass and Don’t Come bets … but remember that the table will probably hate you for betting with the house, and hate you even more if you come out ahead.
6 and 8
Players who don’t want to wait for the Point to be set might consider building their craps strategy around Place Win bets on 6 and 8. That is, put two separate Place Win bets in the Point round on both 6 and 8, so you get a payout when either of these numbers gets rolled before the shooter sevens out.
Because of how frequently 6 and 8 are rolled, putting a Place Win bet on both 6 and 8 gives your wager an attractive house edge of only 1.51%. That’s slightly worse than Pass Line, Don’t Pass Line, Come, and Don’t Come bets, but better than other games on the casino floor.
It compares especially favorably to Place Win bets on less-likely dice outcomes. For example, on 5 and 9, the house edge for Place Win bets jumps up to 4%. On rolls of 4 or 10, the house edge tips the scales at 6.67%.
Place Win bets on 6 and 8 have 7:6 odds. This means that a bet of $6 will pay out $7 on a win. A player should always bet in multiples of $6 to avoid getting shorted. At a $5 minimum table, you should be at least $6 on both 6 and 8, for a total wager of $12.
6 and 8 bets can be combined with a Pass Line or Pass and Come with Odds strategy.
The Iron Cross, also known as “Darby’s Field,” got its name because of the four ponts of an Iron Cross. This craps strategy entails the placing of four bets that make every roll a winner except for a seven-out.
The four bets are as follows:
Place Win bet on 5.
Place Win bet on 6.
Place Win bet on 8.
If any of the Place bets wins, the Field bet loses. However, if the Field bet wins, all three field bets remain in play.
The biggest downside is that if the shooter sevens out, all four bets lose.
The field bet has a house edge of 2.78% on its own. Each roll of the dice yields a 1.11% house edge on the 5 bet; 0.436% on the 6 and 8 bets.
Some players believe that this combination of bets yields an overall house edge as low as 1.21%, lower than the Pass Line or Come bet. Other estimates put it at close to 2.37%.
The Iron Cross is generally considered a good strategy for a one-off bet on a single roll, but not a bet on which to base your entire craps strategy.
What about Hedge Bets and Lay Bets?
Some craps players want to consider “hedge bets”—i.e. a secondary bet on a different outcome to try and offset losses on a primary bet.
This usually involves a sizable “safe” bet—for example, a $10 Pass Line bet—and a small bet with long odds—for example, $1 on an “Any Craps” proposition bet. This might seem like a good strategy because craps on the Come-Out would cause you to lose your $10 on the Pass Line … but the 7:1 odds on Any Craps allows you to recoup $7 on the $1.
In reality, hedge bets do not improve the house edge; they only make them worse. Even if you win your Pass Line bet, which is close to even odds, you lose the hedge bet, which you were likely to lose anyway. Any Craps bets, for example, have a house edge of over 10%. You’re a coin toss from losing a Pass Line bet, but very likely to lose your hedge bet. You really gain no advantage by trying to hedge your bets at the Craps table.
Buy and lay bets might also sound like good hedge bets. They allow you to bet a small amount of money on an unlikely outcome for an inflated payout … but that payout is even more inflated by the 5% commission to the house, which builds on an already sizable house edge.
Like Any Craps or other proposition bets, Buy and Lay bets stack the odds against you. Over the long term, you are very likely to deplete your bankroll with any bets other than Pass Line, Don’t Pass Line, Come, Don’t Come, or Pass and Come with Odds.
In short--there isn’t one you can turn to. A roll of the dice is random. Hence the euphemism for other random outcomes being “a roll of the dice”—or even “a crapshoot.”
Players wonder whether a certain shooting technique might help them “control” the throw of the dice or at least improve their odds of winning.
No one has ever proved that one shooting technique is any better than another. Shooting craps is about as pure a game of random chance as you could imagine. Certain betting strategies might leverage the rules to slug the odds on your favor a little bit; however, little or nothing can actually control the unpredictable nature of the dice shoot.
Casinos require a craps shooter to shake the dice and shoot with one hand, not two. This actually makes it hard to truly randomize the dice, which is what you want to do to avoid sevening out. Remember, seven is the most common outcome of two dice.
Nevertheless, some committed craps shooters insist that they can exert some control over the outcome of their throw, or at least how they land relative to each other. Attempts to control this outcome are called “setting the dice.”
A thrown die spins on its horizontal and vertical axis. Whether or not two dice spin in similar or divergent fashions affects how often the shoot produces a given outcome. Dice setters usually attempt one of two techniques:
Correlation Shooter. The shooter makes no attempt to control the axis along which the dice spines, but tries to get them to spin together so they land on a more favorable outcome more frequently.
Axis Shooter. An axis shooter tries to control the axis upon which each die spins.
Irrespective of whether or not either of these techniques improves the shooter’s odds (again, unproven), they take many hours of gameplay to master.
Does Anything Change in Online Craps?
The rules of craps don’t change when you play video craps in a casino or online casino. The main difference is that no actual dice are being rolled, no matter how cool the animation looks. Instead, the lay of the dice is determined by “random-number-generating” software.
Take away the muscle movement of the shoot, the role of gravity, and the rush of the shouting bystanders, and it’s easy to see why video craps suffer in comparison to the real thing.
At a “Live Dealer” online casino, a real person in the employ of the casino shoots dice on a real craps table, usually set up in a studio for live streaming. This can inject some of the real-world excitement back into craps … but a live session still isn’t the same as the boozy thrill of the dice in your own clammy hand.
Modern craps players join a centuries-old tradition—the thrill of wagering on the “roll of the dice.” Die rolls are almost impossible to control; casino security makes it almost impossible to cheat the house.
With myriad ways to bet--many of them with abysmal house edges--and a crowd of cheering bettors on your side, the craps table is a lot more fun than lighting your money on fire … though the end result might be the same.
If you actually want to win money (or at least play for as long as possible without draining your bank account or exceeding your loss maximum), understanding which bets keep you in the game longer and which combinations of bets could stretch your bankroll even further can help you build a winning craps strategy.
As with many casino games, the best strategy may be to walk away from the table if Lady Luck puts you a little bit ahead.
However, winning money isn’t the only positive outcome. Casinos are about fun, friends, and the thrill of the unknown. By keeping you in the game longer, a good craps strategy guarantees you that positive outcome, win or lose.
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