In casinos full of card games and slot machines, the tumbling dice of the craps table stand out. You’ve probably seen people playing the game in TV shows and movies, so you already know the basics—one gambler, known as the “shooter,” rolls a pair of dice down the table and everyone bets on which numbers will come up. It’s usually among the liveliest and most social tables in the casino. It’s also among the smartest spots to place a bet.
Yet that simple roll of the dice can be intimidating for novice gamblers—there are more than 30 possible bets available on the craps table, and the game has a lingo all its own. Pick the right bet and the house edge could be 1.5% or less, low enough to give you a fighting chance to walk away a winner. Pick poorly and the house could have a massive 16.7% edge, which all but guarantees that the casino ends up with your money if you play for more than a few minutes.
In spite of the potential risks, craps is a great option for novices because you can get attractive odds even if you know very little about the game. You just need to understand one or both of these two simple bets…
Place the Six and Eight
When you “place the six and eight,” you win $7 for each $6 you bet if a six or eight is rolled…and lose your wager if a seven is rolled. No other number affects you. The house advantage is just a slim 1.5%.
Additional perks: Unlike with many craps bets, you can just pick up your money and walk away after any roll—you’re never stuck at the table through multiple rolls as you can be with many craps bets. That makes this bet a great choice if, for example, you need to leave any minute to make a dinner reservation or see a show. Plus, this isn’t a bet that novice players tend to make, so it makes you look like you know what you’re doing.
How to play like a pro: When you walk up to the craps table, wait until you’re sure that you have the dealer’s attention and say, “Place the six and eight.” The dealer will ask, “How much?” Be careful what you say: The amount you say is the amount you are wagering on the six and the eight, so you actually will be betting twice the figure you say—you’ll have $12 at stake if you say $6.
Tip: Place your cash or chips directly on the table. The dealer is not allowed to take money out of gamblers’ hands. Since this bet is made only in multiples of $6 because it pays off $7 for each $6 wagered, answer with some multiple of $6 that’s above the table’s minimum bet. The dealer will place your bets in the appropriate spots on the table and hand you any change.
If a six or an eight is rolled, the dealer will pay you your winnings, leaving your bet in place. Tell the dealer, “Press it,” as the bet is paid off if you wish to add your winnings to the amount you’re betting. If a seven is rolled, you lose your bet and will have to repeat the process above if you want to bet again. If anything other than a seven is rolled, your bet remains active unless you opt to end it. If you want to end this bet, tell the dealer, “Down on my six and eight.”
One twist that can confuse novices—sometimes a six or eight will be rolled, and the dealer won’t pay you off…or a seven will be rolled, and the dealer won’t take your bet. The dealer didn’t forget you. This happened because place bets such as yours typically are considered “off” during the initial roll—the “come out” roll—of the new game, before the shooter has made a “point” (see below). A small circular puck on the table will be flipped to the side that says “off,” when this is the case. But don’t worry if you aren’t 100% clear when your bet is and isn’t in effect—the dealer will keep track of this.
Tip: If you want to risk less than $12 at a time at a $5 minimum table, place $6 on either the six or the eight by saying, “Place the six,” or “Place the eight.” You’ll win only half as often, but because you’re risking half as much money, the house advantage remains the same—a modest 1.5%.
Bet the Pass Line
The pass line is the best-known bet in craps. You win even money if a seven or 11 is rolled on the “come out” roll of the new game…but lose your bet if a two, three or 12 is rolled. If any other number is rolled, that becomes the “point” and the shooter continues to roll until this number appears again. If that happens, you win even money—if you bet $5, you win $5 and you can pick it up or keep that original $5 on the pass line for the next roll. If a seven appears, everyone loses. The house advantage on pass line bets is just 1.4%.
Added perk: This is the most popular craps bet, so you can enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow craps players. (Full disclosure: The “don’t pass” line actually offers very slightly better odds than the pass line, but the extra advantage for you is so tiny that it’s not worth the glares you’ll receive for betting against the crowd.)
How to play like a pro: The pass line is a “self-service” bet made at the start of a new game. Wait until the puck—that’s a disc you’ll see on the craps table (see above)—is turned to the side that says “off,” then place your chips on the section of the table directly in front of you labeled “pass line.” If the puck is turned to “on,” it means that the previous game still is going. Wait until the dealer flips it to “off,” which might not happen for a few rolls.
If you don’t have chips in the increment you wish to bet, you can put cash on the table. When the dealer collects your money, say, for example, “Five on the line,” to bet $5 on the pass line, and the dealer will place your bet and give you any change you are due.
You cannot remove a pass line bet once the point is established. Your bet remains active until either the point is made and you win…or a seven is rolled and you lose.
Game gaffe: Avoid saying “seven” while at the craps table. Craps players can be a superstitious bunch and saying the word “seven” is considered bad luck.