Basic Premise and Rules of Craps
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Ever considered playing craps but were too terrified to try? After all, casino craps is difficult and math-intensive, right?
Wrong! Let's look at the game's fundamental premise.
A craps game starts with the first dice roll, which is called the "come-out roll." After the come-out roll, the game continues
until a "decision" is made based on the results of subsequent rolls. The possible decisions are: 1) The game immediately
ends with the come-out roll if a 2, 3, 7, 11, or 12 appears (each of these is called a "natural"); or 2) If a point is established
on the come-out roll, the game ends when the shooter rolls the point number again before rolling a 7 (this is called "making
the point"); or 3) If a point is established on the come-out roll, the game ends when the shooter rolls a 7 before rolling the
point number (this is called a "7-out"). Each possible decision has different consequences depending on how you bet.
A "point" is established when you roll any one of six point numbers on the come-out roll. The point numbers are 4, 5, 6, 8,
9, and 10. Notice that all the possible two-dice combinations are covered by either the natural numbers (2, 3, 7, 11, 12) or
the point numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10). Therefore, the come-out roll must result in either a natural number or a point number.
Remember, if the come-out roll is 2, 3, 7, 11, or 12, then the game ends immediately. If a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 shows on the
come-out roll, then a point is established and the game continues until you roll either the point number again or a 7. Once a
point is established, the only relevant numbers for that game are the point number and 7, in terms of a decision to end the
game. All other numbers are irrelevant for that game. For example, suppose you roll a 9 on the come-out roll (i.e., you
establish 9 as the point). For that game, you can roll as many times as it takes to show another 9 or a 7. You can roll for
hours and the game will not end until the point number or a 7 shows.
If you roll a natural on the come-out roll (which ends the game immediately), then you keep the dice and continue rolling the
next game. If you establish a point on the come-out and if you then roll the point again before a 7 (which ends the game),
you keep the dice and continue rolling the next game. If you establish a point on the come-out and if you then roll a 7
before the point number (which ends the game), you do not get to continue rolling the next game. Instead, the "stickman"
passes the dice to the next player on the left. The next player is not required to roll the dice. If a player doesn't want to
shoot, he simply tells the stickman, "I don’t want to roll." The next player in line to the left who wants to roll then picks up
the dice and a new game starts with a new come-out roll.
In terms of a decision that ends the game, once a point is established, the only relevant numbers are the point number and
the number 7. All other numbers are meaningless in terms of a decision to end the game. The following scenario illustrates
how games end with decisions.
1. You roll an 8 on the come-out roll, so the "point" for this game is 8. The dealer turns the puck ON (white side up) and
places it in the 8 point box. (The puck is discussed in the section on Craps Table and Equipment.)
2. After the point is established, the only numbers that matter, in terms of a decision to end the game, are the point number
and 7. You roll a 12, which doesn't matter, so the game continues and you roll again.
3. You roll a 4, which doesn't matter, so the game continues and you roll again.
4. You roll an 8 (i.e., you roll your point number). The game ends. The dealer turns the puck OFF (black side up) and places
it on the side of the table.
5. Since you rolled your point, you continue shooting the next game. You roll a 7 on the come-out roll for the new game. A 7
on the come-out is a natural, so the game ends immediately. You continue shooting the next game.
6. You roll a 12 on the come-out roll for the new game. A 12 on the come-out is a natural, so the game ends immediately.
You continue shooting the next game.
7. You roll a 5 on the come-out roll, so the point for this new game is 5. The dealer turns the puck ON (white side up) and
places it in the 5 point box.
8. You roll a 10, which doesn't matter, so the game continues and you roll again.
9. You roll a 7 (i.e., a 7-out). The game ends. The dealer turns the puck OFF (black side up) and places it on the side of the
table. Because you rolled a 7 out, the dice move clockwise to the next player at the table who wants to shoot.
If you roll the point number to end the game, you get to use the same dice to start a new game, or you may choose to
select another pair from the stickman's dish. However, if you make your point, those dice are usually considered lucky so
you'll seldom see a shooter asking for a new pair.
If you roll a 7-out to end the game, the stickman empties all the dice from his dish and uses his stick to push them all to the
next shooter. The new shooter selects two, and the stickman pulls the remaining dice back and places them in his dish. A
new game, with a new come out roll, is about to start.
See how easy it is to play craps? Piece of cake. However, it does get a bit more complicated when making bets because
you need to know how the result of each roll affects your bets. But that's not too difficult either. It's like learning to count
to 5. When counting to 5, not only do you need to know the numbers, you also need to know the order of the numbers
(i.e., 2 comes after 1, 3 comes after 2, and 4 comes after 5). Learning to count to 5 is a bit challenging at first, but once you
know it, you don't even think about it. The same is true for all the various craps bets and their odds. Once you know them,
you don't think about them. So, don't fear the game and don't fear the math. It's easy. Just as learning to count to 5
required a little bit of effort, a bit of effort is all it takes to learn the various craps bets and their odds.
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Thirty-six combinations of numbers can be rolled with two dice. The possible values for a single two-dice roll are from 2 to
12. It's important to memorize the number of ways to make each number, 2 through 12. This is especially important for
beginners because this basic information is used, for example, to determine how much Odds on the point to take or lay.
(The terms "Odds," "point," "take," and "lay" may be foreign to you now, but before you finish these lessons, you'll
understand more craps lingo than you'll probably ever use.)
The following shows the number of ways to make each number when rolling two dice.
Number Rolled with 2 Dice # of Ways to Make that Number
For example, there are six ways to make a 7 with two dice. The possible dice combinations to make a 7 are:
(1-6) (6-1) (2-5) (5-2) (3-4) (4-3).
It's easy to learn craps, so don't let all the numbers scare you. Let's look at an easy method to remember how many ways
to make each number.
As shown above, there are six ways to make a 7, five ways to make a 6 or 8, four ways to make a 5 or 9, three ways to
make a 4 or 10, two ways to make a 3 or 11, and one way to make a 2 or 12. Note, except for the 7, all the numbers are
paired according to how many ways to make them. So, first memorize the pairings.
# of Ways to Make a Number by Pairings
7 (i.e., 7 doesn't have a pairing because it's the only number that has six ways to make it, as we'll see below).
6 & 8
5 & 9
4 & 10
3 & 11
2 & 12.
As you can see, the pairings are:
6 pairs with 8
5 pairs with 9
4 pairs with 10
3 pairs with 11
2 pairs with 12.
Next, subtract 1 from the low number of each pairing. For example, in the pairing 5 & 9, the low number of the pairing is 5.
Therefore, subtract 1 from 5 to get 4. That means there are four ways to make a 5 and four ways to make a 9.
7 7 - 1 = 6 ways to make a 7.
6 & 8 6 - 1 = 5 ways to make 6 or 8.
5 & 9 5 - 1 = 4 ways to make a 5 or 9.
4 & 10 4 - 1 = 3 ways to make a 4 or 10.
3 & 11 3 - 1 = 2 ways to make a 3 or 11.
2 & 12 2 - 1 = 1 way to make a 2 or 12.
Very good! See how easy this is? You just calculated the number of ways to make each number when rolling two six-sided
Let’s see if you're paying attention. Quickly, how many ways to make a 4? If you can't memorize it, do the little math trick.
The pairing is "4 pairs with 10," and 4 is the low number of the pairing, so 4 - 1 = 3. Therefore, there are three ways to
make a 4. Let's do one more. Quickly, how many ways to make an 8? Excellent! You're a natural at this! The pairing is
"6 pairs with 8," and 6 is the low number of the pairing, so 6 - 1 = 5. Therefore, there are five ways to make an 8.
Again, this basic information is important, so memorize it. Do it now. Don't continue reading until you memorize the number
of ways to make each number. If you can't memorize it, then memorize the pairings and do the simple math trick to figure it
With all the emphasis I place on learning the number of ways to make each number, it's obvious that craps is a game of
odds, comparing possible winning combinations to possible losing combinations. For example, suppose we want to compare
the number 7 to the number 4. 4 is our favorite number, so we bet on 4 instead of 7. Therefore, our bet wins if a 4 shows
and loses if a 7 shows. Assume that all other numbers don't matter, so we ignore them and keep rolling until either a 4
shows (we win) or a 7 shows (we lose). Let's bet $1 and assume it's an even money bet, which means if we lose, we lose
the $1, and if we win, we win $1. The odds for this even money bet are expressed as 1:1 (stated as "one to one"). An
even-money bet, or a 1:1 bet, means for each unit we bet and win, we receive that exact amount (e.g., if we bet $5 and
win, we win $5; if we bet $8 and win, we win $8). Is betting the 4 against the 7 for even money a good bet? No way! It's
a terrible bet because we have twice as many chances of losing than winning.
From above, we see there are six ways to make a 7, and only three ways to make a 4. That means there are twice as many
ways for us to lose as there are for us to win. So, making this even-money bet is not only terrible, it's stupid.
But 4 is our favorite number and we want to bet it, so is there any circumstance where betting the 4 against the 7 is a good
bet? Yes, of course. When betting the 4 against the 7, we take a much greater risk because there are twice as many ways
to lose as there are to win, so we want to be compensated for taking that risk. We're compensated by getting odds on the
4, which means if we bet $1 and win, then we expect to win more than our $1 bet. But how much more? It's simple, so
don't fear the math. Again, there are six ways to make a 7 and three ways to make a 4. The comparison of those outcomes
is expressed as 6:3. This expression is like a fraction, so we reduce the expression to 2:1. Therefore, we expect to get 2:1
odds when betting the 4 against the 7. If our $1 bet wins, we expect to win two times our $1 bet, which is $2 (i.e., $1 x 2 =
$2). If, for example, we bet $3 on the 4 against the 7 and win, we expect to win two times our $3 bet, which is $6 (i.e., $3 x
2 = $6).
To illustrate this further, let's roll the dice 36 times and assume the results are distributed exactly according to the number
of ways to make each number (i.e., in statistics, it would called a "perfect distribution"). We know there are six ways to
make a 7 and three ways to make a 4. For an even-money bet, if we bet $1 on the 4 against the 7 on each of the 36 rolls
and the distribution of results is perfect, we expect to win $1 three times and lose $1 six times. So, for an even money bet,
our net result is a $3 loss.
Let's use the same example except, this time, we get 2:1 odds when we bet the 4 against the 7. If we again bet $1 on
each of the 36 rolls, we expect to win $2 three times and lose $1 six times. Therefore, for a 2:1 Odds bet, our net result is
that we break even, as we expect (i.e., we win $2 x 3 wins = $6, and we lose $1 x 6 losses = $6).
If everything balances out after a long period of time with a large quantity of dice rolls, how does the casino make money?
How can they build those multi-billion-dollar casinos? They screw us, that's how! And they don't feel the least bit guilty
about it. The term "house advantage" or "casino advantage" is a politically correct term for "we're going to screw you until
we take all your money." The house (i.e., the casino) takes a set percentage out of every possible bet (except the free
Odds bet). They do it several ways, but the best way to illustrate this concept is to compare the results of making a Place
bet on the number 4 or 10. (We'll look at Place bets and other bet types later lessons.)
Since 4 is our favorite number, let's look at Place betting the 4 against the 7. As we know from above, there are three ways
to make a 4 with two dice. If we Place bet $5 on the 4 against the 7, we expect to win $10 (remember, we expect to get
2:1 odds on the 4, so we should expect to get $5 x 2 = $10 when we win a $5 bet). Ready? Here it comes!
Instead of giving 2:1 odds for a Place bet on the 4 against the 7, the house gives odds of only 9:5. Ouch! That means,
when we bet $5 and win, we receive only $9 instead of the $10 we expect. They've screwed us out of that extra dollar that
we should have gotten based on the true odds of 2:1.
Using the 36-roll perfect-distribution example again, we find that the house is making tons of money off suckers like us. For
each of the 36 rolls, suppose we bet $5 on the 4 against the 7, and the odds are only 9:5 instead of the 10:5 true odds that
we expect to get (i.e., the expression 10:5 equals 2:1). That means, for each losing roll, we lose $5, and for each winning
roll, we win $9. After 36 rolls with a perfect distribution, we expect to lose six times for a total of $30 (6 x $5 = $30), and we
expect to win three times for a total of $27 (3 x $9 = $27). The net result is that we lose $3, even with a perfect distribution.
It's easy to see how the casino's profits add up over time. In this example of a Place bet on the number 4, they screw us
out of a dollar by not giving the full true odds of 10:5 (again, 10:5 equals 2:1). Consider all the people playing craps 24
hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. All those dollars add up to millions.
The house advantage varies among the many different types of possible craps bets. We'll discuss them all later and you'll
learn which bets have high casino advantages (or "edges") and which have relatively small casino edges. Obviously, you
want to avoid the bets with the higher casino edges and focus on those with the smallest.
In later lessons, we'll go a bit deeper into the math to understand why certain bets are considered better than others and
why the casino can't lose. Don't worry, you don't need to be rocket scientist to understand it.
Check out another great site for a craps how-to that explains a craps strategy based in reality instead of a Fantasyland of