Rules Craps Betting: Flat Bets and Pass Line Bet
The most fundamental craps bets are the Pass Line and Don't Pass. These craps bets are somewhat common in that each is
a "Flat" bet, which means it is typically made before a new game starts and before you establish a point. Also, the Pass
Line and Don't Pass bets can have an Odds bet, which is an additional craps bet on or against the point number after you
establish a point. Other Flat bets are the Come and Don't Come, which are made after you establish a point. All these bets
are defined in other lessons. The point here is simply to define "Flat" bet so you'll know the term when we talk about it
throughout these lessons. Now, let's learn craps more by talking about the Pass Line craps bet.
The Pass Line bet is a Flat bet typically made before a come-out roll. If you see an OFF puck on the table, you know a new
game is about to start and you can get in on the action by making a Pass Line bet. The Pass Line is the long, curved section
along the edge of the table layout closest to where the players stand. It is clearly labeled as, "PASS LINE," typically in white
letters. The Pass Line is sometimes called the "front line." (You'll occasionally hear the stickman's banter, "Winner, winner,
front line winner.") The Pass Line on the table layout goes around the entire edge of the table where the players stand so
any player in any position can easily reach it to put down their chips and make a bet.
The table minimum and maximum craps bets are defined by the placards on the inside of the table next to each dealer. For
example, if you see a red placard defining a $5 minimum and a $2,000 maximum, that means your Pass Line bet must be at
least $5, but can't be more than $2,000. The Flat Pass Line bet is a self-service bet, which means you make this bet
yourself by physically placing your chip(s) on the Pass Line. Generally, the only time the dealer makes a Pass Line bet for
you (i.e., physically puts the chip(s) on the Pass Line for you) is when you ask for change and tell the dealer to put some of
it on the Pass Line. For example, suppose you want to make a $5 Pass Line bet but all you have are green $25 chips. After
you have the dealer's attention, drop a green chip in the Come area and say, "Five on the line, please." The dealer knows
exactly what you want. He changes the $25 chip for five $5 chips and makes the Pass Line bet for you by putting a $5 chip
on the Pass Line directly in front of you. Then, he puts the four remaining $5 chips in the apron in front of you. Make sure
you pick up the four remaining chips from the apron and place them in your chip stack so the dealer doesn't think you're
making a $25 Pass Line bet instead of only a $5 bet.
Ready? Let's play craps by making your first ever craps bet. While the stickman controls the dice in the center of the table
and banters, "New shooter, coming out, new shooter," put a $5 chip inside the Pass Line directly in front of you. That's it!
You just made your first craps bet. Exciting, isn't it? (See Figure 1 below.)
When the stickman sees that the dealers are ready and everyone has made all their Flat bets, he pushes the dice to the
next shooter who selects two and then throws the come out roll. For a Pass Line bet, the come out roll can produce three
possible outcomes: 1) if a 7 or 11 appears, the Pass Line bet wins and the game ends, 2) if a craps appears (i.e., a 2, 3, or
12), the Pass Line bet loses and the game ends, and 3) if a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 appears, a point is established and the game
continues until either the point number appears again, in which case the Pass Line bet wins, or a 7 appears, in which case
the Pass Line bet loses.
If a point is established on the come-out roll, you can't remove your Flat Pass Line bet. Other bets, such as Place bets, can
be removed whenever you change your mind and decide to take them down. Not so with the Flat Pass Line bet. For the
Pass Line bet, the come-out roll favors the player but then shifts to the house when a point is established. Therefore, for a
Pass Line bet, the price for getting an advantage on the come out roll is that you can't remove the bet once a point is
established and the advantage swings to the house. Again, once a point is established, you must leave your Flat Pass Line
bet alone until a win/lose decision is made. If you forget this rule and pick up your Pass Line bet before a decision is made,
the stickman will smack you on top of your head with his stick and yell at you to put it back. Just kidding! The crew will
simply remind you of the rule and politely ask you to return the bet to the table.
The Pass Line bet is an even-money casino craps bet, which means you win the exact amount that you bet. For example, if
you make a $7 Pass Line bet and win, you win $7.
If you bet the Pass Line, it's also called betting "with" the dice (as opposed to betting "against" the dice) or betting the
"right" way (as opposed to betting the "wrong" way). If a Pass Line bet wins, the dice are said have "passed." In the
context of Pass Line bets, "pass" means to win, so don't confuse it with "passing" the dice to the next shooter.
On the come out roll, a Pass Line bet has a 2:1 player advantage. There are eight ways to win on the come out roll and
only four ways to lose. Let's review. For a Pass Line bet on the come-out roll, a 7 or 11 wins and a 2, 3, or 12 loses. There
are six ways to make a 7 and two ways to make an 11; therefore, there are eight ways (i.e., 6 + 2 = 8) to win a Pass Line
bet on the come-out roll. There's one way to make a 2, two ways to make a 3, and one way to make a 12; therefore, there
are four ways (i.e., 1 + 2 + 1 = 4) to lose a Pass Line bet on the come out roll. Eight ways to win versus four ways to lose is
written in terms of odds as 8:4, which like a fraction reduces down to 2:1. That's how we get a 2:1 advantage with a Pass
Line bet on the come out roll. But that's only on the come out roll. For a Pass Line bet after a point is established, the
advantage shifts back to the house. No matter what the point is (i.e., 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10), there are always more ways to
make a 7 and lose than there are ways to make the point and win. The advantage that you enjoy on the come out roll for a
Pass Line bet is outweighed by the disadvantage you incur if a point number is rolled on the come out. The net result is that
the house maintains a small casino advantage on the Pass Line bet, even when you make an Odds bet.
When a point is established, you can make a Free Odds bet, or "take Odds on the point." This is a bet on the point number
in addition to the Flat Pass Line bet. The Odds bet is a self-service bet, so you make this bet yourself by putting the chip(s)
in the apron directly behind your Pass Line bet. There's no marked location on the table to define where to put your chip(s)
for an Odds bet. It goes in the apron one or two inches directly behind your Pass Line bet. (See Figure 2 below.) This is
called "behind the line." You'll occasionally hear a dealer remind a player by saying, "Sir, you don't have anything behind the
line." This means the player doesn't have an Odds bet on the point. Make sure your Odds chips aren't in the Pass Line or
touching the outside line of the Pass Line; otherwise, the dealer might think they’re either part of the Pass Line bet or a
Place bet on the point.
If your Odds bet requires you to use different-denomination chips, put the higher-denomination chips on the bottom of your
stack. For example, if the point is 5 and you want to make an $8 Odds bet, stack your chips so the $5 chip is on the bottom
and the three $1 chips are on the top of your stack. If you mix them up (called a "barber pole") or if you put the $1 chips on
the bottom, the dealer will re-stack them. Avoid making the dealer constantly fix your chips; stack them properly yourself.
(See Figure 3 below.) I like to slightly offset the lower-denomination chips on top to make sure the dealer sees the higher
denominations on the bottom. Offset them just barely enough so the stack doesn't look out of alignment but so the dealer
can clearly see that big chips are on the bottom. Offsetting the chip stack isn't required, but I like to do it to ensure the
dealer knows big chips are on the bottom. When the shooter rolls the point and the Pass Line wins, the dealer typically
double-checks the total amount of your Odds bet and then pays accordingly. However, sometimes the dealer is sloppy or
lazy and misses the fact that you have big chips on the bottom. So, offsetting the lower-denomination chips on top by just a
hair allows a lazy dealer to realize the full amount of your Odds bet.
You think, "There’s a square or rectangle painted on the table layout for every other bet, so why isn't there a little box for
an Odds bet?" Good question. The casino prefers that you don't make Odds bets, so they don't have a spot painted on the
table for them. Odds bets pay off based on true odds, so the casino doesn't have any built-in advantage, but neither does
the player. Because it's the only craps bet that doesn't have a built-in house advantage, the Odds bet is the best bet you
can make. With the payoff based on true odds, you can expect to break even over the long run with this bet. Not so with
any other bet on the table.
Unlike the Flat Pass Line bet, you can pick up (remove) your Odds bet at any time. You can make (add) an Odds bet at any
time, too. When you decide to make or remove an Odds bet, do it while the stickman still controls the dice in the center of
the table. Avoid reaching down at the last second just as the shooter is about to roll; otherwise, the whole table may yell
at you, "Watch your hands!" It's considered bad luck if the dice hit someone’s hands. The losers have to blame their
misfortune on something, so if the dice hit your hands and a 7 shows, they blame you for causing the 7 out. Let's go
through a scenario to illustrate what we mean by making or removing an Odds bet "at any time."
1. The puck is OFF (black side up). A new game is about to start. You make a $5 Flat Pass Line bet.
2. The shooter rolls a 6 on the come out; therefore, 6 is the point for this game.
3. The shooter looks lucky and you have a gut feeling that a 6 is going to hit before a 7, so you make a $5 Odds bet behind
4. The shooter rolls for five minutes, rolling number after number, except for the point (i.e., 6) or the dreaded 7 (either of
which will end the game). You get a terrible gut feeling that there’s no way the shooter can keep rolling before a 7 shows.
You can feel it; that dreaded 7 is coming soon. So, you reach down and pick up your $5 Odds bet. Remember, you must
leave the Flat Pass Line bet alone.
5. The shooter rolls a 7 to end the game. The Pass Line bet loses and the dealer scoops up your $5 Pass line chip.
Wow, your gut feeling was right, just in the nick of time. Way to go! In this scenario, the Flat Pass Line bet lost because a
7 appeared before the point number, so you lost your $5 Flat bet. But you didn't lose the $5 Odds bet that you made at the
beginning of the game because you picked it up (removed it) before the shooter rolled a 7 out.
Figure 1. Craps Betting: Flat Pass Line Bet
Assume you're in player position #2. In this example, your $5 Flat Pass Line bet is placed in the Pass Line directly in front of
you as shown in the figure above. Notice the black "Off" puck in the Don't Come box. The "Off" puck indicates that there's
no point established and a new game is about to start with a come-out roll.
Figure 2. Craps Betting: Pass Line with Odds Bets
Notice the white "On" puck in the 4 point box. This indicates the shooter rolled a 4 on the come-out roll to establish 4 as the
point. Notice the $5 Odds bet in the apron about one or two inches behind the Pass Line. After the shooter establishes a
point, you can then make an Odds bet.
Figure 3. Craps Betting: Right and Wrong Ways to Stack Chips
The stack on the left has the $1 and $5 chips mixed up (called a “barber pole”). The stack on the right has all higher
denominations on the bottom and all lower denominations on top.