***Updated: August 24, 2019***
Before humans knew how to write and record history, we were tossing dice – they aren’t nicknamed “bones” for no reason, after all. The nearest relative to modern craps is an English game called “Hazard” that was supposedly conjured up by Sir William of Tyre to keep his knights occupied while laying siege to Castle Hazarth. At the same time, a few miles down the road, the Arabs were enjoying “al Zar“, loosely translated in English as “dice”. In short, people have been tossing hard objects with numbers painted on them for ages.
However, the version we know and love nowadays is 100% American, created on paddle wheelers steaming along the continent’s rivers in the 19th century. John H. Winn, who coincidentally made his money manufacturing dice in the early 1900s, is responsible for creating one of the most exciting casino games that can be found anywhere today.
It was Winn who came up with Pass and Don’t Pass wagers, allowing onlookers to bet on the roll of the dice and not just the success of the shooter. This development helped to create the wild groups now found crowding around tables, shouting loudly as the events unfold.
Thanks to Winn’s idea, up to twenty people may participate in this great social game, but unless the rules are understood it can be like walking into the wrong school reunion where all of the insider conversation seems to be in code. Whenever a craps table opens it is usually buzzing non-stop until the croupier switches the button to “off”.
Each person has the chance to be the “shooter”, (the one actually rolling the dice onto the felt), although there is the option to decline and pass this along if someone isn’t in the mood to throw. In addition, substitutes can be called in to toss when a player wants to take a quick break.
The standardized table and betting field are the main difference between “street craps” and “casino craps”, with a “Come-Out Roll” required before a wagering round can “Open”. The goal of the Come-Out Roll is to establish a “point number” to be used for all subsequent bets.
However, prior to the first roll there is the opportunity to stake the Pass or Don’t Pass options. If the shooter rolls a 7 or an 11 the Pass bets pay off automatically. If the result is a 2, 3 or 12 that is craps and those who backed Don’t Pass will collect, although some places consider only a 2 or 12 a push. If any of these numbers appear the round ends, the dice pass, and the shooter begins the next.
For those interested in casino strategy, the Pass bet is the fundamental play in the game. When the opening roll is a 7 or 11 it pays even money, carrying a slim 1.41% house edge, (there are eight ways to win and just four with Don’t Pass). Putting cash down on Pass is both the most profitable action at a craps table, but also the most popular. All that cheering is almost always for the Pass and unless someone has a strong inclination to be disliked, wagering against the shooter on Don’t Pass can receive quite the angry response.
Numbers other than 2, 3, 7, 11 or 12 establish “the point”. The shooter continues until the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 is rolled again, or a 7 is rolled for the first time. Once the point is established, it’s possible to roll the point to Pass instead of a 7. Since the Pass bet has the odds advantage on the initial throw, it reverses afterwards.
Alternatively, those who’ve laid money on Don’t Pass had the disadvantage on the opening toss and now win if a 7 is thrown before the point number. Original Pass bets must remain in play until resolved, and Don’t Pass funds may be removed when unresolved following the Come-Out Roll. This would be a bad decision, however, considering the odds have shifted firmly in their favor.
Each roll of the dice after the Come Out Roll is open to new, independent wagers at true odds, called Come and Don’t Come. Since these carry no House edge they are usually capped, often at 2x the amount of the Pass or No Pass option, although some establishments promote versions with payouts as high as 100x to get customers through their doors.
Proposition bets are also an option, which have bigger odds on single rolls. These include Hard Ways (a 2-2, 3-3, 4-4 or 5-5), Big 6 and Big 8, Any 7, Any 11, Any Craps (2, 3 or 12), and a Horn Bet (2, 3, 11 or 12). While they boast some of the most House-friendly odds at the table, a Field Bet will pay even-money for results other than 5, 6, 7 or 8 and double for a 2 or 12.
This wonderful creation has pretty intricate rules, so feel free to re-read this section a few times to drill them home and remember everything.
How To Play
With cash and dice and strange terms flying around, a craps table is a bewildering place. At its core, however, the Pass is one of the simplest and fairest gambling to be found in a casino and beginners can safely join in on the fun.
Once players become well-versed in the how things work, the Come and Don’t Come options at maximum odds are sound decisions. Beyond that, the propositions on single rolls are simply giveaways to the House over the long run.
There are lots of different variations across the world. New York Craps dispenses with the Come and Don’t Come route, High Points Craps pays out for 11 or 12 and the 2 and 3 become re-rolls. Crapless Craps, besides being an oxymoron, is a common online version where all numbers are either a 7 or a point.
Simplified Craps is not really a proper variant and results of 2, 3, 4, 10, 11 and 12 are winners, while 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 serve as losers. The single-roll game makes for a house edge of 2.8% so there is a little value to be found here.
Finally, for those who dislike the racket of dice clacking together, Die Rich is an impoverished form that uses just one die. This version is lacking in the excitement category, and won’t be listed by many websites.