***Updated: November 13, 2018***
Before humans knew how to write and record history, they knew how to toss 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 playing a game called “al Zar” which was loosely translated in English as “dice”. In short, people have been tossing hard objects with numbers painted on them for a while now.
However, “Craps” is 100% an American game that was 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 you’ll find anywhere today.
It was Winn who came up with the idea for Pass and Don’t Pass wagers that allow onlookers to bet on the roll of the dice and not just the success of the shooter. It was this development that helped to create the wild groups of bettors that crowd around tables shouting loudly as the events unfold.
Thanks to Winn’s idea, up to twenty players can participate in the great social game of the casino, but unless you know the rules it can be like walking into the wrong school reunion where all of the insider conversation seems to be in code. When a craps table opens play it is non-stop until the croupier switches the button to “Off“. Each player has the chance to be the “shooter”, (the person who actually rolls the dice onto the table), although the opportunity can be declined and passed along if you don’t feel like throwing. In addition, substitutes can be called in to toss the dice if you want 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” being required before a betting round can “Open“. The goal of the Come-Out Roll is to establish a “point number” which will be used for all subsequent bets.
However, before the dice are even rolled there is the opportunity to wager on Pass or Don’t Pass. If the shooter rolls a 7 or an 11 the Pass bets pay off automatically. If the roll is a 2, 3 or 12 that is “craps” and the Don’t Pass bettors cash, although some places consider only a 2 or 12 a push. If any of those numbers appear the round ends and the dice pass, and the shooter begins the next round.
For those interested in casino strategy, the Pass bet is the fundamental play in the game. If 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). The Pass bet is not only the most profitable play at a craps table, it is also the most popular. All those cheers at the casino craps table are for the Pass, and unless a player has a strong inclination to be disliked, betting against the shooter on Don’t Pass can receive quite the angry response.
Any number other than 2, 3, 7, 11 or 12 establishes “the point”. The shooter continues to roll until either the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 is rolled again, or a 7 is rolled for the first time. Only after the point is established can the shooter roll the point to Pass instead of a 7. Since the Pass bet had the odds advantage on the first throw, it reverses afterwards.
Alternatively, the Don’t Pass bettors had the disadvantage on the first toss so they will now win if a 7 is thrown before the point number. Original Pass bets must remain in play until resolved, and Don’t Pass bets are allowed to be removed if unresolved after the Come-Out Roll. This would be a bad decision, however, since the odds are now firmly in the player’s favor.
Each roll of the dice after the Come Out Roll is open to new, independent bets at true odds, called Come and Don’t Come bets. Since these wagers don’t carry a house edge they are usually capped, which is often at 2x the amount of the Pass or No Pass bet, although some casinos have promoted craps games with as much as 100x on odds bets.
The betting field also displays the opportunity to make proposition bets with 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 Seven, Any 11, Any Craps (2, 3 or 12), and a Horn Bet (2, 3, 11 or 12). These all carry some of the most casino-friendly odds at the craps table, but a Field Bet will pay even-money for any roll other than 5, 6, 7 or 8 and double for a 2 or 12.
As you can see, Craps has some of the most intricate rules around so feel free to read this section a few times to drill it home.
How To Play
With money and dice and strange terms flying around, a craps table can be a bewildering place. At its core, however, the Pass bet is one of the simplest and fairest bets that can be found in a casino. Beginners can safely join in on the fun with just this one wager.
Once you are well-versed in the table action, the Come and Don’t Come bets at maximum odds are sound plays. Beyond that, the proposition bets on single rolls are simply giveaways to the House over the long run.
There are lots of different craps variations at casinos around the world and what you’ll find just depends on where you are. New York Craps dispenses with the Come and Don’t Come wagers. High Points Craps pays players for an 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 craps at all and rolls of 2, 3, 4, 10, 11 and 12 are winners, and 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are losers. The single-roll game makes for a house edge of 2.8%.
And for those who don’t like the racket of dice clacking together, Die Rich is an impoverished form of craps that uses just one die.