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Craps Is Not As Intimidating As It Looks

13 September 1999

By John G. Brokopp

Whenever I have an opportunity to speak with people about gaming and the subject of craps comes up, somebody will invariably say: "I've always wanted to play the game, but I really know so little about it that I'm afraid to step up to the table."

There's no doubt that a craps table can be very intimidating for the inexperienced player, but the fact of the matter is the game can be is as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it! Today we're going to attempt to take some of the mystery out of casino craps by concentrating not on the entire gamut of bets but on a selection of wagering opportunities just to get you started.

Before we get into how and what to bet, let's get you up to the table and into the game: A craps table is run by two dealers, a stickman, and a box man. There's one dealer for each end of the table. Each dealer can accommodate up to seven or eight players. The stickman stands at the center of the table facing the dealers and controls the dice and makes the calls. The box man is seated between the dealers and supervises the course of play and the settlement of all decisions.

Look for an open spot at the table and step right up. Before you buy into the game, though, here's some advice: Craps is a game filled with superstition, especially when there's a hot roll in progress. Always be sure the stickman has the dice in the center of the layout before you put money on the table. If your hands are in the pit and the dice hit them, you'll get looks that could kill!

At an appropriate moment, put your money on the table. The dealer will pick it up and give you chips. Pick up the chips (again, be sure the dice have not been pushed to the shooter by the stickman) and place them in the rail in front of you. Now you're ready to play craps.

First, let's discuss the section of the layout designated as the "pass line". You bet the pass line on what's called the come out roll. If the shooter rolls a "natural" (7 or 11) on the come out roll, pass line bettors are paid even money. If the dice show "craps" (2, 3, or 12), pass line bettors lose their money. If the dice show a point (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10), the dealers move their plastic "buck" to the appropriate number on the layout to indicate the point the shooter must roll. If the shooter rolls the point number before a 7, pass line bettors are paid even money. If the shooter rolls a 7 before the point, pass line bettors lose their money.

Whenever a shooter rolls a 7 on any roll except the come out, it's called a "seven out" and the dice are passed clockwise around the table to the next shooter. You must make a pass line bet in order to roll the dice, but you don't have to roll the dice if you don't want to. Just indicate you are passing the dice when the stickman moves them in your direction.

Now let's get to the subject of place bets. You place a number by putting your chips on the table and telling the dealer what you want. He'll take your chips and place them in the box which indicates your number. Out of 36 possible combinations of the dice, there are three ways to make a 4 or a 10, four ways to make a 5 or a 9, and five ways to make a 6 or an 8.

The pay out odds on place numbers reflect the built-in edge the casino has against you. For example, the true odds against making a 4 or a 10 before a 7 are 2-1, but you are paid 9-5 for your place bet. The trues odds against making a 5 or a 9 before a 7 are 3-2, but you are paid 7-5 for your place bets on those numbers. The true odds against making a 6 or an 8 before a 7 are 6-5, but you are paid 7-6 four your place bets.

If you bet five dollars on the 4 or 10, you'll be paid nine dollars every time it's rolled. Five dollars on the 5 or 9 pay seven dollars every time it's rolled. Because the 6 and 8 pay 7-6, you always want to bet those numbers in increments of six dollars. Every time a 6 or an 8 is rolled, you will be paid seven dollars.

You can increase or decrease your place bets at any time, or you can instruct the dealer to take the bet down entirely. It's strictly up to you. Freedom and flexibility with your money is one of the great attractions of the game.

There's a section of the layout designated "field". The field is a one-roll bet. When you place a five-dollar chip in the field, the next roll of the dice will determine whether you win or lose. If the shooter rolls a 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12 you win. If the dice show 5, 6, 7, or 8 you lose. Every winning field bet pays even money, with the exception of the 2 and 12 which pay double, and in some cases, triple your money.

Even if you're playing at a five-dollar table, there is a variety of one roll proposition bets that you can make for a dollar. These include the "hardways". You make a bet on a hardway by tossing a chip to the stickman and telling him what you want. For example: "Give me a dollar hard eight".

A hard eight is two fours. You win a bet on the hard eight if the shooter rolls it before a 7 or before an "easy eight" (6 and 2, or 5 and 3). A hard eight pays 9-1, as does the hard six. The hard ten and the hard four each pay 7-1.

You can also make one dollar, one roll, proposition bets on any seven (4-1) or on any craps (7-1).

Topics such as odds bets, come bets, don't pass and don't come, as well as the best bets to make as opposed to the worst ones, will be covered in future columns. In the meantime, we hope this helps you get started. Once you start playing, you'll pick up pointers on your own and before long you'll feel like a pro.

For more information about craps:

Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos: How to Play Craps and Win! by Frank Scoblete
The Captain’s Craps Revolution! by Frank Scoblete
Sharpshooter Craps Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Craps! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

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