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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Learning How to Play Craps

31 December 2003

Today I continue my series discussing ways for average casino players to break away from restricting their play to the slot machines and learning how to play table games. Craps, for example, looks complicated and intimidating to the beginner. The true fact of the matter is the game can be simple to learn and easy to play if you just take the time to study the basics.

Here's my attempt to take some of the mystery out of casino craps for you by concentrating not on the entire gamut of bets but on a selection of wagering opportunities just to get you started:

First, let's look at 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". The dealers clear the board of losing chips and a new game is started by passing the dice clockwise to the next player. You must make a pass line bet (or don't pass bet, but we won't cover that bet here) 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 that 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 payout 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 true odds against making a 5 or a 5 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 6 before a seven are 6-5, but you are paid 7-6 for your place bets.

If you bet five dollars on the 4 or 10, you'll be paid nine dollars every time it's rolled plus your original bet remains intact. 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 are two of the great attractions of the game. You play at your own pace.

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 (depending on the casino), 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 4s. 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.

There are many other ways to make bets at the craps table, but if you learn the basics the rest will take care of itself.

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.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

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.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp