The Hot Streak

How to Play Craps: Mastering the Basics

Craps looks daunting at first glance, but it's actually a simple game that can lead to some big wins and streaks.

April 3, 2024

Craps is a classic dice game that combines luck and strategy. In this guide, we will cover the fundamentals of how to play craps, including understanding the table layout, learning the rules, and introducing winning strategies.

Craps 101: Understanding the Table Layout

Let’s face it: the craps table has a unique layout that can seem intimidating to those who have never played. However, with a bit of guidance, understanding a craps table is easy. 

For beginners, the most important sections are as follows: 

  • The Pass Line and Don’t Pass sections are along the outer edge of the table. Here, players can bet that the shooter will win or lose. 
  • The Come area is usually located near the center of the table. This is where players can place bets after a point has been established. 
  • Point Numbers are marked on the layout to help players track the game’s progress. You will see the “ON” and “OFF” puck here. 

The dealer, boxman, and stickman — located in the center of the table — oversee the game, manage bets, and roll the dice. 

The player rolling the dice is referred to as the shooter. The shooter is responsible for determining the outcome of each round — their goal is to roll the dice in a way that benefits themselves and other players at the table. 

Basic Gameplay: Getting Started with Craps

One of the keys to learning how to play craps is learning the progression of the game and the outcomes of bets placed by players. There are two main “phases” during a round of craps:

Come-Out Roll: The shooter rolls the dice for the first time. 

    1. If the come-out roll results in a 7 or 11, it’s called a “natural.” The Pass Line bets win, and the round is over. 
    2. If the come-out roll results in a 2, 3, or 12, it’s called “craps.” The Pass Line bets lose, and the round is over. 
    3. If any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) is rolled, that number becomes the “point,” and the game enters the point phase.

Point Phase: A point is established, and the shooter aims to roll the point number again — before rolling a 7. Rolling continues until they roll the point number (a win for Pass Line bets) or a 7 (a loss for Pass Line bets).

  1. If the shooter rolls the point number, a new round begins with a new come-out roll.
  2. If the shooter rolls a 7 before rolling the point number again, it’s called “seven out,” and the round ends. 

There are many different types of bets you can place on the craps table. The Pass Line and Don’t Pass bets are foundational wagers before the come-out roll. 

The Pass Line Bet is the most straightforward and commonly placed bet in craps.

  • You win if the come-out roll is a 7 or 11.
  • You lose if the come-out roll is a 2, 3, or 12.
  • If any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) is rolled, that number becomes the “point.” You win if the point is rolled again before a 7.

The Don’t Pass Bet is essentially betting against the shooter.

  • You win if the come-out roll is a 2 or 3 (12 is often a tie or a “push”).
  • You lose if the come-out roll is a 7 or 11.
  • If the come-out roll establishes a point, you win if a 7 is rolled before the point number is rolled again.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Placing Your First Bet

Placing your first bet on the craps table can be exciting, whether playing in person or through an online casino like Tipico. By following these steps, beginners can confidently play their very first tables:

  1. Scan the Table: If playing in a physical casino, observe the layout of the table, the shooter, and the current stage of the game. 
  2. Buy Chips: Approach the table and exchange your cash for chips with the dealer. Be sure to specify the denominations. 
  3. Select Your Bet: As a beginner, start simple. Stick to a Pass Line or Don’t Pass bet on your first few rounds. 
  4. Bet Sizing: Determine how much you want to wager on your bet. Start with a small bet that fits your budget. Keep in mind that different tables have different minimums and maximums.
  5. Place Your Bet: Place your chips on the corresponding section of the table. For a Pass Line bet, place your chips in the designated area marked “Pass Line.” For a Don’t Pass Line bet, place your chips in the area marked “Don’t Pass.”
  6. Wait for the Come-Out Roll: Once all bets are placed, wait for the shooter to roll the dice for the come-out roll. 
  7. Round Ends/Point Phase Begins: Pass Line Bets win or lose based on the come-out roll. The game ends, or a point is established. Intermediate and advanced players may place additional bets by advising the dealer.

Odds are significant in the game of craps. Each type of bet has a different set of odds and house edge. By knowing the likelihood of different results, players can pick bets with better chances of winning — and lower risks.

Strategies for New Players

Similarly to learning how to play poker or how to play blackjack, becoming a proficient craps player requires more than luck. Players can enhance their game enjoyment by adopting basic strategies while minimizing losses. 

Sticking to safer bets is one of the best strategies for new players learning how to play craps. Pass Line and Come bets allow players to take advantage of better odds and increase their chances of winning — plus, these bets also have straightforward win conditions, making them great for beginners.

New and seasoned players alike should always set a budget for their craps session and adhere to it. Consider watching a few rounds before playing to get a better grasp on the dynamics of the table. Start with smaller bets until you become familiar with the game. Take a break and reassess your approach if you’re on a losing streak.

Etiquette and Tips for Craps Beginners

Observing proper etiquette at the craps table is crucial for maintaining a respectful and enjoyable atmosphere. Here are some tips for your first games at the craps table:

  • When handling the dice, use one hand and aim to roll them to the opposite end of the table. 
  • Place bets promptly and considerately, respecting other players’ space. Treat dealers with courtesy and tip occasionally for good service.
  • Interact with fellow players with respect, avoiding criticism or unsolicited advice. Keep conversations to a minimum when others concentrate, and follow the dealer’s instructions.
  • Confidence and composure are key — act decisively when placing bets and handling the dice, and maintain a positive attitude regardless of the outcome. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid at the Craps Table

Making mistakes is one way of learning how to do better; however, some common errors and pitfalls on the craps table can be avoided by going in prepared:

  • Playing Risky Bets: Understanding the odds and making informed decisions is critical to maximizing the craps experience. A strategic approach to betting will result in more successful gameplay.
  • Lack of Understanding of Rules and Etiquette: Not understanding the rules or etiquette can lead to confusion, frustration, and potentially embarrassing situations. If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask! 
  • Ignoring the Social Aspect of the Game: Craps is a game that encourages social interaction, and connecting with other players can improve the overall enjoyment. Avoid isolating yourself or becoming too absorbed in the game at the expense of others. 

Next Steps in Your Craps Journey

Once you’re comfortable with the basics of craps, you can explore more advanced betting options and strategies to enhance your gameplay. As you spend more time at the craps table, you’ll see players make all sorts of different types of bets.  

Learning to use odds bets is a noteworthy next step in playing craps at a higher level. Odds bets have zero house edge, meaning the casino has no advantage over the player. Taking maximum odds behind Pass Line or Come bets can significantly maximize potential winnings and minimize losses over time.

Additional strategies in your craps journey include learning how to hedge bets and mastering progressive betting (a similar approach when exploring how to win at roulette). For further information about advanced gameplay, try “Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos” by Frank Scobletes or “The Dice Doctor” by Sam Grafstein.

Embracing the Excitement of Craps

Learning how to play craps—even at the most basic level—paves the way for a gratifying casino experience, both in person and online. Understanding the table layout, basic rules, and essential strategies empowers players to navigate the game while maximizing their chances of success.

Starting to play craps with an online casino like Tipico is a great way to learn the game — you can see how the game progresses without worrying about “performing” in front of a live crowd when rolling the dice as a shooter.

Your very first Pass Line bet awaits. Don’t be afraid to step up to the table and start on your journey to master craps with confidence. 

Are you curious about learning how to play other popular casino games? Review our other “how-to guides,” including How to Play Baccarat and How to Win at Slots

Alura Penny
Alura Penny is a freelance writer, editor, and multi-disciplined creator. She learned to appreciate card games from her maternal grandmother, and has been perfecting her table etiquette and strategy ever since. She is based in Oregon, but you’ll likely find her working from various corners of the world.