A Newbie’s Guide to Learning How to Play Craps at a Casino in 5 Short Steps

By Steve Beauregard

People hooting and hollering at the top of their lungs, giving high-fives to complete strangers. A large green felt covered with chips, numbers, words, and colors – all in a pattern resembling something out of a math textbook.

Yes, craps can be a little intimidating for the beginning player, but it shouldn’t be. Craps is simpler than it appears. It’s also the most fun game in the casino, and you can go from “Never ever played it before” to being in the heart of the action in five short steps.

But first, a very, very brief introduction to the basics. This will be plenty enough for you to play, and to look like you know how to play (if that’s important to you).

A typical craps game with odds bets behind the pass line
A typical craps game with odds bets behind the pass line

The object of the game is for a player to take two dice and use it to roll lots of numbers except for the number 7.

That’s basically it.

Sure, there are a million different other side bets you can make, and combinations of bets, but the essence of craps is that you want to roll any number except 7. So here are the 5 steps to take to begin playing craps:

1) Find an open spot around the craps table.

This being your first time playing, I’d avoid the busy, packed table. You’ll likely slow the game down and probably won’t feel comfortable.

The good news is that casinos usually have at least one craps table occupied by bored dealers, waiting for players. This is the table where you’ll want to start your craps career.

If it’s a busy night, and all the tables are packed, you may want to try in the morning, when craps tables are almost always empty. This way, it will be much easier to get help from the dealers, should you need it.

(Go here to read about the best casinos to play craps in Las Vegas).

A typical craps table layout
A typical craps table layout

2) Put your money down

Ok, so you have a spot at a craps table. Take your money, (say a $20 bill) and lay it down on the green felt in front of you.

Important note: Do NOT set your money down while someone on the other side of the table is ready to throw the dice. With your hands down on the felt, there is a chance that the incoming dice could hit your hand.

“So what?” You say.

So the dice hitting your hand could land on the number 7.

“So what?” You say again.

So the number 7 usually means everyone at the table loses.

“So what?” You say again, because you’re persistent. “The odds of dice landing on a 7 are the same whether they hit my hand, or hit the table.”

Yes, I know that. But craps players are a very superstitious lot. If the dice hit your hand and land on 7, you will be blamed for it, and receive dirty looks, death stares of hate, and or a nasty comment or two. (Take it from me).

So set your money down on the felt quickly and wait. A dealer at the table will quickly scoop up your $20 and give you four $5 red chips in return. This is if you are playing at a $5 minimum table, which I recommend. (Unless you can find a cheaper game, which is even better).

(Related: Craps Etiquette for Beginners)

3) Place your bet.

At this point, you’re standing at the craps table with your four red chips. If you are the only one at the table, you can go ahead a place your bet. If other people are there rolling the dice, you’ll have to wait until the stickman shouts, “Coming out!”

No, he is not suddenly comfortable with his sexuality, he’s just saying that a new shooter is ready to begin rolling the dice, and that a new game is starting.

To place your bet, take one red chip, $5, and place it down on the section that reads, “Pass.” That’s it, nothing more. Ignore the other boxes that read, “Field” or which show the two dice in a variety of different numbers. As a beginner, we just want to make one bet, which in this case is called a pass line bet.

The shooter will then toss the dice on this “Coming out” roll. On this first roll, one of three things will happen:

A) If the dice land on 7 or 11 on this come out roll only, you will win $5. Take that red chip and put it in the little chip holder in front of you.

B) If the dice land on 2, 3, or 12, you will lose, and will have to put another red chip down on the Pass line to play again.

C) Any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10), is marked with a large button and is called “The Point.”

With a Point number now established, we’ll move on to step 4, which is…

4) Place Your Odds Bet

Let’s say that on the come out roll, the dice landed on 6. The stickman will shout, “Six! The Point is Six.”

This is the number to focus on: 6. You’ll want the shooter to roll another six before he or she rolls a seven. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At this point, you still have $5 on the Pass Line. What you’ll want to do before the shooter rolls the dice again, trying to roll a 6, is to “put odds behind” your bet.

What this means, is that you’ll take two more red chips*, and stack those directly behind the $5 bet you have on the pass line. Placing these two chips behind your original one red chip is called, “taking odds.” Without getting into the math behind it, “taking odds” is the best bet in the casino, as there is literally zero house edge on it.

5) Root and cheer

So now you have $15 out there on the table at risk: your original $5 pass line bet, and $10 behind that bet in odds. One of three things will now happen:

A) The shooter will roll a 7, in which case you lose your $15.

B) The shooter will roll a 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, or 10, in which case, nothing happens for you.

C) The shooter rolls a 6, (Yea!), in which case you win.

How much will you win? Well you’ll get your original $5 Pass Line bet back, along with a $5 profit. You’ll also get your $10 odds bet back, along with another $12 in profit. (Odds bets pay better than 1 to 1 as you can see).

You are now free to leave, or to place another bet, or to hoot and holler and high five a stranger.

And that’s basically it. Well not really. There are a million other bets, and I haven’t touched on the odds payouts, come bets, fire bet etc., but this is a very basic, 5 step system that will take you from “never played before” to fun-loving craps player in minutes.

*For the sake of simplicity, I’m just using an example here where you’re allowed 2x odds. In most cases, you’ll be able to bet 5x odds on the $5 bet, (in other words, $25 in odds) when a point number is 6. Some casinos allow 10x or 20x odds, and one in Las Vegas, the Crowmnwell, allows 100x odds.

(Photos courtesy of Chris Martin via Flickr and Betzaar.com (http://betzaar.com/craps) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)