Craps Etiquette at the Casino – Unwritten Rules for Beginners Wanting to Fit In at the Tables

By Steve Beauregard

Playing craps in a casino is similar to just about every endeavor, in that there are some unwritten rules beginners may not be aware of.

When you first play golf, for example, you may not realize you’re supposed to remain silent during a player’s backswing, or that it’s not polite to walk across his putting line.

Craps is just the same, with some basic rules of etiquette that will make the game more fun for you while helping you avoid dirty looks from players or dealers (or both).

Knowing basic etiquette makes craps even more fun
Knowing basic etiquette makes craps even more fun

Whether you are a craps beginner, or a veteran of the felt just needing a reminder, here are the basic do’s and don’t rules of etiquette when playing craps in a casino:

Don’t buy-in during the middle of a roll

When you first approach the table, cash in hand, don’t buy-in during the middle of a roll.

By “middle of a roll” I don’t mean while the dice are in the air, that’s an obvious no-no. What I mean is that if the shooter has yet to make his point, it’s bad etiquette to interrupt the action at the table just so you can join in.

Wait until there is either a new point made, or there is a new shooter.

Some veteran craps players believe you should only buy-in when there is a new shooter, but buying in during the same shooter’s roll is generally OK, so long as it’s done after a point is made.

Don’t hand the dealer cash

When buying into the game, (hopefully not during the middle of a roll), set your cash down onto the felt in front of you.

Casino craps dealers are not allowed to accept cash directly from hand to hand. Transactions must be done down on the felt, with everything visible for the eye-in-the-sky surveillance cameras.

Keep your hands away from the felt during a roll

I made this mistake at Binion’s Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas early in my craps career, when I reached down to add some odds to my place bet. I did this as the shooter at the other end of the table was throwing, and subsequently the dice hit my hand in the process.

Fortunately the dice did not land on seven, however that didn’t stop an old-timer from suggesting he should shoot me with his gun. And no, I’m not joking.

Be aware of when the shooter is holding the dice. He or she could throw them at any moment, so be sure your hands are on the rail, away from the landing area.

Wait your turn to get paid

There’s nothing like making your point, or hitting that $24 six, or hard-way bet, but in your enthusiasm to get paid, allow the dealers to do their job.

I’ve seen new players anxiously remind the dealer of a bet they had made, only to be given a crusty: “I’ll get to you in a second sir.”

At a crowded table, with multiple bets flying around, the dealers may have several people to pay. They typically pay in a certain order, going around the table.

Don’t remind the dealer of your bet if you haven’t gotten paid right away. Watch the dealer and your spot in the order.

If you have, say, a hard-way bet that was somehow forgotten (it can happen), it’s certainly appropriate to politely remind the dealer of your hard-way bet, but do so only after the standard place bets have all been paid. Be sure to speak up before the dice are given to the shooter however.

(Related: How to Play Craps for Beginners)

Don’t Say the Word “Seven”

You’re better off questioning the promiscuity of a shooter’s mother, than you are to say the word “seven” at a craps table.

Why? It’s considered bad luck to say that word, especially during a roll when a seven is the last thing anyone wants to see (or hear).
Even if your buddy ask you what time the dinner reservations are for, a “6:59” is much more table-appropriate than saying “seven.”

And yes, we all know that the vibrations of a human vocal cord engaged in the process of speaking the word “seven” cannot influence the physical properties of two plastic cubes in the air, but this is an article on etiquette, not science.

Just don’t say the word.

Only one hand on the dice

Whether you’re choosing which dice to pick as a new shooter, or holding them up to get ready to throw, only use one hand.

Dealers and pit bosses have to be on the lookout for cheaters, and in the past, unscrupulous players have used a second hand to switch out the casino’s dice with phony, manipulated or weighted dice.

By using just one had to pick up the dice, the dealers will know that you’re not attempting to introduce a new pair of dice into the game.

A craps felt
A craps felt

No cheering if you are betting on the “Don’t”

“Dark side” bettors, as they’re sometimes called, are the players placing their money on the “Don’t Pass” or “Don’t Come” bets, (or making lay bets such as “No ten” for example).

The vast majority of craps players are on the positive side, betting the Pass, Come, or making place bets or proposition bets.

There’s nothing wrong with betting the “Don’t” side, but cheering a seven when everyone else at the table has just lost, is a little unseemly and puts a damper on the vibe, fun and energy of the table.

If you’re going to bet the “Don’t,” just smile inside when that seven hits, collect your chips and celebrate in your mind. No need to rub it in.

Tip the dealers

Win or lose, (especially when you win), tipping the dealers is standard, and just good form. This is even more so when you are a beginning player and maybe needing a little more of a dealer’s time and assistance.

While you can tip a dealer directly with cash or chips, more commonly you’ll see players making a bet for the dealer.

I’m a hard-ways bettor (an addiction, I’ll admit), so usually I’ll make a lot of hard-way bets for the dealer alongside my bet. This is done by tossing the dealer two chips, say two red chips and telling them, “Two way hard six.”

What this means is that one of the red chips is my bet, the other is for the dealers. You can also make dealer bets on the Pass line, numbers, field, and any of the numerous “prop” or proposition bets.

How much should you bet? That’s a personal preferance but I feel good tipping is good karma. Even if I’m up just $50, I’ll make $5 hard-way bets for the dealers. Don’t shy away from giving $1 chip because it seems too small. Usually any and all tips are appreciated.

These are some of the unwritten rules for playing craps at a casino. They won’t help you win, but following them will probably make you feel more comfortable, and have a little more fun when you’re shooting dice.

Photos courtesy of: BagoGames via Flickr and ( [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons