The Basics Of Craps For Beginners, Explained By An Expert

Ask any craps player what the most exciting game in the casino is and, guess what, they will say craps. Most will swear to it. I do.

Craps is the most exciting and stimulating game in the house. And in a moment, you’ll know the essentials of how to play it.

Basic Craps Rules: Games Start With A Pass

Craps table layout
Image credit: Wikipedia Commons

Craps is an easy game to play. The basics of craps are as follows:

Around the outside of the layout is the “pass line” and above that is the “don’t pass” line.

These two betting options are opposites of each other. In fact, 90-95% of craps players bet the pass line and the others bet the don’t pass line – another name for these players is darksiders. I am sure you get the picture here. Don’t pass players tend to be disliked by pass-line players who are also called right-side players. Each tends to be betting the opposite side of the game.

The shooter is passed five dice and he or she selects two of them.

Yes, each player is given the option of shooting the dice and that is one of the charms of the game. Take those dice and put everything into your own hands – for good or ill! Have a winning craps roll – glorious! Have a losing roll? Yuck, you might feel like slinking away!

Tip: Check out the movie Oceans 13 which gives a great look at how the dice are actually made so they are nearly perfect.

  • The game begins with a new shooter rolling the dice.
  • This is called the come-out roll and that starts the new shooter’s attempt to take down the house at craps.
  • The come-out roll will set up the number that will become the “point.”
  • The shooter will have to hit that number before hitting a seven in order to win.
  • Hit the 7 and most pass line bets will lose.
  • On the come-out roll, a pass-line bet wins if the 7 or 11 rolls, and it loses if a 2, 3 or 12 rolls.
  • When the shooter hits the point number, he will continue to roll the dice until he or she loses.

The world record for a dice roll is over 150!

Understanding Craps Numbers

Since craps is a game of numbers, players should know how these numbers are made.

There are 36 possible combinations of two six-sided dice [6 x 6 = 36).  Every aspect of craps is a numbered aspect – and you will probably be surprised by how many players do not actually understand the numbers.

Each pip on the dice is a number. So, a one-pip die is the number one and a six-pips die is the number six. A six-piped die and a one-piped die will equal the number 7; the most powerful number in craps.

The seven can also be made using the 2 pips and 5 pips, the 3 pips and the 4 pips. Remember, you use two dice so there are two dice with 4 pips and two dice with 3 pips.

Craps Dice Combinations: “The Pyramid of Numbers”

This pyramid shows the possible combinations for each number.

2:  1:1

3:  2:1; 1:2

4:  2:2, 3:1, 1:3

5:  3:2, 2:3, 4:1, 1:4

6:  3:3, 4:2, 2:4; 5:1, 1:5

7:  4:3, 3:4, 5:2, 2:5, 6:1, 1:6

8.  4:4, 5:3, 3:5,6:2, 2:6

9:  5:4, 4:5, 6:3, 3:6

10: 5:5, 6:4, 4:6

11: 6:5, 5:6

12: 6:6

Craps Dice Odds

The relationship of a given number to the 7 is important for many craps bets. So, here it is.

NumberWays To Make ItSevenOdds
2:166 to 1
3:263 to 1
4:362 to 1
5:463 to 2
6:566 to 5
7:661 to 1
8:566 to 5
9:463 to 2
10:362 to 1
11:263 to 1
12:166 to 1

At first the numbers might seem intimidating, but in a short while, a very short while, they will be second nature to you.

The History Of Craps

Check out the table. The layout seems to be a staggering array of symbols, colors, and numbers. Yikes! Could these come from an ancient civilization? Maybe Mesopotamia? Egypt?

An empty craps table
Image credit: Eric Mesa/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Actually, the game comes from the Mississippi River towns and counties of the United States. It used to be called “crabs” and it was played for many generations in the South. Its origin might have been the British game of Hazard. The great writer Geofrey Chaucer mentions it in his epic book The Canterbury Tales which was written in the late 1300s.

In the United States, the game slowly moved its way into the cities of the North and was often called the “alley game” by city players. It still is played in the cities’ alleys. Northerners thought those southerners called the game “craps” as opposed to “crabs”, and that’s what its name became.

World War II brought craps to the forefront of the gaming world as it was one of the two most played games during the war, along with poker. When casinos started to flourish after World War II, craps was the number-one table game in the house.

A Final Note On Craps: The Most Exciting Game

Yes, I love to play craps and I also love other games but bar none, craps is the most exciting, stimulating, and also the most disappointing, and groan-inducing game in the house.

Can you win at craps? On some bets the game is so close that any given session might indeed turn out to be a winner for the smart player.

But the title of the game can mean a different thing, a negative thing, with some other bets. It is up to the players to know the difference between good craps bets and horrible ones.

You see, when things are riding high and a craps shooter is hitting numbers and points, the table generally explodes with just about each roll of the dice. When shooter after shooter sevens-out early in his or her roll, which usually means a bad time for just about everyone, the groans can be heard from just about everywhere in the casino.

Those groans are the yodels of the despondent players.

If you are a casino fan, you know what I’m speaking about. You’ve heard it and perhaps seen it. If you are a craps player, you’ve experienced it.


Now you’ve mastered the basics of craps, check out this article for more about how to play craps.