The Best Craps Strategies, Simply Explained By An Expert

In craps, like in any casino game, finding the best betting strategy is about three things: focusing on the wagers with the smallest house advantage, managing your bankroll wisely, and playing a style that optimizes your fun. In this article, we’ll take you through the best possible craps strategies step-by-step, so you can make the most of your time at the tables.

A Quick Odds Refresher

To understand which bets are the best in craps, you must master the great dice probability pyramid, which shows you how the different combinations result in the relative likelihood of each number coming up.

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

Understanding this probability pyramid, along with what the casino pays you on a winning bet, is the key to deciding what the best craps bets are. You then need to combine them into the best possible betting strategies. Read more about the basics of craps here.

A Quick Craps Bets Refresher

The best craps strategy only requires knowledge of a limited number of bet types. Let’s do a quick review of the basic bets with the lowest house advantage:

1. Pass Line

The shooter makes come out rolls until a point is rolled (a 4,5,6,8,9, or 10). During come out rolls, your Pass Line bet wins (and pays even money) if the shooter hits a 7 or 11, and loses on a 2,3, or 12.

Once a point has been established, only two rolls matter; the Pass Line bet now wins if that point appears again, and loses on a 7.

Note how the odds shift against you. During the come out roll, there are 8 ways to win instantly (on 7 and 11) and only 4 ways to lose (2, 3 and 12).  But with a point established, you’re at a statistical disadvantage. If the point is 6 or 8, a Pass Line bet wins five times for every six times a 7 appears, making for a 45% win probability. A 5 or 9 have just a 40% win probability, and 4 or 10 have a dismal 33% chance.

2. Come

When the bettor wants to cheer for additional numbers, they can bet the Come. The rules for Come bets are almost identical to Pass Line bets, save for the timing of the bet. You can only place Come bets before point rolls. Once placed, they follow the same sequence and rules as a Pass Line bet.

3. Don’t Pass/Don’t Come

Betting the Don’t Pass and Don’t Come follow rules that are almost the mirror image of their right way counterparts. What wins for the right way loses for the wrong way and vice versa, with one exception: for the right way, a 12 represents a loss on come out rolls, but it’s only a push for wrong way players.

So, knowing all this, what’s the best way to play craps?

Strategy #1: Pass Line and Come Bet Craps Strategy

When there’s a hot shooter, you’ll hear the siren song of Place and Lay bets, which allow you to get multiple numbers up and running immediately. You might look longingly at the Props bets or the Field bet. Don’t do it!

Whether you’re betting with or against the shooter, bet the Pass Line during the come-out roll, back it with odds (see Strategy #2), and build numbers through Come bets. Only place bets with the smallest house advantage.

Strategy #2: Odds Bet Craps Strategy

Once a point is established, Pass Line or Come bets are underdogs. Remember the pyramid: 7 is always more likely to come up than the point. So how do we salvage these bets? With Odds bets.

Both land-based and online casinos let you reduce the house advantage by backing your Pass Line or Come bets with an additional Odds bet that’s a multiple (usually 2 or 3x) the original wager amount.

Why do this if you’re at a statistical disadvantage? Because the payout on Odds bets are made with no house advantage; that is, these wagers are offered at what is known as true odds.

Since 6 or 8 have five ways of appearing versus the 7’s six, the casino pays 6-to-5 on an odds bet backing a 6 or 8. Odds payoffs are in proportion to a point’s disadvantage versus a 7. Odds bets pay 3-to-2 on 5 and 9 and pay 2-to-1 on 4 and 10.

For example, you’ve got a Pass Line bet and the point is 4. The 4 can come only three ways (2-2, 3-1, and 1-3) versus the six ways a 7 can come up. Since the bet is twice as likely to lose as it is to win, true odds means the house pays you twice your wagered amount should it win.

Assuming 3x Odds betting is allowed, that means your Pass Line bet on 4 has gone from a 33% house advantage to a little north of 8%. That’s a significant improvement. It doesn’t make you more likely to win craps, it just means you get paid off better when you do win.

And that makes Odds bets always worth making.

Example: Basic Betting Sequence Using Strategy #1 and #2

Here’s a basic approach you can take that gives you exposure to two numbers at a time, assuming 3x odds are allowed.

1. Buy in with at least 15x the minimum bet at the table. At a \$10 table, you should buy in for at least \$150 in chips. But remember to only ever bet what you can afford to lose.
2. Bet a unit (\$10) on the pass line. Replace it as necessary in the event of a 2,3, or 12 on the come-out.
3. Once a point is established, back it with full odds and place another unit on the Come.
4. Should the Come bet win, take your payout and place another unit on the Come.

This betting sequence will get you comfortable with placing odds bets and with monitoring two numbers at once.

When you play in the casino, Come bets can take some getting used to as the dealers physically move your chips from the Come bet area to the numbered square of the established point.

Once you get a feel for managing multiple numbers, and once you’ve experienced the joys of a long roll (along with the pain of a 7-out wiping out your bets), you can up your game.

Strategy #3: 6 8 Craps Strategy

Remember strategy #1 about sticking to the basic bets? There is one exception to this rule.

A Place bet lets you select a number and bet on it directly. Like your other bets, Place bets win when that number comes up and lose on a 7. They differ from a Come bet in that you skip the come out roll sequence and get a number of your choice working right away.

While Place bets on the 4,5,9, and 10 come with a big house advantage, the 6 and 8 Place bets actually have a reasonable house edge that’s only slightly worse than an equivalent Come bet (assuming 3x odds).

So strategy #3 is to accelerate your game play to get more numbers working at once, and to Place the 6 or 8 to get them up sooner.

Example: Intermediate Betting Sequence Using Strategy #3

Getting more numbers working exposes you to a bigger loss at one time, but it gives you more ways to win. And you’re positioned to rake in big money should a player go on a long roll without a 7-out.

1. Buy in with at least 20x the minimum bet at the table.
2. Bet a unit on the Pass Line; take full odds when a point is established.
3. If your point is a 4, 5, 9, or 10, bet a two(-ish)* unit Place bet on either the 6 or 8
4. Bet a single unit Come bet and back it with full odds.
5. Maintain three numbers at once using the Come and Place bets to replace a winner.

The goal of this strategy is two-fold: to get three numbers working as soon as possible, and to make sure one of those numbers is the 6 or 8. This is why it’s known as the 6 8 craps strategy.

*The 6/8 Place bet pays out at 7-to-6, so bet it in increments of \$6. At a \$10 minimum game, that means \$18 or \$24 works. (You can bet in any increment you want, but the goal is to make it easy for the casino to pay you off.) When in doubt, ask the dealer; they’ll let you know if the amount you’ve bet needs adjusting.

Once you’re comfortable with craps strategy #3, you can see how it could be easily expanded by using Place bets to always maintain both the 6 and 8, while using the Come bet to build on the other numbers. It’s not unheard of for experienced players to have 4, 5, or all 6 numbers to be working at once through a combination of Pass Line, Come, and Place bets.

Strategy #4: Don’t Come And Don’t Pass Craps Strategy

Overall, betting against the dice is actually slightly more advantageous than betting with them.

There’s also a gameplay advantage with Don’t bets. For one thing, with multiple numbers up, a 7-out turns into a big payday as all your Pass and Come bets get paid off at once. On the other hand, when the shooter hits a point, you’ll only lose one bet at a time; there’s no way to get completely wiped in the manner of 7 taking down all active numbers for a right way bettor.

So why not bet the Don’t Pass and Don’t Come every time? Well, there’s a non-monetary cost to being a wrong-way bettor in a live game. Craps is a social game and most people at the table are betting with the dice.

That means there’s cheering and backslapping and camaraderie when the shooter hits points, or even simply has a long roll.

If you approach a craps table full of right-way players and plunk down a big bet on the Don’t Pass, you’ll quickly become the least popular person at the table, because you’re hoping for a sequence of dice throws that simultaneously rips their hearts out and fattens your wallet.

Example: Advanced Betting Sequence Using Strategy #4

So, you’ve decided to join the dark side. Congratulations, as you’re going to be making bets with the lowest house advantage on the table, making it arguably the best mathematical craps strategy.

1. Buy in with at least 20x the minimum bet at the table.
2. Bet a unit on the Don’t Pass Line; lay* full odds when a point is established.
3. Bet a unit on Don’t Come and lay full odds until you have three numbers working.
4. Should the shooter hit a point and take down one of your working numbers, replace it. But only do this twice. Yes, this is more about emotion than rationality, but if a shooter starts hitting points, it can feel like the start of a long roll. Rather than fighting the tide, sometimes it’s best to accept your fate. Once you’ve replaced two points, let the roll play out until your bets win with a 7-out. If all your numbers get knocked down, sit out until the next shooter.

*When you bet the wrong way, you don’t place Odds bets like you would for Pass Line and Come bets. These are true odds payouts, which means you back your bet by laying odds. The math is the exact inverse of placing odds on right way bets. On a 6/8, you’re laying increments of \$6, which will pay \$5 on a win. On 5/9 you’re laying an easy multiple of 3 that will get paid out at 2-to-3. And on 4/10, you can lay any even number as the bet will get paid off at 1-to-2.

Craps Playing Strategies Conclusion

When it comes to the best craps strategy, keep one simple rule of thumb in mind. No bet-sizing or sequencing combination can overcome a house advantage, no matter how small it is. So, your goal in craps is to bet in ways the minimizes house advantage while maximizing your fun, and in such a way that suits your style of play.

Enjoyed this? Check out our article on craps dice control.

Lead image credit: ThoroughlyReviewed/Flickr, CC BY 2.0