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A Look At Craps

A Crash Course in Craps Strategy (or Non-Strategy)

by Jeff Hwang |  Published: Sep 21, 2011


Jeff HwangIt’s natural for poker players to wander into a casino, and one of the most popular games in the casino — particularly among poker players — is craps. I’m not saying I advocate gambling, but for those of you who play craps or are merely curious about the game and want to try it out for the experience, here’s a crash course in playing the game without getting your clocks cleaned.

Here’s the deal with craps: The optimal strategy is to sit back and observe. That failing — if you really have to play — the general rule of thumb is that the more you know, the worse off you are.

The various bets and the house advantage on these respective bets are listed below. (I got these from a book called Winning Craps for the Serious Player by J. Edward Allen, but I don’t really recommend buying this book, or any other book on craps for that matter.)

The house advantage on the pass-line bet is 1.41%, which means that for every $10 you bet on the pass line, you are spending $0.14. The come bet is effectively identical to the pass-line bet, only placed after the point has been established, and so the house advantage is the same. Also, the house advantage on the 6 and 8 place bets is 1.52%.
Everything else is, well, crap. Here are some of the house advantages on bets:

Line Bets

Pass line: 1.41%
Come bet: 1.41%
Don’t Pass: 1.40%
Don’t Come: 1.40%
Odds on Pass Line or Come bet: 0.00%

Place Numbers

6 or 8: 1.52%
5 or 9: 4.0%
4 or 10: 6.67%
Field bet: 5.55% if house pays double on 2 and 12, and 2.77% if house pays double on either 2 or 12 and triple on the other
Big 6 and Big 8: 9.09%

Prop Bets

Any 7: 16.67%
Any Craps: 11.1%
2 or 12: 13.89% if house pays 31-for-1, or 16.67% for 30-for-1
3 or 11: 11.1% for 15-for-1, or 16.67% for 14-for-1
Hard 4 and Hard 10: 11.1%
Hard 6 and Hard 8: 9.09%
Hop Bets: 16.67%

1. Starter Strategy: Bet the Minimum on the Pass Line

The nice thing about craps is that you, as the player, can dictate how much or how little you want to gamble.

If you are just looking to get your feet wet, you can simply sit there and bet the minimum on the pass line, and your money will go a long way.

According to an article by Donald Catlin entitled “How Long is a Craps Roll?” (from Jan. 5, 2000 and found on, the average number of rolls per comeout roll decision is 3.376.

What this is means is that if you bet $10 on the pass line for a spend of $0.14 per bet, it is only costing you $0.14/3.376 or 4.2 cents per roll, which strikes me as pretty good value if you just want to experience the game.

2. More Gamble: 6 and 8 Place Bets

I know, after you experience your first 3.376 rolls, you’ll probably decide that just sitting there betting the minimum on the pass line is a pretty boring way to live. Well, if you need more action, you might bet the 6 and 8 once the point has been established. These carry a similarly small 1.52% house advantage, which means that it costs you $0.15 per $10 bet (this is per bet, not per roll; also, technically speaking, your bets on 6 and 8 should be in increments of $6, so a $12 bet would cost $0.18).

3. Even More Action: The Come Bet

I get it, even the 6 and 8 might not be enough action. However, if you want to bet something else, the solution is not to bet the other numbers or the field, and definitely not anything in the middle of the table; rather, your play is the come bet. The problem with the other numbers is that as you move away from the 6 and 8, the place bets get progressively worse: a 4.0% house advantage on the 5 and 9, and a 6.67% house advantage on the 4 and 10. The field bet also carries either a 2.77% house advantage or a 5.55% house advantage, depending on whether the house pays double on both 2 and 12 (house advantage is 5.55%), or double on one and triple on the other (house advantage is 2.77%).

What’s more, everything in the middle of the table is pure garbage, with a house edge ranging from 9.09% to 16.67%, depending on the bet. There are basically three reasons why people make these bets: 1) They are really looking to gamble, 2) If a bet has its own nickname — like Midnight or Aces — it sounds like something you should bet, and 3) If a player knows the nickname, a player might think he looks sophisticated shouting out “Midnight!”

Otherwise, you generally should avoid the prop bets.

Anyway, the come bet is effectively the same as the pass-line bet, only it’s placed once the point has been established. This allows you to bet the other numbers on the table at the same 1.41% house advantage as the pass line.

You might notice I haven’t said anything about taking odds yet, which are bets that carry zero house advantage when you take odds on pass-line or come bets. Contrary to popular belief, these bets do not reduce the house advantage, and are actually just pure variance that you don’t need to take. On the other hand, if you are really looking to gamble, there is no better bet in the house unless you are counting cards in blackjack — but that’s a conversation for another day. Spade Suit

Jeff Hwang is author of Pot-Limit Omaha Poker: The Big Play Strategy, as well as the three-volume Advanced Pot-Limit Omaha series.