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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Fun and (Table) Games: Try Craps

13 December 2004

You may have been drawn to craps by the roar of solid citizens caught up in the action, then found it too intimidating to try. Fear not. The game is little more than betting on how a pair of dice will land. And, on any toss, your wager may win, lose, or be unaffected by the result. Of course, winning is good and losing bad. But the irrelevant outcomes are the keys to the excitement.

Why? Because you can make several bets at once, winning some but not losing the others. Make believe you're on five, six, and eight. If the dice show 1-4 or 3-2, the five wins but the six and eight just sit there. Take the winnings and leave the wager; you're up on five, six, and eight for the next toss. If a shooter keeps throwing the numbers, you keep collecting on the same bets.

You can belly-up with the best of 'em knowing only two types of bets. Widen your scope after you're at ease with these basics.

Wait for space to open at the rail, rather than squeeze in. Craps etiquette is not to buy-in and start betting until a shooter is on deck to "establish a point." You'll recognize this two ways: 1) the dice are in the center of the table; 2) a round "puck" is in the back corner, black side labeled "off," face up. Drop your cash on the felt, don't hand it to the dealer. The dealer will change it for chips; put them in the rack atop the rail. Tell the dealer you're new; most are eager to help, but often confuse more than they clarify by suggesting frills novices don't yet fathom.

Make your first wager by setting chips equal to at least the table minimum in the area in front of you marked "Pass Line." Pass is a two-stage bet. In the first stage, the shooter "comes out" to establish a point. Here, two, three, or 12 lose instantly and you have to start over. Seven or 11 win 1-to-1 right away; on these, grab your earnings and leave your initial bet on the Pass line, ready for the same shooter to come out again. Anything else -- four, five, six, eight, nine, or 10 -- neither wins nor loses on come-outs. Rather, the number becomes the shooter's point. The dealer marks it with the puck, white side labeled "on," face up.

You can stop with this bet. And, it might be wise to do so until you get the lay of the land. Repetition of the point wins 1-to-1 and a seven loses. Staying on Pass alone has the drawback that you'll miss the thrill and profit if the shooter hits lots of numbers before repeating it or throwing a seven, and you're not on any of them. You'll therefore likely want to make at least one additional wager. A good beginner's choice would be to "Place" the six or eight. If the point is one of these, go for the other; anything else, pick either or both. Six and eight are bet in multiples of $6 and pay 7-to-6. While the dice are in the middle of the table after the point is established, drop your chips onto the "Field" or "Come" and say "six dollar eight, please" or "six dollars each, six and eight, please." The dealer will make change if necessary, and position your money on the layout.

Say you have $5 on Pass, the point becomes 10, and you Place the six for $6. A seven costs you both bets; the dice then move to a new shooter and another sequence begins. A six gets you $7 and leaves your bets as they were for the next throw by the same shooter. A 10 wins you $5 on Pass. Keep your chips on Pass and six while the same shooter comes out again for a new point.

Place bets are assumed to be inactive during come-out rolls. They don't win if the number hits and becomes the point, but they also don't lose on a seven. When a new point coincides with a previous Place bet, the dealer will suggest you move it; go from eight to six or vice-versa. If you have Placed both six and eight, and one becomes the point, ask the dealer to take that number down.

Don't balk on your turn to shoot. The "stick" will slide you five dice. Take two, using only one hand. Keep that hand over the table. Pitch the dice gently, but far enough to hit the padded wall at the opposite end and bounce back onto the layout. And, while rolling, recall this from the rhymster, Sumner A Ingmark:

To winners, success is a matter of skills,
To losers, the roll of the dice brings all ills.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.