The 7 Best Craps Bets
Published on February 07, 2017
Craps is the classic casino connoisseur’s game, played in gambling dens around the world and usually home to the most raucous action on the floor.
To the uninitiated, a craps table resembles a labyrinth. Dozens of different wagers are outlined on the felt, and a whole other set of supplementary bets are verbalized to the army of dealers and staff on hand. A bustling crowd of players huddles in anticipation of the next roll.
Between the frenetic pace of play, the cacophony of sounds, and the whirling dervish of multicolored chips being passed back and forth, a craps game is an intense experience.
The allure of an average Las Vegas craps table offers an interesting dichotomy, as the desire to play is often deterred by the lack of knowledge most people assume craps requires.
I’ve seen the same scene play out countless times. A newbie saunters by and stops, craning their neck to catch a glimpse of the next roll. When a cheer goes up from the crowd of players, the rookie leans closer, perhaps pawing at their wallet while thinking about getting in the game. But after second thought, these players tend to keep on walking, suffering from the mistaken belief that only self-styled craps experts are welcome.
Most casino games tend to offer binary gameplay dynamics, or close to it. Blackjack beginners need only know how the card ranks and how to count to 21. The game only involves one base wager.
Baccarat is an either/or betting game (along with the Tie wager), as are Casino War and other popular table games. Even slots and video poker offer a two way street in terms of gameplay: place your wager and hope the next spin or deal produces a winner.
But in the game of craps, those traditional elements seem to change across the board. Players don’t have to necessarily win or lose following a roll. The gameplay can alternate between staccato short rolls and extended sessions involving dozens or more.
And of course, the betting board offers more than 100 different wagers and related iterations. All told, craps is a decidedly more complex casino game than the alternatives mentioned above.
Even so, it’s a shame to see so many interested players pass up their chance to get in the game, because they don’t feel comfortable navigating through the maze of bets. Especially when almost all those wagers are nothing more than window dressing for the sharp player.
Craps is a game that appears to contain levels upon levels of wagering variety, but only a few of those bets matter. The rest are longshots, crafted specifically by the casino to entice unsophisticated gamblers into backing poor odds. Once you’ve played the game for any amount of time, the apparent complexity of craps melts away. It’s replaced by the realization that the game’s top bets can be counted on two hands.
But craps is an elegant game involving a certain level of variability, meaning that current conditions on the felt may necessitate sometimes backing “bad” bets.
I’ve applied both paradigms – raw house edge comparisons and “feel” plays – to form my list of the seven best craps bets on the board. For the most part, I’ll stick to the ironclad laws of mathematics when making my choices, but in a couple instances I touch on wagers that are considered “good” only in certain scenarios.
Take a look at my list below before your next trip to Las Vegas or your local casino. Study my seven best craps bets ahead of time. From there, don’t ignore that temptation to toss the dice when you pass by the craps table, because next time you’ll know exactly which wagers to back without breaking the bank.
The most basic of all craps bet is on the Pass Line, which is also known as “right way” betting because you’ll be backing the shooter – along with most players at the table – to win.
For beginners, the Pass Line bet can be thought of like an ante of sorts, or the minimum wager you need to get into the game. Technically speaking, it’s not a true Ante bet, because you don’t have to make it, but considering that basic strategy for the game involves placing a Pass Line wager before every come out roll, I feel comfortable calling it an ante in my book.
In any case, most craps players will be backing the Pass Line when you play – and for good reason. With a low house edge of just 1.41 percent, the Pass Line wager is one of the lowest on the table, or any table in the house for that matter.
The other major motivation to bet on the Pass Line is simple enough: doing so aligns you with the shooter and fellow players, so when the table wins, you win. As you’ll learn in the next entry, betting the “wrong” way at the craps table is definitely doable, it’s just frowned upon to put it lightly.
By becoming a Pass Line bettor to begin your craps experience, you can ensure that the game boils down to a simple binary dynamic like I described in the introduction. That is, you’ll be hoping to see one of two primary results occur: if the shooter rolls a 7 or 11 you win; and if they roll a 2, 3 or 12 you lose. The payout on wins is even money as well, further simplifying the gameplay for beginners.
Of course, craps is a multifaceted game no matter how you carve it, so a third possibility exists for every Pass Line Bet. Should the shooter roll any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10), that becomes the point number and the “game within the game” commences. Every time the shooter rolls that same point number again – before rolling a 7 to end the session – you’ll win even money on your Pass Line wager.
Therefore, sticking to the seemingly simple Pass Line bet offers both binary gameplay and the chance to ride the roller coaster of emotions that can occur during an extended roll. Trust me when I say, the first time you see the shooter land a point number of 6, followed by every iteration of 6 totals (1 5, 2 4, 3 3) showing up on the dice over the next dozen rolls, you’ll instantly appreciate the subtle beauty of the Pass Line bet.
Finally, as you’ll learn a little later down the road, placing a basic Pass Line bet to get the ball rolling also enables you to enjoy the rarest of all treats for casino players: neutral expectation proposition. For all this talk of house edge rates, craps is one of the few games that invites players to back a wager with no house edge whatsoever – and one that pays out more than even money to boot. And that’s mostly made possible by putting a single chip down on the Pass Line bet to secure your seat at the most exciting table in any casino.
House Edge = 1.41%
The wrong way. The dark side. These are just a few of the more polite terms used to describe craps bettors who back the Don’t Pass Line.
As the name suggest, betting on the Don’t Pass Line involves taking the opposite tack from the Pass Line dynamic. That means you’ll win whenever the shooter rolls a 2 or 3 on their come out roll (and push on a 12), lose when they roll a 7 or 11, and play the point numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) per usual – while hoping for a 7 to be rolled before the point to win.
This reversal of the win conditions slightly tweaks the house edge on Don’t Pass Line bets in the player’s favor, so you’ll be facing a 1.36 percent hill to climb rather than 1.41 percent. That may not seem like all that much, but from a purely mathematical perspective, saving 0.05 percent on every roll of craps you play over the infinite long run would work wonders for your bottom line.
But as you might suspect, when you bet on the Don’t Pass Line, you’ll be forced into an awkward position: celebrating your own wins right as the shooter, and ostensibly the rest of the table, has just lost their Pass Line wager and associated bets.
Craps is nothing if not a communal game, and part of its enduring appeal in casinos spanning the globe is a certain sense of collective congratulations when the dice are rolling the right way. With a full table of players backing the Pass Line to begin a roll, the sight of a 7 or 11 on the come out roll inspires a round of cheers and back clapping, while an extended roll that hits the point number many times over can resemble a wedding reception or New Year’s Eve party in terms of shared smiles.
Of course, over my years haunting Las Vegas casinos, I’ve come across my fair share of wrong way bettors. And I’ll even let you in on a little secret: I’ve been known to back the Don’t Pass Line on many occasions, knowing full well what that 0.05 percent savings truly means.
Craps players who have embraced the dark side usually fit a certain bill, so you can spot them standing sullenly at the far end of the table, with as much distance between them and the shooter as possible. That’s because when the shooter does crap out on a 2 or 3 roll, wrong way bettors are trying their best to shield their excitement from the crestfallen losers ringing the table. And when they seven out quickly to end a roll before it can really begin, once again Don’t Pass Line bettors are the only ones around collecting chips.
For the average beginner, taking an already intense game like craps and complicating it further with the emotional turmoil of staring down 10 disappointed “rivals” is too much to bear. I wouldn’t advise betting the Don’t Pass Line until you’ve been around the proverbial block, learning the nuances of craps gameplay and really getting a good grasp on why wrong way bettors buck conventional wisdom.
But once you’ve crossed that bridge, like I once did, betting the Don’t Pass Line bet offers the most favorable base game bet in all of craps. Savvy players who know how probability works often can’t pass up the additional equity offered by backing the dark side, and soon enough, you’ll understand why.
Before then, however, I’d limit my action to the Pass Line bet as a beginner, while enjoying the camaraderie that defines a good craps table. After all, if you’re only playing recreationally or intermittently during the course of a casino trip, saving 0.05 percent really isn’t worth the dirty looks and lowdown comments you’ll likely receive while collecting Don’t Pass Line winnings.
House Edge = 1.36%
If you have a group of gambling fan friends, chances are good one of them has regaled you with a timeworn tale of success at the craps table.
As the story invariably goes, the buddy brought a small stack of chips over, perhaps $50 or $100 to start out. With just a $5 redbird placed on the Pass Line bet, the shooter rolled a 4 point number and the game really began. Your friend tells you they “took the odds” (whatever that means), placed a few more $5 chips behind their original bet, and watched as every gambler’s dream came true.
The shooter rolled for what seemed like an hour, although it was only a few minutes in real time. But over that span, they landed a 2 2, a 3 1, another 2 2, and a few more 3 1 totals to boot. Each time they landed a 4 to match the point number, the dealer would slide over big stacks of chips to your friend, who somehow turned that first $5 bet into a few hundred bucks in a matter of minutes.
Stories like these are a dime a dozen among craps players, and by and large, most of us who prefer the game got our start with a similar run. Everybody loves a good “rags to riches” tale, and the lightning strike odds of hitting a slots jackpot aside, there’s no better way to run a few dollars into a big bankroll than the free Odds bet in craps.
Odds bets are made available to players backing the Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line bets, so in effect anybody can get in on the action. And as I’ll cover a little later on, Odds bets can also be added to the Come and Don’t Come bets, making them an integral aspect of any good craps player’s arsenal.
The concept of an Odds bet almost seems too good to be true, but trust me when I say, this wager offers everything a sharp gambler needs. To place an Odds bet, you simply slide out an extra stack of chips behind your Pass Line (or Don’t Pass Line) bet after a point number has been set.
Note that the amount you can place on an Odds bet can vary wildly from casino to casino, depending on the house rules. In some places you’ll only be able to match the initial Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line bet, others allow you to double the amount, and still others up the stakes to 3x, 4x, 5x, and up the ladder. And once you figure out how Odds bets work, you’ll obviously be searching for venues that allow the highest possible multiples on this crucial wager.
Sticking to the point number of 4 mentioned in the friend’s story above, and using the same $5 Pass Line starting bet, imagine that your favorite casino offers 2x on Odds bets. Here, you’d slide out another $10 in chips (2x the $5 Pass Line bet) and place it directly behind the Pass Line bet already in play. That alerts the dealer that you’re “taking the odds” on the 4 point number, and from here on out, craps takes on its signature thrill ride dynamic.
Should the shooter roll a 4 again before sevening out, you’ll still earn the same even money payout of $5 on the Pass Line bet – along with a 2 to 1 payout on the Odds bet. That comes to $20 on a $10 wager, one which stays “live” throughout the duration of the roll if you so choose. Most players do, so a long roll in which the shooter avoids sevening out and re rolls the point number a few times over can quickly see a $5 Pass Line bet and accompanying $10 Odds bet turn into a couple of shiny new black $100 chips.
That 2 to 1 payout figure is taken straight from the “true odds” of landing a 4 before sevening out on any single roll. By paying out according to the true odds against, the Odds bet in craps carries a house edge of exactly 0.00 percent – making it one of the only neutral expectation wagers in any casino. Of course, you’ll have to put a Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line bet up beforehand, which serves to return the house’s precious edge on the combined wager.
Even so, the optimal strategy of betting the table minimum on the Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line bet, before betting the maximum on Odds bets, is a great way to put the bulk of your craps bankroll behind a zero house edge proposition.
The payouts for Odds bets vary based on the point number, because each set of point numbers (4 and 10; 5 and 9; 6 and 8) have their own odds against hitting before the shooter sevens out. You can compare the Odds bet payout rates by reviewing the table below:
Odds Bet Pay Table on Pass Line Bets
|4 and 10||2 to 1 ($5 wager paid $10)|
|5 and 9||3 to 2 ($5 wager is paid $7)|
|6 and 8||6 to 5 ($5 wager is paid $6)|
If you fancy yourself as a budding wrong way bettor, note that the system for Odds bets plays out just as any other dark side bet does. That is to say, you’ll be hoping to see a 7 show up before the point number is rolled again. This process is known as “laying the odds” in craps parlance, as opposed to “taking the odds” for Pass Line bettors.
If you successfully lay the odds as a wrong way bettor, and see the shooter seven out before landing the point number again, you’ll earn a payout on your Odds bet equal to the true odds. The table below displays payouts for Odds bets after backing the Don’t Pass Line:
Odds Bet Pay Table on Don’t Pass Line Bets
|4 and 10||1 to 2 ($10 wager is paid $5)|
|5 and 9||2 to 3 ($7 wager is paid $5)|
|6 and 8||5 to 6 ($6 wager is paid $5)|
One of the big reasons why beginners like the Pass Line bet, aside from fitting in with the masses, is that the subsequent Odds bets offer more lucrative payouts. You can turn $5 into $10 with an Odds bet on the 4 or 10, but as a wrong way bettor, you’ll need to risk $10 to win $5 to beat the same point number.
Overall, the Odds bet is the true economic engine for successful craps players, especially because players can “turn off” the wager at any time of their choosing. A sharp craps specialist can seamlessly alternate between turning their Odds bets on and off to take advantage of table conditions, all without being forced to fade an iota of house edge.
House Edge = 0.00%
As a craps player passively backing the Pass Line, you’ll soon find yourself yearning to see certain point numbers set by the shooter.
Specifically, when the shooter lands on a 6 or an 8 as the point number, you’ll be happier than in any other scenario – because 6s and 8s are the most likely totals to occur aside from 7.
Understanding dice probability is a central component of succeeding at, and even enjoying, the game of craps. So check the table below for a quick primer on the ways a pair of dice will shake out:
Combinations and Probabilities of Landing Any Total in Craps
|3||2 (1+2; 2+1)||5.56%|
|4||3 (1+3; 2+2; 3+1)||8.33%|
|5||4 (1+4; 2+3; 3+2; 4+1)||11.11%|
|6||5 (1+5; 2+4; 3+3; 4+2; 5+1)||13.89%|
|7||6 (1+6; 2+5; 3+4; 4+3; 5+2; 6+1)||16.67%|
|8||5 (2+6; 3+5, 4+4; 5+3; 6+2)||13.89%|
|9||4 (3+6; 4+5; 5+4; 6+3)||11.11%|
|10||3 (4+6; 5+5; 6+4)||8.33%|
|11||2 (5+6; 6+5))||5.56%|
Clearly, the most likely total produced by rolling a pair of dice is 7 – occurring on 16.67 percent of all rolls – which is why that number plays such a central role in craps. But from there, following the pyramidical structure of the data, you can see that 6 and 8 totals occur with the next highest frequency at 13.89 percent each.
Knowing this, craps players betting the Pass Line and Odds bets love to see the shooter roll a 6 or 8 point number, because they’ll have the best chance of fading a seven out while repeating the point number – scooping up some major chips along the way.
But sometimes the shooter isn’t cooperating, and 6 or 8 point numbers are few and far between. In this case, the Place bet can become an invaluable weapon to the well informed craps player.
Making a Place bet is often referred to as generating an “on demand” point number, because it allows the bettor to back any of the point numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) whenever they’d like. Imagine the shooter has just rolled yet another 4 for the point number – one you know by now only comes in on 8.33 percent of rolls. This leaves you hoping to hit a less than 10 in 1 longshot to bring back anything on your Pass Line bet.
This is where the Place bet comes into play. After seeing the point number set at 4, you can simply alert the dealer that you’d like to back the 6 and/or 8 with a Place bet. Something like “Twenty four on six” or “Eighteen on the eight” should suffice, and from there, you’ll be playing with your own personal point number.
You can put a Place bet on just the 6, just the 8, or both of them together. That’s up to your own discretion and feel at the moment, but I’d advise limiting your action on Place bets to the 6 and 8 grouping only. That’s because these point numbers occur more often than the others, and thus, offer a lower house edge than the other groups, as shown by the table below:
Place Bets by Payout Rate and House Edge
|4 or 10||9 to 5 ($5 bet is paid $9)||6.70%|
|5 or 9||7 to 5 ($5 bet is paid $7)||4.00%|
|6 or 8||7 to 6 ($6 bet is paid $7)||1.50%|
In the example roll sketched out earlier, the shooter has landed a point number of 4, and you’ve decided to back the 6 and 8 with a $20 place bet on each. That’s on top of your $5 Pass Line bet, so at the moment, the shooter rolling a 4 will produce an even money payout of $5 there.
But the real goal now is for the shooter to land a few 6 or 8 totals before sevening out, because each one will bring back a healthy $28 return on your $24 wager.
And why are those wagers made in odd increments of $24, rather than the usual $5 multiples used in casino gambling? Good question. That’s because the payout odds offered on 6 and 8 Place bets are 7 to 6, so betting in $6 intervals rather than $5 speeds up the game and makes things much easier on the dealer.
The reasoning behind a Place bet on the 6 and/or 8 is easy enough to grasp: doing so gives you more than one point number to work with on subsequent rolls. You can win even money on your Pass Line bet when the shooter re rolls the original point number, and win at slightly less than even money whenever your Place bet point number appears. By taking the 6 and the 8 together with dual Place bets, savvy players are now backing three point numbers – the shooter’s established point, plus the two most likely totals to occur (aside from the dreaded seven).
Considering the low house edge of 1.50 percent (on 6 and/or 8 Place bets only), taking the on demand point number is a great way to balance out unfavorable point numbers as a Pass Line bettor.
House Edge = 1.50%
Wagers like the Come bet are where craps gained its reputation for complexity.
When backing the Come bet, you’re simply playing an on demand Pass Line, similar to the way Place bets work. In other words, at any point after the come out roll, you can place a Come bet to create your own personal Pass Line bet.
Here’s how it works. After the shooter has rolled the come out roll and established a point number – any point number – you can then put out a Come bet. Then, on the next roll, you’re essentially playing out your own Pass Line bet separate from the rest of the table.
Thus, if that next roll is a 7 or 11, you’d win even money on your Come bet. On the other hand, if that next roll shows a 2, 3, or 12, your Come bet is lost to the house. And any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) will establish the new point number going forward, but one that only you care about.
From there, you’re essentially playing two games of craps at once. You’ll be hoping to fade a seven out and land the original point number to win even money payouts on your Pass Line bet. In addition, anytime that new “come bet point” number turns up, you’ll earn an even money payout on the Come bet. Once again, the point of this wager is to add another dimension to the gameplay, giving players multiple results to sweat and cheer for on every single roll.
To juice up the excitement, a Come bet can be treated like any other Pass Line bet after the new come out point number is determined. That means you can back the new point number with and Odds bet to give yourself a virtual freeroll at bigger winnings.
Players who enjoy the Come bet concept should take some time to study the wager’s parameters before putting real money on the line. Not because it’s a bad bet – at 1.41 percent, it perfectly matches the house edge offered by the basic Pass Line bet – but because the inner workings can admittedly get a bit messy.
One common scenario to consider involves what happens when the shooter makes their point number, leaving your Come bet pending heading into the next come out roll. Trained dealers are always on hand to help guide you through these nuances, but as any craps player can tell you, the game moves much more smoothly when everybody playing knows the rules.
So brush up on the ins and outs of Come bet rules before adding this valuable weapon to your craps toolbox.
House Edge = 1.41%
If the Don’t Pass Line bet is the mirror opposite of the Pass Line, the Don’t Come bet offsets the Come bet in the exact same way.
Essentially, making a Don’t Come bet allows players to create their own personal Don’t Pass Line after any come out roll. By now you should have a clearer idea about how these basic craps bets function, but just in case, I’ll run through the pertinent need to knows.
If you bet on the Don’t Come, you’re becoming a wrong way bettor on the subsequent rolls. That is to say, you’ll be hoping to see a 2 or 3 to win (or a 12 to push) on the new come out roll established by your Don’t Come bet. On the other hand, a 7 on the new come out roll will see your Don’t Come bet claimed by the house.
When a new “don’t come point” number is established, the same dark side gameplay dynamic is in place, so you’ll be hoping to see a seven show up before your personal don’t come point reappears.
Furthermore, players backing the Don’t Come bet can also sweeten the pot by laying odds on their new point number. Once again, this bet works in the exact same way as the Come bet described above – only in reverse.
The Don’t Come bet carries the same etiquette caveats as betting the Don’t Pass Line, so be warned that you’ll be celebrating when other players lose. If you can stomach that scene, betting on the Don’t Come offers the same slight reduction in house edge, shifting downward from 1.41 percent to 1.36 percent.
House Edge = 1.36%
One of the more controversial bets on the board, at least among self-described craps experts, is known as the Field bet.
Here, the objective is easy to see just by reading the flashy “FIELD” bet area lined out on the felt. You’ll be hoping that the next roll of the dice produces any of the following totals: 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12.
That specific set of numbers is enticing to many craps novices, simply because it contains six different winners on any given roll. However, as revealed by the table below – which should be considered mandatory knowledge if you continue playing craps in any capacity) – those six numbers are the six worst you can back:
Combinations and Probabilities of Landing Any Total in Craps
You’ll only have a 2.78 percent shot of landing a 2 or 12, a 5.56 percent hope of hitting a 3 or 11, an 8.33 percent odds against producing a 4 or 10, and an 11.11 percent of finding a 9. Sufficed to say, even when these six numbers are combined into a single wager, the Field bet is rightfully considered a longshot.
When offering only even money payouts, the Field bet carries a house edge of 5.56 percent, which is simply too high to be considered playable in a game with so many better options on the board.
But you’ll find many craps tables which offer a 2 to 1 payout when you win a Field bet on a 2 total. Similarly, these houses tend to up the ante to 3 to 1 when you land a 12 to win a Field bet. When you can find craps tables offering this 2x and 3x pay scheme for 2 and 12 totals, the Field bet actually becomes a 2.78 house edge proposition.
This isn’t great by any means, but it’s not all that bad either, and backing the Field bet can be a fun way to spice up a dry session. Having six winning numbers (along with the point number) on a given roll is a nice change of pace from hoping to find that one magic total. Some veteran craps players may roll their eyes or scoff at Field bettors, but don’t mind them at all, and just enjoy the experience either way.
Be mindful though, as a Field bet is a one off affair, meaning it will be settled on the next roll. No rollovers here, so consider a Field bet to be a true gamble, with one roll of the dice deciding your fate.
House Edge = 2.78%
Craps is a beloved game among longtime gamblers because of the sheer variety offered by the betting structure. One can play a passive Pass Line plus Odds bets game and profit steadily when the dice cooperate, or mix it up chasing longshots like the “hard” totals and other bad bets.
Going further, any combination of the favorable bets listed above can produce an entirely different outcome night after night or even shooter after shooter. In a casino gambling landscape that’s increasingly defined by standardization and mechanical play, taking advantage of these seven craps bets gives even the beginner an unending spectrum of results to soak in.