Aces Guide to Gambling

Craps Strategy & Rules :

Back to basics - Stick with pass line to get rolling in craps

About The Author

John Grochowski is the author of four gaming books including The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Casino Answer Book.

Grochowski was recently named by Casino Player magazine as one of the 100 best gaming authors of the 20th century.

He also runs a gaming column in the Detroit News and the Chicago Sun-Times, which examines issues ranging from blackjack and video poker strategy to casino etiquette.

John Grochowski

Casino games were not designed to intimidate.
When you look at a game, casino operators don't want your reaction to be, "That looks too hard. Think I'll take a pass." They want you to reach into your wallet and bet your money.

Every casino game is simple at its heart, designed so that anyone can learn to bet within a hand or two. There may be complexities buried within the game--you'll win more often at blackjack if you learn basic strategy--and you'll be better off at baccarat if you learn never to bet on ties. But the basics of every casino game are kept simple enough that any newcomer can start betting almost from the instant he arrives at the table.

That even goes for craps, which at a glance is the most intimidating game in the casino. The table layout is the busiest in the house, with markings on the felt touting dozens of possible bets. The game also moves very fast. A beginner might go on overload, dazed by too many options along with the speed of the game.

What the beginner doesn't realize is that most of those options aren't worth knowing. There are a few very good bets at the craps table--craps can have one of the lowest house edges in the casino--and many very bad bets--craps also can have one of the highest house edges in the casino.

As we continue our look at the basics on how to play casino games, let's start with one of craps' good bets. Learn how to bet the pass line, and you have enough to get started. In fact, if you stick with the pass line, you'll be getting a better deal than many experienced players who know every proposition on the table-- and too often fall for the sucker bets.

The pass line bet is a multiroll wager. You don't win or lose on every roll. There is some waiting involved, and that's not a bad thing in a game that moves as rapidly as craps.

It all starts with the comeout roll. How do you know whether the shooter's next roll is a comeout? On the table, there is a black-and-white disc called a "puck." When the next roll is a comeout, the puck is turned to the side that says "Off" and placed on a corner of the layout that says "Don't pass."

If the puck is turned to "Off," you're ready to make a pass line bet. You place a chip or chips directly in front of you in the area marked off as the pass line. The shooter then rolls, and if the two dice total 7 or 11, pass-line bets win. If they total 2, 3 or 12, pass line bets lose.

What if the total is 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10? Then that number becomes the point. The puck is flipped to the side that says "On," and placed in the box marked with that point number.

Once a point has been established, the shooter rolls again until he either repeats the point number or rolls a 7. If he rolls the point number again, pass-line bettors win. But if a 7 shows up first, pass-line bettors lose.

No other numbers matter. If the shooter rolls a 6 on the comeout, then the pass-line sequence ends only when he rolls another 6 or a 7. If he rolls a 2, 8, 11 or any other number, it does not affect the pass-line bet. The shooter just rolls again and again, until the bet is settled.

If the shooter makes the point number, he keeps shooting as the pass-line sequence starts again with a new comeout roll. But if he rolls a loser 7, he "sevens out," and the dice are offered to the next player to the shooter's left.

That's easy enough, right? Place a bet on the pass line. If the shooter rolls 7 or 11, you win; if it's 2, 3 or 12 you lose. Any other number becomes the point, and if the shooter repeats that number before the next 7, you win, and if a 7 comes first, you lose.

Stick with pass, and you're playing a game with a house edge of only 1.41 percent. On the average, you'll lose $1.41 of every $100 you risk but have a good shot at some winning sessions. Blackjack players who learn basic strategy do better (house edge about 0.5 percent), and so do baccarat players (1.36 percent on banker, 1.17 percent on player). But you're getting a better deal than those who play double-zero roulette (5.26 percent), Caribbean Stud (5.22 percent of the ante) or Let It Ride (3.5 percent of one bet).

As you gain experience in craps, you'll find most players like to have more than one wager working at a time. They think it adds to the excitement of the game to have bets decided on nearly every roll, instead of waiting for a point. Can you make multiple bets while still keeping the house edge low? You can when you bet on "come".

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