Out of all the casinos games, craps is the one that gets the most screen time in movies. Everyone knows what craps looks like. There’s a table and some dice and everyone stands around the table frothing with excitement. The most iconic image people have in their minds when thinking about craps is when the shooter has a pretty girl blow on the dice for luck. The dice roll, a number is announced, and the table roars with excitement. Yet no one seems to know the rules of the game, how it is played, or even what it is exactly. Craps, in other words, is shrouded in mystery despite being one of the most famous games of all time.
Craps is very exciting and fun. It is social, involving, and actually quite easy to learn. It is well worth knowing how to play it this game because beside its fast pace and the excitement it offers, Craps also has some of the best odds in the house. There is only one other game that offers similar odds of winning—Blackjack. The difference between Craps and Blackjack, however, is that Craps doesn’t require you to memorize massive tables of data and playing patterns. Craps is just fun, breezy, and pays out just as much as Blackjack without learning any special techniques or betting patterns. It is no wonder, then, that for people who aren’t intimidated by the complicated looking table, Craps is the first (and often the only) destination at the casino.
Many of the casino games have long histories. Baccarat, for instance, comes from a game played by the French monarchy of the 15th century. Craps is even older than that and actually dates back to the Crusades, which happened in the 11th Century. Its original name was Crapaud, which means toad in French. Because dice were always played on the street, and during the time of the Crusades, this was no exception, people would crouch like toads. So the name of the game is a remnant of old slang used to describe dice players who lived and died one thousand years ago.
The game has changed over the years, but its popularity has never flagged. Modern Craps dates back to the 19th century and is attributed to an interesting historical character named Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville. He was a wealthy nobleman, politician, and noted playboy who lived in New Orleans. He was the president of the Louisiana Senate and a lover of games of hazard. He took it upon himself to bring the game from Europe to the Americas. The game he brought with him was slightly different from the Craps we know today. It allowed players to bet either with the shooter or against him. This made the game unprofitable for casinos until a man named John Winn (not related to the Wynn family), who recommended the addition of the Don’t Pass bet. This was the last changed made to the game of Craps and it is the one played today in all the casinos worldwide.
To new players, the Craps table appears to be extremely complicated. This turns off many players who are afraid of making uninformed wagers and losing their money. It is a shame, because appearances are only skin deep, and the game is not as complicated as it appears at first. The first thing to note is that the table is essentially a mirror image of itself on two sides. This is so that the entire range of wagers is available to all players around the table. It also has the unfortunate effect of making it appear as though there are many more betting options than there actually are. A few moments spent observing the game are enough to dispel the notion that the game is too complicated to learn. When compared to Blackjack, which has a low learning curve with gets exponentially steeper when learning to play, craps at first has a relatively steep learning curve, which quickly plateaus.
In the most basic sense, the way the game is played is that there are a number of players around the table and one of them rolls a pair of dice according to a rotation. When it is someone’s turn to play, that player is referred to as the shooter. Everyone else bets on the various squares on whatever outcome they think the shooter’s dice will have.
Shooters have a pair of separate bets available to them, called Pass or Don’t Pass. This roughly translates as Win or Don’t Win. In Craps, a win is when the dice fall on 7 or 11. Losses are 2, 3, and 12. All other numbers become something called a Point. Every time the shooter rolls a point, various wagers around the table are paid out according to the outcome of the roll. When the 7 or 11 falls, the shooter ends his turn and wins if he placed a wager on the Pass Line. The shooter then starts a new turn. To continue playing, the shooter must roll a point before rolling a 7. If the 7 falls, then the turn ends and the shooter relinquishes the dice to the next player. Conversely, if the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12, the shooter loses, but gets a payout if he bet on the Don’t Pass Line.
This, in a nutshell, is how the game is played. It is rather simple to learn after just one or two turns at the table. However, the basic mechanics of the game belie a much more complex and interesting betting system. The real fun in the game comes in between rolls, when bets are placed. This is where all the various squares of the table reveal their uses.
You will notice that at the center of the table is a series of numbers that indicated dice landing positions. These are the Hard Way bets. Hard Way is a way of describing a double roll. If the shooter throws an 8 made up of a 5 and a 3, the roll is considered soft, thus it’s a Soft Eight. If the eight is rolled with a 4 and a 4, however, the outcome is a Hard Eight. Hard Way rolls have excellent payouts because the odds of landing them are significantly reduced as opposed to soft rolls. The reason you might have heard the term Hard Eight is because the 8 is one of the two most common rolls after a 7. There are five ways to roll an 8, but only one Hard Way. This means that a Hard Eight has a payout of 9 to 1.
In the center of the table is a bet called the Yo, which is an 11. This bet is not correlated to the Pass Line. Thus, if the point is on 11, then the payout is a solid 3 to 1. This is an excellent payout compared to other line bets which pay even money. As an aside, although it doesn’t have a fancy name as the Yo does, the 12 also has a 3 to 1 payout. It should be obvious by now that the game of Craps is actually rather simple to learn.
The game isn’t merely simple to learn and play, it is actually simple in its construct. It is not a skills based game, such as Blackjack or even Video Poker. The game of Craps is entirely dependent on pure random luck. It just so happens to be constructed in such a way the wins happen often and the adrenaline keeps the tables alive. Because of this lack of underlying structure, there are no complicated tables to memorize. There are no bets that need to be made based on any sort of outcome. The odds are exactly the same on each and every single roll of the dice. This frees the player to just enjoy the game. It also means that betting systems don’t work.
There is no point in keeping track of each dice roll outcome because there is no pattern to discern. The game of Craps is designed to be breezy and fun—it is not meant to be deconstructed. There would be no point anyway. With a payout rate of over 98%, there is no other game in the casino that allows casual players to win as often as Craps does. Sure, Blackjack can be squeezed down to pay out at a 99% payback, but one would need to spend months, or even years, learning the intricacies of the game. Not so with Craps. This is the reason that Craps is the perennial favorite of casino-goers, and one of the most beloved games of all time.