The best craps strategy is to learn how to play the game, understand the basic bets which offer the best odds, and stick with those bets. Betting systems which involve raising and lowering your bets based on some arbitrary criteria are a bad idea, because they don’t affect your chances of winning. Hedging your bets is also a bad idea.
Craps is a straightforward casino game, but the bewildering number of bets, many of which are the worst bets in the casino, make it a profitable enterprise in every casino. The strategy that we recommend involves being realistic and having fun while you play. This page looks at some strategies to avoid, and it also explains which legitimate strategic choices actually make sense mathematically.
The best way to learn how to play crap is to take one of the free classes that the casino offers, but keep in mind that they won’t go into a lot of detail about which bets are best and which bets are worst. They will show you how the action works, though, so if you’re new to the game, taking one of these classes is a great idea. There is no faster way to learn the game, in fact.
The number of good bets at the craps table is relatively small. If you stick with these bets, you’ll minimize the house edge, which is the percentage of every bet that you’re mathematically expected to lose over the long run. Don’t be fooled by short-term standard deviation. In the short run, which is longer than you think, anything can happen. The smart play is still to stick with the bets offering the best odds.
The only good bets at the craps table are the following:
The house edge for pass and don’t pass bets (and for come and don’t come bets) is only 1.41% and 1.36% respectively. That means that the casino expects to win $1.41 (or $1.36) for every $100 you wager at the craps table. Compared to the house edge of 5.26% at the roulette table, this is a lot of entertainment for very little money. And if you take the free odds when they’re available, you can reduce the house edge even more.
On the other hand, most of the proposition bets on the craps table have a house edge of 6% or more. Some of them even have a house edge in the double digits. Don’t waste your money placing bad bets. You’re better off spending that money on a show or something.
One common error that neophyte craps players make is forgetting to pick up their winnings from the table. If you leave it on the table, it’s considered part of the action on the next roll, so be sure to pay attention and claim your winnings when you want them.
Any number of bogus systems involving changing the size of your bets based on a variety of criteria are available. For example, one system might have you increase your bets when the shooter wins. The stated goal of such behavior is to increase the amount of money you have in action during a shooter’s hot streak.
The reason this doesn’t work is called the gambler’s fallacy. This is the name mathematicians give the idea that previous events have an effect on subsequent events, when in reality, these events are independent of each other.
The thinking goes like this. If a shooter has won four times in a row, he’s hot, and you should bet more in order to take advantage of his winning streak. The fallacy is that the fifth roll’s math has no relation to the previous bets.
You should bet an amount you’re comfortable with, and you should also put as much money into the free odds bet as you can. For example, if you’re playing in a casino that allows double odds, then bet 1/3 of what you’re comfortable with on the pass line, and bet the other 2/3 on the free odds. By doing so, you’re reducing the house significantly, because the odds bet has no house edge—it pays out at true odds. This turns a good bet at the craps table into a great bet.
We’re big believers that your #1 goal at a gambling table should be to have as much fun as possible. If you win money on top of that, then that’s just gravy. So here’s a craps strategy recommendation that focuses almost exclusively on having fun, proper etiquette, and it’s aimed at new players:
Avoid the don’t pass and don’t come bets.
The odds are slightly better on those two bets, but it’s probably not worth it, because you’re betting against the shooter and most of the rest of the table. Some people might find that to be too confrontational for their tastes.
Besides, isn’t it more fun to root for someone to win, especially if everyone else is? Rooting for someone to lose is just a downer. And that’s bad strategy.