Players sometimes overthink casino strategy. Craps is a classic example of gamblers falling into various fallacies. Shooting dice looks complicated, because of the proliferation of bets offered. The craps table not only has a bunch of betting options, but it has four dealers to work one table, so a new gambler naturally assumes the game is complex.
Over five decades ago, the U.S. Navy adopted a phrase: “Keep it simple, stupid.” That phrase applies very well to winning craps. Avoid the complicated tactics and exotic bets and you’ll do just fine at craps. The reason is simple: the best odds are placed on the basic bets.
Those bets are the pass and don’t pass bets, as well as the come and don’t come bets. The pass and come bets have a house edge of 1.41%. The “don’t pass” and don’t come bets have a house edge of 1.35%. Every other wager on the craps table are higher–and some are outrageously high.
Pass bets, also called the win bet or right bet, must be made by the shooter in craps. All other gamblers must choose to make a pass bet or a “don’t pass” bet. The don’t pass bet is betting against the shooter and is seen as a bit unfriendly, though it has slightly better odds.
To win a pass bet, you must roll a 7 or an 11 to win. If this happens, it is called a natural. If you roll a 2, 3, or 11, these numbers are considered “craps” and you have crapped-out (lost). Any other numbers sets a “point” for the player to roll. When a point is set, then the shooter must roll that number again before you roll a 7. So if you rolled a “6” on the come out roll, then you would need to roll a 6 again before rolling a 7. If you made the don’t pass bet, you would need a 7 instead of a 6.
The come bet is just like the pass bet, except it is made after the come-out roll. Once this wager is made, it plays out just like the scenario above and has the same odds. The “don’t come” bet is the same as the “don’t pass” bet, though it is made after you come out roll, too.
Try the other wagers, if you wish, but understand you reduce the probability of winning when you do so. Bets which have decent odds include the Place 6/Place 8 bets (1.52%), the Buy 4/Buy 10 bets (1.67%), and the Lay 4/Lay 10 bets (2.44%).
Some wagers should never be attempted, because the house edge is simply outrageous. Examples of bets which atrocious odds include the Hard 4/Hard 10 bet (11.11%), most single bets (11.11%), the Horn bet (12.5%), the Whirl or World bet (13.33%), the 2/12 single bets (13.89%), and the worst of all, the “any 7” single bet (16.67%). Every one of the wagers I just listed is what’s called a “sucker bet”.
The key strategy to optimizing your expected return in craps is to learn how to “take the odds“. Odds is an optional bet offered to players after a point is established. This is a zero-advantage bet which always should be taken, if offered. Optimally, a gambler would bet the maximum amount on their odds bet, because it lowers the effective house edge on what you’re staked on the outcome of the roll. For this reason, casinos limit the size of your odds wager, to limit its effect on the game. This limitation is based on the size of your pass or don’t pass bet.
When you take the odds, these are called “pass odds”, “don’t pass odds”, “come odds”, and “don’t come odds”. When you first walk up to the craps table, you should learn the limitations placed on the odds at the table. High rollers should locate the table with the maximum limits on the odds bets, then max out your odds wager every chance you get.
That’s it, as far as it comes to craps strategies. Wager on the pass/come and don’t pass/don’t come bets, then take the odds every chance you’re allowed. If you are a high stakes player who want to bet the maximum amount when it’s advantageous, max out your odds wager. If you do these things, you are playing craps optimally.
Optimal play in craps does not assure that you’ll win. In fact, it doesn’t even assure advantage play. Anytime you shoot dice for real money at the casino, you play at a disadvantage. The house edge still exists. Keep that in mind. Winning is never assured, but craps is not a game you can beat over the long term. When the casino has the advantage (and that’s most of the time), it’s best to walk away after a big winning roll.