How the Craps Table Works

A Beginners Guide to the Bets and Rounds at a Casino Craps Table

Compared to other casino games, the layout of a craps table is complex. To players yet to become familiar with the betting rounds and types of wagers – even the words used will be unfamiliar. They include sections labeled Pass Line, Come and Field. When you add to this the many side bets, craps can appear to be using some arcane language known only to experts.

The good news is that by splitting the bets into categories, it is easy to understand the layout of a casino craps table. Once you know how the two distinct betting rounds work, those words make sense. You will then be free to focus on fine-tuning your craps betting strategy.

A great way to learn about the layout and bets at craps tables is to head online. Casinos in regulated states will soon have real money craps games. You can play in demo mode (using play chips) from elsewhere.

Setup of a live casino craps table

In live casinos, each craps table is controlled by a team of three or four dealers. They are collectively a ‘team’. One dealer has a stick, which is used to move the dice – and will announce the result of each roll. This is the ‘Stickman’. In addition to two dealers, there is a ‘Boxman’ at many tables, supervising the chips, dealers, and bets.

There are also bubble craps games, which are electronic consoles with a dome containing two giant dice. Some casinos will have ‘mini craps’ tables, which are operated by only two dealers. A variation with different rules is called ‘crapless craps’.

Around the table are chip racks. While a craps table can theoretically accommodate up to 20 players, a game is more comfortable with five to eight. Each player will take turns to be the ‘shooter’ (though you are not obliged to do so).

Two betting rounds: how a craps game works

To understand the craps table layout and the meaning of the different words, you need to know about the two different phases of each craps game.

Each time a new player gets the dice, a game starts with the ‘come out’ roll / round. On the felt you will see the words ‘Pass line’ and ‘Don’t Pass bar’. These are the key bets during the beginning phase of each game. Here are the rules:

  • Pass Line Bets: A 2, 3 or 12 loses, 7 or 11 wins. The other numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10) set a ‘point’ for the next game.
  • Don’t Pass Bets: 2, 3 or 12 wins, 7 or 11 loses. Again, the other numbers set a ‘point’ for the next game.

In a live casino, almost all players bet on the pass line. You will see that this area covers a bigger area on the felt. This means that the entire table will win and lose together – a big reason for the frequent cheers and shouts around live craps tables. While the ‘don’t pass’ has slightly better odds for the player, people avoid it so as not to play against the crowd.

Points betting round

When a point is set, the dealers will turn a disc to say ‘on’. The number rolled (2, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10) will be marked.

The rules are now different. Players keep rolling until a 7 is hit. You can bet on individual numbers, with all the pass line bets paid every time the point is hit. Each craps table will have a row of these numbers. Bets will be placed on them showing the position of each player around the table.

When a 7 is rolled, the dice are passed to the next player – and a new come-out roll begins.

Side bets

Understanding the two betting rounds explains the main features of the craps table layout. There are many extra areas on the felt that are still not accounted for. These include pictures of dice, and additional names like ‘hard ways’, ‘any craps’ and ‘any 7’.

These are side bets. They are not part of the main game and can be big money winners if you land them. Note that these side bets have a bigger house edge than the main game – often by a significant margin. You can place some of them during either betting round, others are specifically designed for the points round.

Beginners guide to understanding the craps table: full list of bets

On a casino craps table, the initial (come-out) betting round wagers are closest to the players. As you progress to the point round, the bets are placed further away. Field and prop bets are placed in between.

Here are the bets, along with how they are shown on the standard craps betting layout:

  • Pass Line: This is shown as an ‘L’ shaped area on either side of the table. It is the most popular bet for the come out round.
  • Don’t Pass Bar / Line: Shown inside the pass line area, this bet has better odds for the come out round, though is less popular with players.
  • 6 / 8: You will see these on opposite corners, intersecting the don’t pass bar. They are known as the ‘Big 6’ or ‘Big 8’. You win (at even money) if the number you bet on is rolled before a 7.
  • Field Bets: The numbers 2 and 12 are shown in bold (or colored, depending on the design) with the word ‘Field’ next to 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11. This is a next-roll bet, and is paid at 2-1 for a 2 or 12, 1-to-1 for the listed numbers and loses if a 5, 6, 7 or 8 is rolled.
  • Hard Ways Bets: You will see pictures of dice showing doubles. These bets have big odds if you hit them, though a high house edge. You get 7:1 on 4 or 10 rolled as 4-4 or 5-5 with 9:1 on a 6 or 8.
  • Prop Bets: These are single roll bets. They are located next to the hard ways on the felt and include any 7, any craps (2, 3 or 12) and ‘boxcar’ (12).
  • Place Bets: The list of numbers at the back of the felt are used for the point round. You will see a list of numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10. Your bet is that your number will be rolled before a 7 (which ends this part of the game). The odds of hitting different numbers vary, so the payouts are 7:6 for a 6 or 8, 7:5 for a 5 or 9 and 9:5 for a 4 or 10. It is also possible to play ‘place lose’. These bets win if a 7 is rolled before your number.

Advanced players can ‘buy’ a number and even lay one. These bets are similar to place win / lose, with a commission and slightly better odds. Another advanced bet allows you to bet in a similar way to the pass / don’t pass after a point has been set. This is the ‘Come’ bet and works the same way.

Finally, there are novelty bets during the point round. They include tall and small (both a 2 and 12 rolled before a 7) and even ‘all’ with every other number being rolled before the round ends with a 7.

Play online craps in practice games or for real money

If you live in a state which already has regulated casinos, then online craps games are a great way to experiment with the different bets before you head to a live casino. Casinos are expanding the number of games offered all the time. You will soon be able to play craps online for real money or in demo / practice mode. In states including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, online casinos are already legal and running.

Understanding craps tables for beginners

When you first see a craps game, the betting can appear complex. The best way to understand the table layout is to split the game into betting rounds.

During the initial ‘come out’ roll, bets are on the pass line (or don’t pass), with some single number or prop style wagers also available. When the point is set and the game moves to the point round, you can bet on individual numbers and novelty bets with groups of numbers to be hit before a 7 is rolled.

Craps is the liveliest game in many live casinos. When a player puts together a good roll, everyone can win craps together. Once you learn the rounds and what the different words on the felt mean, you will be free to join the fun whenever you visit a live casino.

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