A staple of the casino gambling scene for several centuries running, craps is the rare game that appeals to both casual and serious players. For folks just looking to have a little fun, taking a pair of dice in hand and letting them fly is the ultimate casino experience.
And for those brave souls who pay the bills by beating the house, craps’ “boom or bust” dynamic—defined by pressing bets to take advantage of brief but highly profitable hot streaks—makes it perfect for pro gamblers.
But despite the enduring popularity of craps, every prospective player should know that casinos desperately want you risking your money on a random roll of the dice.
Find out why casinos love craps players below.
1 – Craps Is a Pure Game of Chance
Casino games can be designed in one of two distinct fashions.
In strategy-oriented games like blackjack and video poker, the house willingly offers players an opportunity to apply their own skills in hopes of earning increased odds of success. Thus, learning about probabilities and memorizing basic strategy charts gives ambitious players a chance to improve their chances of winning over the long run.
On the other side of the coin, casinos also happily let players place wagers on the outcome of entirely random results—a la games like roulette, baccarat, slot machines, and indeed, craps. After all, once you decide to back black over red at the roulette table, you have no way to influence the eventual outcome through skill or strategy.
Same goes for the random two- and three-card hand totals dealt out in baccarat, or the 2-12 outcome produced by rolling a pair of six-sided dice.
Alternatively, if that come-out roll establishes a point number, the shooter will either nail the point again or seven out for an instant loser. In any event, however, players present at the craps table can’t do a lick to improve their overall odds.
2 – Craps Offers the Longest Longshots a Player Can Bet On
Speaking of the odds against craps players, the game can also be broken down into two primary types of wager—safe plays and longshots.
When you start things off by betting on either the pass line or don’t pass line, you’re backing a proverbial coin flip which will win or lose roughly half the time. Accordingly, the pass line and don’t pass line are among the more favorable bets in the table game pit, offering respective house edge rates of 1.41% and 1.36%, respectively.
Even better, when you supplement one of these basic ante bets with a second wager on the odds, you’ll actually receive a true odds payout which nullifies the house edge entirely. For that reason, conservative craps enthusiasts pride themselves on playing one of the only bets in the casino in which the player and house battle on a level playing field.
But along with the pass line, don’t pass line, and odds bets, a craps table is littered with dozens of “exotic” wagers which can quickly tilt things back in the house’s favor.
Take the extremely popular “hard way” bet, which requires the shooter to roll a specific number using identical sides of the dice. When you throw a chip down on a hard 8, for example, you can only win when the shooter rolls a 4-4. This will only occur once out of every 10 rolls though, and while the payout of 9 to 1 on your money is certainly sweet, betting on the hard 8 incurs a steep house edge of 9.09%.
To put that figure into proper perspective, consider that double-zero roulette wheels offer a 5.26% house edge rate, and most slot machines fall into the 6% to 8% range.
Other exotic bets like the hard 4 or 10 (11.11% house edge), the “Yo-leven” (11.11%), the 2/12 (13.89%), and the “Any 7” (16.67%) rank among the very worst wagers a casino gambler can play.
3 – Excitement Is Contagious When the Shooter Is on a Roll
The Yo-leven only hits once out of every 17 rolls on average, while the 2/12 are massive 35 to 1 longshots. Despite long odds, players still line up in droves to try and get lucky.
And sure enough, given thousands upon thousands of rolls taking place nightly in your average Sin City casino, plenty of players do wind up dancing with Lady Luck. When they do, a craps table can resemble an impromptu party, complete with a happy band of strangers suddenly celebrating together after yet another successful roll from the “hot” shooter.
Craps aficionados grow green with envy as the shooter’s streak produces ever higher stacks of chips around the table. And in the pit, bosses and managers exchange knowing glances while stifling a smile…
For every hot shooter who goes on a winning jag, the casino can expect 10 more players to line up and promptly lose their stake. Sure, anybody can stumble upon a short-term run of success while rolling dice. But taken in sum, the accumulated action on a craps table will always wind up producing a profit for the house over the long run.
Unfortunately, recreational gamblers who aren’t familiar with the odds and probabilities can be blinded by a hot shooter. Soon enough, they’re splashing a few chips around of their own, only to learn the hard way that betting on Hard Way plays is a recipe for bankroll suicide.
4 – Craps Regulars Might Stigmatize Specific Bets
Remember up above when I pointed out the relatively low house edge rates on craps’ basic ante bets?
The pass line (1.41%) and the don’t pass line (1.36%) aren’t exactly punishing from a player’s perspective. And with a slightly lower liability, that don’t pass line option is strategically the best way to play.
So, why does almost every craps player you’ll see choose to bet on the inferior pass line?
Well, craps culture has deemed don’t pass betting to be the “dark side.” Also known as “wrong way” betting, putting chips down on the prospect of the shooter crapping out is a craps faux pas. In fact, you might even get an earful of vitriol from the table regulars if you dare to dabble with the dark side.
As their logic goes, it’s bad “ju-ju” for anybody at the table to bet against the shooter. When the entire table is collectively rooting for the shooter to succeed, craps superstition dictates that the shooter will benefit from that psychic support.
As you might suspect, casino managers love to see craps players willingly sacrificing their own expected value (EV) in the name of superstition and social acceptance. Whenever gamblers incur a higher house edge, the house prints money while the players pull out their wallets once again.
5 – Craps Allows Dozens of Different Bets at the Same Time
Unlike a more static game like blackjack—which revolves around a single ante bet, and possibly a side bet or two, on every deal—craps is a multidimensional affair.
Along with the basic pass or don’t pass debate, players can place any number of “single-roll” bets before the shooter tosses the dice. Single-roll bets like “snake eyes (2),” “boxcars” (12), and any 7 are all longshots. And if you feel up to the challenge, you can put chips on all of them at once.
Casinos couldn’t care less about that though, and they’ll even encourage less experienced players to “have some fun” by making a series of unwise wagers in rapid succession.
6 – Craps Can Easily Confuse Players Into Making Costly Mistakes
I touched on this in the previous entry, but it bears repeating: Craps can be highly confusing for players who don’t know the rules.
With so many bets on the table, and so many players placing them using odd slang terms, a craps rookie can easily become overwhelmed. They might make a “buy 8” bet (4.76% house edge) when they really wanted a “place 8” (1.52%) instead. Maybe they back the 2 or the 12 individually at 35 to 1 against, rather than the 2 and 12 together at 17 to 1.
In any case, craps players making preventable mistakes out of sheer confusion is what built the casino industry in the first place. So here’s a short guide on the basics of craps betting.
7 – Craps Is Home to Some of the Most Superstitious Gamblers
Along with the derision shown towards “dark side” bettors, a craps table can breed any number of superstitious beliefs.
First-time players or newbies are said to be a shoe-in for a long roll the first time they touch the dice. Any whisper of the word “seven” while a shooter is in session is enough for regulars to leave the table in disgust.
Add all of that superstition up and you get craps, the quintessential casino operator’s favorite game. It’s one defined by foolhardy players hoping against hope while wishing their way to wins that seldom materialize.
Real money craps is a bona fide casino classic, and for good reason. Players love to “roll them bones” because craps is easy to learn; it offers some of the highest payout ratios on the floor. And it provides a communal experience when the dice cooperate.
Casinos also love craps though, eyeing it as an economic engine which serves the house’s interests in spades. Anybody can learn the game. But even the smartest shooter on the planet can never master random rolls.
Those high payouts entice players, but the inherent odds against are always higher. And when the table becomes a party, the partygoers are apt to leave a parting gift in the form of lost chips.