How Does Vegas Hold a 16% House Edge in Craps?

Craps Dice With a Las Vegas and Craps Table Background

Thanks to it energetic crowds and exciting gameplay, craps is one of the most entertaining games in the casino. It also offers you some of the best odds.

You can look forward to as little as a 1.36% house edge with certain bets. Therefore, craps should give you a great chance of winning, right?

Actually, many players surrender a much bigger edge to the casino. The numbers from Vegas reveal that gamblers are surrendering 16% the house, or $16 out of every $100 wagered.

How is it possible for a game that features such great odds to give so much money to the house? I’ll answer this question by covering optimal craps strategy along with why many players fail to make good decisions and suffer huge losses as a result.

What Do Smart Craps Players Do?

Unlike with blackjack or Texas Holdem, craps strategy isn’t that complicated. You simply need to make the right bets to minimize the casino house edge.

However, many players are clueless on exactly which bets they need to make. Here are the four common wagers to concentrate on when playing craps:

  • Past line = 1.41% house edge
  • Don’t pass line = 1.36%
  • Come = 1.41%
  • Don’t come = 1.36%

These bets already look favorable enough in comparison to other propositions throughout the casino. But you can improve your odds even further through “odds.”

An odds bet doesn’t carry a house edge. You can place one of these wagers behind your original pass line or don’t pass line bet once a point number has been established.

Here’s an example on how this works:

  • You bet $5 on pass line.
  • The shooter rolls 5, which establishes a point number of 5.
  • You put 2x odds behind your original bet.
  • $5 (pass line) + $10 (odds) = $15 total bet
  • You need a 5 to be rolled before a 7 to win.
  • The odds of this happening are 3:2.
  • Your payout will also be 3:2.

The odds of winning vary based on the specific point number. But given that these bets pay at true odds, you’re always facing a 0% house edge no matter what.

View of an Empty Craps Table

You can also place odds bets that are worth a larger multiple of your original wager. You’re only limited by where each casino caps the odds at.

Here’s how much the house advantage is lowered varies based on the size of your odds:

  • 1x odds = 0.848% house edge on pass line; 0.682% house edge on don’t pass line
  • 2x odds = 0.606% on pass line; 0.455% on don’t pass line
  • 3x odds = 0.572% on pass line; 0.431% on don’t pass line
  • 3x-4x-5x odds = 0.374% on pass line; 0.273% on don’t pass line
  • 5x odds = 0.326% on pass line; 0.227% on don’t pass line
  • 10x odds = 0.184% on pass line; 0.124% on don’t pass line
  • 20x odds = 0.99% on pass line; 0.065% on don’t pass line

Of course, you don’t need to take the biggest odds available in the casino. But you can see how doing so pays off.

You can also see that basic strategy for playing real money craps isn’t so difficult to learn either. You simply make the right bets and hope for a tiny bit of luck.

Numbers Show That Vegas Craps Players Aren’t Too Smart

Las Vegas wasn’t built on wise gamblers who use expert strategy. Instead, it attracts many players who know little to no strategy.

Playing craps optimally isn’t that difficult. But just like any other average gambler who visits Vegas, craps players sometimes don’t bother much with strategy.

Statistics from the UNLV Center for Gaming Research back up this claim. According to their numbers, Vegas’ craps win percentages over the past few years are as follows:

  • 2019 = 16.03% win rate
  • 2018 = 14.86%
  • 2017 = 15.30%
  • 2016 = 14.80%
  • 2015 = 13.94%

If everybody knew to make pass line and don’t pass line bets, then there’s no way that Vegas would win this much money. This would be even more true if everybody backed pass line and don’t pass line wagers with odds.

However, the statistics clearly show that this isn’t the case. The average craps player loses big to Sin City.

They’re obviously not making the best available wagers. Instead, these gamblers are indulging in some or all of the following prop bets:

  • Yo (11) = 11.11%
  • 3 = 11.11%
  • 2 or 12 (Hi-Lo) = 11.11%
  • Craps (2, 3, or 12) = 11.11%
  • Hard 4 / Hard 10 = 11.11%
  • Horn = 12.5%
  • Whirl = 13.33%
  • 2 = 13.89%
  • 12 = 13.89%
  • Any 7 = 16.67%

These wagers represent the worst of the worst. For some reason, though, gamblers are still making these bets and losing serious money while doing so.

The Allure of Placing Dumb Bets

Casinos do a good job of dressing up unfavorable craps bets. They offer big payouts on some wagers, including 11 (15:1 payout) and 2 or 12 (30:1).

You need only study strategy for a short while to realize that these propositions are absolutely terrible. Again, though, the large payouts are what make these bets enticing.

Of course, if every gambler knew the poor odds and house edges behind such wagers, they might not be so quick to make them. But the average player doesn’t know, which is why they keep making mistakes when playing craps.

Casino Chips Resting on a Craps Table

The desire for more action also leads players to try a variety of wagers. Gamblers tire of placing pass line, come, don’t pass line, and don’t come bets in each round. So, they start making extra prop bets to get more entertainment from a session.

The whole point of craps is to have fun. Therefore, I can’t blame people for making prop wagers.

However, you can have fun and still enjoy decent odds of winning. Here are some propositions that aren’t so hard on your bankroll:

  • Place 6 / Place 8 = 1.52% house edge
  • Lay 4 / Lay 10 = 2.44%
  • Lay 5 / Lay 9 = 3.23%
  • Place 5 / Place 9 = 4.0%
  • Lay 6 / Lay 8 = 4.0%
  • Buy 4 / Buy 10 = 4.76%
  • Buy 5 / Buy 9 = 4.76%
  • Buy 6 / Buy 8 = 4.76%

Craps Tips to Win More Often

You can see that the average craps player definitely doesn’t know the correct path towards more winnings. You can differ from the pack and win more often by following the tips presented below.

Keep It Simple

You don’t need to have worldly knowledge of craps to win more money. All you must know is the best bets and how to back them with odds.

Everything starts with placing a pass line or don’t pass line wager on the come-out roll. From here, you wait and see if a point number is established, then back your original bet with odds (covered next).

As discussed before, craps does offer a few reasonable prop bets. But you’re better off when sticking with pass line and don’t pass line in the long run.

Back Your Bets With Odds

The next step to good gambling strategy involves backing your original wager with odds. To do this, you wait until a point number has been established on the come-out roll.

Afterward, you put chips behind your initial wager, thus indicating you’d like to take odds. When playing at land-based casinos, you should let the dealer know that you’re backing your bet with odds. This way, there won’t be any confusion and you’ll be paid the relevant amount on wins.

Your stand to benefit more by betting higher odds. For example, 5x odds lowers the house edge more than 3x.

Of course, you don’t want to get carried away with these bets either. After all, you need a lot more money to bet 5x odds or higher.

Capitalize on VIP Rewards and Bonuses

Many land-based and online casinos offer VIP rewards to craps players. You simply need to be a member of a loyalty program to take advantage of these programs.

You must sign up for the player’s club to earn VIP perks at brick and mortar casinos. After receiving your player’s club card, you can hand it to the dealer and start getting rated by the pit boss.

Online casinos automatically enroll you in the loyalty plan when you sign up and make a deposit. Gaming sites also offer special deposit bonuses.

A deposit bonus works by matching a percentage of the money you deposit up to a certain amount (e.g. 200% up to $600). You then meet terms and conditions before cashing the funds out.

Conclusion

Casinos wouldn’t make much money off craps if they only offered solid bets. So, they throw in attractive prop wagers to boost their bottom line.

Prop bets are enticing from the perspective that they offer larger payouts than just even money. They also provide a refreshing break from the typical drill of don’t pass line/pass line backed with odds.

However, they also feature worse house advantages. Some of these wagers carry between a 13.33% and 16.67% house edge.

Luckily, nobody’s forcing you to make these bets. You can boost your chances of winning just by sticking with basic strategy. Assuming you ever get bored of the same wagers, you can switch things up with reasonable “place” and “lay” bets.