Saying that craps is a casino game played with dice is like telling people that Mount Rushmore is a sculpture of some dead guys.  Both claims are true, but neither one really suggests the intensity of what people experience when they make the trip to a casino or South Dakota. 

Why Play Craps?

It's fun.

Craps is much more than a game. It's a party waiting to happen because it screams "The more, the merrier!" with every roll. It's hard to find other games (inside the casino or elsewhere) that allow so many people to play at the same time. If you see a hundred people playing slots, they're playing independently. And if you see seven people gathered around a blackjack table, each one is playing a private match against the dealer.

Not so with craps! When you roll a seven as the shooter, you can thrill a half dozen people and break the hearts of a half dozen others, and the commotion can draw even more people into the unique dynamic of your table. 

And when you seven out and the next shooter steps up to replace you, you're not out of the game.  It just means you have your hands free to do more drinking and place more bets.

Numbers in Craps

The number one obstacle to understanding craps isn't the complicated layout of the table or the unfamiliar jargon used by the crew.  It's the assumption, made by most people, that seven is always a lucky number.

Seven is the most important number in craps, but that has nothing to do with luck--and everything to do with probability.  If you roll two standard dice, you'll produce sevens more often than any other total. 

Just think about it. No matter what number comes up on the first die, there is ALWAYS a number on the second die that can bring the total to 7 (1 + 6, 2 + 5, etc.) That's not true of any other number between 2 and 12. If the first die comes up as a 2 or higher, then there is NO WAY to achieve a total of 2 because the other die will add at least 1. Similarly, if the first die comes up as a 5 or lower, there is NO WAY to roll a 12 because the most you can get from the second die is 6. The closer a number is to 7, the more likely it is to come up, but 7 is the king.

So when is 7 a lucky number in craps?

If you're the new shooter and you've just placed a $5 bet on the pass line and it's your very first roll (the come-out roll), then a 7 is good luck.  Rolling a 7 or an 11 on a come-out roll is called a natural, and all bets on the pass line are paid even money.  (You just turned your $5 into $10.)

However, if your come-out roll is a 2, 3, or 12, then everyone with money on the pass line just lost.

If your come-out roll is anything other than a 2, 3, 7, 11, or 12, then the bets on the pass line remain in play because whatever number the dice totaled (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) has now been established as the point.

What is “The Point?”

This is when craps gets exciting--and when seven becomes the enemy of bets on the pass line.

Let's say that your come-out roll was an 8. Now it's your job to keep rolling until you either make your point (by rolling another 8) or seven out (by rolling a 7). All of a sudden, a 7 is bad news for everyone with money on the pass line. And since you're slightly more likely to roll a 7 than you are to roll an 8, those folks will be cheering for you to beat the odds and make them all winners.

Many people have the idea that since 2, 3, and 12 are automatic losers for pass line bets on the come-out roll, they must always be unlucky.  That's not true.  Once you have established the point with a come-out roll, the only rolls that matter for the pass line are the point itself and the number 7.  If the point comes up first, pass bets win and don't pass bets lose; if 7 comes up first, pass bets lose and don't pass bets win.  Rolling snake eyes AFTER you've established the point is meaningless (except for come/don't come bets or the sucker bets in the middle of the table).

Even though winning at craps is completely a matter of luck, the house edge against a standard bet on the pass line is so low (less than 1.5%) that you can have a great time on a limited bank roll even if the only thing you understand about craps is that 7 wins for the pass line on a come-out roll and loses if the shooter is trying to make a point.

Read more to learn about specific betting odds and strategies for the game of craps. If you started this article as a total craps newbie, congrats, you’ve already learned enough to make one of the safest bets on any casino floor.