Mastering Craps with Ted Knuden
Mastering Craps with Ted Knuden
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Mastering Craps with Ted Knuden
Mastering Craps with Ted Knuden

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Table trouble?

One of the things new craps players expect to frustrate them the most is the table layout. Since there are so many bets you can make in craps, the table has to have a million separate little areas to place them, and it just becomes an information overload for our brains. Fortunately, since most of the little places to bet on are rather poor bets and should simply be avoided, it makes things much easier. As we go over the rules of craps, we will take a good look at each bet on the table and how to place it, starting with the easiest, the pass line bet, and the best bet, the pass line bet with free odds.


The Best Bets

Included among the best bets at the craps table are a couple of the best bets in the entire casino, but we'll get into that in a second. The best bets include the pass line bet, free odds, the don't pass, the come bet, and placing the 6 or the 8. Let's look at each:


The Pass Line Bet



A simple pass line bet begins when you place your bet on the pass line before a new shooter begins their roll. Physically, you simply place your chips in the middle of the big band labeled the pass line. If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, you win; if the shooter rolls a 2, 3 or 12, you lose. If the shooter rolls any other number, that number becomes the point number, and your bet stays up, it is yet to be determined. To win your pass line bet, you want the shooter to roll that number (the point) again before a seven is rolled. If a seven is rolled before the point number is rolled again, your pass line bet loses. The process begins again when either a seven is hit, or the point is hit. The rules of craps allow for many, many bets to be placed by the player, but only a few hold a low house edge. The pass line bet, probably the most common bet, happens to hold one of the lowest house edges.

The Don't Pass Bet



On the don't pass bet (to make this bet place your chips in the narrower section just beyond the pass line labeled don't pass) made on the come out roll, you lose on a 7 or 11, and win on a 2 or a 3. A 12 on the come out roll is like a push in blackjack, it's a standoff where nobody wins or loses. If anything else is rolled, it becomes the point and you win if a 7 is rolled before the point is repeated. Notice how this is the opposite of the pass line bet, and notice how you win when the shooter loses. Seems awfully nice of the casino to offer an opposite bet of the normal one, wouldn't the house lose their statistical edge? Only if they kept the numbers straight. Sadly on a don't pass bet with odds, the casino pays out pretty crappy amounts. The odds of a 7 coming out before a 10 are quite good so the casino has to change the rules of craps in effect and hedge its bet by altering the odds.

The Come Bet



You'll quickly notice the large area of the craps board labeled with 'COME' smack dab in the middle of the playing area. Make sure you have read the section on the Pass bet earlier on this page, and the previous rules of craps page. If you know all there is to know about the pass line bet, then you won't have any trouble getting your head around the simple 'COME' bet. The easiest way to think about the COME bet is to think of it as exactly the same as the pass line bet, but that it can be made after the point is set. There is no such thing as a come bet on the come out roll, because it would be exactly the same as a pass line bet.

Say you wanted to make a come bet, and the point had been set to 5. You would put your bet down in the come section and wait for the next roll. If a 7 or 11 is hit you win, and on a craps shot (2, 3 or 12) you would lose. If it's any one of the other numbers, this becomes your 'come point'. If your 'come point' is rolled before a 7, you win. So say a 9 is rolled after you place your bet, at that time the stickman moves the come bet to the 9 on the board, positioning it just right so that he knows it's a come bet, not a place bet or a buy. Now if the shooter rolls a 9 before a 7 the rules say you win, if they roll a 7 before a 9 you lose. Also remember that on come bets craps rules allow for the ability to place "free odds" bets just like pass line bets after your 'come-point' is established. To back up your come bet with free odds, throw your chips down on the table and let the dealer know your intention.

Placing the 6 or 8



Making a place bet is making a bet that a specific number will be rolled before a seven is rolled. You can make a place bet any time by throwing your chips on the table while telling the dealer 'I want to place the 8' or whatever number you want to place your place bet for. You can make a place bet at any time on the numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10. If the number you have 'placed' is hit before a 7, you win and you're paid as follows: 4 or 10 placed - 9:5 odds, 5 or 9 placed - 7:5 odds, 6 or 8 placed - 7:6 odds. For this reason I recommend you only ever place the 6 or 8, as they are the only ones which pay black with decent odds, and have a good chance of hitting. If you get the feeling like you want to place the 4 or 10, you should buy them instead, because although there is a vig (a fee for winning bets) on these numbers, the edge comes out in your favor, however slightly.

Notice the pass line bet offers better odds, so basically you should stick with it over the long run. The abundance of other bets that craps rules allow for can be very tempting, but your best strategy is to keep these alternate bets to a minimum. Although you can technically place a place bet at any time, it is impossible for it to come into effect until the shooters point is set, therefore it is more acceptable to ask for this bet after the come out roll is over.

Free Odds

Free odds can be taken on the pass, don't pass, come and don't come bets. They also provide a lot of the confusion that comes along with learning craps. Oh, and they provide the single best bet in the entire casino, so they're worth learning about. Basically, if you remember our odds talk from our previous rules of craps page, you remember that the casino doesn't like to pay back its bets with 'true odds', or what you ought to be entitled to in a fair game. Free odds bets however, are the one exception to this snag in the rules. Free odds bets are paid back at true odds, so when you're making these bets the casino has no house edge whatsoever, it's an even game! The catch is you have to place free odds on top of another bet, which can be the pass line, don't pass, come or don't come, all of which are of course negative expectation bets. So although we get access to a fair bet, it's always buried under a biased bet, but fortunately you can place more on the odds than you do on the pass line.

To place a pass line bet with odds, you would first put your pass line bet down and then wait for a point to be established. Once there is a point on the table, you can take more chips and place them behind your pass line bet. You'll definitely see other players at the table doing the same thing, so you can follow their lead. You want to have more money on the odds than you do on the pass line, simply because they both win at the same time, but the odds bet is paid back better, so it's silly to bet any more than you have to on the biased pass line bet itself. Casinos will only let you play a certain amount on the odds, however, and it is usually printed on a sign at the table. If not, the dealers will let you know. How much you can bet is expressed as a multiple of your original bet. For instance, if 5x odds are shown it means you can put five times as much down on your odds as you're putting on your original bet.

Free odds can also be taken on come bets, you just place the bet a different way. After your come point has been established, put your odds chips down and tell the dealer you want to back up your come bet with odds. The dealer will take your chips and place them on top of your come bet, but offset slightly to indicate that they are an odds bet.

You should make an effort to place odds bets that can be paid exactly, or the dealer may round down. Chances are the dealer will let you know when you need to play a slightly odd bet (no pun intended). If the point is six or eight, you should bet increments of five dollars on the odds so you can be paid off in even dollars. If the casino rounds down they've taken their advantage back, and your odds bet was no smarter than a hardway! If the point is a 5 or 9 you should bet a dollar amount that is an even number. If the point is a 4 or 10 it doesn't matter, as all bets are paid off 2 to 1.



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