Strategy Guide Craps

Online Craps Guide

If you're just starting out with craps, you'll need to know the basic rules as well. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just a matter of having somebody blow on the dice, slinging them down the table, then being cheered "Good shooter!" by onlookers while the stick man slides stacks of chips your way.

While you cannot control the roll of the proverbial dice, you can control your betting. And that is the art of winning at craps.

How to Play Craps

Your first roll of the dice is called the "come-out." Depending on what you roll, you may or may not get to play further. If you roll a 7 or 11, you get a "natural" win and get to roll again. If you roll a 2, 3, or 12, you've rolled craps, and you lose (although you can still roll). If you roll any other number (4-6 or 8-10), that number then becomes your "point." You'll want to try to roll your point again, and if you do you've made a "pass." That means you win; you can collect your bet and roll again. However, if you roll a 7, you lose your bet and the dice goes to the next player. 

That is how to play craps. It seems very easy, and in a way it is, but we're just looking at the surface. Let's go a little deeper. 

Beginner Craps Strategy

We suggest enjoying craps at your own level. There's nothing wrong with some low wage dice slinging for pure enjoyment, but eventually you'll want to involve some further strategy to try to make some money with craps. 

The Come-out: Pass and Craps

The first thing to consider is the likelihood of rolling a winning, passing, or losing cast on your come out. The issue is not just with rolling a 7, 11, or any of the other numbers. The interesting part is in how many ways you can roll each of those numbers. If you look at the chart, you'll see there's at least one way to roll any number, with a max of 6 ways to roll the 7. Then the structure looks like two base-to-base pyramids. 

This means that you're statistically unlikely to roll what's at either tip as there are only 1-2 ways to roll a 2 or 12 (1 way) or 3 or 11 (2 ways). Generally, that's good news; it means that it's difficult to roll craps at your come out. It also means that you're less likely to roll those numbers while you're playing, which increases the likelihood that you'll roll your point.

The optimistic way of looking at this says, "Look, you are very unlikely to roll these numbers: 2, 3, 11, and 12. If you do, you crap out. But I'll tell you what, if you roll one of those, 11, then I'll give you a natural win. You're not likely to roll any of these during your additional plays, but if you do, no harm done. Keep rolling."

There are 4 ways you could roll a crap (1-1; 1-2, 2-1; 6-6) out of the 36 possible combinations. 

So, it's most likely that you'll pass the first roll. 8 out of the 11 numbers you could roll are safe (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11), and two of those (7 and 11) get you a natural win. There are 32 possible combinations that either pass or are natural wins. There are 8 combinations (7 has 6 ways, 11 has 2 ways) that result in a natural win.

Call out: 36 possible combinations

32 rolls that are good/okay

  • 8 natural wins (good)
  • 24 passes (okay)

4 combinations for craps

So rolling craps is unlikely, and betting no pass would be betting on a 1 in 9 chance, if no pass only applied to the Come out.

After the Come Out: Points Bets

Your odds change after the Come out. When the point is established, 7 will now cause you to lose. 

Still, you have one last effort at some good odds, and that is placing a bet on the point number. This also pays off at true odds with no house advantage. That's why many games limit the amount you can bet on your odds bet (a.k.a., "betting behind the line"). Here, you'll see the chips stacked behind the pass line. Casinos allow you to remove the odds bet at any time, and you should check to be sure that your online game allows you to do the same in case you feel that your luck has run out.

The great thing about online craps: you can hunt down the game with the greatest allowance for odds bets! This moves from 1.41% on the pass line to as .85% if you add a single odds bet. 

7: Friend or Foe?

As you can see from the chart, there are 6 ways to roll a 7. You are more likely to roll a 7 than any other number, which gives craps its excitement. At your come-out, you like that 7 as it gives you a natural win. Likelihood of 7 = good. As you're playing, that 7 means you lose. Likelihood of 7 = bad. 

Once you're past the come-out, the casino takes the 7 for itself. You can't bet on it, even though it's the most likely number. That gives the casino its edge, and means that you have to, or get to, bet on less likely numbers that, if they come up, would pay out bigger than you bet. 

Place Betting

Now that you have a grasp of not just the basics, but getting into an intermediate understanding of craps, it's important to learn to bet smart. You'll need to keep all of the above in mind as we get into more advanced material around laying bets not just on the come-out, but also the odds bets and more advanced bets.

When you bet on a point, there's a system of payouts. This calculates the odds of your rolling a given number instead of 7. This ratio compares the number of combinations of any one number to 7 (which has 6 combinations). Since there are only 3 ways to roll a 4, but 6 ways to roll a 7, this is a 6 to 3, or what reduces to a 2 to 1 ratio. this means you are twice as likely to roll a 7 as a 4 (or 10), as there are twice as many combinations that can result in a 7.

The odds are:

  • 4 and 10 (3 combinations): 2 to 1 (6 to 3)
  • 5 and 9  (4 combinations): 3 to 2 (6 to 4)
  • 6 and 8 (5 combinations): 6 to 5

Payoffs however do not function exactly according to these lines. They generally pay as follows:

  • 4 and 10: payoff 9 to 5 (1.8%), house advantage: 6.67% (odds are 2 to 1)
  • 5 and 9: payoff 7 to 5 (1.4%), house advantage: 4.0% (odds are 3 to 2)
  • 6 and 8: payoff 7 to 6 (1.17%), house advantage: 1.52% (odds are 6 to 5)

We'll discuss the 3 Point Molly technique below, but as you see the house edge on the 6 and 8 is considerably lower, so it makes sense to place a bet there in addition to your point. 

Obviously, if you had a crystal ball, you'd put lots of money on 4 or 10 if you know either was going to win; these have the best payout. If you don't see the future, you'll have to calculate the likelihood and bet accordingly. 

Unlike your pass bet, you can take down your place bet whenever you like. 

Pass or Don't Pass

Your first put money on whether you think the shooter will pass or not with their initial roll. Pass and don't pass bets are both paid even money (i.e., you get back your deposit plus that amount). The house edge is 1.41% for pass and 1.40% for don't pass. Casinos won't give you a win if the shooter rolls a 12 (or sometimes a 2) and you bet "don't pass," but you also don't lose your money. It just moves on to a "push," or tie. It usually says "Bar 12" or "Bar 2" on the table, online or real, to tell you which number will receive the push if rolled.

Then you'll need to know the combinations.

  • 4 and 10 are the hardest to hit, which is why they pay out most. 
  • 6 and 8 are 7/6 payouts. There are 5 combinations that can produce either of these values. You have to pay $6. 
  • The Odds bet pays 2 to 1 on points of 4 and 10, 3 to 2 on points of 5 and 8 and 6 to 5 on points of 6 and 8.

Don't Pass Line: the Upside Down

Betting the Don't Pass line is not terribly popular in online craps, but it is an option. More importantly, it puts you not so much on the other side of the table as the underside of it. A change in perspective is always useful for improving your game, so try it out with some low stakes as you're getting the hand of it.

If you put down $10 on the Don't Pass line and the shooter rolls a 2 or 3,  you get $20. You'd have a  push (i.e., tie) if they roll a 12. If they roll a 7 or 11, you lose.

Once the shooter's point is set, if they roll a 7 before that point, you win. 

You have 2 values with only 4 combinations that would be a natural win for you, the other 32 count against you, push, or continue to further play. Surely you must get a great rate for going out on the edge, right? Wrong. You get an even bet, just like wagering on the much more likely Pass line. 

You have to lay odds rather than taking odds. So your payouts are the inverse of the above. 

Once the point has been established, if you have bet on the Don't Pass line, do not remove your bet as you have the advantage (i.e, the shooter is more likely to lose than to roll their point again). 

The great thing about playing craps online is you can cheer as loudly as you want with the shooter loses if you bet Don't Pass. Folks don't take so kindly to that at the casino.

Come Box

Place your money in the come box, and it will go toward whatever is rolled next.

Same rules apply. If a 7 or 11 is rolled, you win that money (even). If a 2, 3, or 12 is rolled, you lose it. 

You can put odds on your come bet. However, unlike the odds you put down on the Pass line, these cannot be removed. 

The same house advantage of 1.41% applies to the come bet as to the pass bet. 

Bad Bets

A very poor man once said, "There's no such thing as a bad bet." Some bets are statistically improbable. A purely rational being might wonder why they're on the board or options for play, yet some serious bank has occasionally been won by making these choices. Let's look at some of these "bad bets" and see whether their reputations are justified.

The Big 6 and 8 Boxes

Next to 7, 6 and 8 have the most combinations, so it's smart to place a bid in that Big 6 or Big 8 box, right?

At any point in the game - during the you can place a bet in the Big 6 or 8 box. This is betting that shooter will cast a 6 or 8 before a 7, which you know by now is statistically improbable. 6 and 8 each have 5 combinations, whereas 7 has 6 possible combinations, making your odds 6 to 5. This bet has a 9.1% house edge. This seems like a bad bet, but if a 7 is rolled twice in a row you will see these bets start to go down. 

However, it gets a bit worse. If you're feeling that at 6 or 8 is statistically likely, why not put a place bet on 6 or 8 (remember, you can do this at any time, even before the come-out has been cast)? The place bet pays more, with a payoff 7 to 6 (1.17%) opposed to the 6/8's even money. So if you put $24 down in on 6 in the place bet and the 6 box, you'd win $28 or $24 respectively.

The place bet also has a much lower house advantage of 1.52% to the Big 6 and Big 8 boxes's 9.1%. So is there ever a good reason to bet the Big 6 or Big 8 box?

Yes, and the reason is that you don't like having money. If you want to win, or minimize your losses, avoid the box and go for the place bet. The Big 6 and Big 8 box is a charitable donation to the casino. 

Field Bet

Ok, so we've convinced you that the Big 6 and Big 8 are bad bets, but how about that Field box? It has not 2 but 5 numbers to choose from, then increased pay outs on 2 and 12. So that's a total of 7 winners, leaving only 4 losers. Great deal?

Well, look back at your chart of combinations. There you see that 2 and 12 only have one possible combination, 3 and 11 have only two. 

That's what you see. What you don't see is the combinations of the losing numbers: 5-8. These are the thickest point of the base-to-base pyramid, and they make up 20 of the 36 possible combinations in craps. Or, you have 20 ways to lose, and 16 ways to win. This gives the casino at least a 5.6% edge (20 / 36), depending on the bonus they offer for 2 and 12.

Long Shots or Proposition Bets in Craps

These are the bets in the middle of the table, and they aren't called long shot bets for no reason. 

The Hard Ways

Here you'll see illustrations of the different rolls and the payoffs clearly labeled. Hardways are always doubles, and any even value can be rolled as a double (and no odd value can). They are called hardways as opposed easy rolls. For example, the hard way to roll a 10 is getting two 5s, although there are 2 other ways that are therefore statistically more likely. Betting on a hardway is a bit of a longshot, which is why it has higher returns.

So in the case of a hard 10, you're betting on that 1 out of 3 possibilities. The good news is that it doesn't have to happen immediately. The shooter can roll 10 other numbers and you're still safe. But if they roll a 7 or a soft 10, you lose your bet. 

There are 6 combinations of 7, and any of these will lose your bet. There are 2 soft 10s that will lose your bet, so that's a total of 9 combinations that will cause you to lose, 26 that will not be a win, and only 1 that's a winner. 

Put differently, have a 1 in 4 chance of losing (9 out of 36 losing combinations), and a 1 in 36 chance of winning.

Winning at Craps

Like every casino game, the house has the advantage. But people still play, and some win. So how do you win at craps? By 1) not losing, 2) making the smartest bets, and 3) maximizing your bets on the best odds. 

Let's discuss a system that has proven to be one of the most winning systems with craps. 

The 3-Point Molly

Who's Molly? Dunno! But we'll say she was an excellent mathematician who figured a way to get your best odds with craps. The basic idea of the 3-Point Molly is that you always want to have three bets going at once. And these bets should always be on the bet with the least house advantage.

1. Bet on the pass line with max odds.

2. Bet 2 Come bets with max odds. (These are your three points)

 3. If one of your points is hit, put in a Pass or Come Bet to get back to 3 points.


You might want to consider how you use easy money in. For example, if the come-out gives you a 7 or 11, you could pocket that, but many smart players like to put it down for their pass line bet. They don't consider it money in or out, but an increased bet on a likely pass. 

The Method of No Method

All this being said, most players are going to deviate from good strategy. Every player has their superstitions, and those don't really fit into strategy guides. You'll probably follow your gut, indulge in some gambler's fallacy, sometimes win, sometimes lose, all in the hopes of a big win. And we say, more power to you!

We're here to have fun, and breaking away from the system can be fun. Hope to win big, bet responsibly, and enjoy!