How to play craps - a beginner’s guide

With all these moving parts, beginners can find craps to be an intimidating game. The jargon and slang that is used so frequently don’t help this situation and it can sound like craps players are speaking a completely foreign language.

Luckily, JohnSlots is here to help. We have compiled a beginner’s guide to craps that covers every possible aspect of the game, from the different bets you can make to the personnel you are likely to see managing the table to the possible outcomes of a throw. We’ve got you covered for everything Craps right here.

The gameplay

There are three groups of participants in a game of craps. The first is not a group at all but a single individual – the shooter. This is the player who is currently in charge of rolling the pair of dice that are in play. The shooter must roll the dice so that they bounce off the opposite wall of the table and they are the only player who must make a bet before making that first roll. We will discuss that bet further later on.

The second group of participants is the casino personnel. Large craps tables can have up to five members of staff managing play but most have between 3 and 4. These include one boxman, one stickman and one or two dealers. For more on these roles, take a look at our guide to Craps rules.

Finally, the third group of participants are the other players. They are free to simply watch the game progress and/or make, change and remove bets. They are also usually quite vocal, adding excitement and hype as the shooter rolls the dice.

Gameplay proceeds in a fairly simple sequence, as follows:

  1. The shooter first takes two dice out of a bowl containing several pairs of dice and makes a bet on the Pass/ Don’t Pass line
  2. The shooter rolls the pair of dice, taking care to throw hard enough for the dice to hit the far side of the table. This is called the Come-Out Roll
  3. The first round of bets – Pass bets or Don’t Pass bets – are paid out, depending on the result of the come-out roll
  4. If the come-out roll result has not ended the round, a point number is determined, the shooter rolls again and continues to do so until they land a result that ends their play
  5. The next shooter takes up a pair of dice, makes a bet and the game starts anew
How to play craps - the gameplay

Placing bets

The most complex part of craps and the one beginners usually have the most trouble with is with the number of bets available and what they all mean. Placing bets, in itself, is fairly easy. All the player needs to do is put down their desired number of chips on the part of the table that indicates the bet they want to make.

Before the Come-Out Roll takes place, the most important pair of bets are the Pass and Don’t Pass bets. We will be discussing these in further detail below. After the come-out roll, assuming the shooter hasn’t crapped out, players’ options increase significantly. Suddenly we are looking at multi-roll bets, proposition bets and odds bets.

At this point, we should take a look at some of the jargon you are likely to meet right from the start of the game, around the time the come-out roll takes place.

Outcome: Natural, Craps or Point

The come-out roll can have one of three results, two of which end the round there and then.

  1. Natural. Landing a 7 or an 11 on the come-out roll is considered a natural and this means that the shooter has won the game. Pass bets are paid out and if the shooter has placed a bet on the Pass line, they win that too.
  2. Craps. The opposite of the natural is Craps. These are results of 2, 3 or 12. If the shooter rolls any one of these three, they have lost. Don’t Pass bets are paid out. After a natural or a craps result, a new round begins, with new players taking up the role of the shooter.
  3. Point number. If our original shooter rolls 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, that’s where things get interesting. Landing any of these numbers establishes it as the point number for the rest of the round. This means it is set as the target number throughout gameplay. When the shooter sets the point, the dealer will place a button with the word ‘On’ on it in the section of the table showing that number.
When the shooter rolls… Result of the come-out roll
7 or 11 Natural – shooter wins & pass bets are paid out
2, 3, or 12 Craps – shooter loses & don’t pass bets are paid out
4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 Point – the point number is the target number throughout gameplay & pass bets win

Types of bets in Craps

We have already mentioned a handful of craps bets but now we are going to delve deeper. Below are the most commonly available bets in craps but do keep in mind that some casinos might offer additional bets or not offer the full range detailed below.

Pass line or Don’t pass bets

These are the fundamental bets in craps and are made on the result of the come-out roll. The Pass bet wins if the shooter lands a natural or sets the point number.

The Don’t Pass bet wins if the shooter lands a result of 2, 3 or 12. Remember, the shooter is obligated to make either of these two bets before making the come-out roll and is the only player that must make a bet at that stage.

The Pass and Don’t Pass bets have different probabilities of winning. The chances of a Pass bet winning are 251:244 and this bet pays out even money (1:1). The Don’t Pass bet has 976:949 chance of winning and it also pays out at 1:1.

Come or Don’t Come bets

The Come/Don’t Come bets are practically identical to the Pass/Don’t Pass bet aside from the fact that they deal with the results of throws taking place after the come-out roll. These bets can only be made once the point number has been established.

The Come bet is a bet on the point number appearing on the dice before a 7. If the shooter lands a 7 or the craps numbers, the round is over and the Come bet is lost.

If the shooter lands the point number, this bet wins. If the shooter lands a number that is neither 2, 3, 7, 11, 12 or the point number, that number then becomes the Come bet point and the player can then make bets on this too.

The chances of a Come bet winning are the same as those of the Pass bet as 251:244. This bet pays out even money.

The Don’t Come bet is the opposite – you are betting on the shooter not making that point number before a 7 or craps are rolled. The bet wins if the shooter rolls any of these numbers before the point number.

The payout on this bet depends on the point number. If the point is 4 or 10, the bet pays out at 2:1. With a point of 5 or 9, the bet pays out at 3:2. Finally, if the point is 6 or 8, the payout is 6:5.

Position or Proposition bets

Proposition bets are made in that central, rectangular section of the table layout. The following table illustrates the six standard proposition bets in craps.

Bet Wins if…
Any Seven The shooter rolls a 7
Any Craps The shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12
Ace Deuce The shooter rolls a 3
Aces The shooter rolls a 2
Boxcars The shooter rolls a 12
Horn The shooter rolls a 2, 3, 11, or 12

Hardway bets

To understand hardway bets, we first need to learn what hard numbers are versus soft ones. Let’s take the number 6. A shooter can land a total of 6 in various ways – 1 and 5, 2 and 4, or 3 and 3. The hard 6 is one made up of two equal numbers, which would be the 3 and 3. The same follows for a hard 4 (2 and 2), the hard 8 (4 and 4) and the hard 10 (5 and 5).

To win a hardway bet, the hard number must appear before the soft or easy one or a 7. Let’s say a player has bet on a hard 6. They will win the bet if 3 and 3 appear on the dice before a total of 7 or any soft combination totalling 6. Rolls that result in totals of 4s, 8s, 9s etc have no impact. It is the order of hard and soft results of the specified number that matter here.

The payouts for hardway bets are as follows:

  • 9:1 for hard 6 and hard 8
  • 7:1 for hard 4 and hard 10

Place bets

Place bets are made on any of the following individual numbers: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10. If a player makes a place bet on 5, for instance, they will win that bet if the 5 appears before a 7. The odds on place bets are as follows:

  • 7:6 on numbers 6 and 8
  • 7:5 on numbers 5 and 9
  • 9:5 on numbers 4 and 10

Place to Lose bets

We’ve heard about Place bets now let’s look at Place to Lose bets. And yes, you’ve guessed it, these are the opposite of Place bets! This is a bet that the number 7 will appear before any of the places (another term used to describe non-point, non-craps numbers). The following payout odds apply:

  • 4:5 on numbers 6 and 8
  • 5:8 on numbers 5 and 9
  • 5:11 on numbers 4 and 10

Odds bets

Odds bets are side bets, which means that other bets determine when they can be made. In the case of odds bets, these are only available after the Pass/Don’t Pass and Come/Don’t Come bets are done. There is no special place on the table for making odds bets so the player indicates this bet by putting new chips behind their previous bet.

We can think of odds bets as boosting the player’s initial bet. Let’s say a player has made a Don’t Come bet and lays odds as well. If the player rolls a 7 before the point number, the Don’t Come bet wins but so does the odds bet. These odds bets can be adjusted, added or removed at any point during play.

Buy bets

Buy bets and lay bets (more on those below) are a pair of similar bets. Both involve a commission fee. In the case of buy bets, the player has to pay a certain amount, usually 5% of the bet value, to make the bet. The commission is usually non-refundable.

Buy bets are identical to Place bets except that they have different odds, paying out at 1:1. The only buy bets that are always advantageous over the corresponding place bets are on 4 and 10.

Lay bets

Lay bets follow the same concept as buy bets but the non-refundable commission is based not on bet amount but on win amount. Aside from the commission, lay bets are identical to Place to Lose bets aside from the odds. Taking a lay bet is the better option when betting on 4 and 10.

Field bets

The field bet is a single-roll bet. This means that the player is wagering their money on the outcome of the next roll and the next roll alone. The field bet comprises the numbers 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 12. If any of these numbers land on the roll directly after the bet is made, the player wins.

The chances of winning on a field bet are good at 5:4. The payout odds are 1:1 for all the numbers except the 2 and 12. These pay out double, at 2:1. It’s no wonder this is a popular bet with many players.

Big 6 and 8

These bets are quite straightforward! The Big 6 and Big 8 bets win when a 6 or an 8, respectively, land before a dice total of 7. The way the totals of 6 or 8 are made up i.e. hard or easy, is irrelevant in this case.

You might ask why these bets exist when one can just make a bet on the same outcome via a place bet. The answer is the payout. The place bets payout at 7:6 while the Big 6 and Big 8 bets both payout at 1:1.

Put bets

The put bet is not commonly seen anymore but when it is available, the table will have the phrase ‘put bets allowed’ inscribed on it somewhere.

This bet allows a player to make or increase a Pass bet after a point has been set in come-out roll. The player can make a put bet directly on the Pass line, taking odds at once, or increase the odds by adding money to an existing Pass bet.

The put bet pays out better than place bets when the bet size is over a certain amount but for this to be a profitable bet, it must be made at a casino that allows higher bets in the first place.


This beginner’s guide to craps is designed to build a foundation of knowledge about the game, its rules and terminology. Our collection of game guides will help players improve their skills and confidence when playing craps, and are a great way to brush up if you feel a little rusty.

Craps often seems like a complicated and intimidating game. Our guides aim to demystify this exciting activity so you can make the most of your time at the craps table.

Frequently asked questions about Craps rules

Frequently asked questions about Craps

Below are some of the questions about craps we come across most often and our advice on dealing with these queries or issues.

What are the types of bets in Craps?

Craps is a great game in that the table layout displays the majority of bets you can make. These include Pass/Don’t Pass bets at the come-out roll stage and Come/Don’t Come bets, proposition bets, odds bets and more. Read our beginner’s guide for information on each of these options.

What is a high-low bet in craps?

Not all casinos offer this bet, sometimes referred to as ‘Hi-Lo’. This is a bet on the shooter rolling a 2 or a 12, the lowest and highest possible numbers, respectively. There is a 1 in 36 chance of a 2 and the same chance of rolling a 12. The payout on this bet is 15:1.

Do you have to make a “pass line” bet in craps?

Only the shooter must make a Pass or Don’t Pass bet before the come-out roll. Other players are free to place bets at this point but are not obligated to.

Can you make a “pass line” bet after the “come out roll”?

A few casinos offer the possibility of making Put Bets, which are essentially Pass line bets made after the come-out roll.

Do I need to memorise every bet type?

There are lots of bet names to remember! Luckily, the table layout in craps is pretty self-explanatory and once you get a little experience, you will be able to tell your Pass bet from your Come bet and your Big 6 in no time.

What is a “point”?

The point is established during the come-out roll and can be any of the following numbers: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10. Once one of these is determined as the point, the results of subsequent rolls of the dice will decide which bets win or lose, depending on whether that point is reached before or after the number 7.

What does “taking the odds” mean?

This is another way of saying that the player has made a side bet on a Pass or Come bet that has already been made. We talk about Odds bets in our beginner’s guide above.

+5 Years of Experience
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Casino Game Specialist

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Harper Gallagher is a respected specialist in online casino games, particularly craps, poker and casino table games. By staying abreast of emerging technologies and trends, she inspires others to pursue their own passions in the exciting world of online casino gaming.

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