Craps Strategy

Trying to give a brief strategy guide to Craps is like trying to teach calculus quickly: 99% of the time it ain't gonna happen. Tough! Let's give it a shot anyway.

Let me give you my strategy for just about everything: take the best odds you can get, nudge them in your favor as much as you possibly can and play smart. In Craps the best odds on the table are Pass, Don't Pass, Come, and Don't Come because they give the house the smallest edge. Everything else is for the impatient, the imprudent or the "gifted" -- rubes one and all if you ask me.

The Best Bets

The numbers people say that a Pass bet gives the house a 1.41% edge. And a Don't Pass yields slightly less than 1.40% to the house. These are the Line Bets and they're the heart of a winner's strategy because everything else gives too much away. For example:

  • The Field gives away 5.6%.
  • Big 6/Big 8 gives 9.1%.
  • Horn: 12.5%.
  • Craps 2/Craps 12: 13.9%
  • Any 7: 16.7%.

See what I mean? Craps is about dice and dice are about percentages. The smart money gives as little away as possible and that means Pass/Don't Pass at around 1.4%. Those bets and how to improve them is what this article is about.

While we're at it, it's worth keeping in mind that Come/Don't Come bets follow the same odds and logic. The only thing different about them is the timing as to when they're placed.

Improve Your Bets

Okay, so the smart bets are Pass/Don't Pass (and Come/Don't Come). Now how can we improve the best bets in Craps? The Odds, that's how -- either by Buying Odds when you play "right" (Pass) or Laying Odds when you play "wrong" (Don't Pass). These are placed in addition to your initial bet after the Come Out roll and the reason they improve your initial bet is that the house takes no edge on Odds. That's right, zero house. All you're betting against is the straight dice. But you could spend a long time looking at the felt trying to find where the Odds bets are supposed to go. The truth is they're not marked. It's a "hidden" bet, so to speak.

The word is that in Vegas the big houses simply take the position that it's not their responsibility to inform the players of all their betting options, so the Odds stay unmarked. Needless to say, our online friends are not in the business of correcting Vegas so they take the same approach: no Odds to be seen. No biggie, it's an easy bet to make and it will improve your original Line bet by almost halving the house edge or better, if the house let's you do it.

Placing an Odds Bet

An Odds bet is made by supplementing your original Pass/Don't Pass bet by an additional amount after you've made it past the Come Out roll. The bets are placed right beside your initial bet on the Pass/Don't Pass line. In Vegas it's typical for the house to restrict these bets to Single Odds, meaning you can match your Come Out bet with an equal amount. And as I said, that'll about half the house edge on your initial bet.

The good news is that the online casinos I've sampled let you bet double your initial Line bet. This is called Double Odds and it cuts their edge even further, to a little more than 40% of their initial edge. So that 1.4% they originally had is now down to about 0.6%. It's a smart play. Generally speaking, and assuming you can handle the gaff, buy the biggest Odds you can find because the larger the Odds bet, the more you shave off the house edge on your initial bet.

Buying Odds

When you play "right" and Buy Odds, you're supplementing a Pass bet and if you win you'll get your winnings based on the Point. So assuming a Pass Bet of $5:

  • Buying Double Odds ($10)
  • Point Payout Pays (Win)
  • 4 or 10 2 - 1 $30 ($20)
  • 5 or 9 3 - 2 $25 ($15)
  • 6 or 8 6 - 5 $22 ($12)

I'm just showing your Odds win here, not the total. In other words, on a right bet of $5, where the Come Out roll sets a Point of 10, your total take on the win will be $40: your original $5 bet back plus a winning on that of $5, plus your Odds bet back ($10) and the winnings from that ($20).

Laying Odds

Conversely, when you Lay Odds you're supplementing a Don't Pass Bet and win as follows (assume an initial $5 Don't Pass bet):

  • Buying Double Odds ($10)
  • Point Payout Pays (Win)
  • 4 or 10 2 - 1 $15 ($5)
  • 5 or 9 3 - 2 $16 ($6)
  • 6 or 8 6 - 5 $18 ($8)

So to follow the Buy example above, an initial wrong bet of $5 on a Come Out roll of 10 will yield a total win of $25: your initial $5 back plus its win of $5, your $10 Odds bet back plus its win of $5.

Now here's another little trick. Most casinos only pay in denominations as small as $1. In other words, you lose any fraction of a dollar that you would otherwise have coming. Because of the Odds your Laying, 3-2 and 6-5 in particular, you're losing fractions if you bet as given above because most multiples of 10 are not wholly divisible by 3 or 6. On the 5/9 Point you lose $0.67, and on the 6/8 Point you lose $0.33. Nothing much, you say? But we're talking about not giving the house anything more than they already have, right? So let's look at another scenario.

Now let's say you place a wrong bet of $6 instead of $5. In that case your Double Odds bet can be $12. And as you'll see from the following table, you lose no fractions on this bet. You keep all the win you have coming because all multiples of 12 are wholly divisible by 3 (as in the 3-2 odds) and by 6 (as in the 6-5 Odds).

  • Buying Double Odds ($10)
  • Point Payout Pays (Win)
  • 4 or 10 2 - 1 $18 ($6)
  • 5 or 9 3 - 2 $20 ($8)
  • 6 or 8 6 - 5 $22 ($10)

So basically what I'm saying is if you're going to Lay Odds, make your initial Don't Pass bet a multiple of $6, and bet full on your Double Odds for a multiple of $12.

The same logic applies, by the way, with Buying Odds. Make your Pass bet a multiple of $5 so your Double Odds will be in multiples of $10. This is optimal because your divisions are going to be by 1, 2, and 5.

Testing the Strategy

Most players are going to prefer playing right and Buy the Odds because the payouts look larger, but then you're playing against slightly higher odds. If you're hardcore about playing to win you'd be well advised to look seriously at playing wrong, taking the smaller house edge, and grinding it out. The gurus sum it up by saying that playing right and Buying Odds is the more popular and a bit riskier. Playing wrong and Laying Odds is considerably less popular with the Craps crowds, shaves the house edge to a minimum and is for players with a large roll and the patience to grind out the winnings over extended play.

So I tested the strategy on a number of online casinos. What I found was the playing wrong and Laying Odds was definitely to my tastes, which is no surprise because I have always preferred the Don't Pass bets. Now when it comes to kicking out for the Double Odds I have to say that I found it better for my peace of mind, if not strictly for the best edge, to not Lay Double on every round.

If you look at the Point frequencies you'll see that there are three ways to roll a 4 or 10, four ways to roll a 5 or 9, and five ways to roll a 6 or 8 and, finally, six ways to roll an Out 7. In other words, when betting wrong and always placing Double Odds, those 6's and 8's are gonna turn up fairly frequently and you're going to lose your bets. In short, it's a game of nerves to play that way and, speaking for myself, I don't like it. So what I've done is Double Odds on the 4 and 10 and let the rest ride. What I'm doing, of course, is betting exceptionally conservatively since the 4/10 Points are the least likely to show and are therefore the safest wrong bets to Double up on. It makes for a slow game but I was almost always able to better my holdings if I stuck with it. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I like it when the chips pile up and I don't like it when they drain away. It's basically a style of play that suits my temperament.


So there it is: Pass/Don't Pass (or Come/Don't Come) only, while playing the highest Odds you can get will help you shave the house edge to a minimum. Modify to suit your tastes, as I did in standing on every wrong bet save the 4/10 Points. And finally, don't give the house your fractions. Shooters up!