How (and Why) to Act Like a Craps Player
You know, table image is important in poker because it affects what the other players do. This can change your odds.
But you might also consider your table image as a craps player.
But understand that it won’t affect the odds. It does affect how the casino staff sees you, though, and that makes a difference for multiple reasons. Some of those have to do with how much free stuff you get from the casino.
The purpose of this post is to explain how to act like a bona fide craps player and how that will help you earn more comps at the casino.
Part 6 of 6
- 1 The Craps Dealers and Other Staff at the Dice Table: Who’s Who
- 2 How the Craps Table Layout Works and How the Dice Work
- 3 How to Play a Craps Game in a Casino
- 4 The Best and Worst Craps Bets You Can Make
- 5 Craps Bets Ranked According to House Edge
Free stuff is worth money, too—so don’t ignore it.
The main thing you want to avoid at the craps table is looking like an out of control loser. Once you’ve got that under control, you can move on to some of the more subtle suggestions below.
You Want to Look Like You’re Good at the Game of Craps
If you’ve read the other posts in this series, you already know that most of the bets at the craps table are lousy.
But some of the bets are really good.
Yes, craps is a game with a house edge. The casino wouldn’t offer it if they didn’t make money at the game.
The trick is to lose it slowly, have more winning sessions, and have more fun at the table than you would if you were making bets where the house edge gets crazily stacked against you.
This means you’re going to stick with the bets with the lowest edge. You might prefer being a right bettor or a wrong bettor. Either of those is okay, but I’d suggest being consistent with your approach.
It also means you’re going to take the free odds bet whenever you can. It’s the only bet in the house with no house edge, so it dramatically increases your probability of winning.
The worst thing you can do is start chasing your losses. The people working at the craps table have no respect for losers who chase.
Chasing is when you start making larger bets that you can’t afford to try to “catch up.” Gamblers who chase are usually victims of the Gambler’s Fallacy, which is a math theory. It’s the idea that eventually the odds will change on the next roll of the dice to help even things up when things have been going badly.
The truth about craps—and most other gambling games—is that it’s made up of a series of independent events. What you rolled on the previous dice roll has no bearing on what happens on the next roll of the dice.
The Physical Act of Betting in Craps
I’ve discussed in the previous post that you place some bets yourself, while the dealers have to place certain other bets for you. I’m going to get into more detail about that here.
But even if you’re having the dealer make a bet for you, you will NEVER hand the chips directly to the dealer. You’ll always put your chips on the table for the dealer to pick up and place.
1st of all, the most common bets I encourage you to make are pass or don’t pass and the free odds bets. These are bets that you place on the table for yourself. To make these bets, you just put the chips you’re betting into the corresponding space on the table. (There is a label on the table for a reason.)
The odds bet is always placed next to your original pass line or don’t pass bet.
The come and don’t come bets are also bets that you place for yourself. You can also take odds on these bets, but the dealer must place the odds bet on the come or don’t come bets. They work almost exactly like the pass line and don’t pass bets, but get placed on a different section of the table.
I was clear about how you shouldn’t place the field bet, but if you’re going to do it anyway, you can place that bet for yourself, too. You can also bet Big 6 or Big 8 yourself, just by putting the chips in the appropriate spot on the table.
But when you start making place bets or lay bets, you put the chips on the table and tell the dealer what they’re for.
All the proposition bets, though, are the domain of the stickman. To place one of these bets, you have to make the stickman notice you. The easiest way is to give the chips to your dealer and tell him which bet you want to place. If it’s a proposition bet, the dealer will tell the stickman for you.
The other way to get the stickman’s attention is to just toss your chips toward him and loudly say what bet you want to place.
Craps Table Etiquette
No one likes a boor, so it’s important that you learn some of the traditional etiquette about how to behave at the craps table.
One of the biggest no-nos is trying to hand cash directly to the dealer. This isn’t even a question of good or bad manners. It’s just a matter of complying with the casino’s security policies.
When you’re exchanging cash for chips, you put the money on the table. The dealer puts your chips on the table, too. You never put anything in the dealer’s hand, and he never puts anything in your hand.
Also, you should know what to call your chips.
$5 chips are called nickel and $25 chips are quarters.
You might have credit at the casino. If that’s the case, tell the dealer how much money you want from your credit line. He’ll call the floorman over to find out who you are. When they’ve verified your credit, it’s customary to ask for how much money you want via sign language.
You hold up one hand with 5 fingers extended if you want $500, and you hold up both hands with all 10 fingers extended if you want $10. The floorman will know what you mean.
Getting credit with the casino and acting like you know what you’re doing goes a long way toward earning comps—free stuff like meals, lodging, and entertainment tickets. I’ll have more to say about that later in this post.
At the baccarat table, or the blackjack table, or even the roulette table, a certain amount of decorum is common. You won’t see many people whooping it up or hollering at those games. But the craps table is a place where people get excited, yell, and jump up and down. Feel free to participate in that.
- Keep an eye on your chips.
- You should put them on the rail and protect them.
- You should try to stand close to the bets you’re going to be making the most of. (Standing where you can easily reach the don’t pass bet/don’t come bets if you’re a wrong bettor)
- Don’t try to verbally make a bet. Chips must be on the table to count as a bet.
Don’t expect sympathy from the casino staff if someone steals your chips because you weren’t paying attention.
How to Treat the Dice
I’ve already explained in a previous post about how the stickman offers you several dice to choose from. Your job, when it’s your turn to shoot, is to pick 2 dice. It’s also important to remember that if you’re the shooter before you make your 1st roll, you need to place a pass line or don’t pass bet.
You can make other bets, too, but you don’t have to. In fact, as long as you’re still the shooter, you don’t have to make any additional bets. The other players at the table will stay in action, though, for sure.
You never pick up the dice with both hands. This is a measure to prevent cheating. You don’t want the staff to worry that you’re cheating, ever.
When you throw the dice, you must throw both of them at the same time from the same hand. You’re not allowed to rub the dice on your shirt or anywhere else, but the felt on the table.
You need to shoot for the other side of the table and throw the dice hard enough that they get there. They have to bounce against the wall to be considered truly random.
Some people try to control the dice when they throw them or at least influence the outcome. I’m skeptical that this is possible, but if you’re able to pull it off, you can make this negative expectation a positive expectation game in short order.
It’s beyond the scope of this post to explain how dice setting and dice control work, but you can find plenty of video tutorials and books on the subject with a quick Google search.
You’re only human, so don’t get too upset with yourself if you make a terrible throw once in a while. It’s possible to have every intention of throwing the dice hard enough and just not succeeding. People are clumsy and make mistakes. Own it and don’t stress out about it when it happens.
If one or both of the dice land off the table, of course, the roll won’t count. The action stops while the craps dealers see what’s going on, but relax and let them handle the situation.
Being Kind to the Staff
It’s more fun to play craps (or any other gambling game in the casino) if you’re on good terms with the dealers. This doesn’t mean they’ll cheat for you, but sometimes you might forget to take an odds bet. A good dealer who likes you will remind you to do so if you forget.
Dealers are human beings just like you are, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. You’ll make occasional mistakes at the table, but so will the dealers. We’re all human. Don’t be a boor when a mistake has been made. I’m sure your craps dealer works just as hard at his job as you do at yours.
Of course, the best way to be kind to the dealer is with your tokes. (That’s another word for “tips.”) I don’t generally tip when I’m losing, and maybe that’s unfair to the dealer, but that’s just how I prefer to do it.
But when I’m winning, I like to place a bet on the dealers’ behalf.
I read an interesting book about craps that suggested the best way to toke was to place 4 bets of a dollar each on the table and say “all the hardways for the boys.”
If one of those bets wins, the dealer gets $7 or $9, which is great. Casino dealers enjoy being in action, too—especially when they’re in action using your money.
You can also just ask the dealer what kind of bets they’d prefer you to make “for the boys.”
I try to limit my tokes to 5% of my winnings, and I don’t toke every time I win, either—maybe half the time.
Getting Credit When Credit’s Due
Setting yourself up with credit at the casino can be convenient because you might not enjoy dragging around lots of cash. Any legitimate casino has procedures in place for this. It involves filling out an application and showing identification.
Many casinos are interested in your credit history with other casinos. If you don’t have credit at other casinos, most casinos will give you credit based on how much money you keep in your checking account.
You can apply for credit before you even arrive at the casino. Just call them before visiting, and they’ll tell you what to do over the phone.
And even though I’m explaining to you how to get credit at the casino, don’t get credit thinking that you’re never going to repay that money. You still shouldn’t gamble with money you don’t have or with money you can’t afford to lose.
Before you leave the casino, you should go to the chip cage and pay off those markers in full.
Having good credit with the casino is an important part of looking like a good craps player. If you fail to pay your markers, you’ll never get credit at a casino again. You’ll be stuck on a cash basis from there on out.
I don’t recommend getting cash advances on credit cards or taking out payday loans to have money to gamble with. If you’re thinking about doing that, you should consider treatment for a gambling addiction. That kind of thinking is dangerous in the extreme.
Once you have credit established at a casino, you can call the property to ask them for guidance on what kind of credit you need and what kind of action you need to bring before you get comped a room or something similar.
They’ll usually tell you how much credit you need, how much you must bet, and how long you must play per day.
It’s a good idea to shop one casino against another to see who’ll offer you the best deals for your action, too. Hotel rooms are harder to get comped on Friday and Saturday nights, because those are the busiest nights of the week at the hotel. It’s a lot easier to get comps from Sunday through Thursday.
I’ve enjoyed writing this series of posts about playing and winning craps, and this might be my favorite post in the series. There’s more to playing craps than just knowing which bets to avoid and which totals matter.
To get the best treatment at the casino—which is worth doing—you should learn how to look like and act like a real craps player. The advice in this post should go a long way toward helping you achieve that goal.