How the Craps Table Layout Works and How the Dice Work
This is the 2nd in a series of posts explaining the game of craps in detail. The 1st post was about the staff working at the craps table. This post is about how the table layout works and what it means for the player.
Part 2 of 6
- 1 The Craps Dealers and Other Staff at the Dice Table: Who’s Who
- 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
- 6 How (and Why) to Act Like a Craps Player
Craps in a casino is played at a big table with a green felt layout. This is where you place your bets.
But not all the bets are labeled on the layout.
And some of the bets that aren’t labeled are important. You’ll learn why soon.
A Closer Look at the Craps Table
When I say the craps table is big, I mean it’s bigger than most people expect until they’ve seen one in person. It’s about 5 feet wide. And it’s often as long as a Toyota Camry.
But the size can vary from casino to casino, too.
Wooden sides surround the surface of the craps table, but 2 spots, in particular, are left open—one for the stickman and one for the boxman.
Unlike roulette, there are no seats at a craps table. It’s played standing. The only person sitting at a craps table is the boxman. Depending on the size of the table, it can host between a dozen and 20 players at a time.
The insides of the wooden sides are coated with foam rubber in some places and mirrors in others. The foam rubber ensures a random roll of the dice, while the mirrors make it easier for the boxman and the floorman to view the action and the results of the rolls.
The dice are always somewhere on the table in plain sight. This prevents cheating on the part of the casino and the players.
The Layout of the Craps Table Is Even More Important
That felt tabletop has bets printed on it. It’s usually green, although you’ll also often see tables covered in red felt. Some casinos try to use their branding on the table, and they might change the color in use based on that, too.
The lines which divide the tabletop into areas are almost always white, regardless of the color of the rest of the table. The bets are printed in various colors—red, white, and/or yellow.
If you look at a picture of a craps table, you’ll notice 3 sections:
- A section on one end
- A section on the other end
- A middle section
The 2 sections on the end are identical. The casino sets the table up this way so you can make bets with the standing dealers from either end of the table.
The outermost labeled bet on the table is the pass-line bet. It’s usually just labeled “PASS LINE.” The section for this bet runs from the edge of the table to the center of the table. This is the most commonly placed bet at the craps table.
Parallel and next to the pass-line bet is the don’t pass bet. Most people like to root for the shooter, so they don’t place the don’t pass bet, even though it has slightly better odds than the pass-line bet.
Next to where it says “don’t pass,” the table usually has printed “bar 12” or “bar 2.” This means that if the roll is a 12 (or a 2), the don’t pass bet doesn’t pay—it’s treated as a push. You get to keep your original bet, but you don’t get any winnings.
A future post will explain what these bets are in detail, but for now, I want you to understand where they’re located on the craps table.
You’ll also see an area labeled “COME.” This is where you place a “come bet,” which is another of the most popular and useful bets on the table. Many players ignore this bet because they don’t understand what it is or how it works. When you finish reading this series of posts, you won’t have that problem.
Another bet is available—the opposite of the come bet. It’s called the “don’t come bet.” It’s also printed with the words “bar 2” or “bar 12” next to it.
The other big area on the craps table is labeled “FIELD.” This is where you can place field bets. Besides the word “FIELD,” you’ll also see several numbers in that section: 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12. The 2 and the 12 are in circles, too. (You win that bet if you placed a bet on any of those numbers and one of them come up on the next roll. The circled numbers usually pay off double or triple.)
Lots of beginners like the field bet, but it’s a sucker bet. Skip it. I’ll explain why soon.
A couple more bets are also big and bold on the surface: “BIG 6” and “BIG 8.” These are sucker bets, too. Skip them. If you want to bet on 6 or 8, there are better ways – offering better odds.
The place bets also have a big section devoted to them. The numbers listed in that section, each of which is in its own box, are 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10. 6 and 9 are usually spelled out using text (“six” and “nine,” to prevent confusion—an upside down 6 looks like a 9 and vice versa.)
This is where the buck is placed after a point is set by the shooter.
Those are the basic wagers found at either end of the table. I’ll go into more detail about what those bets mean, what they pay off, and how big the house edge is for each of them in the appropriate post.
The best bet on the table isn’t labeled at all, though. It’s called the “free odds bet” or just the “odds bet.” I’ll explain it soon, too.
The Bets in the Center of the Table
You’ll find a dizzying array of bets in the center of the table, and these are the bets that the stickman manages. You can place hard way bets, any craps, 7, or 11, among others.
I’ll explain all these bets in detail, too, but for now, I want to give you this advice:
The house edge is the number we use to measure how advantageous a bet is for the casino. The higher the house edge, the bigger the casino’s mathematical advantage is over you.
The bets in the center of the table all have a house edge of at least 9%. Some of them are much higher than that.
Many of the bets on the 2 ends of the table are lousy, too.
But smart craps players stick with the best bets on the table. You can get the house edge below 1% if you place the right bets.
You Also Need to Know about the Dice
Obviously, you need some understanding of the table layout, but you also need an understanding of how the dice work and the various combinations they can create.
Casino dice are almost perfect cubes. And when I say “almost perfect,” we’re talking about dice that are made with unimaginable precision. The cubes are ¾ of an inch wide. The corners of these dice are sharp because of the precise angles involved. You don’t want to step on them barefoot. You also don’t want someone throwing them at you.
These dice are larger than dice used at home in games like Yahtzee. They’re generally red and translucent so you can see that there are no weights or anything inside them. They’re also imprinted with the casino’s logo.
It’s important to the casino that the dice are kept honest.
I mentioned this in my previous post, but if a shooter’s on a winning streak, the boxman will examine the dice to make sure they haven’t been switched out or tampered with.
Craps dice are 6-sided. When you roll 2 of these dice, you have 11 possible totals and 36 possible outcomes:
- A total of 2, which is a combination of 1-1. (There’s only one way to roll a 2.)
- A total of 3, which is a combination of 1-2 or 2-1. (There are 2 ways to roll a 3.)
- A total of 4, which is a combination of 1-3, 2-2, or 3-1. (There are 3 ways to roll a 4.)
- A total of 5, which is a combination of 1-4, 2-3, 3-2, or 4-1. (There are 4 ways to roll a 5.)
- A total of 6, which is a combination of 1-5, 2-4, 3-3, 4-2, or 5-1. (There are 5 ways to roll a 6.)
- A total of 7, which is a combination of 1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, or 6-1. (There are 6 ways to roll a 7.)
- A total of 8, which is a combination of 2-6, 3-5, 4-4, 5-3, or 6-2. (There are 5 ways to roll an 8.)
- A total of 9, which is a combination of 3-6, 4-5, 5-4, or 6-3. (There are 4 ways to roll a 9.)
- A total of 10, which is a combination of 4-6, 5-5, or 6-4. (There are 3 ways to roll a 10.)
- A total of 11, which is a combination of 5-6 or 6-5. (There are 2 ways to roll an 11.)
- A total of 12, which is a combination of 6-6. (There is only one way to roll a 12.)
You’ll notice if you look carefully that this is a classic bell curve. The 7 is in the middle of the curve, and it’s the most likely result. The 6 and the 8 are the 2nd most likely results, placing them to either side of the 7 on the curve, and so on.
Some of these totals are “point numbers.” They’re the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10.
The 7 is the important reference point for the point numbers, because the odds of rolling a point number are measure against the odds of rolling a 7.
There are 3 ways to roll a 4 or a 10.
There are 6 ways to roll a 7.
The probability of a 7 coming up before a 4 or a 10 is 6/3, or 2 to 1.
There are 4 ways to roll a 5 or a 9.
There are 6 ways to roll a 7.
The probability of a 7 coming up before a 5 or a 9 is 6/4, or 3 to 2.
There are 5 ways to roll a 6 or an 8.
There are 6 ways to roll a 7.
The probability of a 7 coming up before a 6 or an 8 is 6/5, or 6 to 5.
Those are really important odds to understand, as will become clear soon.
Other Odds for Other Totals and Outcomes
The way the casino makes its money is by paying off your bets at odds that aren’t commensurate with the odds of winning.
The odds of rolling a total of 11 are 17 to 1. (There are 17 ways to fail for every 1 way to succeed.)
But if you bet that the total on the next roll will be 11 and you win, you only get paid at 15 to 1.
Suppose you placed that bet 18 times, at $100 each. You’d win $1500 on the one time you succeeded, but on the other 17 rolls, you’d lose $1700. You’d have a net loss of $200 over 18 spins.
That’s an average of $11.11 lost per spin, or 11.11%.
And that’s the house edge on that bet—11.11%.
You can always calculate these odds by remembering that probability is just a fraction that compares how many ways something can happen with how many ways it can’t happen.
For example, the odds of rolling a 2 (or a 12) are 35 to 1. There are 35 ways to lose, and only one way to win.
The odds of rolling a 3 (or an 11) are 17 to 1. There are 34 ways to lose and only 2 ways to win.
The odds of rolling a 4 (or a 10) are 11 to 1. There are 33 ways to lose and only 3 ways to win.
This is the 2nd post in our series about playing craps and winning. The next post explains in detail exactly how the game of craps is played. This includes stuff like who rolls the dice, what happens after they roll the dice, and so on.
But I wanted to give you a solid background on both the casino employees involved in the game and the equipment used during the game. I also wanted to give you an introduction to how the math works when rolling a pair of dice.dd