For decades, craps was the most popular table game in any casino. Its popularity was usurped by blackjack in the 1960s with the rise of both basic strategy and card counting, but craps remains one of the big 3 table games in any casino:
But in Oklahoma, casinos aren’t allowed to use dice to power games of chance. The laws restrict table games to the use of playing cards to generate random results. Someone somewhere figured out how to create a craps game that uses cards instead of dice and maintains the same bets and probability.
The playing cards determine the results, which are then displayed using animated dice on a television monitor above the craps table. It would be easy to think that a random number generator computer program is creating those results, like it would with an online casino, but if you pay attention, you can watch the dealers actually drawing and manipulating the cards.
They use a scanner to read the cards, and that scanner converts those cards into the corresponding dice totals.
The purpose of this post is to explain how to play craps with playing cards in Oklahoma.
The Basics of Craps in General
Whether you’re playing street craps or casino craps, the basics of the game are the same. You start with a “shooter,” someone who rolls the dice. The game is played in “rounds,” and each round begins with a roll of the dice called the “come-out roll.”
Most people bet “with the shooter” or “with the dice.” This is an even-money bet called the “pass line bet.” It wins if the dice succeed, and it loses if the dice lose. Winning and losing are defined as follows:
On the come-out roll, if the shooter rolls a 7 or an 11, the dice immediately succeed, and the pass line bet pays off at even money.
But if the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12, the dice immediately fail, and the pass line bet loses. A new shooter starts a new round after this.
If the shooter rolls any other possible total, a “point” is “set”. The possible points are:
The shooter’s goal on subsequent rolls is to roll the point number again before rolling a 7. If he achieves this goal, the pass line bet pays off at even money. If he rolls a 7 first, he fails, and the pass line bet loses.
That’s the basic game in a nutshell. I know it seems more complicated than that when you’re watching, but that’s because there are so many possible bets you can make. Most of the bets at the craps table are awful for the player, though. You should just skip them.
One of the bets, though—the odds bet—is special. It deserves its own section:
The Odds Bet in Craps
The house has a mathematical advantage on every bet in the casino. The pass line in craps is no different. In fact, we know the exact mathematical edge the casino enjoys on this bet—it’s 1.41%.
When a point is set during a round of craps, though, another bet becomes available that has no house edge. This bet pays off at the same odds as of winning. It’s called the odds bet.
The odds bet is placed behind your original pass line bet. The amount is a multiple of your original bet. Casinos place a maximum amount on this bet as a multiple of your initial bet.
2X is as common a max as you’ll see, which means if you bet $5 on the pass line, you can make up to a $10 bet on the odds bet. If you placed a $10 pass line bet, you can bet $20 on the odds, and so on.
In casinos with higher maximum odds, you might be able to bet 10X or even 100X the size of your pass line bet. So if you bet $5 on pass at a 10X max table, you could bet $50 on the odds bet.
The payoff on this bet is based on the point that’s been set. And the payoff odds are the same as the odds of winning the bet.
If the point is 4 or 10, the payoff is 2 to 1. The odds of winning are also 2 to 1.
If the point is 5 or 9, the payoff is 3 to 2. The odds of winning are also 3 to 2.
If the point is 6 or 8, the payoff is 6 to 5. The odds of winning are also 6 to 5.
Of course, the net effect of having a pass line bet and an odds bet in play at the same time is to reduce your overall house edge on the 2 bets. Here’s what the house edge looks like on the combined bet at various multiples:
2X Odds – 0.85%
3X Odds – 0.47%
5X Odds – 0.33%
10X Odds – 0.18%
100X Odds – 0.02%
Keep in mind, this is the house edge for the 2 bets combined. No matter how much you bet on the odds, you can never reduce the house edge to 0 or less in craps. The initial pass line bet always gives the casino an edge.
Also keep in mind that at least 1/3 of the time, the pass line bet will be resolved on the come out roll anyway. You’ll be able to take an odds bet most (2/3) of the time. But that’s not the same as being able to take the odds bet every time.
But How Do You Play a Dice Game with Playing Cards?
If I were designing a card game based version of craps, I’d just use 2 tiny decks of cards with an ace through 6 in each deck. You’d draw one card from each stack. This would give you the same potential combinations that you have in a regular craps game. There are 36 possible combinations, even though there are only 11 possible totals:
2 – One possible combination: 1, 1
3 – 2 possible combinations: 1, 2 or 2, 1
4 – 3 possible combinations: 1, 3 or 2, 2, or 3, 1
5 – 4 possible combinations: 1, 4 or 2, 3 or 3, 2 or 4, 1
6 – 5 possible combinations: 1, 5 or 2, 4 or 3,3 or 4, 2 or 5, 1
7 – 6 possible combinations: 1, 6 or 2, 5 or 3, 4 or 4, 3 or 5, 2 or 6, 1
8 – 5 possible combinations: 2, 6, or 3, 5 or 4, 4 or 5, 3 or 6, 2
9 – 4 possible combinations: 3, 6 or 4, 5 or 5, 4, or 6, 3
10 – 3 possible combinations: 4, 6 or 5, 5 or 6, 4
11 – 2 possible combinations: 5, 6 or 6, 5
12 – One possible combination: 6, 6
The problem with using my solution of 2 decks of 6 cards is that such a deck would be hard to shuffle. You’d also need to keep the 2 tiny decks separate from each other. That wouldn’t be impossible, but both of these challenges would require more finesse than you might be expected to need.
The casino’s solution is to use a deck of cards with 36 cards in it. Each of those cards corresponds to a specific combination of dice. This duplicates the probability you’d have with a standard craps game.
The cards used for this purpose are the ace through 9 of each of the 4 suits. The table has a card reader with a camera in it. This device recognizes the card and compares it to see which combination that card corresponds to. The boxman is the person at the craps table who handles the cards and the card reader.
The cards are dealt using a shuffling machine. Once the cards are shuffled, the boxman spreads them out across the table and uses the middle card as the determining card. Once it’s been scanned, the television screen above the table displays the animation and the result. The stickman also announces the result at the table.
All the other rules for the game are the same as for a standard craps game. I’ll cover the rest of the basics below, but if you already know how to play craps with dice, you can just skip that section and go play.
The Only Other Craps Bets Worth Making
The only craps bets I’ve covered until this point were the pass line bet and the odds bet.
But you have another good bet you can make before the come out roll. It’s called the “don’t pass” bet.
This is a bet that the shooter will fail.
It wins even money on the come out roll if the shooter fails, although a roll of 12 on the come out roll is treated as a tie (or a “push.”) A push is a situation where the bettor gets his initial bet back, but he doesn’t get any winnings.
The house edge for this bet is 1.36%.
You can lay odds on the don’t pass bet, too, but the payouts are reversed. Instead of getting 2 to 1 for the odds bet on a 4 or 10, you get 1 to 2. Instead of getting 3 to 2 for the odds bet on a 5 or 9, you get 2 to 3. And instead of getting 6 to 5 for a 6 or 8, you get 5 to 6.
Combining the don’t pass bet with the odds bet has the same effect on your house edge as combining the pass line bet with the odds bet. It reduces it dramatically.
If you bet on the pass line, you’re called a “right bettor,” but if you bet “don’t pass,” you’re called a “wrong bettor.” Most craps players prefer to bet with the shooter and the dice. Most of the other bettors at the table are doing so, and this gives you all the opportunity to root for the same result.
Also, most gamblers prefer to place bets where their payoffs are greater than the amount they bet. When laying odds, your payoff is always less than the amount you’re risking. That’s just plain uncomfortable for a lot of gamblers.
The difference of 0.05% in house edge is so negligible that it’s probably worth it to be a right bettor if you enjoy the camaraderie provided by that situation.
Those aren’t the only bets worth making, though.
You can also place bets called “come” and “don’t come” after a point has been established. These are bets that treat a roll later in the round as a new come out roll. The “come” bet is the same concept as the “pass” bet. It just comes at a different point in the round. The “don’t come” bet is the same concept as the “don’t pass” bet, too.
And you can place or lay odds with either of those bets just like you would with a pass line or don’t pass bet. The house edge for these bets are the same, too.
Most of the other bets at the craps table have a much higher house edge. There’s not much point in making any of those bets, because the odds favor the house so much.
I’ll look at a random set of those bets below so you can see just how much they benefit the house.
Sucker Bets at the Craps Table
To understand why so many of the bets at the craps table are such a bad deal for the player, you need to understand a little about how the odds of winning such a bet are determined. You also need to understand that the difference between the odds of winning and the payout odds are what create the edge for the house.
“Odds” in probability are just a way of expressing how likely something is to happen. It compares the number of ways something can’t happen with the number of ways something can happen. For example, if you say the odds of winning a bet are 2 to 1, that means there are 2 ways to lose for every one way to win.
Let’s look at a real example from the craps table, though. All the bets being promoted by the stickman are proposition bets. The house edge on these bets is terrible.
One of the bets he’ll try to convince you to place is a bet on hard 8. (It could be a bet on a hard 6 or 10, either. They’re all terrible bets.)
This is a bet that the shooter will roll a total of 8 using the combination of 4, 4 (a pair) before rolling a 7. It’s a multi-roll bet. It doesn’t pay off until one of those 2 outcomes happens, regardless of how many rolls it takes for it to happen.
The odds of rolling a hard 8 before rolling a 7 are 10 to 1.
The bet pays off at 9 to 1.
To calculate the house edge, you just assume a perfect set of 11 bets. You win this bet once, and you lose it 10 times. You also assume that you’re betting $100 every time.
You’ll win $900 on the one roll where you win. And you’ll lose $1000 on the other 10 bets. That’s a net loss of $100 on 11 spins.
The average amount you’ve lost per spin is $100/11 spins or $9.09/spin.
Since we were dealing with an amount of $100, it’s easy to convert that $9.09 to a percentage. It’s obviously 9.09%.
Compare that to a house edge of 1.36%. The difference is huge.
It means that every time you bet $100 on that bet, you’ll lose an average of $9.09. Compared to losing an average or $1.41, the superiority of one bet over the other is clear.
This huge difference between the payout odds and the odds of winning is what makes all these other bets at the craps table such a great deal for the casino. It’s also what makes them such a bad deal for the player.
If you stick with the 5 bets I suggested in the previous section, and place or lay the maximum amount on the odds bet, you’ll have more fun and more winning streaks at the craps table than you can possibly imagine.
It’s still a negative expectation game for the player, so eventually, you’ll be a net loser. It will just take longer to get there, and you’ll be likelier to have the occasional winning streak.
Learning how to play craps with playing cards in Oklahoma casinos isn’t any harder than learning to play craps with dice in a Las Vegas casino. In fact, if you already know how to play craps with dice, you just need to understand how the results are generated using playing cards.
If you’re new to craps, you should still consider learning how to play. The game is too good to not play, even if the learning curve is slightly steeper because of the difference between using cards and using dice to generate results.
If you stick with the 5 bets I mentioned earlier in this post, you’ll be facing some of the best odds in the casino.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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