The Best and Worst Craps Bets You Can Make
This post in my playing and winning at craps series looks at the various craps bets available and ranks them from best to worst. If you don’t know who the people are running the craps game, if you don’t understand how the table and dice work, or if you’re not sure how the game plays out, check out my previous posts in this series.
Part 4 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
- 5 Craps Bets Ranked According to House Edge
- 6 How (and Why) to Act Like a Craps Player
The basic bets in craps, as it turns out, are the ones that offer the best odds for the player. The more complicated the craps bet is, the worst it is for the player mathematically.
Craps is a game of streaks, and you can win or lose a lot of money playing fast.
But you’ll almost certainly lose your money faster if you take the sucker bets.
Stick with my list of the best craps bets on this page, and avoid my list of the worst craps bets on this page, and you’ll be all set.
The Best Bets at the Craps Table
The come out roll is the 1st roll of each “round” of craps. This is the most important roll in the game, and the best bets at the craps table are tied closely to the concept of the come out roll. So I’m going to reiterate how that works:
- The shooter starts a round of craps with a come out roll.
- If she rolls a 7 or an 11, the dice win. If she rolls a 2, 3, or 12, the dice lose.
- If she rolls any other number, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, a point is set.
If a point is set, the shooter continues to roll the dice until she rolls a 7 or until she rolls the point again. If she rolls a point before rolling 7, the dice win. If she rolls a 7 before rolling the point, the dice lose.
The Pass-line bet is the most popular bet at the craps table, and it’s also one of the best bets you can make. This is called right betting. If you bet on the Pass-line bet, you’re a right bettor. You’re betting that the dice will win.
Craps players are no different than most people. They like to root for people to succeed. At most craps tables, the players are almost all rooting together for the dice to win.
I should point out, though, that the casino doesn’t care if you’re betting the Pass-line bet or the Don’t Pass bet. The casino has a mathematical edge regardless of which bet you place, so they know in the long run they’re going to profit.
I should also point out that you can only make a Pass-line bet before a come out roll. You cannot place the Pass-line bet before subsequent rolls during a round.
It’s the most prominent area on the table, too, so it should be easy. The bet pays off at even money if the dice win—and I discussed the winning criteria above. The bet loses if the dice lose.
The Don’t Pass bet is the opposite of the Pass-line bet. It’s called wrong betting, and if you place this bet, you’re a wrong bettor. This wager is a winner if the dice lose, but casinos—to maintain an edge over the house—either bar 2 or bar 12 from winning. Which number is barred will be listed on the craps table in that section.
These are the 2 main bets available at the craps table, and they’re also the 2 best bets at the craps table.
A right bettor has a high chance of winning on the come out roll. He can win 8 different ways immediately. There are only 4 ways for him to lose immediately.
How do you know this?
- There are 6 ways to make a 7, which wins on the come out roll: 1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, and 6-1.
- There are also 2 ways to make an 11, which also wins on the come out roll: 5-6 and 6-5.
But there’s only one way to roll a 2 and only one way to roll a 12. There are 2 ways to roll a 3, for a total of 4 ways to lose immediately on the come out roll.
Since there are 36 total possible combinations, it’s easy to calculate the probability of winning on the come out roll as a percentage, too. 8/36 is 22.2%, and 4/36 is 11.1%. A third of the time, the outcome of the round will depend on the come out roll immediately. This also means that 2/3 of the time, a point will be established.
And when a point is established, the odds favor the wrong bettor. If the point is a 6 or 8, the odds of a wrong bettor winning are 6 to 5. If the point is 5 or 9, the odds of winning are 3 to 2. And if the point is a 4 or 10, the odds of a wrong bettor winning are 2 to 1.
The Free Odds Bet
I mentioned in a couple of my previous posts that the absolute best bet on the craps table isn’t printed on the table. That bet is the odds bet or the free odds bet. This is the only bet in the casino that has no house edge.
You can only place an odds bet after a point has been set. When you place this bet, it’s in addition to your existing Pass-line or Don’t Pass bet. This bet pays off at the same odds of winning, so the house edge is 0.
- If the point is 4 or 10, the odds bet pays off at 2 to 1—the same as the odds of winning.
- If the point is 5 or 9, the odds bet pays off at 3 to 2—the same as the odds of winning.
- If the point is 6 or 8, the odds bet pays off at 6 to 5—the same as the odds of winning.
Casinos limit the amount of money you can bet on odds to a multiple of your original bet. In a casino where you’re only allowed to match your original bet, this is called single odds. In a casino where you’re allowed to place an odds bet that’s twice as much as your original bet, it’s called double odds.
The effect of the odds bet on the total amount you have in action is to reduce the house edge. For example, on the Pass-line bet, the house edge is 1.41%. If you make a single odds bet, the house edge drops to 0.8%. A double odds bet reduces the house edge to 0.6%. And so on.
Some casinos are generous with this. You can find casinos that allow you to bet 10X and even 100X on your odds bet.
And the closer your cumulative edge gets to 0, the closer the game gets to a break-even game.
When you’re making an odds bet on a Pass-line bet, you’re taking odds.
But wrong bettors can also place odds bets. They work slightly differently, but the house edge is still 0. Wrong bettors placing an odds bet are said to be laying odds.
The payoffs, in this case, are the opposite.
- If you lay odds on a 4 or 10, the payoff is 1 to 2.
- If you lay odds on a 5 or 9, the payoff is 2 to 3.
- And if you lay odds on a 6 or 8, the payoff is 5 to 6.
In other words, if you’re a wrong bettor and place the odds bet, you must risk more money than you’ll win. This doesn’t matter to smart math types like you and me, because we understand the house edge is the same. But for many players, risking more money if you lose than what you’ll win is foolish.
As a result, many wrong bettors turn their nose up at laying odds, even though they shouldn’t.
I also want to point out here that there’s nothing wrong with being a wrong bettor, regardless of what the other players at the table might think. Any time you’re gambling, you should ignore the attitudes of the other gamblers.
In fact, the house edge for being a wrong bettor is only 1.36%, as compared to 1.41% for being a right bettor. So the odds are slightly better for being the wrong bettor.
3X 4X 5X Odds
In some casinos, the maximum odds you can take are listed as 3x4x5x odds. This means that if the point is 4 or 10, you can bet 3x your original bet on the free odds bet. If the point is 5 or 9, you can bet 4x your original bet on the free odds bet. And if the point is 6 or 8, you can bet 5x your original bet.
The casinos didn’t just decide on these multiples randomly. Their goal was to simplify their payout procedures on these bets.
Since the payoff on a 4 or 10 free odds bet is 2 to 1, if you bet 3x your original bet, your total payoff (including your original Pass-line bet) is 7 to 1.
The total payoff on a 5 or 9 free odds bet combined with a Pass-line bet is also 7 to 1. You get 3 to 2 on your money.
The same holds true for the payoff on the 6, or 8 free odds bet.
These limits make it easier for the casino to pay off your bets. A table with 3x 4x 5x odds is a better deal than a table with single odds or double odds, but it’s not as good as a table with 10X odds or 100X odds.
An Example from Real Life Play
Brian sits down to play craps. He has $1000 total, and he bets $10 on the Pass-line on the come out roll. The shooter rolls a 6, setting a point.
This casino offers 10X odds, so Brian places a free odds bet of $100. He now has $110 in action on the table.
On the next roll, the shooter makes the point, making Brian a winner.
He gets paid off $10 on his original bet of $10.
Since the point was 6, he gets paid off at 6 to 5 on the $100 free odds bet, which means he wins another $120 on that bet.
Brian’s bankroll has increased to $1130. He likes this shooter and thinks she might get hot, so he places a $20 bet on the Pass-line on the next come-out roll.
This time she rolls a 10 as the point. Brian now places $200 on the free odds bet, putting $220 total into action.
It takes her several rolls, but she does eventually roll a 10, so Brian collects winnings again—this time $20 for the original Pass-line bet, but also 2 to 1 on the odds bet, for winnings of $400 there. That’s $420 in total on an initial bet of $220.
Brian now has $1550, and the shooter hasn’t even changed yet. In fact, he’s only made 4 bets.
Now that he’s confident the shooter is hot, he decides to let his winnings ride on the Pass-line bet, although he does collect his winnings on the odds bet. So he now has $40 on the Pass-line bet.
This time the shooter rolls a 9 and Brian places $400 on the odds bet. She succeeds again, and Brian collects $40 on his Pass-line bet as well as 3 to 2 on his $400 odds bet, which is $600 more in winnings. That’s a total win on this round of $640.
Brian now has $2190. He’s double his money in just 3 rounds of craps, all with the same shooter.
Doubling your money at the blackjack table would take at least an hour if you got hot, even if you’re betting fairly big. This is one of the reasons I love craps so much.
Of course, winning streaks can evaporate and become losing streaks just as quickly. But it’s hard not to find these winning streaks exhilarating when they happen.
An Odds Bet Trick Based on Some of the Actualities in the Casino
If you’re betting something simple, like $10 or $20, on the Pass-line, betting the odds is easy. You just bet the largest multiple you’re allowed on the odds bet. It’s easy to calculate—if you have double odds, you bet $20 or $40, and so on.
But if you’re betting $5, $15, or $25, the odds bet gets trickier because of the payoffs. For example, suppose the point is a 5 or 9, which pays off at 3 to 2. It’s easier for the casino to pay you off at 3 to 2 if you’re betting $6 instead of $5. That’s because a 3 to 2 payoff on a $5 odds bet is $7.50, and the casino would rather not deal in change. If you bet $6, a 3 to 2 payoff is $9.
There’s no need for anything special on the 4 or 10 points because a 2 to 1 payoff never involves change unless you bet change. 2 to 1 on $15 is $30—no problem there.
But the 6 or 8 is another unique situation because that bet pays off at 6 to 5. Most casinos allow you to bet 5 units on the odds bet if you have 3 units bet on the Pass-line, even if the casino only offers single odds.
So if you bet $15 on the Pass-line, and the point is 6 or 8, you can bet $25 on the odds bet.
Strategy Considerations Based on the Odds Bet
Since anything you can do to lower the house edge is something you should do as a gambler, the obvious correct strategy in craps is always to take the biggest odds bet you can. Based on the information in that last section, if you’re playing at a table that only allows single odds bets, you should always bet 3 units so that you can make that 5 unit odds bet if the 6 or 8 comes up.
You won’t run into many casinos in Las Vegas that limit you to single odds, though. Most of the Vegas casinos allow at least 2X odds, and many of them offer 3x4x5x odds. A few of the casinos which cater to high rollers also offer 10x and 100X odds. So that section might not come into play unless you’re playing craps in Reno or Atlantic City at a casino which does limit you to single odds.
The Come and Don’t Come Bets Are Great, Too—And They’re Not as Hard to Understand as You Might Think
Some new craps players ignore the come and don’t come bets because they don’t understand them. That’s a shame because these are on the short list of the best craps bets you can make.
The come bet allows you to make a series of bets on rolls subsequent to the come out roll. In other words, this bet treats the next bet as a new come out roll, and it wins just like a Pass-line bet would win.
In other words, it’s another way to bet on the dice winning.
You bet $5 on the come out roll, and the shooter rolls an 8. You already had a $10 bet on the pass line, but now you can also bet $20 on the odds bet. (The casino offers 2x odds.)
But you can now also make a come bet. This bet will win just like a Pass-line bet would. If a 7 or 11 shows up on the next roll, you win, and if a 2, 3, or 12 comes up, you lose. If a point is set here, it’s called a come point number. And for your come bet to win, that number must come up again before the shooter rolls a 7.
You can even take the free odds bet on the come bet. The house edge on the come bet is the same as the house edge for the Pass-line bet.
Don’t come works like don’t pass, but again, it treats that subsequent roll of the dice as a new come out roll.
You get to keep making come or don’t come bets until the shooter rolls a 7 and “sevens out,” or until there’s a new come out roll.
So here’s how the come bet works in a nutshell:
You can only make a come bet on a roll subsequent to the come out roll. You can keep making come bets as long as you want, too. Or you can wait and only make come bets once in a while. You can wind up with lots of money in action this way.
One of the things you’ll hear gamblers say about the come bet is that it’s “always working.” This means that it still applies even on a new come out roll. The free odds bet, though, is off on the come out roll.
If you understand come bets, you also understand don’t come bets. They’re just like the don’t pass bet, but on those subsequent rolls.
The Worst Craps Bets You Can Make
All the rest of the craps bets are worse than those 5 bets. To review, the best bets are:
- Don’t Pass
- Don’t Come
- Free Odds
Some of the worst bets are better than others, but there’s really no reason you should ever mess with any of the other bets on the table. The house just has too much of an edge over the player.
But the worst of the worst of those bets are the proposition bets in the middle of the table. You can place some other bets occasionally for grins, but not these. The house edge on these is over 9%, and in some cases, it’s almost 20%. That’s too much of an edge for the casino for a smart gambler.
I’ll cover those other bets in detail in the next post in this series.
The best bet at the craps table is the free odds bet, because it has no house edge. It pays off at the same odds as the odds of winning it are.
But you can only take the free odds bet after you’ve taken one of the other basic bets. The Pass-line bet and the come bet are both bets on the dice to win. The Don’t Pass and don’t come bets are both bets on the dice to lose. The house on those bets are 1.41% and 1.36%, respectively.
The house edge on all the other bets skyrockets. Those are the worst bets at the table, but the worst of the worst are the proposition bets in the center of the table.