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Guide to Craps for Beginners

Beginners Guide to Craps

Do you want to learn how to play craps? If so, you have come to the right place. We encourage you to read our guide on how to play craps for beginners and familiarize yourself with the basics of the game. We also invite you to visit our award-winning hotel and casino to try your hand at one of the most popular casino games in the world.

Before jumping into our material, it is important to note that this guide explains what the rules of craps are for games played in casinos. Depending on where you live, you may have the opportunity to play in informal, underground craps games. If you are tempted to participate in such a contest, be warned that most of these games are illegal and the rules may vary wildly from the traditional, equally enforced rules that govern casino games.

If you want to play craps, visit Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, where we will cater to your every need and help you get the most out of your stay at our luxurious property.

The History of Craps

Sometimes, knowing the history of a casino game can make you enjoy it more, and that is certainly the case with craps. Even if being familiar with the history of craps does not help you play better, you will be able to dazzle your tablemates with some interesting facts about the game. Craps is a group game, after all, and socializing with other players will only enhance your experience, regardless of whether you win or lose.

Socializing during your craps game will make the experience more enjoyable.

Believe it or not, the history of craps dates back to medieval times. During the Crusades, an English nobleman presumably created a game called Hazard in 1125 to keep his knights entertained during a slow period of the battle. While Sir William of Tyre’s early version of craps required players to bet on the outcome of a roll of the dice against a single authority like you do in modern craps, that is where the similarities between Hazard and modern-day craps end.

Presumably, Hazard got its name from the name of a castle where Sir William of Tyre and his knights had engaged in battle, which was known as Hazarth. While some might argue that others influenced the early beginnings of craps, Hazard is widely recognized as the great-grandfather of today’s casino game. Craps got its modern name from the French word “crapaud,” which means toad. Many believe this makes reference to the way early craps enthusiasts would squat to roll the dice before craps tables were available.

Written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the late 14th century, “The Canterbury Tales” is one of the first literary works to mention craps. With no less than seven characters participating in some form of dice gambling, Chaucer’s classic exemplifies how popular craps was during the time period.

By the 17th century, craps was frequently played in gambling houses throughout Europe. It made its way to the United States when French colonists settled in the area now known as Newfoundland and were later forced to relocate. The colonists eventually settled in Louisiana and introduced craps to America. While some may argue that English settlers are actually responsible for bringing craps across the pond, there is no dispute about who the father of the modern-day version is.

In the early 1900s, John H. Winn was an American manufacturer of dice and playing cards. He changed the rules of craps so that players would bet either with or against the shooter. He also created a standard for the game’s layout, which is still used in casinos today. Winn implemented the Don’t Pass wager, largely responsible for minimizing or eliminating the influence of cheats such as crooked dice. Winn’s changes pushed craps forward, making it the game we now refer to as “modern craps” and making Winn the “Father of Modern-Day Craps.”

Game Etiquette

Today, craps is a game that is enjoyed by many in casinos throughout the world. It is typically played among a small group of bettors who sometimes have all of their money on the line together. Because players often share risks, rewards and losses together, craps fosters a sense of camaraderie that simply does not exist in other casino games.

Craps has a sense of camaraderie that other casino games do not have.

While it is always important to follow the spoken and unspoken rules of etiquette when you gamble in a casino, it is particularly important in a game like craps. If you do not adhere to these rules, you may ruin the experience of the other players at your table, since their experience is intimately entwined with your own and partially dependent on your behavior.

Here are some rules you should keep in mind when you play craps in a casino:

  • Do not pass your turn as the shooter more than once: Even though you are allowed to pass your turn as the shooter, it is frowned upon to do so more than once. Remember, someone has to roll the dice for the game to proceed, so take your turn, do your best and have fun.
  • Tip your dealers: Although you are under no obligation to tip anyone, it is good form to tip the dealers at your table. While some bettors may tip when they win, you should still give your dealers at least a small tip every hour or so even if you are on a losing streak.
  • Avoid late bets: Even though it is technically permissible, it is not a good idea to bet when the dice are not in the middle of the table. Doing so is called a late bet, and this kind of wager is one sure-fire way to frustrate your dealers and alienate other players.
  • Do not eat or drink at the rail: If you are hungry or thirsty, satisfy your cravings away from the rail. Bettors are physically active when they play craps, so there is always a risk that something will spill if you eat or drink at the rail. If you simply must eat when you play, use a fork or spoon to prevent others from having to roll greasy dice.
  • Do not leave after a successful come out roll: If you are the shooter, you should stick around if you throw a successful Come Out roll. Leaving the table after such a roll is considered bad etiquette.
  • Root for the shooter: It is common to hear roars coming from the craps table as a shooter is getting ready to roll the dice. If you bet on the shooter, feel free to cheer the person on as loudly as you would like. If you wagered against the shooter, it is normally best to contain your enthusiasm if you want to feel welcome at the table. If you obviously root against a shooter, it might cause the person and their comrades to resent your presence at the table.

If you ever feel nervous about playing the game or rolling the dice, keep this story in the back of your mind: Patricia Demauro, a grandmother from New Jersey who did not know how to play craps, stepped up to the rail and took her turn throwing the dice in a casino. Beating the odds of one in 1.56 trillion, Demauro continued to roll the dice 154 consecutive times at the craps table over the course of a record-setting four hours and 18 minutes without rolling a seven. Now, imagine if Demauro had passed her turn to be the shooter!

How to Play Craps

Now that you are familiar with the history of craps and the rules of etiquette, it is time for you to learn how to play the game. The first step to learning what the rules of craps are is to know who you will be dealing with when you are at the table.

In addition to other players, you will usually encounter several casino employees at a craps table because of the large amount of money that is often involved in a typical game. In many casinos, craps tables have a double layout. The boxman is in the middle and is responsible for supervising the play and handling and accounting for the money. The stickman works opposite from the boxman and uses a stick to move the dice around the table.

Two dealers flank the stickman. While he announces the results of each throw of the dice, the dealers manage bets, pay winners and collect chips from lost wagers.

Some people are reluctant to play craps because the table looks confusing or even intimidating. While the table may instill fear at first glance, it is actually easy to interpret if you study it briefly. The key to remember when you are new to craps is that you cannot make a wrong bet in the game even though it is possible to place losing bets.

House edge in craps is 14.1 percent.

Craps has a house edge of just 1.41 percent, which means that you are likely to collect an average of 99 cents for every dollar you bet while you play over time. In order to enjoy these favorable odds, it is vital that you only place smart bets during your playing sessions and err on the side of caution when you are starting out. Once you are comfortable with the layout of a craps table and have played for a while, you will have a solid idea of what the best bets are. Here are the basics of a craps table’s layout:

  • Pass line, Don’t Pass bar, Come and Don’t Come: The Pass line extends all the way around the table. This line is for gamblers who are betting on the shooter’s side. You will also notice a Don’t Pass bar on the table, which is reserved for players who are betting against the shooter. A craps table has a Come section and a Don’t Come area. These are similar to the Pass line and Don’t Pass bar, but they factor into the game at a later point.
  • One-Roll wagers and hard-way bets: If you look between the boxman and stickman, you will see an area reserved for one-roll wagers, which are also referred to as proposition bets. Nearby, you will find a section for hard-way bets. You will place bets on single rolls in the first section and make bets like “an eight will be thrown as two fours before a seven” in the latter area.
  • Field: In front of the players, you will see an area titled “Field.” This section is where you will place one-roll bets that the dice will yield one of seven numbers on the next roll. The boxes that have the other numbers on them are where you will make Place or Buy wagers that those numbers will turn up before the shooter throws a seven.
  • Big 6 and Big 8: In the corners of the table, you will notice boxes that say Big 6 or Big 8. Depending on the box you bet on, you are wagering that the shooter will roll either a six or an eight before they throw a seven.

To get the most out of your experience playing craps, you need to know the language that many players use as they gamble. While you may be tempted to memorize certain terms and their meanings as they relate to the game, the best way to learn the lingo is to play and listen to your tablemates. As you do, you will quickly pick up on things such as “Yo” or “Yo-leven” referring to 11 and “Jimmy Hicks,” meaning the number six. In general, it is advisable to avoid using a given term until you are certain of its meaning.

Many craps players are superstitious, and it is important to be respectful of their beliefs and habits when you are at the table. Some people think you will jinx the outcome if you use different dice on the same roll, while others will flee the scene if you call out “seven.” Still others will place a penny under the table for good luck. Even if you are not superstitious, you will have a better time playing craps if you are supportive and understanding when it comes to the sometimes-odd things other players might do to feel like they are generating good luck.

When you are ready to buy into a game of craps, never hand your money to the dealer directly. Instead, put your cash on the layout prior to the shooter getting the dice. Then, ask the dealer for “change only” to get your chips.


Betting is obviously a big part of craps, as it is in any casino game. Wagering is what makes the game exciting and gives you the chance to share good fortune with your tablemates. Of course, it is also what gives you the opportunity to lose your chips. The number one strategy you can adopt to have fun with craps is to bet wisely and mind your bankroll.

Craps strategy tips

At the start of a round of craps, a button labeled “OFF” is on the table away from the points, which signifies that no point has been determined yet. For the round to start, the shooter must place a bet on either the Pass or Don’t Pass line. Other players can also place bets on these lines, but they are not required to. The first time the shooter throws the dice, it is called the Come Out roll.

If the Come Out roll yields a seven or 11, bets on the Pass line win even money while bets on the Don’t Pass line are lost. If the shooter rolls a two, three or 12, results that are called “craps,” bets on the Pass line lose and wagers on the Don’t Pass line win. Either the two or the 12 will be a push for bets on the Don’t Pass line — it is up to the casino to decide. If the Come Out roll produces any other number, that figure becomes the point.

If the Come Out roll determines a point by yielding a four, five, six, eight, nine or 10, the bets on both lines remain in place, meaning you do not need to wager additional money to play the point. The button will be flipped over so that it shows the word “ON,” and it will be put on the number that is the point.

Now the shooter’s goal is to roll the point before rolling a seven. If the shooter rolls another number, it does not matter. If the shooter hits the point, everyone at the table passes and the shooter starts over with a new Come Out roll and a new round of betting. A shooter can determine multiple points before throwing a seven. If the shooter rolls a seven on any throw other than a Come Out roll, all bets are lost, and the dice are given to the next shooter.

While betting the Pass or Don’t Pass line is enough to play craps, you may want to make other kinds of bets as you gain experience. Other bets, such as odds bets, are more complicated. It is important for you to have sound, working knowledge of the game before you move on to making more advanced bets.

Visit Us to Play Craps

Now that you have a basic idea of how to play craps, why not make plans to play at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino? We look forward to seeing you at our craps tables and enjoying your stay at our luxurious hotel soon.