There are dozens of interesting craps bets that we’ll cover in later sections and in the next article, but right now let’s talk about the practical aspects of playing the game.
CrapsBasil Nestor is the author of the new Playboy Complete Guide to Casino Gambling. This wonderful book teaches players how to avoid sucker bets and win more when playing gambling games. He is also the author of The Smarter Bet Guide series for video poker, slots, craps, and many other books about gambling. Basil's website is www.smarterbet.com is played on a table like the one pictured below. It’s big, typically about five feet wide and ten feet long. The sides are high to prevent dice from coming off the layout. The top edge has a rail with grooves to hold your chips, and below that is a ledge for drinks. It’s everything necessary to shoot craps like a member of the Rat Pack.
Notice that the layout has boxes that correspond to the various points, and a long strip called the pass line that runs nearly the length of the table. Above that is an area labeled “don’t pass.”
The dealer who stands at the center of the table holding the long curved stick is the stickperson (or “stickman” for the old timers). She retrieves dice after a throw, returns them to the shooter, and is responsible for all other issues concerning the cubes.
Across from the stickperson is the boxperson. He keeps an eye on the bank of casino chips, supervises the game, and settles disputes. On either side of the boxperson are dealers who pay bets, take wagers, position bets for players, and generally run the game.
Buying into craps is a little different from some other games because the table may be busy and you may have to get the dealer’s attention. Put your money on the layout (when the dice aren’t rolling) and say “change” in a clear voice. As in blackjack and all other table games, don’t hand anything to the dealer. Security procedures require that money and chips be displayed on the table before being converted. The bills will be counted, and a dealer will give you chips in whatever denomination you request.
For obvious reasons, pass and don’t-pass wagers are made only when a shooter is coming out (there’s an oddball exception to this rule, but for now let’s stick to the typical wagers). You’ll know when a shooter is coming out by finding the puck. It’s a large disk that’s black on one side and white on the other. “ON” or “POINT” is printed on the white side; “OFF” or “COME-OUT” is printed on the black side.
The puck will be in or near the section of the layout marked don’t come with the OFF side up when the shooter is coming out. It will be moved to a corresponding number box and turned to the ON side after a point has been established. When the puck is OFF, just lay your wager on the pass line or the don’t-pass bar.
OFF or COME-OUT = Shooter is coming out
ON or POINT = Shooter is trying to roll a point
A dealer will double your chips or take them away depending on the results of the rolls. Be sure to remove your winnings from the layout promptly. Too many high-fives and cheers may cause you to miss the next roll, and the rule is “if it lays, it plays.” Your money could be gone before the celebration has concluded.
Throwing the Dice
Shooting isn’t mandatory, but it’s a lot of fun.
When the stickperson offers you dice, simply choose two from the selection or decline. If you decline, the person next to you will be offered the dice. If you decide to throw, you’ll hear the stickperson say, “Shooter coming out!”
Throw the dice hard enough to hit the wall at the other end of the table. This is very important. A throw in which the dice don’t take a bounce at the end may be considered a no roll. This will make you very unpopular with the crew and the other players, especially if the invalid numbers would have paid someone big money.
Time-consuming rituals before throwing are equally unloved. It’s okay to rattle the dice for a few moments or whisper a mantra, but elaborate performances are not appreciated. Keep your throwing hand in sight at all times when holding the cubes. Don’t hold or touch them with both hands. Don’t smack the cubes on the surface of the table. Don’t grind or rub the cubes together. Why all the rules? You’d be amazed at the sneaky things people do to cheat. The craps crew has seen it all, so they’re extra cautious when dice are handled in an irregular way. It’s best to simply take the cubes, set them in necessary (we’ll talk later about setting dice), and throw them.
You’re allowed to shoot indefinitely, as long as you continue to pass with a natural on the come-out, roll craps, pass with a point, or roll numbers other than seven after a come-out. If you seven-out, it’s over. You lose and the dice are offered to the person standing next to you.
Everyone gets a chance to shoot, but players betting the don’t pass often decline the dice. If they do take the dice, the stickperson will announce that the player is shooting from the don’t. Other players may refuse to bet until the dice have passed. There is no practical or mathematical reason for any of this. It’s just custom and superstition, but remember that craps is a social game. If you’re playing alone, or it’s just you and friends, then it really doesn’t matter. On the other hand, shooting from the don’t is a judgment call when the table is crammed with strangers. Are you feeling like a maverick? Then go ahead, shoot from the don’t.
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