Craps seems like an intimidating game to those who haven't played it. There are dozens of bets available, and it seems like the game has a terminology all its own. While both those statements are true, it is easy to jump in with the knowledge of just two bets. What follows is an explanation of the most common bets, in roughly the order you should learn them. Again, you don’t have to understand all of the bets to play, just the ones you intend to wager on.
The Pass is the most fundamental bet in craps. The vast majority of players bet the pass, which is why the players seem to all win or lose together. This unity of betting on the same thing is what makes craps fun.
When a new shooter gets the dice, his first roll is called a "come out roll." If this roll is a 7 or 11, then pass bets win. If this roll is a 2, 3, or 12, then pass bets lose. Otherwise, on rolls of 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10, the total thrown becomes known as the "point." Then, the shooter will roll the dice until he either rolls the point again or rolls a seven. If the point is rolled first, pass bets win. If a seven is rolled first (known as a "seven-out"), pass bets lose.
It is important to wait for a come out roll to make a pass line bet. The easiest way to tell the state the game is in is by the white and black laminated markers. On one side, the marker is black and says "off." The other side is white and says "on." When the marker says "off," then the next roll is a come out roll, and it is safe to make a pass bet. Otherwise, the white side of the marker is used to indicate what the point is, by its placement on the table.
To make a pass line bet, put your wager on a band that goes along the edge of the table that reads "pass line." The house edge on the pass bet is 1.41%.
Craps is one of only two games that offers a bet with no house edge, the other being the double-up feature in some video poker games. After making a pass line bet, and when the point has been established, the player may make an additional side wager that the point will be rolled before a 7 is rolled. The odds pay 2 to 1 on points of 4 and 10, 3 to 2 on points of 5 and 9, and 6 to 5 on points of 6 and 8. These are the mathematically fair payoffs.
To make an odds bet, put it behind your pass line bet. There will be some restriction as to the maximum multiple of the odds bet to the pass line bet, which varies from casino to casino. To make the payoffs even, odds bets on points of 5 and 9 should be even numbers and divisible by 5 on points of 6 and 8.
This is the opposite of the pass line, except a come out roll of a 12 is a push instead of a win. The house edge is 1.36%. Although this is 0.05% less than the house edge on the pass, you will be a contrarian betting on the "don't", winning when the table loses and losing when the table wins. Unless you take joy in the pain of others, or you are strictly about minimizing the house edge, playing the don't is not as fun for most players.
You may also lay odds on a don't pass bet after a point is established, which win on a 7 and lose on the point. The odds are fair at 1 to 2 on a 4 and 10, 2 to 3 on a 5 and 9, and 5 to 6 on a 6 and 8. Odds bets should be divisible by 2 on points of 4 and 10, 3 on a 5 or 9, and 6 on a 6 or 8.
This is like a pass bet, but it can be made any time except during a come out roll. The roll after the bet is made will count as a come out roll for the come bet. Just like a pass bet, you may bet the odds on top of a come bet. The house edge is the same as the pass bet at 1.41%.
The same as a don't pass bet, but it can be made on any roll except the come out roll. The player may lay odds if a point was rolled. Much like a don't pass bet, the house edge is 1.36%.
Place bets are like odds bets, but you don't need to have made a pass or come bet first. However, they pay less odds. Place bets may be made at any time other than a come out roll. Place bets on 4 and 10 pay 9 to 5, for a house edge of 6.67%. Place bets on 5 and 9 pay 7 to 5, for a house edge of 4.00%. Place bets on 6 and 8 pay 7 to 6, for a house edge of 1.52%.
The field is a single-roll proposition bet that wins if the total of the dice are anything other than 5 to 9. Wins pay even money, except a total of 2 pays 2 to 1 and a total of 12 pays either 2 to 1 or 3 to 1, depending on how generous the casino is.
The house edge is 2.27% if the 12 pays 3 to 1 or 5.56% if it pays 2 to 1.
There are lots of other bets in craps, but they are all either obscure or carry a high house edge. You can get by easily, and join in on the fun, with just the bets described above. Lest the dealers tempt you into making a sucker bet, you should know that every bet in the middle of the table is a sucker bet.
If you want to learn more about craps, including bets not listed here, please visit the page on craps at WizardOfOdds.com.