Craps Basics – The Table, Dice & Crew

Craps, the fast-paced table game that always attracts a crowd, can be quite intimidating to the beginner. This clear and easy guide is here to help on the Craps Basics. From the origins of Craps to making sense of the flurry of dice, chips and table markings, to strategy and etiquette, you’ll learn everything you need to know. You’ll impress your fellow shooters, and more importantly, win, with your new know-how.

A Very Quick History of Craps

In order to really understand a game, you have to know the history behind it. Craps’ farthest known ancestor was a far more complicated game called Hazard, which was a favorite amongst English soldiers during the Crusades, where they spread it to the French knights and aristocracy. The version of Craps we know today came from French settlers in Louisiana, where the game was simplified to be easily understood and played by people in the streets. In fact, this is where Craps got its name from – the word is in fact a shortening of the French crapaud meaning toad, because of the way gamblers would squat in the street to huddle over the dice like toads. Nowadays this sort of Street Craps is usually known as ‘shooting dice’, while Craps generally refers to the casino game played with bets marked on a felted table.

The Craps Table

The Craps table itself is a sunken platform (like a tiny football stadium) with mirrored sides. It needs these sideboards because when the dice are thrown, they need to hit the back wall to be counted as a legitimate throw. This is to make sure the dice are thrown hard enough for their outcome to be random.

The Standard Craps Table

Above: The Standard Craps Table

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The shooter is the player who throws the dice. Once they have won or lost their round, they must pass on the dice to the next player, so eventually (barring wanderers who are only in the game for a round or two) every player at the table will get a chance to be the shooter.

The shooter must have a bet on the Pass Line or the Don’t Pass line. We’ll get to the details of different bets a little later, but for now let’s say that the Pass Line bet is the most fundamental bet in Craps. It’s betting that the shooter will win their round. Basically, the shooter must have a stake in their own dice throw.

The table is felted and marked with outlines representing different places where people can place their chips. You’ll see quite a few bold markings – the Field, the Come Bar, the Pass Line – it can all be quite confusing. But just remember that each area of the table is linked to a bet, and each bet has their own rules and pay-outs. There are plenty of bets to discover, but the first you’ll learn is the Pass Line bet, which also happens to be the best bet on the table.

The Crew on Craps

There is quite an array of staff at the Craps table – this is partly because it’s a fast-moving game, and partly because dealing Craps is the toughest job on the casino floor and you need some pretty sharp math skills to compete. Firstly you’ll notice the stickman, who is, surprise surprise, the man with the stick. His job is to collect the dice after they’re thrown, and give them back to the shooter, or send them over to the next shooter. His multi-purpose stick – a long wooden one with an angled tip – can also be used to fetch losing bets from the far side of the table, he’s also responsible for announcing the results of the roll – which isn’t as easy as you’d think, seeing as there is a special nickname for every combination of dice rolled at the Craps table.

The Staff At The Craps Table

Above: The Staff At The Craps Table

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There are also two base dealers on either side of the table. The table is often double-sided, meaning the same pattern of betting areas is printed twice along the felt to accommodate more players. The base dealers collect losing bets and pay out winning ones, while the boxman supervises them, guards the chips, and makes change for players. If you go to the casino at a quiet time, there may only be one base dealer, or one dealer may double-up as a stickman too. These roles are filled to capacity when the table is ‘hot’ – that is, when there are many players betting at once.

Being The Shooter on Craps

When the shooter rolls, they must be careful not to cover the dice completely from view or to take the dice off the bounds of the table – cheating would be nearly impossible in modern casinos, but it’s considered a faux pas to ‘hide’ the dice even for a moment in this way. It’s better to keep things open and honest so the dealers will see you as a courteous player.

If the shooter throws too hard and one or both of the dice leave the table, they can either choose two new dice from the three back-up dice the dealers will have ready, or they can call “Same dice” where the dice will be retrieved, inspected by the boxman, and put back into play. While some superstitious players prefer to play the same dice option in this situation, it really slows the game down and can aggravate fellow players and dealers, so as a beginner you’ll want to avoid calling Same Dice and just keep the game flowing smoothly by taking replacement dice.

Take a look at the different kind of bets you can make here.