How to Play Craps

Typically, there are four casino staff members at a craps table: the boxman, who is responsible for overseeing the game and resolving disputes; two dealers, one for each side of the table, who take care of the bets; and the stickman, who delivers the dice to the shooter and announces rolls and betting options.

Players take turns acting as the shooter, but you are free to pass the dice if you don't want to shoot. The stickman usually offers the shooter five dice, and the shooter picks out two to play with. The first roll is called the “come-out” roll, and the result of this roll determines what happens next. If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, she — and those who bet with the shooter — wins even money, and the next roll effectively begins a new round of play. If the come-out roll is a 2, 3, or 12, the shooter — and, again, those who bet with the shooter — loses, and the dice are passed along to the next player.

If the come-out roll is a “point” — that is, a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 — then players bet on whether the shooter will roll that point again before rolling a 7. The shooter continues to roll until either the point is made or a 7 comes up. If the point is made, the shooter can continue rolling, trying to make the point again, or he can relinquish the dice to a new shooter.

A plastic disk called a “puck,” with one black side and one white side, is used to keep track of the game. When the black side is up, that signifies that the current throw is a come-out roll. When a point is established on a roll, the puck is flipped white side up and placed on the numbered box corresponding to the point.

At virtually every casino, you must place a pass-line or don't-pass wager in order to be the shooter. If you don't want to shoot, you can elect to pass and let the next person roll the dice.

Craps Superstitions

There are several myths and superstitions surrounding craps. One is that you should never be the first player when a craps table opens up because the dice will be “cold;” they need to be handled for a while to warm up. Another superstition forbids putting money on the table while a shooter is rolling the dice, especially in the middle of a hot streak; if the dice hit the “new” money, the belief goes, the next roll will be a 7.

Many craps enthusiasts also believe the next roll will be a 7 if one or both dice bounce out of the table during a roll, but this can be avoided (according to the superstition) by making sure you use the same dice on the next throw. That's why you'll sometimes hear the shooter, or even bettors, call, “Same dice!” Along the same lines, hitting someone's hand with the dice is believed to be bad luck, so you'll often hear bettors, shooters, and even casino personnel yelling, “Watch your hands,” as the shooter begins to roll.

The Virgin Principle

Finally, there is the so-called “virgin principle,” a piece of craps mythology that states a woman who has never acted as a shooter before — a dice virgin — will have a hot streak her first time out. This superstition is so ingrained that when a woman who has never played craps before comes to the table, often you'll find veteran players placing bets for her in an attempt to win her favor, or the favor of her gambling gods. Interestingly, the virgin principle does not apply to men; in fact, it is firmly believed that men who have never thrown the dice before are jinxes at the craps table.

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