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How to Play Craps

By Allison Borzoni

So you are planning on seeing Guys and Dolls at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and know that parts of the plot revolve around a floating game of craps. You’ve seen people playing craps. You’ve heard about it from others. But how, exactly, do you play this game?

First things first, find the craps table, it’ll look like this:


 It’s a fast-paced game and people will be crowded around the table. Because of its fast nature, four casino employees usually run the game.

  1. Boxman—He is usually seated and he manages the chips, exchanging them for higher denominations, etc.
  2. Basedealers—There are two basedealers, and they will be on either side of the boxman. They collect and pay bets to their respective side of the table.
  3. Stickman: He pays bets to the center of the table (or instructs the basedealers to do so). He also announces the results of the rolls and moves dice across the table with an elongated wooden stick.

Craps is made up of two phases, and your bets will differ depending on which phase the table is in.

Phase I: Coming-out Roll

On the table will be a disc called a “button” with one side marked “ON” and the other marked “OFF”. At this point, it will be showing the OFF side. A person called the Shooter will roll two  dice. You’ll be betting on what number will come up. Your options are—

Pass Line: Place your bet here to win if the Shooter rolls a 7 or an 11. But if the Shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12, which are called “craps,” you lose this bet, and the Shooter keeps rolling.

Don’t Pass Bar: Place your bet here and you will win if the Shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12.

Now, this could go on for quite awhile if the Shooter keeps rolling 7 , 11, 2, 3, or 12. This phase of the game only stops when the Shooter rolls 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, and that number becomes his Point. The game then switches to Phase II.

Phase II: Succeeding Rolls

The button is now flipped over to ON. Everybody’s bets stay on the Pass Line and/or Don’t Pass Bar. The Shooter continues to roll the dice, trying to roll his Point and hoping he does NOT roll a 7. If he does roll a 7 before he rolls his point, he loses his bet and so does everyone else who bet on the Pass Line. The Shooter then passes his dice to the next person, and the table goes back to Phase I with the new Shooter.

Let’s say the Shooter’s Point is an 8. When the Shooter rolls an 8 during Phase II, he wins his bet (along with the people who bet on the Pass Line). The Shooter would then go back to Phase I and roll for a new Point.

But there are also a few more bets you can make during Phase II, because remember, the Shooter might roll every number except his Point or a 7 for quite a while.

Come: This is your own, personal “Come-out roll” even though you are not the Shooter. You place a Come bet and, then if the Shooter’s next roll is a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, that number becomes your personal Come-Point. This Come-Point only affects you and your bet.

Let’s say you place a $5 bet on the Come, and the Shooter rolls a 4. The dealer will then move your $5 over to the 4, and the Shooter keeps rolling. If the Shooter rolls a “4” (your Come-Point) , you win; but if he rolls a 7, then you lose your bet.

Don’t Come: This is the same as the Don’t Pass Bar, but you’re hoping a 7 shows up before your Come-Point.

Let’s say you place $5 on the Don’t Come, and the Shooter rolls a 4. That 4 is now your Come-Point. If the Shooter rolls a 7 before he rolls another 4 (your Come-Point) then you win. However, if the Shooter rolls a 4 before he rolls a 7, then you lose your bet.

Field: If you place your bet on the Field, you select a number out of 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12 that you hope will show up on the next roll. Remember, this bet is just for the next roll; it doesn’t carry over beyond one roll.. You either win or lose.

Place or Buy Bets: These are the numbers inside the boxes, with 6 and 9 spelled out. Here, you can bet that a 10, nine, 8, six, 5, or 4 will be rolled before a 7 does. These bets do carry over until a 7 is rolled.

A few other bets are also possible in craps, but this description will do for this simplified explanation.

Etiquette for the Shooter and Other Players

The Shooter:

  • Take the dice with one hand and then roll them with the same hand. The dealer and camera(s) need to see the dice at all times.
  • If you need to switch hands, put the dice down on the table and then pick them up with your other hand.
  • When you roll the dice, toss them so they hit the opposite side of the table.
  • The role of the Shooter gets passed around the table. If you don’t want to be the Shooter, just say “Pass” and the role will be offered to the next person.


  • Don’t ever say 7. Call it ‘Big Red’ if you have to, but keep that on the down-low too. It’s bad luck for the table.
  • If you’re betting with the Shooter (Pass Line, Come, Place, or Field), feel free to root for him.
  • If you’re betting Don’t Pass or Don’t Come, then you are betting against the shooter, and probably most of the table too. Keep your cheering to yourself as you don’t want to be rude.
  • Stay positive when rooting for yourself or the Shooter. For example, don’t root for 7 tonot come up, root for your Come-Point to be rolled instead.
  • Keep your drinks off the table and behind the rail.
  • Keep your hands out of the table as much as possible, you don’t want to interfere with a roll.
  • Finally, remember to tip the dealer.

So, you definitely don’t need all this information to enjoy Guys and Dolls, but it may help you out as you try to understand the motivation of the characters—or on your next trip to Las Vegas!


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