The most exciting casino action is usually found at the craps tables. Betting is frenetic, play is fast-paced, and groups quickly bond while yelling and screaming in response to the action.

While it can be intimidating, it’s very easy to play a basic game of craps, but figuring out the various bets and the odds associated with the advanced bets is sort of like learning rocket science, only with dice. Entire books are written about the game and so it would be impossible to explain it all in a couple of paragraphs, but here is enough to at least get you started.

The table is divided into marked areas (Pass, Come, Field, Big Six, Big Eight, and so on), where you place your chips to bet. Novices should stick with the “Pass Line” or “Come” bets until they get used to the rhythm of the game.

The Possible Bets

Pass Line -- A “Pass Line” bet pays even money. If the first roll of the dice adds up to 7 or 11, you win your bet; if the first roll adds up to 2, 3, or 12, you lose your bet. If any other number comes up, it becomes your “point.” If you roll your point again, you win, but if a 7 comes up again before your point is rolled, you lose.

Don't Pass Line -- Betting on the “Don’t Pass Line” is the opposite of betting on the Pass Line. This time, you lose if a 7 or an 11 is thrown on the first roll, and you win if a 2 or a 3 is thrown on the first roll.

If the first roll is 12, however, it’s a “push” (standoff), and nobody wins. If none of these numbers is thrown and you have a point instead, in order to win, a 7 will have to be thrown before the point comes up again. A Don’t Pass bet also pays even money.

Come -- Betting on “Come” is the same as betting on the Pass Line, but you must bet after the first roll or on any following roll. Again, you’ll win on 7 or 11 and lose on 2, 3, or 12. Any other number is your point, and you win if your point comes up again before a 7.

Don't Come -- This is the opposite of a Come bet. Again, you wait until after the first roll to bet. A 7 or an 11 means you lose; a 2 or a 3 means you win; 12 is a push, and nobody wins. You win if 7 comes up before the point. (The point, you’ll recall, was the first number rolled if it was none of the above.)

Field -- This is a bet for one roll only. The "Field" consists of seven numbers: 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12. If any of these numbers is thrown on the next roll, you win even money, except on 2 and 12, which pay 2 to 1 (at some casinos 3 to 1).

Big Six and Eight -- A "Big Six and Eight" bet pays even money. You win if either a 6 or an 8 is rolled before a 7. Mathematically, this is a sucker's bet.

Any 7 -- An "Any 7" bet pays the winner 5 to 1. If a 7 is thrown on the first roll after you bet, you win.

"Hard Way" Bets -- In the middle of a craps table are pictures of several possible dice combinations together with the odds the casino will pay you if you bet and win on any of those combinations being thrown. For example, if double 3s or 4s are rolled and you had bet on them, you will be paid 7 to 1. If double 2s or 5s are rolled and you had bet on them, you will be paid 9 to 1. If either a 7 is rolled or the number you bet on was rolled any way other than the "Hard Way," then the bet is lost. In-the-know gamblers tend to avoid "Hard Way" bets as it is an easy way to lose money.

Any Craps -- Here you're lucky if the dice "crap out" -- if they show 2, 3, or 12 on the first roll after you bet. If this happens, the bank pays 7 to 1. Any other number is a loser.

Place Bets -- You can make a "Place Bet" on any of the following numbers: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10. You're betting that the number you choose will be thrown before a 7 is thrown. If you win, the payoff is as follows: 4 or 10 pays at the rate of 9 to 5, 5 or 9 pays at the rate of 7 to 5, and 6 or 8 pays at the rate of 7 to 6. "Place Bets" can be removed at any time before a roll.

Some Probabilities

The probability of a certain number being rolled at the craps table is not a mystery. Because there are only 36 possible outcomes when the dice are rolled, the probability for each number being rolled is easily ascertained. See the "Dice Probabilities" chart below to help you, in case you decided it was fun to pass notes or sleep during math classes.

Dice Probabilities

Number - Possible Combinations - Actual Odds - Percentage Probability

2 - 1 - 35:1 - 2.8%

3 - 2 - 17:1 - 5.6%

4 - 3 - 11:1 - 8.3%

5 - 4-  8:1 - 11.1%

6 - 5 - 6.2:1 - 13.9%

7 - 6 - 5:1 - 16.7%

8 - 5 - 6.2:1 - 13.9%

9 - 4 - 8:1 - 11.1%

10 - 3 - 11:1 - 8.3%

11 - 2 - 17:1 - 5.6%

12 - 1 - 35:1 - 2.8%

So 7 has an advantage over all other combinations, which, over the long run, is in favor of the casino. You can't beat the law of averages, but if you can't beat 'em, join 'em (that is, play the "Don't Pass" bet).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.