Playing the Pass Line
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Playing the Pass Line

Playing the pass line, or why craps is really just a collection of little countries

Let’s admit that for the first timer, craps can be not a little bit intimidating.

So many squares.

So many numbers.

A pair of dice, four casino croupiers taking note of every action on the table, an elongated wooden stick, and a chunk of chips that have to be placed with the utmost accuracy on, or even behind, all those carefully drawn squares?

It’s confusing. In fact, to someone who interprets the world visually and spatially, a craps table can seem to lie halfway between a Piet Mondrian masterpiece and those little arithmetic times tables you learnt at age 11.

Let’s talk straight: the single most important bet you can ever make on the craps table is the Pass line bet.

When you scan the table from the bottom to the top from the player’s perspective, you’ll notice that the Pass line is the very first square you encounter. It’s the closest square to you on the board, and in many ways it’s also the most essential and fundamental to your game play.

From the get-go, we want to let you know that the Pass line gives you what is probably the best winning odds of all the other squares. That’s because it carries the lowest house advantage of 1.41%. Compared to some of other odds at some of the other games, those are really excellent odds.

Think of craps as a neat little collection of countries, all with different laws, different payouts, and different ways of doing things. Let’s extend the metaphor just one step further. What do we know about countries?

1.   Some countries have stricter wagering requirements than others

Different bets have different denominational requirements. For instance, the 6/8 place bets must be wagered in multiples of six. That’s because the Place 6/8 has 7:6 odds, whereas the 5/9 and 4/10 bets have 7:5 and 9:5 odds respectively. Casino chips only come in integer denominations, so betting on the 6/8 squares in multiples of 5 would just get messy and confusing.

2.   Some countries tax you more than others

There’s a reason so many millionaires store their money is so-called ‘tax havens’ like the Cayman Islands. They get taxed less on a buck-for-buck basis. It’s the same in craps. Some bets are taxed – like Buy bets, which are for all intents and purposes the same as Place bets but with an important difference: they pay at true odds. Most payouts at the casino are made at casino odds, which are a bit less than the true odds value. It’s one of the core ways from which the house derives its profits. But here’s the kicker: not to be outdone by a petulant no-profit bet, the house will “tax” you on your Buy bet at 5%. Woof!

3.   Some countries aggressively take your profits

Some craps bets are so downright nonsensical from the player’s perspective that it boggles the mind why some people even make these bets. Think about the proposition bets. There’s good reason that these bets are called sucker bets. On the plus side, their payouts are handsome. A Craps “2”, for instance – a bet that snake eyes (that’s craps code for 2) will be rolled immediately after the wager – will pay you at 30:1. And while that sounds all good and well, when you factor in your actual chances of winning such a bet it becomes clear that the odds aren’t pitted in your favor. Proposition rolls are single­ roll bets, so you have but one round to make your profit. Not the sharpest bet. And at a house edge of over 13% you’re battling against a mountain of disadvantage, which only hurts your bankroll and, by extension, your profit-making potential.

Best advice we can give to the new comer?

Stick to the Pass line. And when the game moves from the come-out roll to the point, stick to the Come. It’s just safer.

As an alternative, the brave at heart can also play the Don’t Pass Line