Dice games have been around for centuries—maybe even millennia. Believe it or not, they weren’t always just for people who wanted to gamble. They were originally used as a fortune-teller device for seeing into the future.
Of course, many people learn how to gamble with dice on the streets in their youth with games like craps. That’s far from the only game where you can gamble with dice, though. This post includes several dice games along with instructions for how to gamble on them.
I’ll start with craps because it is the most popular and well-known gambling dice game. Also, just to be clear, I’m only writing about games played with standard 6-sided dice—the kind that are shaped like cubes.
Other polyhedrons exist, but most people don’t gamble with them. They just play Dungeons and Dragons with them.
Craps is the most exciting game in most casinos. It’s also often played on the streets. At its heart, craps is a simple game where you bet on the shooter to succeed or fail.
The shooter is just the person who rolls the dice.
A round of craps starts with a “come out” roll. If the shooter rolls a 7 or an 11 on the come out roll, he succeeds immediately. If he rolls a 2, 3, or 12, he fails immediately. If he rolls any other number, it becomes the point.
The shooter then keeps rolling until he rolls the point again (succeeding) or a 7 (failing), whichever comes first.
A bet on the shooter succeeding is a pass or pass line bet, while a bet on the shooter to fail is a don’t pass bet. Either of those bets pays off at even money.
When you play in a casino, you can also take odds or lay odds when the shooter sets a point. You take odds when you place an additional bet that the shooter will make the point, and you lay odds when you place an additional bet that the shooter will roll a 7 first.
This is called the odds bet, and the only way you can place this bet is if you’ve already placed a pass or don’t pass bet. The odds bet has a maximum amount equal to some multiple of your original pass or don’t pass bet.
The casino decides on the multiple, but the higher the multiple, the better the situation is for the player.
The brilliant thing about the odds bet is that it pays off at its actual odds of winning.
This makes the odds bet the only bet in the casino with no edge for the house. If you placed an infinite number of odds bets, you’d break even, because the payoff odds are the same as the odds of winning.
In most casino games, including all the other bets on the craps table, the payout odds for each bet are lower than the odds of actually winning. The difference between the odds of winning and the payout odds is the house edge.
In street craps, which is basically dice played at home, almost all of the betting is done on the pass line and don’t pass lines. You need bettors who will cover both sides of the action since the casino isn’t there to bank the bets.
In a casino, though, you have a plethora of additional bets you can make at the craps table. The only bets worth making, though, are the pass and don’t pass bets along with odds.
The casino also offers come and don’t come bets, which are bets on rolls subsequent to the come out roll. These bets treat that roll as if it were a new come out roll.
The house edge for a pass line bet is 1.41%, and the house edge for a don’t pass bet is 1.36%. The difference is marginal, and most players enjoy rooting together for the shooter, so they’re willing to miss out on that 0.05%.
The house edge on the other bets on the craps table skyrockets. In the case of some of the proposition bets, the house edge is well over 10%, making these craps bets some of the worst in the house. If you stick with the bets I’ve recommended, you’ll be playing craps about as well as anyone could ever play the game.
Crapless craps, as you might expect based on the name, is a variation of craps. In regular craps, if the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12 on the come out roll, that’s called “craps.” It’s an immediate loss.
What do you think the big difference between crapless craps and traditional craps is?
If you guessed that in this version, the 2, 3, and 12 become point numbers instead of craps, you guessed right.
Also, in crapless craps, an 11 also becomes a point number—it’s no longer an immediate win.
This sounds like a great deal, but the reality is that the house edge in crapless craps is far greater than the house edge in traditional craps.
This is another variation of craps, but Die Rich is craps played with a single 6-sided die. I think that sucks some of the fun out of it, but people play it.
Here’s how Die Rich works.
If you roll a 6 on the come out roll, the pass line bet wins. If you roll a 1, the pass line bet loses. The other numbers become the point number.
The shooter gets 3 chances to roll the point, but if he fails, that’s it. The pass line bet loses.
You can also bet on a specific number coming up.
Here are the payouts for the other Die Rich bets.
And that’s about all there is to Die Rich.
Sic Bo is a Chinese gambling game that’s known by multiple names, including the following.
Instead of playing with 2 dice, as you do in craps, you play with 3 dice in Sic Bo. The Wikipedia article about Sic Bo claims that it can be found in most American casinos, but I don’t believe that.
Finding Sic Bo in a casino is a rare treat these days, as the game has lost much of its popularity over the last couple of decades.
Sic Bo resembles roulette in that you have a table surface with multiple bets you can place. Whether those bets win is determined by the outcome on a roll of the 3 dice. (The casino rolls the dice.)
As a result, you have a large number of bets to choose from when playing Sic Bo. And unlike roulette, the house edge for the various bets varies widely. I don’t have the space in this post to explain all the possible Sic Bo bets you could make, but here are some examples of the bets available.
Either of these bets pays off at even money. A bet on big wins if the 3 dice total between 11 and 17. It loses if the total is 10 or less or 18. A bet on small wins if the 3 dice total between 4 and 10. It loses if the total is 3 or 11 or higher.
Both of these bets have a house edge of 2.78%. (Perceptive readers probably realize that losing with an 18 for big or losing with a 3 for small is where the house gets its edge over the player.)
This is also an even money bet that pays off if the total is odd or even, but the bet also loses if you roll “triples.” For example, if you bet even and get a total of 6 by rolling 2, 2, and 2, you lose.
The house edge for this bet is also 2.78%, and it also stems from the bets that would normally win if they weren’t “exceptions.”
This is similar to a bet on a single number at the roulette table, only the odds are much longer. For example, you could bet that the dice will come up 6, 6, 6. The odds of winning such a bet are 215 to 1, but the payoff is less than that.
The payoff in most casinos is 180 to 1, but in Macau, it’s 150 to 1. The house edge on this bet is huge, by the way, even with the better payout structure. It’s over 16%.
The payouts for those totals are based on which total. Some totals are likelier to come up than others, so they pay out less. For example, you could bet on a total of 10, which is one of the likeliest outcomes.
That pays off at 6 to 1, and the odds of winning are 7 to 1. Or you could bet on a total of 17, which is one of the least likely outcomes. That pays off at 60 to 1, but the odds of winning are 71 to 1. The house edge for the first example is 12.5%, while the house edge for that 2nd example is 15.3%.
As you can see, the house edge for a lot of these bets is really high. The smartest Sic Bo strategy is to stick with the big, small, odd, or even bets. Even then, a 2.78% house edge is high, especially on a game that plays as fast as Sic Bo.
You’d think, at first, that Sic Bo is a better deal than roulette, which has a house edge of 5.26%. But at the roulette table, you’re making far fewer bets per hour than you are at Sic Bo.
After all, in roulette, the wheel has to spin, and the ball has to land. That takes time. In Sic Bo, they just dump the dice on the table.
How much you expect to lose per hour in a casino game is a function of 3 things.
A lot of people look at gambling as an entertainment expense. (That’s the right way to look at it, in fact.) Estimating how much your entertainment costs on an hourly basis is a reasonable thing to do.
Let’s look at how much you’d expect to lose at roulette compared to Sic Bo.
You’re betting $10 per spin, and the house edge is 5.26%. And you’re placing 35 bets per hour at the roulette table.
Your predicted hourly loss is $10/bet x 35 bets/hour x 5.26%, or $18.41.
Your buddy is playing Sic Bo, though. He’s betting $10 on every roll of the dice, and the house edge is 2.78%. But he’s placing 100 bets per hour at the Sic Bo table.
His predicted hourly loss is $10/bet x 100 bets/hour x 2.78%, or $27.80.
Even though the house edge on those Sic Bo bets is half the house edge at the roulette table, you’ll lose more money per hour playing Sic Bo.
That’s fine if you like Sic Bo better than roulette, by the way. It’s up to you to decide how much an hour’s entertainment is worth. After all, no matter what kind of gambling game you choose, if you make bets on a game where the house has an edge, you’ll inevitably lose all your money eventually anyway.
6-sided dice are used throughout the world of gaming. In fact, they’re the only dice used in most games. You’ll sometimes find RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons which use other shaped dice, but in games like backgammon, Monopoly, and Yahtzee, 6-side dice are de rigueur.
Deciding how to bet on such games is up to you. I like to play Yahtzee for a penny a point with my kids, but I might play for a dollar a point with my buddies. I like to place flat dollar amount bets on who’s going to win at Monopoly. I’m a real degenerate gambler, though, so your mileage might vary.
This post about how to gamble with dice covered 4 specific dice games.
These are by no means the only ways to gamble with dice. As I pointed out in the final section of the post, you can gamble on ANY game that uses 6-sided dice. You can make up your own rules for such bets, too.
In fact, for most gamblers, coming up with your own bets for informal games played with your buddies is probably a better idea than playing most of the dice games available at casinos.
Any casino game with dice is a negative expectation bet, and you’ll lose money in the long run on those kinds of bets.
But suppose you play Monopoly with 3 of your buddies, and you each throw $100 in the pot—winner takes all. There’s a little strategy to Monopoly, but it’s still mostly a random game. If you know that little bit of strategy while your opponents don’t, you’re making a positive expectation bet.
That line of thinking can lead you to win money in the long run playing and gambling on dice games.