Where’s the best place to learn craps?

Craps, where's the best place to play? I'm taking my 21-year-old son to Vegas for the first time and we're looking for a slow table where he can learn. After that a place with good odds and a lot of action.

(Fort Worth, Texas)

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Craps is so much fun to play. It's far and away my favorite table game in the casino and some of my best Vegas stories take place at a crowded table on a hot roll. Unfortunately it's a game that scares away many new Vegas visitors because the table layout looks so complicated and the frantic action seems intimidating. Your plan of starting your son on a slow-paced table is the right way to introducing the world of dice.

Unlike most casino games that can be learned almost entirely through theory learned from books or online lessons, there are really two parts involved in learning craps: the rules of the game itself, and the game works in the reality of a bustling and loud table. Both parts are equally important, but the first part is easier. Start by having your son read the FirstTimeLasVegas.com section "The very basics of craps." By working through the short lessons there, he'll come away with a base understanding of of what the game of dice is all about.

The very basics of craps

Getting started

1. Come-out roll

2. The point and the pass line

3. Understanding free odds

4. Betting free odds

5. Recap of free odds

6. First example session

7. What's next: Betting the come

8. Working a come bet

9. How things really work at the table

But the second part, how craps tables work in reality, can only be learned through real-world experience. I hold that the very best way to learn is to find a mini-craps tub and start there. A mini-craps tub is a small version of a craps table shaped like... well, shaped like a tub. This scaled-down version of a craps table is manned by a single dealer who handles all the work, instead of the four people who typically work a large table. Instead of standing-room only crowds of players, the tub has seats and usually only six or eight spots. Craps purists hate these tubs, but they're ideal for beginners. With only a single dealer the game moves much slower and with fewer players reaching and grabbing it's a lot easier to follow the flow of the game and payouts. The chairs are also a plus. My first, best craps learning experience was a 12-hour marathon at one of these tables, so my knees were grateful for the place to sit.

Unfortunately it's getting harder and harder to find a mini-craps tub in Las Vegas. Circus Circus and Ellis Island (which is about a block off the Strip behind Paris and Ballys) still have tubs, but the one at Circus Circus seems to be rarely open. If you want to start your son's dice education at a tub, I'd try Ellis Island first.

If you can't find a tub, the early part of the day is a good time to play. Tables usually aren't busy then -- you may even be the only players -- and the dealers aren't in such a rush, meaning they'll usually help out by answering any questions your son may have. Most tables in Vegas are $5 minimum now, but you can sometimes find cheaper tables at Circus Circus, Casino Royale and The Quad on the Strip; Binions, the El Cortez and the Golden Gate Downtown.

Once your son feels comfortable and you're ready to move up to a table in full swing, how about trying some of my favorite places. Here's the list of my favorite places to shoot dice in Las Vegas:

Main Street Station (Downtown) - A stylish casino with a nice airy atmosphere and they offer 20x free odds bets. The dealers are solid and I love the feel of this place.

El Cortez (Downtown) - The pace of the game may move a little slower here because often the dealers are in training, but there's no casino in Las Vegas that draws the same oddball cast of characters as the ones who frequent the ElCo. You're bound to see something interesting here. Possible off-duty hookers, the drunkest man in America who seemed to only roll numbers, to a dice shooter who looked remarkably like one of the Vogons from "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy," I've played with all these people at the El Cortez. It may be the best casino for people watching.

Casino Royale (Strip) - It's not a classy joint and the tables get extremely crowded, but this low-dollar casino offers 20x odds on most of its tables and a fantastic 100x odds on one table.

Caesars Palace (Strip) - The gambling isn't cheap -- good luck finding a craps table with less than a $10 minimum -- but I love playing here. Caesars still has the best vibe on the Strip, as far as I'm concerned. A great combination of old-school Vegas and modern opulence.

2 responses to “Where’s the best place to learn craps?”

  1. Jim said:

    There are some places that offer craps lessons (unfortunately I don't have the list in front of me. You can also find some websites on line where you can practice without downloading software.

    Cheapest craps are still Slots O Fun - located beside Circus Circus offering week day limits of $3 and weekends of $5. Bills Gamblin Saloon also offers $5 limits all day every day.

  2. TimmyTime said:

    Flamingo offers you free lessons on how to play 9am every morning Its the best odds in the casino and everyone should know how to play

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