Why Craps in California is Played with Cards (Not Dice)

craps in California

1 minute

Last Updated: February 7, 2024

Craps in California is a strange subject to professional and beginner players because of the strange way it is played. The California Penal Code prohibits percentage or banking games played with cards, dice, or any other device. There are over 70 Californian tribes that have gambling compacts with the state, and this allows them to conduct house-based banking games like Pai Gow and Poker.

To get around this limitation, casinos have devised card-based versions of Craps, which have been approved by regulators. These versions use cards to determine the outcomes of the games, which, in theory, makes house-banked card games permissible under the gambling compacts. 

How Craps is Played in California

Although cards are used, players can still make regular bets like pass line, come, lay, buy, and don't pass bets. The only difference is that it is cards that determine the outcome of the games. Here is an example of a typical craps game in California:

  • Six cards labeled 1-6 are shuffled and placed on designated spots around the table. 
  • The shooter rolls the pair of dice to reveal a number.
  • If the shooter rolls a 3 and 4, that's a 7 and would have won some bets in regular craps, but here it means that the player must look at the value of the cards in the third and fourth positions to determine the outcome of the roll. 
  • If the cards are arranged in 3-2-4-6-1-5, then the outcome will be 4 + 6 = 10.
  • Therefore, the value of the roll is 10. 

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