Craps History


As with most modern games, the history of craps is somewhat unknown. Some believe it originates in the age of the Roman Empire. Soldiers of the Roman Legions played a game using pig knucklebones shaped into cubes. For entertainment they would “roll the bones” onto their shield.

Origins of the Game

Actual dice can be traced far back into history. Modern looking cubical die found in Egypt have been dated at 600 B.C. The origin of dice can be traced even to prehistoric times. Primordial fortunetellers used to throw sacred arrows, bones, sticks, and stones upon the ground trying to predict the future for his tribe.

The known history of craps begins with an earlier game called “hazard”. The name “craps” comes from the French pronunciation of the word “crabs”, a nickname of the game hazard. In hazard the banker, or setter, sets a stake. The player, or caster, calls a main (a number from 5 to 9, inclusive) and then throws two dice. If he throws in, or nicks, he wins the stake. 5 is nicked by 5, 6 by 6 or 12; 7 by 7 or 11; 8 by 8 or 12; 9 by 9.

The caster throws out, losing the stake, when throwing aces or deuce-ace (crabs, or craps) or when throwing 11 or 12 to a main of 5 or 9, 11 to 6 or 8, and 12 to 7. Any other throw is his chance; he keeps throwing until the chance comes up, when he wins, or until the main comes up, when he loses. When a chance is thrown, the setter pays more than the original stake, according to specified odds. In French hazard the player throws against the house. In English hazard, also known as chicken hazard, the player throws against an opponent.

Craps began its American history through the French Louisiana colony of Arcadia, which first brought hazard to the continent. The first version of modern craps was created in New Orleans in 1813 when Bernard de Mandeville simplified the game of hazard. The original version of craps allowed only field and come bets. This new game made its way up the Mississippi River by steamboat. From there is spread to casinos and gambling halls across the country.

The flaw with Mandeville’s craps was that it was very vulnerable to the use of fixed dice. A dice-maker named John H. Winn mended this flaw. He introduced the option for players to bet either “right” or “wrong”, including a space on the craps layout for “Don’t Pass” bets. The benefits of fixed dice were nullified by this adjustment and craps grew to become one of most popular games in the world.