Gambling History – Craps

Modern craps is said to be an offshoot of the British dicing game called “hazard.” William of Tyre claimed that he and his fellow Crusaders invented the game of hazard to pass the time while they were laying siege to the castle of Hazarth in 1125. Thus, the game may take its name from the castle. However, other authorities believe the game takes its name from the Arabic words “al zar,” which means “the dice.” In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer makes frequent mention of hazard as a metaphor for life, with runs of both good luck and bad luck.

The French learned the game from the English and called it “craps” or French hazard. “Craps” is a corruption of the word “crabs,” the French word for a pair of ones. In French hazard, the player throws against the bank or the house. In English (also called chicken hazard), the player throws against another player.

In America, Bernard de Mandeville is said to have adapted craps from hazard in New Orleans in 1813. The game was played enthusiastically on riverboats, on wharves, and in private gaming houses. This version of the game permitted only “field” and “come bets,” which made craps extremely vulnerable against fixed dice. Naturally, players tended to use these fixed dice quite a bit.

The dice-maker John H. Winn developed an innovative version of craps in which players could bet for, or bet against the roller. This meant that fixed dice were no longer needed. The very popular versions of modern craps are based on Winn’s invention.

By 1910, craps was said to be the most popular casino game in the world. Today, as many as 30 million Americans play craps annually.

Playing Craps

A player, known as the “shooter” accepts bets from the “faders,” those who are betting against him. If the first roll is 7 or 11, this is known as a “natural” and the shooter wins and may play again. If the first roll is 2, 3, (“craps”) or 12, (“boxcars”) the shooter loses the bet but keeps the control of the dice. If the shooter so wishes, he or she may play again. Any other roll is called the shooter’s “point.” The odds are different, depending on the point totals, and the faders may make additional bets with the shooter or among themselves.

The shooter now tries to re-roll his or her point without rolling a seven. If a seven is rolled, the shooter loses the bet and the control of the dice. If the shooter rolls or “makes” the point, he or she wins the bet and is permitted to play again.