Craps History


Craps is a casino dice game which is very popular in the United States. It is believed that craps is a variation of the Old English game called Hazard and a spin-off of the French Crabes. In craps, the players wager money against the casino and bet on the outcome of one or a number of rolls of two dice.

Three major forms of craps exists today – street craps, casino craps and online craps. Street craps is the informal version of the game usually played by groups of people in alleys or in rooms, and which is very popular with soldiers. Casino craps is what is most popular in land casinos today and differs from street craps. The online version of craps is the newest version and is an exciting combination of both forms that has been slightly simplified to enable the online player the opportunity to experience the thrill of this much-loved and historically-rich game.

Click for information on how to play, dice combinations, terminology, table layout and nicknames for craps numbers.

Early Origins of Craps

The most commonly accepted version of the history of craps claims that this dice-based game of chance was a descendant of an early-English game called hazard. Hazard was a game invented by an English noble Sir William of Tyre and his knights during the Crusades. The name seems to originate from game developed by the knights to pass the time while waiting to lay siege on castled called Hazarth, in 1125 AD. The name of the game is thus a corruption of the name of the castle.

There is other evidence that a form of craps dates back to the Roman Empire when soldiers of the Roman Legions used to shave down pigs knuckles into the shapes of cubes (dice) and throw them into their inverted shields to entertain themselves while in camp. The term – to roll the bones – is said to originate from this version of the game.

Spread of Craps in Medieval Europe

The early origins of craps spread rapidly and formed into a very popular game with the English in the Middle Ages. Famous medieval author Geoffrey Chaucer frequently mentions the game being played by characters in his work, the “Canterbury Tales”. Chaucer’s work is often referenced by scholars who wish to know about the social and leisure life of people in that period, so it is a good indicator of the popularity of the game at the time.

Hazard spread to luxurious gambling houses in the late 1600's and early 1700's in England. The English noblemen and royalty were enthusiastic players of this game and staging a game of craps was a huge social event with much preplanning. Betting amongst the noblemen was a very common pastime – they had so much money that they did not feel their losses and gains – and many fortunes were won and lost amongst this class.

The French caught on to the popularity of hazard and after a few decades of playing, changed the name from hazard to crabs. This name was given because the lowest value of a throw of the dice in hazard was called crabs. In the early 1700's the game crossed the Atlantic and its English/French origins were transferred to the French colony of Acadia.

Coming to America

In 1755 the French lost control of their colony Acadia to the English and they renamed the territory Nova Scotia. The French who had been living in the territory were forced out and after some wandering, landed up in Louisiana. Named the Cajuns, these people brought with them a language of their own and a rich culture; part of this culture was the dice game of crabs, which they referred to as crebs or creps.

There are some that argue that craps came to America along with the first English settlers on the Mayflower. It is quite possible that craps spread from both the English and the French, each one bringing with their own version of the game. Due to the popularity of the dice usage of craps, the basics of the game always remained the same.

The 19th century African-Americans of the South have the development and invention of ‘modern day’ craps attributed to them. The game spread around America via the riverboats on the Mississippi. A few new variations of the game appeared which were simpler and faster than the original game of hazard. One such variation – Table Off – became very popular with gambling establishments at the end of the 19th century.

The Father of Modern Craps

John H. Winn has been given the honorable title of the “Father of Modern-Day Craps”. In 1907 Winn revolutionized the game and his changes made it possible for craps players to bet right or wrong. He improved the layout and introduced an area on the board called Don’t Pass bets. Winn was a famous dice maker and his introduction that players could bet with the shooter or against him made the necessity to use crooked dice irrelevant.

The layout and betting system changes that Winn introduced to the game are still kept to this day. Winn’s version of craps became known as modern day craps or casino craps and it is this much-loved version that is a major hit in casinos today.

Craps in the 20th Century

With the legalization of gambling in Nevada in the 1930's and the onslaught of bettors into the casino capital of America, craps and other casino games became extremely popular. Casino craps, which was also known as Las Vegas craps, was an instant hit in the casino world because of the excitement of dice throwing, compared to other card-based games which were very prominent in casinos.

During the Second World War, many soldiers on both sides of the fronts played craps to pass the time between battles. With the soldiers, the game spread to the corners of the globe and there are now very few places on Earth that do not know what the game of craps is.

For the past century, crapshooters have been trying to find the best way to beat the house in craps. Hundreds of betting and progressive craps systems have been developed as well as the crooked dice system reinvented. The dream to control the way that the dice roll on the casino tables has been preoccupying the minds of crapshooters around the world.

Hollywood has also shown a great interest in the game of craps and many movies have featured an exciting crowd around a craps table.

Online Craps

Online Craps

When the online casino industry was launched about a decade ago it was very obvious that one of the most exciting and older casino games would be fully integrated into this form of gambling. Online craps brings with it a rich history and alternative form of betting than most other casino games. The concept of rolling the dice in an online casino had to be mastered, but once perfected, there was no looking back.

One aspect of land based craps is the social hub that encircles a betting table and creates a vibe and camaraderie between the crapshooter and the bettors. This is the only aspect of craps that is hard for the online version to capture. The rest of the game is perfectly duplicated onto the online casino.

Due to the complex nature of craps betting, a new player who has not yet been exposed to craps will find the internet an amazing source of information and tips about the game. The benefit of the technology behind the internet means that within a few clicks a rookie player can be totally clued up on all the different betting options, playing rules, odds and strategy.

There is not much possibility of developing a strategy for online craps because any strategy that was previously developed was either to do with the way that the dice were rolled, or with the unethical practice of tampering with the dice. The best strategy for online craps is a solid betting method that is usually developed through trial and error. The vast selection of reading material which is provided by online casino portals is one of the great benefits of internet gambling.

The legality of online casino gambling is still unclear in some parts of the world. The United States is at a crossroads regarding the future of online casinos in its midst, while some countries like the United Kingdom are in the process of fully legalizing remote gambling. For those players that are not legally allowed to play online craps and other games for money, the free version of the game that is offered by all online casinos is a great way to familiarize oneself with the game and to practice until online craps become legal all around the world.

Posted by CCJ Team

Craps Resources

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