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History of Craps

Author: Dolly Gambler

The dice are the oldest gambling tools. According to Scarne’s research, the dice and games associated with them can be found all over the ancient world. Roman Emperors Augustine, Nero and Caligula were devoted dice players, even trying to cheat at the game. Modern looking cubical die were found in Egypt and dated at 600 B.C. The ancient Indian epic "Mahabharata" tells the stories about the warriors throwing the dice and loosing fortunes. Koreans were also big fans of the dice in the early days. American Indians used 4-sided knucklebones to create their dice games. The fact that Arabic language uses the same word for a knucklebone and a die means that the dice were popular in Arab world for a longer time that anybody can remember.

The origin of the dice can be traced to prehistoric times when a primordial fortuneteller used to throw sacred arrows, bones, sticks and stones upon the ground trying to predict the future for his tribe. Before they became gambling devices, the dice were the shaman’s attributes. After that they went through a long evolution of shape, size, form and markings. They were made of wood, stones, bones, animal teeth and horns, nutshells and seeds. In Greek and Roman civilizations the dice were made of expensive materials like ivory, precious stones, metals, and porcelain. The material for modern casino dice is hard cellulose. The dice edges are razor sharp, and the corners are needle sharp. The cellulose is transparent to avoid dice loading.

The history of the dice and the dice games in general is few thousand years old. However, the history of modern craps is only hundred years old. The direct predecessor of modern craps was an English game called "Hazard". There is historical evidence that it was played by the soldiers in twelfth century during the Crusades, led by the three most powerful kings of Western Europe: Frederick Barbarossa of The Holy Roman Empire, Philip Augustus of France and Richard the Lion-Heart of England.

English Hazard became very popular in New Orleans around the 1800’s, where French called it craps. After that rules and odds changed many times. A few new variations of the game popped up which were simpler and faster than original Hazard. One variation, Table Off, became especially popular with gambling establishments at the end of 19th century. At that time casino tables and a simple layout, featuring the 6 and 8, the Field, the Win and the Come bets, were introduced. However, the players could bet only with the dice against the House.

John H. Winn revolutionized the game and made it possible for the craps players to bet right and wrong. He improved a layout accordingly and drew a space for Don’t Pass bets. In 1931 casino gambling was legalized in the State of Nevada and Casino Craps became popular all over the world.