History of Craps — Learn About the Origins of the Game

craps

craps

While some people go to casinos to test their poker or blackjack skills, others go because they feel lucky. Players who dream of winning millions go into casinos and usually grab a seat at the most popular slot machine. However, slots aren’t the only popular game of chance. Alongside slots and roulette, another game became a staple of the casino community — craps.

Craps has been around for centuries, and today, land-based and online casinos provide players with classic as well as modified versions of the game. If you’re wondering how it’s so popular, while the only thing you know about it is that it involves people standing around a table and yelling, you’ll find this article helpful.

Casino newbies find this game particularly appealing since it’s pretty simple to understand.

However, as a casino buff, I believe that knowing a game’s origins makes learning how to play it more interesting. So, let’s dive in!

Game Origins

Soldiers playing "Pig Knuckles"

Casino aficionados traced the origins of craps back to Ancient Rome. Of course, the game was completely different from what we know today as craps. It is believed that soldiers collected pig knuckles and shaped them into small cubes they would later toss. Come to think of it, the term roll the bones makes much more sense now!

Naturally, soldiers weren’t the only ones to play this type of game. Slaves reportedly had their own version that involved clay, nutshells, or animal teeth as dice, while the more affluent stratum of society used ivory, silver, or gold for the same purpose.

On the other hand, many believe craps originated from an Arabic game called azzahr (the die). Then again, some thought craps was a simplified version of the English game called hazard. According to some sources, hazard was invented by an English nobleman Sir William of Tyre, who was looking for a fun way to pass the time with his knights as they awaited the perfect opportunity to seize the castle of Hazarth — hence, the name hazard.

Still, most people didn’t quite understand the rules of the game until the 18th century. At this time, French mathematician Pierre Remond de Montmort published an essay analyzing hazard and explaining how it worked.

Hazard became popular in France, and it claimed a new name — craps. Experts believe it comes from the word crapaud, meaning toad. The term was used to describe the game’s worst possible toss values — the numbers 2, 3, and 12.

Arrival in North America

Fast forward a couple of decades, and craps has found its way over the Atlantic ocean to North America. At that time, the French had a colony called Acadia, present-day Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1755, the French lost Acadia, which became an English colony. That’s why the Acadians (or Cajuns) were forced to move away. Finally, they settled in Louisiana.

Bernard de Marigny

During their travels, the Acadians shared their favorite game, which was at that time known as creps or crebs. Its popularity grew even more when a Londoner named Bernard de Marigny came to New Orleans in 1805. He was a nobleman and a known gambler who presented the people with a simplified game variant. In this version, all that players needed to do was roll a seven. However, his attempts at introducing the game into high society were futile.

Nevertheless, crebs quickly became popular among the less-privileged, who played it on boats that sailed the Mississippi River. Crebs gained the status of a working-class game, and you can still see people playing it in the streets. That’s also when the game came to be known as Craps. 

At this point, many US casinos began adopting the game and offering it to their customers. However, craps was considered controversial, mainly because the rules weren’t clear — casinos all over the country provided different variants of the game, but nobody knew the exact rules. Luckily, in 1907, a dicemaker, John H. Winn, outlined a set of rules that apply even today. Consequently, many people call him the Father of Modern Craps.

These changes included a more polished craps table and allowed casinos to set a house edge and limit the payouts as they saw fit. That’s how craps turned from a notorious game played in back-alleys into entertainment for the high class.

Modern-Day Craps

Legend of the 'Golden Arm' Plaque

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, craps became a widespread game played in casinos worldwide. While it may not be as popular as slots or roulette, people are usually attracted to the energy around a craps table. If you’re looking for a noisy and chaotic place oozing with adrenaline, you know where to go.

Craps also grew in popularity thanks to high-roller tournaments played by casino enthusiasts all over the world. Some of the world-renowned competitions include the WCC (World Craps Championship) and the Las Vegas Hilton Craps tournaments. Both competitions reward the most successful players with hefty prizes.

All craps players are probably familiar with the Golden Arm Club. This club is reserved for those on a winning streak. One condition applies — a player has to toss winning dice for at least an hour to become eligible. The first player to become a member of the Golden Arm Club was Stanley Fijutake. In 1989, he managed to roll 118 times in a row without striking out. His winning streak lasted for three hours and six minutes.

Twenty years later, in 2009, a woman named Patricia DeMauro managed to win 154 rolls in a row, extending the record to four hours and 18 minutes. Up to this day, that record remains unbroken, but the number of Golden Arm Club members grows every year.

Craps in Online Casinos

With the entire gambling industry shifting to the online realm, all games were quickly adapted for remote play, including craps. Nowadays, craps aficionados can enjoy dozens of game variants — from Die Rich and Crapless Craps to High Point and Simplified Craps.

The accessibility of online gambling platforms allowed the craps fanbase to grow even bigger. Millions of people from all over the world play craps wherever they are, thanks to mobile-friendly online casinos.

Therefore, if you want to learn how to play craps, various online casinos offer the chance to do just that. You can also practice different strategies, acquire new skills, and when you’re ready, play in a land-based casino for the ultimate adrenaline rush!

First off, I want to say hi and wish a warm welcome to all gambling aficionados out there! My name is David Nugent and I am editor-in-chief of LegitGambling.com. I have always enjoyed various sports, primarily soccer, as I am a die-hard Everton fan.

Over time, I learned more about sports betting and discovered the fascinating online gambling industry. Eventually,…

Author: Ronald James