The gambling world may know it today as “craps” but the game was actually known as “crabs” over most of France. “Crabs” is the French pronunciation of the word “craps” and it was itself based off a game called hazard.
Before hazard however, there was a game played by soldiers in the Roman Legions that many believe was the progenitor of craps. The game was played with pig knucklebones that were fashioned into cubes, and these crude forms of dice were rolled on to the soldiers’ shields.
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Fast-forward several hundred years, and hazard was developed in the 1700s, when it was widely played by European aristocrats. The game eventually made its way to America via the Arcadia in French Louisiana. By 1813, the game of hazard had undergone a transformation largely due to the efforts of Bernard de Mandeville from New Orleans, who simplified hazard and brought it closer to the game that we now know and love as craps, albeit a slightly different version than exists today.
Nevertheless, Bernard De Mandeville’s reworked version of hazard made its way up the Mississippi River on the steamboats, and eventually spread across the United States.
As popular as this early version of craps was, it had a significant drawback in that it was easy to manipulate the results with fixed dice because of its rules with regard to betting. This problem was rectified by John H. Winn, who introduced the idea of allowing players the option to bet ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ on the craps table, with a space included for ‘Don’t Pass’ bets. This was quite a revolutionary change for the game, and rendered the effectiveness of fixed dice non-existent. This change also made it possible for craps players to bet for or against the roller.
By World War II, craps again began to be played by soldiers, who used it as a way to stave off boredom between battles. In fact, many depictions of soldiers playing craps as a diversion exist in numerous books and movies about the war. Craps was clearly taking over the public’s collective imagination in a big way, and its continued popularity seemed assured.
The popularity of the game went through a period of decline in the 1990s however, as slot machines and other types of casino games began overtaking it. The appeal of slots and games such as blackjack and roulette along with many others proved to be stronger than craps – at least for the time being – and they began drawing more and more of the casino gambling clientele. Craps would prove to be a resilient game however, and by the turn of the 21st century, the game began to show signs of its previous glory once more. Among the many reasons attributed to the game’s return to favour was the onset of various technological advances, among them the option to play the game online.
Craps in the current age
Still to this day there are many casinos across the world that have craps available to play, although in most countries it is a secondary game, meaning it is not as common as blackjack, roulette, baccarat and many other games.
It’s a similar story at online casinos with few live casino providers releasing versions of Craps – simply because the demand for this game is just not there.
Instead if you want to play it you will generally find it available in random number generated format and even then it is very limited, although Microgaming and Playtech both have decent versions to play.
If you are looking for a land-based option to play craps (which is much better than the online version) a good place to start is our page dedicated to casinos.