The History of Craps: Tracing the Origins of the Dice Game

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Welcome, dear craps enthusiast! As you probably know, craps is a thrilling dice game with a long and storied history. 

In this guide, we’ll dive into the rich history of craps, from its ancient origins to its modern-day form as a popular casino game

So grab your dice and get ready to “roll the bones” with us as we explore the history of this exciting casino game!

history of craps people playing dice in the 20th century

“Rolling the Bones” – Where Did Craps Originally Come From?

Tracing the origins of craps can be challenging, but evidence suggests that a similar game was played as early as the Ancient Roman Empire. Dice, as we know them today, did not exist at that time. 

Soldiers from the Roman Legions reportedly collected pig knuckles, which they would carve into small cubes to toss on their upturned shields. This practice gave rise to “rolling the bones,” still used at contemporary craps tables.

Historical accounts also suggest that enslaved people in the Roman Empire played games similar to craps using materials like nutshells, clay, and animal teeth to craft their own “dice.” 

More privileged citizens, on the other hand, used expensive materials like gold, ivory, silver, and porcelain for their dice.

ancient times dice made from clay, gold, ivory or silver

It is believed that these early dice games eventually evolved into the modern game of craps, which has undergone many changes and variations over the centuries. 

Despite its evolution, the thrill of rolling the bones and the potential for big payouts remains a fundamental part of the craps experience.

The Evolution of the Craps Games As We Know It

Many believe that the game of craps as we know it today originated from an old Arabic game called “Azzahr,” which translates to “the die.” 

However, some theories suggest craps resulted from the simplification of the game of “hazard,” which was played in England during the time of the Middle East Crusades.

Hazard was reportedly invented by an English nobleman named Sir William of Tyre, who played it to pass the time with his fellow knights while they were waiting to besiege the castle of Hazarth. 

The popular dice game of hazard spread throughout Europe, particularly in France and England, where members of the aristocracy played it.

In the early 18th century, French mathematician Pierre Remond de Montmort outlined the formal rules of playing hazard in his book on mathematical probabilities, “Essay D’analyse sur Les Jeux de Hazard” or “Analysis of Games of Chance.” 

As the game gained popularity in France, its name evolved into “crapeaud,” which translates to “toad.” There are also theories that the French adopted the term “crabs” from the English but spelled it “crabes” instead. 

Both parties used the term crabes to refer to the worst possible values a toss could result in (when numbers 2, 3, or 12 were rolled).

Craps Arrives in the New World

Craps made its way to the New World in the 18th century, brought by the French, who established the colony of Acadia in present-day Nova Scotia, Canada

When the French lost control of Acadia in 1755, the descendants of the French settlers, known as Cajuns or Acadians, were forced to relocate to Louisiana. 

These Cajun people spread the game of craps throughout Louisiana, eventually reaching the port city of New Orleans. 

There are also theories that French nobleman Bernard de Marigny brought the modern version of craps to New Orleans after returning from England or that it was brought to America by the first English settlers on the Mayflower. 

By the mid-19th century, the name “craps” became prevalent, and the game continued to evolve with the addition of new terms and rules.

In the early 20th century, craps made its way to the United States, where it quickly gained popularity. It was especially popular in New Orleans, where craps was played in the streets and gambling houses. 

people playing street craps

From there, craps spread to other parts of the country, becoming a staple of casinos and gambling establishments everywhere.

The House Gets the Edge

One version of craps played in the 19th century, attributed to French nobleman Bernard de Marigny, gave players an advantage over the house and led to cheating. 

This version allowed players to exploit the house by taking advantage of the ways bets were placed with or against the shooter and also allowed participants to cheat by “loading” the dice to get specific numbers to come up repeatedly.

In 1907, American dice maker John H. Winn introduced the “Don’t Pass” bet, which allowed players at the table to bet either for or against the dice shooter. Winn’s ideas also contributed to improving the craps table layout by adding the “Don’t Pass” grid.

This practically eliminated the need for loaded dice, and Winn is often called the “Father of Modern Craps.” 

Craps Becomes Popular in Vegas

The legalization of gambling in Nevada in the 1930s led to a significant increase in the popularity of craps and other casino games. 

old school las vegas craps

Players flocked to the craps tables in Las Vegas gambling venues, and the game became one of the most popular in casinos. 

Another factor in the rise of craps in Vegas was the development of the “floorman,” a casino employee who oversaw the craps tables and ensured the smooth operation of the game. 

The presence of floormen helped to prevent cheating and maintain fair play, further increasing the popularity of craps in Vegas casinos.

Online Craps is Now Available

With the rise of the internet, it was only a matter of time before craps made its way online.

Online craps allows you to experience the thrill of the game from the comfort of their homes and has become a popular choice for many players. 

online craps game

In addition to the traditional game version, online casinos offer variations of craps, such as “crap out” and “easy craps,” which have unique rules and gameplay.


As you can see, the history of craps is rich and fascinating. 

From its ancient roots in Egypt to its modern-day popularity in casinos worldwide, craps has evolved and adapted over the centuries. 

Whether you’re a seasoned craps pro or a beginner, we hope this guide has given you a greater understanding and appreciation of the game. 

Happy rolling!

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