The History of Craps

min read
A woman throws dice on a craps table.
BetMGM Jun 20, 2022, 1:12 PM

One of the main attractions of gambling games is the way they’ve continued to evolve to keep up with player demand and societal developments. Craps has a long history that is no less intriguing than the stories of other popular casino table games like poker, blackjack and baccarat. Join us as we take a look at the history of craps, from knuckle-bones and shields to taking its rightful place among the most popular online casino games.

Ancient times

There seems to be a bit of a toss-up when it comes to exactly who can claim to have invented craps – undoubtedly one of the best casino games to have survived for several hundred years. Some stories point to Ancient Roman times when soldiers looked for a way to kill time between battles. They started a gambling game using the knuckle-bones of animals as dice and their shields as impromptu tables to play on.

Another story points to the existence of an Arabic dice game called Al Dar, Arabic for “dice.” It’s believed that the game was eventually brought to Europe in the 12th century by merchants.

From here, it seems a gentleman by the name of Sir William of Tyre put his own spin on the game in about 1125 during the Crusades, and called it “Hazarth,” possibly the name of a castle. The game popped up again in French taverns in the 17th century, this time going by the name “Hazard,” which is close to Sir William of Tyre’s “Hazarth.”

Since little equipment was needed to set up an exciting game, “street craps” gained popularity and it seems it’s the French who may be responsible for its modern, slightly weird name of “craps.” It’s thought that as players hunched over the dice on sidewalks and down alleyways, they looked like toads, which is “crapaud” in French.

Coming to America

The game is believed to have been brought to America by a nobleman and gambler who arrived in New Orleans from London in 1805. In his version of craps, players had to roll a seven, and this became a popular casino dice game in American establishments.

In the next hundred years, the game courted a fair amount of controversy due mainly to different sets of rules that were applied depending on where you played the game. So, in 1907, a dice-maker, John H. Winn, set out one standard set of rules which are still observed in most games of craps today. Two popular developments were a simplified craps table layout and the invention of the Don’t Pass bet, which allowed players to bet against the shooter.

With the guesswork taken out of the game, craps grew in popularity and was a common pastime for American soldiers in World War II. By the 1960s, the game had become a feature in many casinos in Las Vegas as well as the Caribbean.

Modern craps

These days, craps tables are often the heart of modern gambling establishments with lively action and lots of fun taking place as players enthusiastically encourage the shooter to throw the dice against the house and hopefully win.

The game has entered popular culture and featured in a number of movies and musicals including Guys and Dolls and A Bronx Tale. The game’s profile has also benefited from big-prize tournaments like the World Craps Championship (WCC,) which offers attractive six-figure rewards to successful players.

Since 1989, many players have hoped to be admitted to the Golden Arm Club, a type of craps hall of fame that is reserved for shooters who can roll for an hour or more without losing. The first to join the club was Stanley Fujitake, who managed to roll an incredible 118 times during a three-hour-and-six-minute session without once landing a seven. He took home a reported $1 million in winnings!

Online casino craps

Craps latest evolution has been the online versions of the game. If you’re wondering how to play craps at a casino versus playing online, there is little difference between the two. If you’ve never played craps before, start by getting to know the table layout and the various types of bets that you can place. Since the game doesn’t involve too much skill or complicated strategies, it’s easy to learn. You’ll find that while the roll of the dice is determined by Lady Luck when playing at a brick-and-mortar establishment, online casinos use an RNG (random number generator) which means every game is fair and there can’t possibly be a predetermined result.

Your home of craps and other games

You can play casino games like craps and other popular table games at BetMGM. If you haven’t yet tried immersive live dealer casino games, now’s the time to bring the atmosphere of a land-based casino to your device of choice.

Simply register with BetMGM to join in the fun.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.