The History of Craps

min read
A woman throws dice on a craps table.
BetMGM Sep 12, 2023, 7:07 AM

One of the main attractions of gambling games is how they’ve continued evolving 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. 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.

What Is Craps?

Before diving into the history of craps, here’s an overview of what this game entails. Craps is a dice game that has been around for centuries yet still remains one of the most popular casino dice games on offer. As one of the most hands-on games at casinos, craps is usually played in rounds and can have up to 20 players at a table, each taking turns to be the “shooter” and roll the dice. Played with two dice, a table, and chips to place your bets, the end goal of craps is to correctly guess the dice values the shooter will roll. 

Craps Dice Game Rules: How Does Craps Work?

If you want to know how to play craps, the rules are relatively straightforward; you start with a “pass line” bet where you bet on whether the dice will land on a 7 or 11 (Pass bet) or a 2, 3 or 12 (Don’t Pass bet.) The shooter will then start the game with the first roll of the dice, which is known as the “come out” roll. If the initial roll lands on a 7 or 11, players who bet on the “pass” line win. 

On the other hand, a roll of 2, 3 or 12 will result in a win for those who bet “don’t pass.” If any other number is rolled (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10,) it becomes the “point” and starts the next stage of the game. In live dealer casino settings, the dealer will then place a marker labeled “ON” on the designated point number on the craps table, signaling that players can place further bets. 

The game will then continue with the shooter rolling the dice until either a 7 or the point number is rolled, concluding the game. The rules may initially take some getting used to, but the more you play, the easier it will get. Plus, there is no shortage of useful tips to help beginner craps players get the hang of this entertaining dice game in no time. Read on to discover when and how this popular game came to be. 

Craps in Ancient Times

There seems to be a bit of a toss-up with 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 named 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.)

Why Is It Called Craps?

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 the French 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 7. 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 learning the table layout and the various types of bets 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 luck when playing at a brick-and-mortar establishment, online casinos use an RNG (random number generator,) which means every game is fair — there can’t possibly be a predetermined result. However, just because the RNG at online casinos makes craps games more fair, that doesn’t mean there aren’t winning craps strategies you should be aware of if you want to improve your odds. 

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"
About the Author


Read More

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.