Ah, dice. For millennia and across the world, everyone from people on the street to kings and emperors – like Caesar Augustus – were known to have played the odds with a roll of the dice.
In fact, our own game of table craps has an interesting, convoluted and somewhat uncertain history that reaches back into the dark reaches of the Middle Ages.
What is craps?
Craps is a dice game in which players wager on the outcome of the roll(s) of a pair of dice. In street craps, players bet against each other. In table craps (like at the Riviera), players bet against the bank (the casino).
Different casinos may have subtly different rules. For example, payouts will vary from casino to casino. At the Riviera, we offer very cool 10x odds on craps.
Where does the game come from?
If ever there was a multicultural game, we’re talking about it.
It starts back in the Middle Ages with an Arabic game called azzahr, loosely derived from the Arabic term for “dice.” English Crusaders picked up the game. (Who knew one of our favorite gambling games would be one of the legacies of the Crusades!)
Back in England, the game became known as Hazard, as a corruption of the term “azzahr.” (There’s also a story that the name was derived from the castle of Hazarth, which was besieged by Sir William of Tyre, who helped popularize the game.)
Despite being a game with some notoriously complicated rules, Hazard grew enormously popular and spread throughout England. Chaucer even mentions it in The Canterbury Tales! Naturally, it moved into continental Europe as well.
Over time the rules have eased; in fact, modern craps is basically just a simpler version of Hazard, delivered by way of the French.
We did say this was a multicultural game, right?
The modern American version of craps was brought to New Orleans by Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, who originally (likely) knew the game as crapaud, which means “toad” because people often played while crouched on the floor. (An alternative theory says the French renamed the game Hazard crabes because that’s what the lowest, losing roll (2) was called.)
As with other games of chance, it was in New Orleans that craps became a gambling mainstay, and from there made its way throughout the rest of North America.
Way back when, dice were made from animal bones. Most modern dice are made out of plastic resin. They’re quite sturdy and have very, very precise measurements.
However, casino dice have a limited lifespan: they’ll generally be retired after only about eight hours of table play. To keep the game fair, old dice aren’t even given the chance to become unbalanced, even by the tiniest amount.
“Dice” is the plural form of the singular “die.”
If you’d like to try your luck at this fun, fast-paced game, it’s one of our featured table games. Stop by our casino and give those dice a whirl!