Tuesday, April 20, 2010

History of Craps ...

The famous dice game of Craps has captivated people from all over the world and though its popularity waned with the introduction of slot machines, it has enjoyed a new lease of life in online casinos.

The official game only dates back to the start of the 19th Century, but its origins stretch back thousands of years. Dice are known to have existed since 2600 BC, where they were used in ancient Egypt. They became a popular gambling tool right across the ancient world, and were also used by the Greeks, Romans and Arabs. The ancient Indian epic “Mahabharata” describes warriors losing fortunes on dice games; Native Americans played with four-sided knucklebones; while there is also evidence of dice used as far east as Korea.

A countless number of dice games have been invented over the years, though the one seen as the main precursor to Craps is “Hazard”. There are two theories on the origins of the name of this game: some consider “Hazard” to have been derived from the Arabic word “al zar” or “azzah”, which literally translates to “the dice” in English; while the second theory is far more intriguing: when the English Crusaders, led by Sir William of Tyre, headed east in 1125, they came to a castle named Asart or Hazarth, which they soon conquered. After developing their own dice game around the same time, they decided to name it after this castle.

Whether Hazard had its origins with the Arabs or was an invention of the Crusaders, the game grew immensely popular in England and by the 17th Century was a frequent pastime for noblemen and gentry– some losing large fortunes in the luxury gambling houses. The craze soon spread to France, where it is believed its name was changed to “Craps” – derived for the term ‘crab’, used to describe a throw of 2, the worst throw in the game.

But how it reached the US is another argued matter. The French undoubtedly brought Craps with them to American shores, but the British would also have had dice on board the Mayflower, the ship that brought the Pilgrims to America in 1620.

The game naturally evolved into a version similar to the Craps of today and began to develop a reputation in the Southern States after the arrival of the French, who were displaced by the British in the north. However, it is widely believed that African Americans developed the modern version of the game – it is also at this point that some say the name “Craps” was coined, either coming from the French for “toad” or an alternative name for American Dominoes, “Crapshooting”. Craps was not only enjoyed in the riverboat casinos of the Mississippi, but was widely played in the back streets of the towns and cities.

And during the 19th Century, the game was developed further, by one John H. Winn, a noted dice maker. He created the table layout – then known as the “Philadelphia Layout” – that is still used in casinos today. Winn was referred to as “the father of craps” by John Scarne, one of the most famous dice makers, magicians and gamblers of the 20th Century. He also created “Pass”/ “No Pass” bets as well as the “Big 6” and “Big 8”. But perhaps his greatest development was allowing players to bet on the shooter, eradicating the ongoing problem of ‘loaded’ dice.

This new version of Craps was soon played worldwide and was a common way for American and British soldiers in WWII to spend their free time. Today, there are over 320 crap tables in Las Vegas alone as well as a whole host of online casinos offering this exciting dice game, and its low-skill level and fast-paced action has made it one of the most sought after games on the internet.

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