The gambling world may know it today as "Craps" but the game was actually
known as "Crabs" over most France. "Crabs" is the French pronunciation of the
word, "Craps" and it was itself the name of an earlier game called Hazard.
Before Hazard however, there was a game played by soldiers in the Roman
Legions that many believe was the progenitor of craps. The game was played with
pig knucklebones that were fashioned into cubes, and these crude forms of dice
were rolled onto the soldier's shields.
Fast-forward several hundred years, and Hazard was developed in the 1700's,
when it was widely played by European aristocrats. The game eventually made its
way to America via the Arcadia in French Louisiana. By 1813, the game of Hazard
had undergone a transformation largely due to the efforts of Bernard de
Mandeville from New Orleans, who simplified hazard, and brought it closer to the
game that we now know and love as craps, albeit in slightly different version
than it exists today.
Nevertheless, Bernard De Mandeville's reworked version of Hazard made its way
up the Mississippi River on the steamboats, and eventually spread across the
United States. As popular as this early version of craps was, it had a
significant drawback in that it was easy to manipulate the results with fixed
dice because of its rules with regard to betting. This problem was rectified by
John H. Winn, who introduced the idea of allowing players the option to bet
'right' or 'wrong' on the craps table, with a space included for 'Don't Pass'
bets. This was quite a revolutionary change for the game, and rendered the
effectives of fixed dice non-existent. This change also made it possible for
craps players to bet for or against the roller.
By World War II, craps again began to be played by soldiers, who used it as a
way to stave off boredom between battles. In fact, many depictions of soldiers
playing craps as a diversion exist in numerous books and movies about the war.
Craps was clearly taking over the public's collective imagination in a big way,
and its continued popularity seemed assured.
The popularity of the game went through a period of decline in the 1990's
however, as slot machines and other types of casino games began overtaking it in
popularity. The appeal of slots and games such as blackjack and roulette along
with many others proved to be stronger than craps-at least for the time
being-and they began drawing more and more of the casino gambling clientele.
Craps would prove to be a resilient game however, and by the turn of the 21st
century, the game began to show signs of its previous glory once more. Among the
many reasons attributed to the game's return to favor was the onset of various
technological advances, among them the option to play the game online. Today,
craps is as popular as ever, and it appears that it will be so for many more
years to come.