Craps is a dice game in which the players make wagers on the outcome of the roll, or a series of rolls, of a pair of dice. Players may wager money against each other (playing “street craps”, also known as “shooting dice” or “rolling dice”) or a bank (playing “casino craps”, also known as “table craps”, or often just “craps”). Because it requires little equipment, “street craps” can be played in informal settings.
Craps developed from a simplification of the early English game of “hazard”. Its origins are complex and may date to the Crusades, later being influenced by French gamblers. What was to become the modern American version of the game was brought to New Orleans by Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, a gambler and politician descended from wealthy colonial Louisiana landowners. There was a flaw in Bernard’s version of the game in which players could exploit the casino using fixed dice and taking advantage of the way players can bet with or against the dice thrower. A man named John H. Winn introduced the “don’t pass” betting option in order to fix this problem and it is this version of craps that still exists today.
The game, first known as crapaud (a French word meaning “toad” in reference to the original style of play by people crouched over a floor or sidewalk), reportedly owes its modern popularity to street craps. Street craps may be played by rolling the dice against a back-stop, such as a curb or stair-stoop, or without a back-stop, at the choice of the players.
During World War II, street-style craps became popular among soldiers, who often played it using an Army blanket as a shooting surface. With no backboard or sidewalk curb to hit against, this gave rise to presumed methods of dice control, of which the best was known as the “army blanket roll”.
Rules of play
Each casino may set which bets are offered and different payouts for them, though a core set of bets and payouts is typical. Players take turns rolling two dice and whoever is throwing the dice is called the “shooter”. Players can bet on the various options by placing chips directly on the appropriately-marked sections of the layout, or asking the base dealer or stickman to do so, depending on which bet is being made.
While acting as the shooter, a player must have a bet on the “Pass” line or the “Don’t Pass” line. “Pass” and “don’t pass” are sometimes called “Win” and “Don’t Win” or “Right” and “Wrong” bets. The game is played in rounds and these “Pass” and “Don’t Pass” bets are betting on the outcome of a round. The shooter is presented with multiple dice (typically five) by the “stickman”, and must choose two for the round. The remaining dice are returned to the stickman’s bowl and are not used.
Each round has two phases: “come-out” and “point”. To start a round, the shooter makes one or more “come-out” rolls. A come-out roll of 2, 3 or 12 is called “craps” or “crapping out”, and anyone betting the Pass line loses. A come-out roll of 7 or 11 is a “natural”, and the Pass line wins. The other possible numbers are the point numbers: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10. If the shooter rolls one of these numbers on the come-out roll, this establishes the “point” – to “pass” or “win”, the point number must be rolled again before a seven. The dealer flips a button to the “On” side and moves it to the point number signifying the second phase of the round. If the shooter “hits” the point value again (any value of the dice that sum to the point will do; the shooter doesn’t have to exactly repeat the value combination of the come-out roll) before rolling a seven, the Pass line wins and a new round starts. If the shooter rolls any seven before repeating the point number (a “seven-out”), the Pass line loses and the dice pass clockwise to the next new shooter for the next round. In all the above scenarios, whenever the Pass line wins, the Don’t Pass line loses, and vice versa, with one exception: on the come-out roll, a roll of 12 will cause Pass Line bets to lose, but Don’t Pass bets are pushed (or “barred”), neither winning nor losing. (The same applies to “Come” and “Don’t Come” bets, discussed below.)