You’ve played backgammon and you’ve hit the craps table, but these table games haven’t always been around. Dice games are not nearly as common as card and other tabletop games, but they have definitely secured one of the top spots, with craps being one of the most popular table games in the world. Casino dice are some of the most evolved forms of equipment when it comes to casino games, so next time you roll the dice you’ll know that you are tapping into an ancient tradition.
Archaeologists can’t pinpoint exactly who threw the first die. The oldest known dice dates back at least 8000 years and the direct ancestors of the dice we now know were made of animal bone. The ankle bones of hoofed animals are roughly shaped like cubes with two rounded sides and four flat sides. However, these dice were used for religious and divination practices rather than gambling.
Around 7,000 years ago, ancient Mesopotamians are believed to have begun to smooth the rounded sides of the ankle bone. This made them able to land on all six sides, making them even more like the six sided cubed dice we know today.
An ancient Egyptian game called Senet was one of the first known games to be played with dice and was played before 3000BC and up to the 2nd century AD. The general belief is that the game was some form of racing game.
During the Roman Empire, gambling was made illegal. However, many Romans were still passionate about gambling and a known game that was played involving dice was aleam ludere – which translates to ‘to play at dice’. Letters between Emperor Augustus to Senator Tacitus and his daughter recounted the emperors’ hobby of dicing. In Roman times, there were two variations of tice Tali (a large dice that inscribed with one, three, four and six on four sides) and Tesserae (smaller dice that were numbered one to six).
Dice Into Cards
Dominos and playing cards are said to have originated in China as developments from the dice around the Tang dynasty, whereas in Japan dice were used to play different variations of the popular game sugoroku.
Variations Of Dice
A common die is a cubed shape and is made up of six faces/sides. Six sided cubed dice are used in favourite modern casino games like craps and sic bo. However, there are many different variations of die that aren’t used as casino dice.
- Tetrahedron – A four sided die on which each face has three numbers arranged so the upright number is the same on all three visible faces. The upright numbers represent the value of the roll.
- Octahedron – An eight sided die that looks like two square pyramids attached base- to-base.
- Pentagonal Trapezohedron – This type of die has two sharp corners and ten blunt corners and a total of ten faces. The sum of the numbers on opposite faces is usually 9 or 11.
- Dodecahedron – This die has a total of 12 faces and each face is the shape of a regular pentagon. The sum of the numbers on opposite faces is usually 13.
- Icosahedron – With a total of 20 faces, that are equilateral triangles, these die date back to Roman/Ptolemaic times.
There are also a huge number of rarer variations of dice such as Platonic Solids, Catalan Solids, Bipyramids, Trapezohedrons, Disphenoids, Spherical Dice and more with a huge number of faces from 1-120.
Some forms of dice don’t contain any numbers. Poker dice is the best example of this, where playing cards make up the symbols on the dice. Poker dice are standard six sided cubes, and is usually played with 5 dice, one each of an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 and 9. These dice are then used to create a poker hand.
Role Playing Dice
Polyhedral dice tend to be used in role-playing games. The popular fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons is largely credited with popularising dice in role-playing games and they are usually used to determine the outcome of events. In some circumstances during the game, the roll of a die may need to be added or subtracted, or a player may take extra rolls.
While ancient civilisations believed that the gods were responsible for the outcome of a rolled dice, some people felt that relying on pure luck wasn’t quite for them. Originally, this led to shaving corners of dice off and loading the die. When wooden dice were popular, some people would grow small trees around pebbles and carve dice with the weight of the pebbles inside them.
Players known as tappers put a mercury drop in a reservoir in the centre of a die and a reservoir at another side of the die. They would then tap the dice to make the mercury travel, putting weight on one particular side of the die.
Dice can also be tampered with by shaving one side of the dice to make it shorter in one dimension, therefore affecting the outcome. Casino dice should not be loaded by any means, and casinos regularly change their dice in an attempt to ensure that they are not tampered with.
Popular Dice Games
- Beat The Croupier – Found more frequently on online casinos, it is a new table game where players duel with the Croupier to eliminate three dice with their own set.
- Sic Bo – Players bet on the outcome of the dice. Sic Bo is a popular casino game.
- Craps – Craps is a dice game where a player makes wagers on the outcome of the dice roll. The game is a simplification of the traditional English game Hazard and is one of the most popular table games in a casino.
- Chō-han – A traditional Japanese dice game. Six dice are rolled and players bet on whether the sum on the dice is odd or even. The six dice are initially kept secret. This game isn’t found in casinos.
- Yahtzee – Players have a grid of dice values with each box accumulating a number of points. The dice is rolled and you can score any box you want to which the dice match. This game isn’t found in a bricks and mortar casino, but may be found in some online casinos.
- Backgammon – This two player face-off game uses dice to dictate each player’s movement. Although it has made appearances in Las Vegas casinos, it is now generally found online.