Believed to have originated during the Crusades, craps is a simplification of an earlier English game known as ‘hazard’ and later influenced by French gamblers. The commonly accepted version of the game now was initially introduced to New Orleans by Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville who was a wealthy colonial landowner.
The name ‘craps’ originates from French word ‘crapaud’ which means ‘toad’, in reference to how players would be crouched down over a pavement to play street versions of the game. Street craps is often played by rolling a pair of dice against a wall or a curb so there is some form of backstop. Street-style craps was very popular among soldiers during World War II, although with nothing to use as a backstop, soldiers started implementing methods of dice control, today known as the ‘army blanket roll’.
Casinos often use a standard live craps table that is oval shaped to allow players and employees of the casino to sit or stand around it. It is finished with a green felt that is marked out with a layout that displays the possible betting options.
The table has two long sides and along one side is the casino’s bank where they stack all of the chips and there is usually a long mirror that runs along the opposite sides. The two short ends are U-shaped and have the same betting marks as each other, there is usually room for up to 8 players around the table to place their bets on either side. The inside walls of the table are usually covered with a jagged rubber finish that creates unpredictable rebounds from the dice when they bounce off the walls during play.
Four casino employees usually run the table, these include the boxman who is seated behind the casino’s bank where he manages the chips and supervising the dealers. There are two base dealers who stand either side of boxman and have the job of collecting the bets from players on their respective side of the table. Finally there is the stickman who is positioned directly opposite the boxman where he takes the bets to the centre of the table and announces the results of each roll. He is also armed with a long handled stick used for moving the dice across the layout of the table to each player.
- Players take it in turns to roll two dice across the table. The person throwing is known as ‘the shooter’
- Bets are placed in the form of valued chips on the various marked-zones on the table either by the player themselves or they can ask the base dealer or stickman on their behalf
- The shooter must have a bet on the ‘pass line’ and/or the ‘don’t pass line’ and the game is then played in rounds with the ‘pass’ and ‘don’t pass’ bets are betting on the outcome of that particular roll
- The stickman presents multiple dice (usually around 5) to the shooter who must then pick two of them as the in-play dice, the remaining are returned to the stickman’s bowl
- The shooter makes one or two initial rolls (known as come-out rolls) where they shoot both dice towards the back wall (which they must hit with both dice)
- Some casinos may be lenient if only one die hits the back wall and may allow a few warnings before enforcing that both dice must hit the back wall
- Both dice must be thrown together or the roll is invalid
- A come-out roll of 2,3 or 12 is known as ‘craps’ or ‘crapping out’ and in this instance, anybody betting on the ‘pass’ line loses.
- Anybody betting on the ‘don’t pass’ line wins with a roll of 2 or 3, and ties with a 12
- Shooters can keep rolling after crapping out but the dice are then passed on to the next player is the shooter rolls a 7 after a certain point has been established – this is known as ‘sevens out’
- Rolling 7 or 11 on a come-out roll is a ‘natural’ where the ‘pass’ line wins and ‘don’t pass’ loses
- 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 are known as point numbers, and if any of these are rolled by the shooter, this is then established as the ‘point’ to ‘pass’ or ‘win’
The shooter must then roll the same point number again before a 7
- The second phase of the round is announced by the dealer flipping a button to the ‘On’ side and moving it to a point number
- A new round starts if the shooter hits the point value again (with any combination) before rolling a 7, and the pass line wins
- If the shooter rolls any 7 before repeating the point number, a seven out occurs and the pass line loses, don’t pass wins and the dice are passed clockwise to the next player, who becomes the shooter for the next round
- Once a point has been established all multi-roll bets are unaffected by 2, 3, 11 and 12. The only numbers that can affect the round is the established point, a specific bet on a number, or any 7 (sevens out)
- Any single roll bet is always affected by the outcome of any roll
In a standard game of craps you must always use the same hand to throw and bounce the dice off the far wall that surrounds the table. This keeps the game fair and consistent. If any die should leave the table, the shooter must then select another from the remaining in the bowl. The original die can be requested but is subject to the review of the boxman.
Because craps is always played with two dice, the eventual number is made of a combination from both dice. There are casino (slang) terms in naming the various combinations of rolls that are possible. Although these can differ among casinos around the world, the most universally recognised terms are listed in this useful table.