The game of Craps is the 5th most popular table game in American casinos. But surprisingly, not that many people know that much about it – it tends to get overshadowed by the likes of poker, blackjack, and roulette. The origins of craps go back to Europe, to a game called Hazard that was originally played by the working classes.

In this article, we give you the full lowdown on craps, including the history and origin of the game, its evolution and popularity, the rules and its social influence, and of course, how to play Craps in the most effective way. We can’t promise that you’ll be a professional craps player at the end, but we can promise that you’ll know a whole lot more about it than you do right now about one of the US’s most historic casino games. Here’s everything you need to know about Craps to play with confidence the next time you are at a casino.

The History Of Craps: How The Game Was Invented

The precursor to Craps was the English game Hazard, which was first mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The game featured a combination of dice rolling, chance and an incredibly complicated set of rules. Despite its complexity, the game became incredibly popular amongst the working classes and made its way across the North Atlantic during waves of emigration to the newly formed United States in the 18th century.

So who invented the game craps? Hazard was simplified to suit the American market and was first introduced by a colonial Louisiana landowner. Jean-Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville brought the game to New Orleans in 1807.


NERD NOTE: Jean-Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville (1785–1868), also known as simply Bernard de Marigny, was a French-Creole American nobleman from Louisiana. In addition to inventing Craps, Bernard de Marigny was also a playboy, writer, duelist, horse breeder, land developer, and politician. He was President of the Louisiana State Senate from 1822 to 1823.

Craps became a popular game in casinos in the following 100 years as unscrupulous casino owners used unfair dice to exploit unwitting customers. This form of cheating was eventually eradicated at the beginning of the 20th century and the popularity of Craps skyrocketed during World War II.

The Evolution Of Craps: From War To Casinos

During World War II, American and British soldiers of every class began to play Craps in their downtime using a blanket as the shooting surface. At the end of the war, the game had huge popularity across all social strata’s leading casinos to cash in on the craze.

Las Vegas casinos introduced bank Craps during this period, where a minimum of two players bet against the house rather than each other. Custom-made tables were introduced, often with a large mirror at one side to reflect the action to any gathered crowd.

These days, land-based casinos are largely giving way to online operators as the place most craps players go to shoot some dice. But it was a long time coming. Online casinos were in no fit state to threaten the dominance of bricks-and-mortar established around the birth of the internet in the 1990s. Since then, wave after wave of enhancements in digital technology has made online casinos better and faster – and the game of craps has never before been so engaging and immersive.

Craps Rules & How To Play Craps

Essentially Craps is a game where players all bet on the roll of a set of dice. The person throwing the dice is called the ‘shooter’ and all players around the table can bet on the various outcomes by placing chips on the corresponding sections of the table layout. When you are the shooter you must bet the pass line – don’t pass or pass.

Craps Table Layout
Craps Table Layout

That will be your bet on the outcome of the round and will sometimes be referred to as win or don’t win. The various numerical outcomes mentioned in the section above determine the outcome of your roll.

Of course, the more time you spend reading up on the rules of the game, and popular strategies that could help you strike it lucky, the more chance you have of winning big on the craps table. We’ll go into a few ways you can approach a game of craps here, but to find out how to play craps like a pro you’ll have to seek an expert’s view.

How To “Shoot” The Dice

Some Craps players try to manipulate the dice. But there is a list of strict rules when it comes to rolling dice at the Craps table, and that’s where the boxman comes in. They will be studying your action intently to make sure that rolling the dice is as random as possible. It is for this reason dice control is so controversial. There are people that claim to be able to toss the dice in a particular way, influencing the outcome, making it a sport, like bowling or darts, rather than a game of chance.

Dice setting is another contentious method that some Craps players claim to have mastered the art of. This works through ‘setting the dice’, then throwing them in a way so they do not tumble randomly. Casinos do take measures to avoid this, making players hit the back wall of the table with their throw.

In truth, the outcome of your dice roll is based on chance. But there are two ‘tactics’ that are commonly used by seasoned shooters.

  1. Wrapping your full hand around the dice and giving them a backhand roll towards the wall that you are facing.
  2. Put the dice side-by-side with your favored combination facing up. Hold the dice between your thumb and middle finger before flinging them with a full arc towards the wall you are facing.

These tactics are based on superstition rather than any mathematical or scientific analysis. Holding your dice in your hand in a particular way is unlikely to influence the outcome. The true skill of Craps comes when you analyze the possible outcomes and bet wisely based on them, much as you would in roulette. As with any table game other than poker, Craps is a mixture of both luck and skill, with the latter being the lesser importance of the two.

Craps Language: How To Speak Craps

As one of the casino games with the most money riding on it, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the rules of Craps before you start betting. But before you get acquainted with the rules you need to understand the lingo, if you don’t you’ll be at a complete loss before you get started. An essential part of how to play Craps is the language. Here are a few terms to get you started.

  • The Boxman – Quite simply this is the boss of the table, the person that sits in the middle of the table watching the dealers and looking out for cheats.
  • Craps – 2, 3 or 12
  • Yo – Number 11, sometimes referred to as Yo-Leven
  • C and E Craps – 11
  • Snake Eyes – Two 1’s
  • Boxcars – Two 6’s
  • Little Joe from Kokomo – 4, rolled as a 1 and 3
  • Jimmy Hicks – 6
  • Skinny Dugan – A loser 7
  • Skate and Donate – 8
  • Centre Field – 9
  • Puppy Paws – Two 5’s
  • Natural Winner – 7 or 11 on the come-out roll

Craps Odds: How To Bet At The Craps Table

As there is a huge variation of outcomes at the Craps table, the odds and house edge vary depending on how the dice are rolled. The least favorable odds are for rolling any 7 as the house edge will then be a massive 16.67%.

12 and 2 provide the best odds of 35/1 which can lead to large wins, the house edge on these rolls is 13.89%. Pass/Come have the lowest odds of 251/244 and in turn the lowest house edge of 1.41%.

The Social Influence of Craps

The popularity of Craps has resulted in some of the game’s language making its way into popular parlance. For example, ‘crapshoot’ and ‘golden arm’ are both terms from craps that are used regularly by Americans today.

Crapshoot describes as you’d guess, someone who has shot some bad dice. A golden arm is a phrase used to describe someone who goes longer than an hour without losing and was first coined in 1989 when Stanley Fujitake went 3 hours and 6 minutes without losing.

Craps has also been featured in a number of popular movies and TV shows. One of my favorites is the casino movie scene in the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Craps tables often attract large crowds especially when players start winning big. On camera, it’s a more exciting shot than other casino games, like roulette.

How To Play Craps At A Casino With Confidence

The best way to learn how to play Craps is to just get started. You can play craps online right now from your laptop or phone. That’s probably the best place to begin as you build up your confidence with the game. As with any game, practice makes perfect – and perseverance is key to this ultimate game of skill and patience.

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