History of Craps
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. An American dice maker 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.
Craps being played by children in the street in St Louis, Missouri, circa 1912
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 backstop, such as a curb or stair-stoop, or without a backstop, 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”.
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