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The History of Craps

Professor of History Ron Fowler claims craps came from a game called Hazard, which was played in the Middle Ages. If this game was indeed the predecessor to craps, the name craps most likely came from the English word crabs, or from the French Crapeaud (for toad).

Another possible origin of craps dates back to the time of the Roman Empire, when pig knuckles, collected from butchered animals, were used as primitive dice by the Roman legions. The men would turn their shields upside down and throw the knuckles into them, and essentially bet on the outcome.

Other scholars suggest that Craps actually date back to before the Middle Ages, when Arabs played "Azzahr", which was a game that used several small numbered cubes. According to records, this Arabian game made appearances across the Mediterranean, and eventually moved into France. It is in France where the game was renamed to Hazard, so called because explorers in the middle east described it as a hazardous place to travel. After its renaming, Hazard migrated to England some time before 1500 AD, where it seems clear that getting the lowest roll in the game was called getting "crabs". Before spreading to the French colony of Acadia In the early 1700's, the game was renamed crabes, to reflect its French origin.

The region was renamed Nova Scotia when it was eventually lost to the English. After being ousted from their colony the French people roamed the land for about a decade, eventually coming to settle in what is now known as Louisiana. Called Cajuns, these French speaking people were isolated and cut off from their homeland and had to invent their own culture in this new land. Their beloved dice game was still played often, but in this new medley of English and French speakers the title of hazard was dropped and was called crebs or creps, which was their spelling of the French crabes. By 1843, the Cajun word "Craps" spread through America.

Despite all the controversy, we can say with certainty that Craps definitely came to America from Europe. Throughout the 1900's it took many forms, including street craps, where craps would be played by gangs of people on the street for petty change. There was also Bank Craps which was very popular in the casinos. The game was played against the dealer, and it was heralded as one of the most entertaining games to play. (See Craps Rules...).

Today Craps is an incredibly involved game. Although it really is a game of chance, craps has an incredible number of betting options which makes the game much bigger then the sum of its parts.

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