Origin of craps – one of the dice-based casino games favoured by legionnaires, Soldiers of Christ, blue bloods, politicians

Just like Han Solo and key characters in the best-selling video games, casino games all have their own unique origin stories… and craps is no different.

Serious shooters and even inquisitive souls like you and I want to know exactly where this ‘roll it and rake in the cash’ dice game comes from.  We also want to know how it got from one location to another and ended up at the top online gambling destinations like Springbok Casino South Africa!

If you are a fan of casino games that have the potential to make you rich, here is the story of a little gem that has one of the lowest house edges around.

Porcine-Eating Roman Legionnaires Liked to Roll the Bones 

The truth is no-one really knows where the first iterations of this casino classic comes from.  According to the writings of Pliny the Elder – you know that clever oke who was the BFF of the emperor Vespasian – Roman legionnaires liked to shoot the dice in between pillaging, plundering and conquering the likes of Gaul, Illyrium and Britannia.

They would first set up stealth groups tasked with hunting wild boar.  As soon as the porcine victim was trussed, roasted and eaten, they would scramble over the knuckles and hew them down into an ancient and rather arbitrary form of modern-day dice.

The soldiers would then gather around and shoot the bones in the dust of a vanquished colony, tossing money bags containing ‘nummus aureus’ onto the ground as high stakes wagers.  It really was all fun and games in the ancient Roman empire… provided you weren’t a slave destined for Caesar’s circus!

Hazard and the Knights Templar

The earliest known form of craps pitched up in Britain, largely thanks to the Knights Templar and their close ties to the Crusades.  The all-new English version of the betting game favoured by the Romans and the Fellow Soldiers of Christ was really a complex hybrid known as Hazard.

This game apparently had links to the Middle East and the commonly used term ‘azar’, a term which translates to ‘an unfortunate roll of the dice’.  Quite why it was unfortunate is anyone’s guess. 

The Gentleman’s Game

By all accounts Hazard was a complicated game played by ‘casters’ instead of ‘shooters’ and where wins and losses were called nicks and outs respectively.  Nonetheless it was one of the most popular casino games of the 17th and 18th centuries and the staple gambling fare at the posh gentlemen’s clubs in London.

It was at one of these upscale drinking and gambling holes that the next significant character in our story crops up.  In around 1807 a wild and untamed Creole plantation owner’s son was sent by his despairing family from New Orleans to London to learn how to become a gentleman.

The Father of Craps: A Creole Plantation Owner’s Son from New Orleans

Enter Jean-Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, a colonial blue blood if ever there was one. After spending time hobnobbing with the gambling aristocracy and losing more money than papa would have liked, de Mandeville returned to New Orleans… with the game of Hazard in tow.

In Creole company this king of casino games was known as ‘crapaud’ which all you French-speakers out there will know means ‘toad’.  Crapaud was soon shortened to craps and the game as we know it was born.

From Mississippi Riverboats to Las Vegas

For whatever reason, craps didn’t quite swing it with the well-heeled bunch in the USA.  It did however find favour with working class folk like the deck hands who manned the Mississippi Riverboats.

Street craps as it was known spread far and wide and by World War II it was the most popular gambling game in the States.  Whether through patriotism or shrewd business acumen craps soon became one of the best casino games in Las Vegas in terms of income generation.

Even now craps is big – real big – in the US of A and that, my friends, is exactly why it made the leap from the brick and mortar gambling dens onto the best casino software packages in the world… including the Real Time Gambling platform that you can experience right here at Springbok Casino!

High Up in the Celebrity Stakes 

How does this well-travelled version of the best ever casino games stack up in the celebrity stakes?  Well, according to news reports, notorious gamblers and professional poker players alike head for the craps table whenever they can.

Guys like the former NBA basketball giant Michael Jordan and his buddy Jamal Crawford are known to win and lose hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time playing craps at the Bellagio.  There are whispers that Jordan has lost more than $5 million on dice and dice alone!

Multiple WSOP title winner Phil Ivey takes time out of his busy pro poker schedule to roll the dice.  Even prominent politicians like the late Senator John McCain have a penchant for playing craps. The good senator apparently had a habit of hitting protracted winning streaks that got the crowd squealing with delight!

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