Craps has originated from an earlier game known as Hazard and prevalent among the knights on crusades. Sir William of Tyre is often accredited for inventing the game. It was very popular when the crusaders besieged the castle of Hazarth in the twelfth century and is said to derive its name from the castle. However others claim that the game was being played in Arab countries when the crusaders reached there and they picked up the game from locals. This theory states that the word Hazard is a corruption of Al Zar, which is the Arabic for dice.
Hazard became exceedingly popular in England after the knights brought the game home. There are several references to it Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The gambling houses for the English gentry in the 17th century played craps and it is said that huge fortunes exchanged hands there.
There is no agreement as to how the name changed to Craps. One theory is that when the French took up the game they named it Craps after the losing throw of 2, which was called ‘crabs’. Another theory is that after the game went to America, the African Americans gave the name Craps for the same reason. It has also been suggested that the name derives from “Johnny Crapaud”, the American slang for the French. In French ‘Crap’ means toad and this refers to the French taste for frogs.
There is also considerable dispute as to how the game reached America. Some say the French took it there, others say it came on the Mayflower with the first British settlers. In America Craps was popular among the African Americans and white landowners alike. African American called it African Dominoes. It is said that one Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, a Louisiana landowner and politician, brought the game to New Orleans from where it spread to the casinos of America. At one point crooked dice were used to play Craps. John Winn, known as the father of modern Craps, introduced betting with or against the shooter, thereby countering the advantage of the crooked dice.
Today Craps is one of the most popular gambling games played in casinos and back alleys alike.