Craps, the famous dice game where players need to roll specific numbers to win, is one of the most famous and well loved casino games of them all. It is featured frequently in many movies and though it can be played informally in what is known as “street craps”, it is widely seen as one of the most glamorous casino games of them all.
Say the word craps and you can immediately imagine a suave super spy standing at the head of the table with beautiful women all around him as he rolls the dice to show his prowess even with a game of pure luck. It’s that sort of game.
All that said, though, for all its glitz, for all its glamor, for all its popularity, craps has one of the weirdest, most off-putting names of any casino game. Make that the weirdest and most off-putting.
Where on earth did it get such a name?
Craps was not, in fact, originally called craps. When the game was originally developed in the late 18th century in aristocratic England as an adaptation of the European game, hazard,, it was called “krabs” and then “crabs” – which, as names go, is hardly much better, as it evokes, at best, multiple sea crustaceans or, more likely, a venereal disease. “Crabs”, in fact, was English slang for 2s and 3s, which obviously fits the game a whole lot more when you know that. After all, when the Rolling Stones referenced the game in their classic, Tumbling Dice, with the protagonist lamenting their luck as a “crap shooter”, they’re all “sixes and sevens and nines”.
So, where and when did “crabs” become “craps”? In the United States, as it happens. When the game reached Louisiana in the next century, and was picked up by working/ poverty class French colonialists, they misheard the name and started calling the game “craps”. As it spread through the States, it maintained that name, which became so popular that they started calling it that in Europe too.
Which, of course, it remains to this day.