The History of Craps
Modern times have seen the advent of dice in non-cubic shapes, especially in role playing and simultion games, but nevertheless, the traditional spotted cube has stood the test of time and is still used in most games today. It is interesting to note, that historians believe dice to be the oldest gambling device known to man.
It is no wonder then that many ancient folklore stories pertaining to dice exist. Take for instance the recordings in one of India's ancient spiritual books that tells the tale of a cousin cheating his relatives out of their inheritance and kingdom in a crooked game of dice.
There is also evidence which indicates that the ancient Egyptians played dice, and that the game of backgammon in the Middle East is a decendant of this dice system. Historical example such as "Casting Lots" in the Bible and the practice of Viking Runestones are a further indication that dice formed a part of ancient civilisation's activities. Furthermore, in Greek Mythology, the gods are said to have cast dice to decide man's fate, so you are in good company when you shoot craps in a casino!
Western vs. Eastern Dice
If you don't already know, the values of the opposite faces of a dice add up to 7 in total (ie. 1-6, 2-5, 3-4) and there are two ways that the spots can be arranged on the cubes to produce right and left handed dice, which are mirror images of each other.
Western dice are now made with the same "handedness" (for lack of a better word) so if you place a die on a table with the number one spot facing upwards, and turn it until the number two spot is on your left-hand side, the number three will be to your right.
Now compare these with Chinese, Japanese or Korean dice and you will notice that the number one spot is very large and painted red. Chinese and Korean dice also feature the number for spots in red. And while Japanase dice are handed the same way as Western dice, Chinese dice are not. While Western dice put the number 2 spots on the opposite corners of the face, Asian dice stack the pair of spots on top of each other along the middle axis of the face. The latter are also usually smaller and are very often used in sets of three, instead of pairs.
Crooked Dice refers to the practice of cheating which has a number of principles, the most important of which is that you don't have to win all the time, just most of it. Loaded or "crooked" dice have weights inside them which will favour the side which is weighted.
In order to eliminate this practice, modern dice are made from clear plastic that allow one to see whether or not they made of uniform material. Now to circumvent this, modern cheats use clear weights or add weights which can be either lighter or heavier than the dice material to the solid coloured spots. Another method is to use dice referred to as "shapes" that are not perfect cubes (hence the name), which causes them to land on the largest face.
If you have ever wondered why you see people blowing dice in movies, this can be for luck if they are superstitious, but this is also a method used by cheaters whereby the dice are coated with a clear, sticky substance which is activated by the moisture in ones breath. Since you can see three faces of a die at one time, crooked dice are called "horses" (not really sure what the origin of this name is exactly) which are not spotted correctly which means that certain combinations are impossible to throw, and others are more likely than they should be, putting the odds in the cheater's favour.
Classic Dice Game Varieties
There are 4 classic dice game variants that can be categorised as follows:
1) Total games: True to the name, in these games the winner is determined by the total of the dice he shoots, so in other words the highest throw wins.
2) Combination games: Certain rolls are assigned special scores prior to the commencement of the game which may or may not be related to their totals. Poker dice is an example of this variety of game and while dice featuring playing cards faces (A, K, Q, J, 10, 9) are often used, the game can also be played with regular dice.
3) Point games: In these games the shooter determines a winning or losing throw himself by rolling the dice. Craps is a famous example of a point game.
4) Compound games: These refer to games which have a mixture of two or three of the aforementioned game principles.