Nowadays, passé-dix (or one of its innumerable local variations) and craps are the dice games most likely to be encountered craps in the splendor of casinos as well as in private games whose setting may be far from splendid, passé-dix typically among informal groups of gamblers.  But there are many other kinds of dice games, someof which I ought to mention.

play poker dice, a variation using five dice in which the faces of the dice display card symbols instead of spots, and in which the thrower tries to make winning combinations as  in card poker, is popular in Britain and America, especially in the armed forces.  For the British armed forces, another favorite is crown-and-anchor (or chuck-a-luck).  In this game three dice are used; each bears four card symbols plus a crown and an anchor on its six faces, and these symbols are repeated on a cloth that is spread on the table, floor, or deck and on which the players place their bets.  (Incidentally, crown-and-anchor and housey-housey-the original form of bingo- are the only gambling games that may be played openly on British naval or troop ships.)  Under-and-over-seven is a variation of passé-dix that is often played as a carnival game with oversize dice: Players (obviously) bet on their throw’s being less or more than Seven.


Where the early hazard players concocted complex wiinng poker rules to try to even out chances, modern craps players (who must accept the existing rules) have developed quite a number of ways to improve their chances.  There are, for instance, a few widely held superstitions.  Blowing on dice, as I mentioned earlier, is based on the notion that anything moribund (including, presumably, failing luck) can be restored by an application of healthy breath.  Talking to the dice is a habit probably begun by someone like that Ming emperor who was playing sugoroku and got his One and Four up by commanding them to appear.  The command is rarely used today, but whispered pleas are common in many languages and usually concern material benefits needed for poor families –for instance, “Baby needs a new pair of shoes.” Stroking and kissing the dice is an obvious manifestation of the wooing spirit-with, possibly, some psychologically erotic significance, for women dice players wooing for luck often hold the dice between their breasts or touch them to their thighs.

Gamblers who find that blowing on, talking to, or wooing their dice doesn’t always work may resort to more practical methods of lessening the odds against winning.  The more unscrupulous will simply cheat.  Some of the oldest baccarat cheating methodsare still the most effective-methods like loaded dice, drilled and filled with mercury, so that the weighted side falls to the bottom when the dice are thrown.  Of course, loaded dice are too easily detectable (you merely need to hold the dice by diagonally apposite corners to see if it rotates as on an axis) to be used against any but the greenest players- though there are plenty of these.  But there are other ingenious methods.  Sticking a short pig’s bristle into one corner of a dice, or beveling the corners and sides, or making the dice slightly off their proper cubic form, will all have the effect of making the dice fall more often on one side than another.

Duplicating the Sixes on opposite sides of the dice is a method used more often than you might think, since any attempt at inspection by a suspicious player is anticipated by switching to true dice.  Palming true dice and switching them for false ones at the most advantageous moment needs a lot of skill & intelligence but this rarely bothers cheats, who are always adept at palming routines.  (Sometimes of course, the other players are equally adept at spotting the palming routine.  In one tough gambling circle in America, the punishment for a sleight-of-hand artist is quick, brutal, and very effective: He loses the middle finger of his working hand.)

“Topping” and “slurring” are often in games like backgammon, where the dice are shaken in a cup or box.  Toping means putting the dice in their box in such a way that the required numbers will come out on top when the dice are thrown.  (The rattle is counterfeited by another set of dice in a different box concealed in the player’s other hand.)  Slurring requires a box with a false interior that holds the dice in one position, so they come out as they went in.

A more honest way in which gamblers try to improve their chances of making a profit at dice is by using a system.  Most crapshooter use (or at any rate know of ) several systems of varying degrees of reliability.  But I should first reiterate and extend my outline of the terminology that crapshooters use in play before going on to the systems.  A seven or an Eleven is called a “natural” or “pass”; a Two, Three, or Twelve is a “crap” or “miss-out”; a Four, Five, Six, Eight, Nine, or Ten is a “point”; when the shooter rolls one of these numbers, he tries to repeat it before throwing a Seven.  If he does so, this too is called a “pass.”  But if he throws a Seven before his point, this is called a “crap.” The shooter’s first throw is his “come-out.”

The board used for the game called under-and-over-seven, using two dice.  Players bet that the dice’s total will be under or over seven (even money is paid on each) or seven, when the payoff is at 5 to 1).  True odds for either under or over seven are 7 to 5; true odds for seven are 6 to 1.  Thus the bank maintains profitable advantage.

To “fade” is to accept a bet.  In casinos, craps tables are laid out with a design of lines and boxes that allow you to bet on or against any of the shooter’s possible throws; but there are considerable variations from casino to casino in the amount of the bets that may be laid, and also in rulings as to the payoffs.  A “come-out bet” is a bet prophesying that a specified number will turn up on the thrower’s come-out.  A “come bet” is a bet that the dice will pass (i.e., win) on the next come-out throw.  A “place bet” is a bet that the thrower will not throw a specific point.  On a casino craps table the ‘don’t pass line” is the space reserved for bets that the dice will lose; the “pass line” is the space for bets that the crashooter will throw a pass.

(Incidentally, though there are many conflicting theories about the origin of the name game itself, here is the most plausible one: Both French and English hazard players used the word “crabs” to denote a throw of Two or Three.  The word was probably being corrupted into “craps” at the same time that hazard was being simplified into the game of craps.)

            No system yet invented can give perpetual success to the habitual casino gamblers because, as I’ve already said, the odds in any long run are always in favor of the casino or bank.  But all of the systems described below offer varyingly limited chances of success to the casual poker player.  And many of them have proved useful to the gambler who prefers to avoid casinos and to join his friends in a private (perhaps even “floating”) crap game.