The central game, called “pass”, from the French word for “pace” or “step”, has been gradually supplemented over the decades by many companion games which can be played simultaneously. The entire collection of over one hundred separate and independent possible games is called craps. The name craps was a Louisiana mispronunciation of the word crabs, which in London had been the joint epithet for the numbers two and three, which in hazard are the only permanent instant losing numbers for wagers on Pass.
For a century after its invention, craps was abused by casinos using unfair dice. To remedy the problem, in approximately 1907, a Philadelphia dice maker named John H. Winn introduced a layout which featured bets on both Pass and Don’t Pass. Most modern casinos use his innovation.
Craps being played by children in a street in St Louis, Missouri, circa 1912
Craps exploded in popularity during World War II, which brought most young American men of every social class into the military. The street version of craps was popular among soldiers, who often played it using a blanket as a shooting surface. Their military memories led to craps becoming the dominant game in postwar Las Vegas.