Dice Games

Photo by Olly Bennett
Photo by Olly Bennett

Dice games are contests of chance and skill, in which players wager on the outcome of casting marked cubes, the oldest gambling implements known to man. The cubes, or dice, are symmetrical, with edges equally rounded and faces marked with spots numbering from 1 to 6. The sum of the spots on opposite faces always totals 7. In casting, or rolling, a die, the chance or odds that a specified spot will appear is 1 in 6, or 5 to 1 against its showing. With two dice, the spots can appear in 36 ways (6 x 6), and with three dice they can show in 216 ways. Mathematical probabilities applying to dice are constant, and a player can calculate the risk before placing his bet.


Any number can play this game, one always being the shooter who rolls two dice. Bets on the outcome are made before each series of rolls. The shooter puts up his stake (any sum) to win and invites each player to fade it (match, or cover, it). Then he removes uncovered sums and starts his series of rolls. On his first roll, if the sum of the tops is 7 or 11, it is a natural, and he wins; if the total is 2, 3, or 12, it is craps, and he loses. In either case the bets are settled, and he keeps the dice and repeats the procedure. If, however, he rolls 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, the number becomes his point, and he continues to roll. Bets are settled after he either passes (wins) by repeating his point, or misses by rolling a 7, thereby losing the dice to the player next in turn.

The odds against the shooter passing are 251 to 244 at the start. If his point is 4 or 10, the odds are 2 to 1 against him. Odds are 3 to 2 against making 5 or 9, and 6 to 5 against making 6 or 8. In addition to betting against the shooter, players bet with each other, seeking such bets at odds favorable to themselves.

Bank Craps

This game is played in gambling houses. Players surround a layout, or craps table, that shows the available bets and the odds offered by the house. Players place bets on the table (against the house) and roll their own dice. On the roll, the dice must either bounce off a wall or go over a wire stretched across the table. Each house keeps a certain percentage of whatever money is wagered against it.

A bet on the line is a bet that the shooter passes; on the field, that a number covered there will come up on the next roll. A come bet is a bet that the shooter will win a series starting with his next roll. Hard way means he must make his point by doubles.

Chuck-a-Luck (Bird Cage)

Three dice are used, and bets are placed on a layout that varies with the house. The basic bet is that a selected number will show up. Dice are turned over in a wire cage to expose new faces. If the chosen number shows once in the three dice, the bettor collects the amount of his bet; twice, he receives double; three times, he gets triple the amount. Some houses have bets on odd, even, low (4-10), or high (11-17). If triplets (raffles) show, the house collects all bets. On single numbers, the house percentage is 7.5; with most combinations the percentage is higher.

Poker Dice

Using five dice, players try to make the best poker "hand" in three rolls or less. A player may set aside any number of dice in each of his first two rolls, rolling the others to try to improve the hand. Hands rank in value as in poker, except that there are no flushes, and straights do not count. Low hand loses the bet.

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