Although the earliest games of chance were played with dice that gave simple heads or tails results, dice with dots are as old as ancient Egypt, and dice as we know them today were used in backgammon, probably the oldest game in recorded history. Dicing games such as Hazard were 18th century tavern favorites in the North American colonies and the forerunner of today’s most popular casino dice games. Although gambling may have met with disapproval from many “proper” persons during the 18th and 19th centuries, dice were nonetheless a common household item as many boardgames called for a pair of dice for play.
Wood Dice came in a variety of shapes and designs, made in materials both precious and common, were found throughout the ancient world. In early America, dice made of wood and bone and ivory would have been common.
While idle in the battlefield or in camp, militiamen would take lead musket balls and hammer them into crude dice for entertainment.(1)
Hazard is an early English game played with two dice; it was mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the 14th century.
Despite its complicated rules, hazard was very popular in the 17th and 18th centuries and was often played for money. At Crockford’s Club in London, hazard was especially popular.
Any number may play, but only one player – the caster – has the dice at any one time.
In each round, the caster specifies a number between 5 and 9 inclusive: this is the main. He then throws two dice.
If he rolls the main, he wins.
If he rolls a 2 or a 3, he loses.
If he rolls an 11 or 12, the result depends on the main:
The caster keeps his roll until he loses three times in succession. After the third loss, he must pass the dice to the player to his left, who becomes the new caster.
Bets are between the caster and the bank (the setter), which may be the remaining players acting as a group.
In some reports on the rules of the game, the main is determined randomly by tossing the dice until a valid main appears. If the caster can choose a main, he should always choose 7. This may be how craps evolved.
The name “hazard” is borrowed from Old French. The origin of the French word is unclear. The Spanish word has been supposed in turn to come from Arabic, from the name of a castle in Palestine.
The word “hazard” in its modern sense means “risk” or “danger”.
 Steinmetz, John. “The Gaming Table”, John Scarne (1980)
(2) “Hazard”. Oxford English Dictionary,11 August 2009.
(3) “Hazard”. Online Etymological Dictionary.11 August 2009.
(4) “HAZARD”. LoveToKnow 1911 Online Encyclopedia.
(5) Steinmetz, Andrew “The Gaming Table”, Volume II, Chaper X. (Online edition available at World Wide School.)(1870).