Classic Gambling Games: Hazard Rules & Odds

Bygone days of Hazard gambling game; rules, odds and evolution.

Classic casino games – I’m talking about the really, really old ones – had a tendency to befall one of two fates. They either faded into history, or they evolved into something more special; a modern favorite among gambling amusements. The latter was the eventual destiny of an age-old casino game known as Hazard.

Classic Gambling Games Hazard Rules & Odds Predate Genghis Khan Mongolian EraThe history of this once-popular dice game is a rather remarkable one. It first appeared near the end of the Middle Ages, and spent several centuries as the dominant leisure activity among soldiers. What it evolved into is something every veteran gambler knows well.

Condensed History of Hazard Gambling Game

The game of Hazard dates far back in time to the 13th century, when Genghis Khan led the Mongols in a furious warpath across Asia, and King Edward I perched upon the throne of England. It was a time of great turmoil throughout the eastern hemisphere, in which men of military-might incessantly traversed the foreboding landscape. And just as men of honor do today, they sought ways to pass the time as the moon rose in the sky.

Dice – believed to be the oldest gaming implements known to man – were an easy item to carry in those days. They were small, easy to fabricate, and provided a simple source of entertainment. Better yet, they were the only thing needed to play a game of Hazard, suitable for anywhere from 2 players, up to large groups.

As war spread throughout the land, so did the popularity of this game. Over time, the French began altering the rules, and by the time French immigrants began populating Canada in the 17th and 18th centuries, Hazard had become something remarkably different. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a quick look at the original rules of Hazard.

Hazard Rules and Odds

Old Gambling Game of HazardThe game was played by selecting a “caster” to roll the dice. The caster would call out a number between 5 and 9 prior to the first roll. This number became the “main”. If the main was rolled (a “throw in”), the caster won. If 2 or 3 was rolled (a “throw out”), the caster lost. If 11 or 12 rolled, it would either produce a win or loss, depending on the main. More often than not, though, any other number between 4-10 was rolled, called a “throw in”, and that number became the “chance”.

Once a chance was rolled, the object of the game changed. Now the caster would try to roll the chance number again for a win, whereas rolling the main would result in a loss.

Inexperienced players were fond of calling out a random main; whatever their gut instinct told them to call. Veterans of the game with a keen sense of observation, or anyone versed in the science of mathematics, knew better. They understood the odds of Hazard gave preference to a main of 7.

The chart below shows that the odds of winning on the throw in, as well as the overall expected return to player (RTP), are better when choosing 7 as the main.

Probability of Winning by Main Number

Main Number Throw In Win Chance Win Any Win Edge RTP
5 or 9 11.11% 38.13% 49.24% 1.52% 98.48%
6 or 8 16.66% 32.16% 48.82% 2.34% 97.66%
7 22.22% 27.07% 49.29% 1.41% 98.59%

History of Hazard Gambling Game Rules & OddsHazard Evolves into Craps

If this game sounds familiar, it certainly should. It is the direct ancestor of Craps, one of the most popular casino table games of the present gambling era. When players realized that 7 was the best main, it virtually became the only number called, which resulted in the French altering the rules to set 7 as the default main (no more calling). The chance became what’s known today as the “point”, and numbers 4-10 (except 7) the “field”.

Where did the name Craps come from, you ask? We have our French ancestors to thank for that, as well. They coined the associative term “crapaud”, which translates to “toad”, assigned to the game for the frequency in which players would squat down in a toad-like position to play outside, often the ground in an alley. As time went on, the centuries old game of Hazard in the east, became an Old English game of Craps in the west.


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