Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 04:41:21 EST


Subject: Craps (three long articles)

At the risk of more typographical mistakes, here are three long articles

on "craps."

This is from the Cincinnati Enquirer, 12 June 1886, pg. 10, col. 2:


Scenes Around a Table Where a Heavy Brand of This Popular Game is in Progress.

"Hi-yah! Good dawg! Run ererost'n scald 'im!? Oonce!!!" exclaimed a

dusky dice-shaker in a Clark-street gambling hell. Around the table, forty

feet long by five wide, were gathered a motley crowd of one hundred colored

gamblers, whose eager countenances betrayed the intense interest with which

they watched the roll of the dice. The game of "craps," as played in the

alleys and on street corners by gamins and news-arabs is in itself an

insignificant game, but when it assumes proportions that allow one hundred

players at a time, it becomes decidedly interesting.

The dive referred to is one of three in a block on Clark street about a

minute's walk from the Post-office building. It is situated on the ground

floor in a barroom, with nothing but a portable screen to present the passer-

by from noticing the game that is in full blast day and night behind it. It

is here that the colored waiters, barbers and call-boys employed in the large

hotels nightly congregate and take chances of losing or quadrupling their

perquisites. The railroad porter, too, in his traveling cap and with his

satin-lined overcoat hanging on his arm, is seen trying his luck. Stewards,

cooks, steamboat hands, butlers and waiters from private residences make it

their rendezvous when work is over for the day. Thousands of dollars change

hands in the course of the year in this shady retreat.

"Craps" is characteristically a darky's game. It is simple, and

therefore easy for him to understand. But few white men ever play it. At the

middle of the table stands the "rake off," whose business it is to decide all

bets or accept all bets offered him. He is willing to bet both ways with any

and every one on the same throw of the dice. For each bet made he receives a

nickel, which he drops through a small slot into the commission-box. This box

is about the size of a cigar-box, and is emptied when it is full, which is

several times a day. Before the "rake off" is a diagram:

(Sorry! I can't draw here!--ed.)

Upon this is placed the original bet offered by the shaker, and the

darkies crowding around the board bet either with him, or the "rake off," or

among themselves, as they please. Each winner of a bet pays five cents to the

"rake off," who often makes between $4 and $5 commission in a single throw of

the dice. As the game itself is a small matter, and only the peculiar phrases

and incantations used by the superstitious darkies to charm the dice are the

real attraction to a visitor, but brief explanation is needed regarding the


Two dice are shaken in the hand and rolled upon the board. The shaker

cries "Seben!" Should the dice turn up a combination, six and one, five and

two, or four and three, he receives four times the amount of his bet. Should

they turn up two and one it is "craps," and he loses. Should the total be six

he must roll again until he makes six, when he will win; provided he does not

roll seven or eleven while trying to shake out the second six. The same law

governs combinations totaling four, five, eight, nine, and ten.

The exclamations noted above were made by a burnt-coffee-colored darky

and his throw was five.

"Shake ergin, niggah," said a coal-black individual standing at the

opposite side of the board,

"Ar'm betting on yo', niggah. Jess rub dis luckybone on dem yere cogs,"

said another.

"Two bits 'e doan' shoot!"

"Ar dun got yo'. Shoot on, skinny, like yo' wuz white trash." (I assume

no responsibility for this. Dalzell wanted "craps" stuff--ed.)

"Zip-zong-zekel-hezikiah!" ejaculated the shaker as he blew in his fist

and rolled the dice over the board. Four was the throw.

"Shake dies, niggah, shake dies!" spoke a man about ten shades blacker

than the man he addressed as "niggah."

"Wetcher throw, coon?"

"Little Jo. Jo Day! 'E dun got no use for Little Jo. Shoot Favor dies.

Seben! Go 'way, niggah; gimme dem dies. Ar dun lose money on yo'. You'se

no-good. Go outside and roll bricks. Dollar Ar shoots," said the new shaker,

ringing down a dollar on the board. "De man not dun puts his money 'gin dat

yere loses. Yo 'eah me!" and he broke into a chant, blowing the words into

his fist for luck.

Ole man in de mountain,

Er bowin' up 'n down;

Sally in de sugar-tree

Er shakin' sugar down--

The rest was smothered in a whisper to the dice.

"Nine," called the "rake-off."

"Uts er nine--er long nine. Ef Ar dun git er nine Ar'll eat--Ar din't

eat nuffin terday. Ef Ar dun git er nine Ar eat beefsteak 'n inyuns."

Befo' dis time annudder day,

O Lawd, how long!

Down in some lonesome graveyard

At may be gone--

"Cudgy! Cudgy! Cudgy! Heeyarh! Zoop!!! Ar dun tole yo'. My money,

nigga! Two dollars Ar shoots," and he chanted again:

Moola-roola-feterich, (RHHDAS has "moola" from 1939 and says "origin


Roll 'em up er seben!

Moola roola-nigga-witch,

Doan' yo make erleben!"

"Craps!" yelled a chorus when the dice turned up.

"Go way fum yere," said the shaker to a lemon-colored fellow who stood

grinning at his elbow, "yo's a Jonah, yo' is. ("Jonah" would become popular

in baseball in 1887--ed.) Yo' dun gib me bad luck; yo's been er playing wiff

er coffin. Go way fum yere."

The next shaker was a sleeping-car porter. He rang down a $20 gold-

piece. "Shoot 'em fo' twenty!" he said, as he brushed the inevitable silk

traveling-cap over the back of his shiny pate, which was egg-shaped, little

end up. "Seben, Ar want, 'n seben Ar muss hab. Oonga-thoonga-doonga-zamah!"

"Six," called the "rake-off."

"Six, eh? Ooph! Gimme dem dies. Cl'ar de road, dar, yo' niggas. Six!

six! ach! ooph! cou'nt make er six wiff a lead pencil. Six! six! Dat's

it, honey. My money, chile. Play 'em fo' forty. Now fo' seben. Seben!

seben! Got no function fo' ter make seben! Seben! seben! Roll, Jordan,

roll. Cou'nt make er seben wiff er stamp. Hee-yah! Zoom! (Last two words

nearly illegible--ed.)

"Eden got it. Fo' fo' one! E's dun got crap-luck! Be'n er makin' lub

to white gal. Shoo! Dun got ter sit up der drinks. Shout, yo' nigga,

shout!" were the cries around the board, and every man but the rake-off, who

had lost $160 on the throw, opened wide an ivory-trimmed whisky tomb in


This particular way of gambling was not invented by the colored man. He

borrowed it from his masters. Eighty years ago it was a favorite, especially

in England, where it was known as hazard. It was played by Fox, sung by

Byron, and "written up" by Hoyle. Since then it has fallen from its high

estate, and as some mansion once the abode of wealth and rank sinks to a cheap

tenement house, so the game of noblemen has become the sport of newsboys and

porters, It has altered somewhat in the processes of time, and has gained

much in simplicity, but still retains many of the features of hazard. The

word "craps" is nothing but "crabs," which was the name given to the unlucky

throw of aces or trois ace. As for the incantations or mystic words, they are

much the same as boys used to use in playing marbles and other like games.