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Hazard is a very old dice game — in fact, it was the name of the game before the word “hazard” meant anything else in English, and the modern meaning of the word is derived from the hazardous nature of the game. It has also been spelled Hasard, Hassard, or Hazzard.

The word originally comes from Arabic الزهر (اَلزَّهْر) al-zahr ‘the flowers’, a name for dice, via Spanish azar and Middle French hasard. The original game which was called azar in Alfonso X’s Libro de açedrex, dados e tablas (1283) used three dice; the version described here was at the time possibly called azar con dos dados.B[15]

The game described here has also been called Crabs or Krabs.C Later French books seem to believe that the game was of English origin.C[p. 8]

Charles Cotton says that Hazard is the “moſt bewitching Game that is plaid on the dice; for when a man begins to play he knows not when to leave off”,D[p. 172]This page misnumbered 127 instead of 172. and that “Hazzard is a proper name for this game; for it ſpeedily makes a man or undoes him; in the twinkling of an eye either a Man or a Mouſe.”D[p. 168]

The OED has a somewhat amusing definition of the game:

A gambling game with two dice in which the chances are complicated by a number of arbitrary rules.

Rules for the game appear in Hoyle’s from the 1775 Charles Jones edition,The OED cites the 1778 Thomas Jones edition, but this is a later piracy of the Charles Jones version. when Hazard was added to the existing text.E[p. 223]


The player first rolls the two dice repeatedly until they result in a sum from five to nine, inclusive. This is called the main. Next, they roll one more time to establish their chance (target), and see if they can nick the main and win instantly, or if they out (lose). The target number for nicking or outing is determined by the main; a roll of 2 or 3 (crabs or craps) always outs and loses:

  • 5 is nicked by 5, outs on 2, 3, 11, or 12
  • 6 is nicked by 6 or 12, outs on 2, 3, or 11
  • 7 is nicked by 7 or 11, outs on 2, 3, or 12
  • 8 is nicked by 8 or 12, outs on 2, 3, or 11
  • 9 is nicked by 9, outs on 2, 3, 11, or 12

Any other result establishes the chance. The player then rolls the dice repeatedly until they either roll the chance again, in which case they win, or roll the main, when they lose.

If a player wins they are paid their stake by those who bet against them; if they lose their stake is lost.


The odds of each outcome are as follows:

Main Nick Out Chance Success
Win Loss
Overall 16.20% 14.12% 32.88% 36.80% 49.08%

Thus the overall chance of success for the shooter is 49.08%, and the disadvantage for the player −1.84%.

In some (later) versions of the game the player is allowed to select any valid main before rolling;F[p. 317] in this case the best selection is clearly 7, based upon the above table.

The Banking Game

When played against a bank, the game needed to be made unfair in some way so that the bank was guaranteed a profit.I do not yet have details about how this change was made. Sometimes the banking game was called French Hazard and the non-banking version English Hazard or Chicken Hazard.G[p. 43]

See also

The modern game of Craps is based upon Hazard with a fixed main of seven; the come-out roll is the roll which determines the chance (“point”). This is why the shooter craps out on 2, 3, or 12, and wins on 7 or 11 (a “natural”).

General References

See: Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations (vol. 1, p. 132).


  1. (publisher) (). ⁨Libro de açedrex, dados e tablas⁩. Alfonso X⁩: Toledo, Spain.

  2. (). ‘⁨⁩’. Pages 23–47 in Religions in Play: Games, Chance and Virtual Worlds⁩, edited by Maya Burger and Philippe Bornet. Pano Verlag⁩: Zürich, Switzerland. ISBN: 978-3-290-22010-5.

  3. (). ⁨⁩.

  4. (). ⁨⁩. A. M.⁩: London.

  5. Jones⁩, ⁨Charles (editor) (). ⁨⁩. London.

  6. (). ⁨⁩ volume 2. Tinsley Brothers⁩: London.

  7. (). ⁨⁩. Henry Holt and Company⁩: New York.

  8. (, originally published 1960). ⁨Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations⁩. Dover Publications⁩: New York, NY, USA. ISBN: 978-0-486-23855-5.  Two volumes republished as one.


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