Dice Games

Compiled by
Charlie Stainforth and John Wright
Original edition printed 1965 or thereabouts


Although dealer’s-choice poker is widely played, few people seem to realize that a session of dice games can be just as much fun. In the following pages several dice games are described which a group of us has long enjoyed playing, taking turns around the table in announcing which shall be played. As in any form of gambling, a knowledge of the odds is needed and is soon developed after a few sessions of dice-rolling. However, luck is as important in dice as in cards, and everyone in our group has been cleaned out at one time or another by a rank beginner.


These games are all designed for play with dice numbered from one to six (crap dice), though some of them could also be played with dice marked like playing cards from nine to ace (poker dice). We prefer white dice with black spots as being the easiest to read.

In most of the games it is desirable, and in some essential, for each player to have his own cup containing five dice. The best cups are of stiff leather, and the mouth should be wide enough that, if flopped upside down, the dice have room to lie side by side within the cup. A set of eight cups is normally sufficient, as a school of more than seven players becomes unwieldy.

A table or other playing surface big enough to accommodate the group is needed, and its surface should be smooth but not too hard (or the dice bounce too freely). If a protective cloth is used, it should be of fine material and stretched tight.


Some generally accepted rules are:

Rolling: The dice should roll out of the cup evenly. If the last one trickles out appreciably later than the others, this is considered bad form, and it is optional to make it a house rule that such a roll must be repeated.

If one or more of the dice should roll off the playing surface, the roll must be repeated.

Cock dice: If a dice comes to rest tipped against another one, or against some object such as an ashtray or glass, this is “cock dice” and the roll must be repeated.

An exception is usually made if the dice is resting on a coin in the pot, if it is only slightly tilted and one number is clearly uppermost.

Bottoms and Tops: Normally all these games are based on the numbers showing on the top faces of the dice.

However, crap dice are so fashioned that opposite faces add up to seven, i.e. 1 is opposite 6; 2 opposite 5; and 3 opposite 4, and this fact is used in certain games.

In Threes Away a player has the option of calling “Bottoms”, which means that he scores his next roll upside down. In particular if he actually rolls a four, it is scored as a three, which is the best number in this game.

Poker and its variants can be played as “Bottoms equal tops”, which is comparable to using wild cards in the card-game of poker. For instance, under this rule two fours and. two threes would be scored as four fours.

“One tie, all tie” rule: In several games this rule is played, and it means simply that if two (or more) players end the round with the same score, then that round is nullified and everyone renews his ante and a fresh round starts. Certain modifications are mentioned in the descriptions of individual games.

Choice of game: Players take turn in clockwise order to announce which game is to be played. This order of choice is not affected by the fact that a game may require several rounds before the pot is won (due to ties or to selection of a progressive form of the game).


The stakes suggested in the following descriptions of games are expressed in terms of a UNIT, which can be decided on by a given group as a dime, a quarter, a dollar, or higher. Because the games vary in length and. progressive build-up of the pot, we have suggested fractional amounts for some games, so that the average win or loss remains equitable from one game to another. The game of Dudo is more prolonged than the others, hence we suggest a higher ante of 10 Units.

Our experience is that, as a general rule, there is more often one big winner and two or three moderate losers than the reverse. After a two- to three-hour session, we would consider 80 Units an unusually big win and 40 Units an unusually big loss for an individual player. Naturally this cannot be guaranteed, but these figures give a guide to selecting a basic stake to suit the pockets of any given group.


Dice games, like card games, have their own vocabulary, and some of the commonest terms are mentioned below:

Die Dice: It is correct to speak of one die, two or more dice, but nowadays many people refer to “a dice”.

Ace: The one-spot face of a die is traditionally called “ace”. In the poker-type games it ranks high, above a six, but in other games it rates at face value.

Cock-dice, Bottoms and tops: See above, under Rules.

Wild,” “Stand pat,” “Ante,” “Pot,” “Kickers     These have the same meaning in dice as in card games, i.e.:

wild:          a number which is being treated as equal to any other number at the players’ choice.

stand pat: to declare his turn complete when the rules of the game would permit the player to continue rolling.

Ante:         = bet or stake, the amount of money paid by each player at the start of a game or round: often used as a verb.

pot:           the accumulated antes of all players in a game, usually placed in the center of the table: also called kitty: collected by the winner at the end of the game.

kickers:      in the poker-type games, dice which do not contribute to the main hand. For instance, in any three-of-a-kind roll there are two ineffective dice, the “kickers”: in a two-pair hand there is one kicker.

Normal” and “closed” rolls: A normal roll of the dice, such that all players can see them on the table, is called open. In certain games, however, the cup is inverted quickly so that the dice are hidden inside, and. only the player concerned can peep at them. This is called a closed roll.

NOTE: In closed-roll games it is essential that the cups have wide mouths, otherwise cock-dice result and play becomes tedious. It is usual in making a closed roll to give the cup a twist or rattle to avoid getting cock-dice.

A player must not put his fingers under the cup after a closed roll (except only in Liars’ Dice).

“Lives”           In some games involving progressive elimination of  players, play may be prolonged by giving them “lives”, or in other words chances to remain in the game even after losing one or more rounds.

To keep track of these lives, each player is given the agreed number of markers (toothpicks, buttons, etc.). On losing a round, a player puts a marker in the pot. When he has no markers left and loses another round, he is then eliminated from the game.