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Hazard (game)

Hazard is a game played with only two dice; any number of people may play. The chief things in the game are the Main and the Chance. The chance is the caster's and the main is the setter's.

There can be no main thrown above 9, nor under 5; so that 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are all the mains which are flung at Hazard. Chances and nicks are from 4 to 10. Thus 4 is a chance to 9, 5 to 8, 6 to 7, 7 to 6, 8 to 5, and 9 and 10 a chance to 5, 6, 7, and 8; in short, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are chances to any main, if any of these 'nick' it not.

Nicks are either when the chance is the same with the main, as 5 and 5, 6 and 6, 7 and 7, and so on; or 6 and 12, 7 and 11, 8 and 12, where observe, that 12 is out to 9, 7, and 5, and 11 is out to 9, 8, 6, and 5.

To illustrate the game, consider this example. Let 7 be the main named. The caster throws 5, and that is his chance; and so he has 5 to 7. If the caster throws his own chance he wins all the money set to him by the setter; but if he throws 7, which is the main, he must pay as much money as is on the table.

If, again, 7 be the main, and the caster throws 11, that is a nick, and sweeps away all the money on the table; but if he throws a chance he must wait which will come first.

The worst chances in the game are 4 to 10, and 7 is considered the best and easiest main to be thrown. It might be thought that 6 and 8 should admit of no difference in advantage to 7, but it is just the reverse, although 6, 7, and 8 have eight equal chances.

For 6, or sice, we have quatre-duce, cinque-ace, and two treys; for 8, we have sice-duce, cinque-trey, and two quatres; but the disadvantage is in the doublets required -- two treys, two quatres; therefore sice-duce is easier thrown than two quatres, and so, consequently, cinque-ace or quatre-duce sooner than two treys.

'Hazard is certainly the most bewitching game that is played with dice; for when a man begins to play, he knows not when to leave off; and having once accustomed himself to it, he hardly ever after minds anything else.' [The Compleat Gamester, by Richard Seymour, Esq. 1739]

As this game is of a somewhat complicated character, another account of it, which appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette for Sept. 3, 1869, may be useful.

'The players assemble round a circular table, a space being reserved for the "groom-porter," who occupies a somewhat elevated position, and whose duty it is to call the odds and see that the game is played correctly. Whoever takes the box and dice places in the centre of the table as much money as he wishes to risk, which is at once covered with an equal amount either by some individual speculator, or by the contributions of several. The player (technically called the "caster") then proceeds to call a "main." There are five mains on the dice, namely, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9; of these he mentally selects that one which either chance or superstition may suggest, calls it aloud, shakes the box, and delivers the dice. If he throws the exact number he called, he "nicks" it and wins; if he throws any other number (with a few exceptions, which will be mentioned), he neither wins nor loses. The number, however, which he thus throws becomes his "chance," and if he can succeed in repeating it before he throws what was his main, he wins; if not, he loses. In other words, having completely failed to throw his main in the first instance, he should lose, but does not in consequence of the equitable interference of his newly-made acquaintance, which constitutes itself his chance. For example, suppose the caster "sets" -- that is, places on the table -- a stake of L10, and it is covered by an equal amount, and he then calls 7 as his main and throws 5; the groom-porter at once calls aloud, "5 to 7" -- that means, 5 is the number to win and 7 the number to lose, and the player continues throwing until the event is determined by the turning up of either the main or the chance. During this time, however, a most important feature in the game comes into operation -- the laying and taking of the odds caused by the relative proportions of the main and the chance. These, as has been said, are calculated with mathematical nicety, are proclaimed by the groom-porter, and are never varied. In the above instance, as the caster stands to win with 5 and to lose with 7, the odds are declared to be 3 to 2 against him, inasmuch as there are three ways of throwing 7, and only two of throwing 5. As soon as the odds are declared, the caster may increase his stake by any sum he wishes, and the other players may cover it by putting down (in this instance) two-thirds of the amount, the masse, or entire sum, to await the turning up of either main or chance. If a player "throws out" three times in succession, the box passes to the next person on his left, who at once takes up the play. He may, however, "throw in" without interruption, and if he can do so some half-dozen times and back his luck, the gains will be enormous.

'The choice of a main is quite optional: many prefer 7 because they may make a coup at once by throwing that number or by throwing 11, which is a "nick" to 7, but to 7 only. Shrewd players, however, prefer some other main, with the view of having a more favourable chance to depend upon of winning both stake and odds. For example, let us reverse what was mentioned above, and suppose the caster to call 5 and throw 7; he then will have 7 as his chance to win with odds of 3 to 2 in his favour.

'Such is the game of English Hazard, at which large fortunes have been won and lost. It is exceedingly simple, and at times can become painfully interesting. Cheating is impossible, unless with loaded dice, which have been used and detected by their splitting in two, but never, perhaps, unless at some disreputable silver hell. The mode of remunerating the owner of the rooms was a popular one. The loser never paid, and the winner only when he succeeded in throwing three mains in succession; and even then the "box fee," as it was called, was limited to 5s. -- a mere trifle from what he must have gained. In French Hazard a bank is constituted at a board of green cloth, and the proceedings are carried on in a more subdued and regular mode than is the case in the rough-and-ready English game. Every stake that is "set" is covered by the bank, so that the player runs no risk of losing a large amount, when, if successful, he may win but a trifling one; but en revanche, the scale of odds is so altered as to put the double zero of roulette and the "aprez" of Rouge et Noir to the blush, and to operate most predjudicially to the player. In no case is an equal rate of odds between main and chance laid by the French "banquier," as is insisted on by the English groomporter; while again "direct nicks" alone are recognized by the former. Very extraordinary runs of luck have occurred at Hazard, one player sometimes throwing five, seven, and even eleven mains in a single hand. In such cases as these the peculiar feature in the French game becomes valuable, the bank being prepared to pay all winnings, while, generally speaking, a hand of six or seven mains at English Hazard would exhaust all the funds of the players, and leave the caster in the position of "setting the table" and finding the stakes totally unnoticed or only partially covered.

'In addition to the fixed rules of English Hazard, there are several regulations which require to be observed. The round table on which it is played has a deeply bevelled edge, which is intended to prevent the dice from landing on the floor, which would be no throw. Again, if either die after having left the box should strike any object on the table (such as a man's elbow or stick) except money, it would be called no throw. Again, each player has the privilege of "calling dice," even when the dice are in transitu, which, if done, renders the throw void, and causes another set to be handed to the caster by the groom-porter. Many a lucky coup has become manque by some captious player exercising this privilege, and many an angry rencontre has ensued between the officious meddler and the disappointed caster, who finds that he has nicked his main to no advantage. Sometimes one die remains in the box after the other has been landed; then the caster may either throw it quickly, or may tantalize those interested in the event by gently coaxing it from the bow. If one die lands on the top of another, it is removed by the groom-porter and declared a throw.

'Some thirty years ago English Hazard was a favourite game in Ireland, and Dublin could boast of three or four hells doing a brisk trade. The most frequented and longest established was called "The Coal Hole," being situated on the coal quay. Here, at any hour after midnight, a motley company might be seen, each individual, however, well known to the porter, who jealously scanned his features before drawing back the noiseless bolts which secured the door. The professional gambler trying to live by his winnings, the fashionable swell finishing his round of excitement, the struggling tradesman hoping to avert impending bankruptcy, the prize-fighter, and, more conspicuous than any, the keen-eyed usurer with his roll of notes and sheaf of bill stamps, were to be found there. Many strange scenes have occurred in this house, some followed by tragic consequences too painful to relate, others ridiculous and amusing. Here it was that an angry caster, having lost his last sovereign and his temper, also placed his black hat in the centre of the table, swore that it was white, and finding no one disposed to dispute his accuracy, flung himself from the room, and enabled the next player who had won so largely and smiled so good-humouredly to take the box in turn. But fortune deserted him also, and left him penniless, when, glaring savagely round the room, and striking the table violently, he thundered forth the inquiry, "Where was the rascal who said his hat was white?" It was here also (although the venue has been changed by story-mongers) that a well-known frequenter of the house, a sporting M.P., on one occasion dropped on the 'door or in the passage a bank-note without discovering his loss till he had reached home. On the next evening he returned to inquire for it in a forlorn-hope spirit, when the following conversation took place between him and the porter: --

"M.P. I think, Simpson, I dropped a note here last night--did you see it?

"Porter. Shure, then, mony a note was dropped here beside yours.

"M. P. Ah! but I mean out of my pocket. I did not lose it at play. It was for L20, one of Ball's Bank, and very old."

'Hereupon the porter brought the senator into a corner, fumbled the note out of his fob, and, placing it in his hands, whispered, "Shure, I know it's yours, and here it is; but (looking cautiously round) wasn't it lucky that none of the jintlemin found it?"

'Another establishment much patronized in those days was in Nassau Street, where early in the evening unlimited Loo, never under "three and three," sometimes "six and six," might be indulged in, while a little later Roulette formed the attraction of an adjacent room, and still later at night all flocked down- stairs to the hot supper and rattling English Hazard. For one or two seasons St Stephen's Green lent one of its lordly mansions, formerly the residence of a cruel and witty Lord Chief Justice, to the votaries of fortune; here everything was done in grand style, with gilded saloons, obsequious waiters, and champagne suppers. All this has long since become matter of the past, and it would now puzzle the keenest detective to find the trace even of a silver hell in the Irish capital. No one will be hardy enough to defend the vice of gambling, but some have argued, and not without truth, that if a man will play it is far better for him to indulge the propensity at Hombourg or Baden, where he cannot lose more money than he has with him, than to do so in the cozy club-room of a private "salon," where indulgent friends may tempt him to become bankrupt not only in fortune but in reputation.'

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