The History of Gambling Games

When we think of gambling, we tend to think of roulette, poker, and baccarat – true casino classics. In fact, the earliest gambling games were around long before the casino games that we and love know today. Gambling in one form or another has been around for centuries. It seems clear that we humans are incapable of resisting the urge to place a wager! Even the very earliest civilizations enjoyed a wager now and then, and there is plenty of evidence to prove that ancient people loved to wager on all kinds of games.

Ancient Greek Civilizations – Early Dice Games

dice gamesDice games were among the earliest forms of gambling known to humankind. The ancient Greeks loved their dice games and many of their rules still apply today. For example, throwing double sixes was considered to be just as lucky back then as it is today. Known as the “throw of Aphrodite,” it indicated victory when a person played. Greek dice were made of three clay cubes. During the Roman Era, however, two dice became the most common variation, and this is the form that continues today in games, such as craps.

There were countless references to early gambling games in ancient texts. Games, such as “head and tails,” were widespread, and special locations that were very similar to early casinos were frequented by keen gamblers of the day. Just like today, people would lose a fortune at gambling. The ancient Greeks, however, would call on two of their gods, Pan and Hermes, to help them find a little extra luck. In fact, the gods themselves were even known to play dice. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades gambled on the throw of a dice to determine how they would split up the universe between them.

Keno – The Earliest Eastern Gambling Game

Keno, which is still one of the most popular games in any casino today, originated in ancient China about 2,000 years ago. The game was first known as “white pigeon ticket” and was played in gambling venues that had received permission from the governor of the province to operate with the understanding that he would receive some of the profits. The premise of the game remains the same as the one that is played by thousands of people today. Players choose their lucky numbers and then wait for them to be drawn.

The ancient Chinese civilization was extremely fond of gambling. We know this because the people also invented early forms of card games. Originally, these games were played with tiles as long ago as 2300 B.C., but by 900 A.D., card games had been created using human characters. This later spread across Europe until, eventually, the cards contained the faces of kings and queens — identical to those we use today.

Early Games of Roulette

roulette 666Roulette is a very popular game today in both online and real-world casinos. However, its history appears to date back to the 17th century. It is believed that Blaise Pascal, a French scientist, invented the game of roulette while he was visiting a monastic retreat in 1655, in an attempt to relieve the boredom he was experiencing. There are other forerunners to roulette, too. Even Odd, Ace of Hearts, and Roly Poly were just three English games that had many similarities to the wheel we use today, and Hoca and Biribi, two Italian games, may also have had an influencing effect on today’s modern roulette game.

Early Blackjack Variants

blackjackWhile the origins of blackjack remain unclear, it is generally believed that this popular casino staple began life in France during the early part of the 18th century in a game that was known as “vingt et un” – the French words for “21.” This game became increasingly popular over time. Then, when French colonists went to North America, they took the game with them. It was this version of the game that first achieved popularity in Nevada during the 1930s. So more punters would be encouraged to play, there was a new rule introduced – a payout of 10-1 whenever a hand featured one of the blackjack cards with the ace of spades. While this rule is no longer played, the name blackjack stuck, and, so, it has been known ever since.

The First Slot Machines

3d slotsSlots are among the most noticeable and most popular games in today’s casinos and are beloved by punters all over the world. A much later addition to casinos than many of the other games featured here, slots weren’t invented until the late 1800s. The precise details remain unclear about who the inventor of the original slot machine was.

One story is that Charles Fey, an American inventor, created the first slot in 1887. The machine, known as The Liberty Bell, had three reels and only five symbols, one of which was, as you can guess from its name, the Liberty Bell. However, another story tells that Pitt and Sittman created the first slot machine a few years later in 1891. This machine took its inspiration from five-card poker, using five spinning drums that had 50 cards fixed to them. Whenever the drums ended their spin, the display would show a five-card poker hand.

Baccarat – A Medieval Game

mini baccaratThere is no argument that Baccarat was created during the Middle Ages. What is debated, however, is the country of its origin. Some say that it originated in France while others claim it came from Italy. What everyone does agree with is it was at some point during the 15th century that baccarat first appeared on the scene.

There is evidence in written records to show that French noblemen and royalty played this popular game. However, the name is believed to have come from an Italian word. Baccarat means “zero” in some old Italian dialects and refers to the value zero that is given to 10s and picture cards during the game.

Baccarat became exceptionally popular in the French court. So much so, in fact, that King Louis XIV banned it from the court. Of course, as might be expected, this just had the effect of forcing illegal gambling on baccarat. This gave rise to the version of the game that is played today — Baccarat Chemin de Fer, sometimes known as Chemmy.

Over the years of the game’s development, a number of superstitions have emerged. Some players even developed specially designed token systems that highlight the win sequences for the tie, banker, and player. Having been reproduced in an electronic version at online and land-based casinos, this system ensures the purists that they are enjoying a fully authentic game.

As you can see, for as long as there have been humans on Earth, there has been some form of gambling for people to get their wagering fix. From early dice games to modern casino favorites, there have always been fun games of chance and skill that allow punters to enjoy themselves while trying to win a little extra money. Gambling paraphernalia has even been discovered in caves inhabited by Stone Age civilizations, showing that developing fun and lucrative games has been a priority for every generation from the beginning of time.

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Jean Carter is from Oakland, California and studied jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco, California. After graduation, and pining for a warmer climate, Jean relocated to the Tule Springs suburb of Las Vegas, where she owns and operates her own online jewelry boutique incorporating traditional native American styles with her own unique designs. A true fan of the sophistication and glamor of Las Vegas casino life, Jean is also a freelance blogger specializing in all things suave and fashionable surrounding the casino lifestyle.