Encyclopedia - The History of Gambling

Gambling seems to have been around forever, but same as any other human invention, casino games also have their origin. The fact, however, is that finding the exact moment when a game was invented is practically impossible.

The reason is that most casino games we play today have evolved over time. Some even took centuries to get the current form. Obviously, this makes them even more interesting, which is why we’re now going to discuss the origin of some of the world’s most popular casino games – dice, cards, roulette, and slots.

Dice Games

Most scholars agree that dice games date back to the times before recorded history. Four or five millennia ago, our ancestors didn’t know how to read by they did know how to gamble! The earliest evidence of playing dice is from around 3000 BC.  In fact, the archeologists have discovered dice made of stone in what’s now known as the Burnt City, in south-eastern Iran.

Furthermore, many dice from the Roman era were excavated all around Europe. Truth to be told, in the Roman era, dice were mostly used for board games, like backgammon. Still, there’s significant evidence that the citizens of the Roman Republic were very passionate about gambling.  Speaking of the Romans, the most famous quote of Julius Caesar contains a die reference. The phrase “alea iacta est” translated to “the die is cast”.

Origin of Card Games

Most historians agree that the cards are Chinese invention. However, there’s an ongoing debate whether they were used for gambling purposes as well as for collecting. The earliest evidence we have of the Chinese using playing cards is the 9th century AD. From there, card games spread to Europe, across the Silk Road.

There’s a story that the legendary explorer, Marco Polo, was the one who introduced playing cards to Europe, although today not many scholars believe this myth is true. The reason why they believe that’s not the case is that there is some evidence that Europeans played card games a few centuries before he was even born. Unfortunately, the rules of those games are lost. In fact, the oldest card game still played today is baccarat.

The History of Baccarat

There’s no doubt that the modern version of baccarat has roots in the game played in Italy and France at the turn of the 16th century. However, the rules of those games differ quite a lot, which is why some historians place the development of the modern baccarat variant in a whole different era.

According to them, the real predecessor of the modern-day baccarat is the card game that was popular in Cuba in the 19th century. From Cuba, it spread to the United States and later to the other parts of the world, including Europe and Australia.

Blackjack’s Origin

Some historians believe that this game is the brainchild of Miguel Cervantes, the author of the iconic novel Don Quixote. Before writing one of the most influential works of literature in history, Cervantes wrote a couple of other books, one of which mentions a card game that’s very similar to the modern-day blackjack. Perhaps the book made the game more popular, but there’s evidence that similar games were played across the whole continent during the Middle Ages.

One blackjack-related fact that’s certain is the one surrounding the name of this game. At the time when this game was introduced to the US players, its name was 21. We’re talking about the era when casinos from all parts of the continent were competing to attract as many players as possible.

One of the ways they used to make this game popular is through offering lucrative incentives to the players. The players who won the game with Jack of Clubs (the Black Jack) were given boosted payouts. The incentive proved very popular and the name, blackjack stuck to this day.

The French Wheel of Fortune

The word “roulette” literally translates from French as “wheel”. The game became hugely popular in Parisian casino parlors during the years of the French Revolution. However, the origin of this game is still highly controversial.

The traditional story of roulette is that it was invented by the legendary French physicist and inventor Blaise Pascal. According to the story, Pascal was on a quest of discovering a perpetual motion machine, when he developed the first-ever roulette wheel.

The story of roulette’s origin definitely helped spread its fame, but not everyone thinks it’s true. Some historians believe that this game evolved from a similar game of chance that was very popular in Italy at that time. The game was known as biribi and was the favorite casino game of Casanova.

The Story of the Slot Machine 

All modern slots, including the video slot games played online, are based on the machine developed in the 19th century by a man called Charles Fey. The inventor created a slot machine with thee reels, which he named the Liberty Bell Slot Machine. It used six different symbols, all of which are still commonly used in modern-day slots, particularly the cracked Liberty Bell symbol.

This casino game got its lucky break during the 1940s, when the famous mobster Bugsy Siegel introduced slot machines in his casino at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. His intention was to use the slots as a way to entertain the wives and girlfriends of high-roller poker players. However, the game caught up immediately, becoming synonymous with gambling in Las Vegas.       

Another big event in the history of slots is the invention of video poker in 1976. The graphics and the sounds made by the machines made even more players fall in love with this game. Still, the worldwide popularity of slot games was achieved in the 21st century, with the introduction of online casinos.

Today, the slot is probably the most popular online casino game. There aren’t many internet casinos that don’t have at least one slot game in their offer. Literally millions of people from all parts of the world play this casino game on a regular basis. The best thing is that the popularity of slots is expected to go even higher in the future. The reason is that the technology is getting better and better all the time. This means that slots with better graphics and more reliable software are emerging on a regular basis.

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