Casino games – the images conjured are either of dimly lit felt tables and 007-esque luxury or of gargantuan rooms filled with whirring, ringing slot machines. But the history of gambling is rich and ancient and moves in counterpoint to the history of humanity itself.
Casino games are built around the fundamental concept of the wager – betting an asset on the outcomes of an event. Moreover, every casino game has its own unique origins developing from word of mouth to established sets of rules, from the Italian baccarat of the 1400s to the spinning roulette wheel of eighteenth-century Paris. Read on to find out a little bit of history on your favourite games.
The oldest game of chance: the roll of the dice. From the suburban street corner to the trenches of World War One, no game is more symbolic of fortune and chance than craps. The oldest dice found date back 8000 years to ancient Mesopotamia, where they were used by fortune tellers.
The game of craps, originally played by Roman soldiers can now be found in casinos around the world and online. Played with cash (street craps) or bank (table craps), the game’s easy mechanics and limited equipment required make it one the most accessible games to play.
Although Baccarat’s origins are disputed – did it originate in China or as part of Ancient Roman religious rites? These disputes aside, a man named Felix Falguiere is believed to have created the game now known as baccarat in Italy in the late 1400’s.
Returning with French troops from conflicts in Italy, Baccarat took root in French noble circles. Even after it was declared illegal it was enjoyed as an illicit pastime amongst French gentry in exclusive, underground venues. The game made its debut across the Atlantic around the beginning of the 20th century in the city of New York, but only became a staple in Las Vegas in the late 50s when it was introduced by Tommy Renzoni through an Argentinian variety, Punto Banco.
For the next several decades Baccarat was a highly exclusive game, with tables reserved for the rich and famous. It’s low house edge made casinos very wary of opening too many tables. Fortunately, Baccarat can now be enjoyed by players around the world thanks to innovations made by online casinos.
Another game with a low house edge, Blackjack has its origins in 1700s France and was enjoyed by nobles in the court of King Louis XV. Before that it is said to have originated in the days of the Roman empire – but these claims are difficult to verify.
Alongside Baccarat, Blackjack emigrated across the Atlantic and found a home not in New York City, but in the French-founded, Creole town of New Orleans, where a few legal gambling houses were in operation.
A variant of Blackjack, 21 (the original French title for blackjack was Vingt-et-Un) popped up in the gambling halls in Las Vegas, Nevada, and it is by the rules established there that the game is now played in casinos and online.