Playing games of chance for money is something the people of Earth have enjoyed for thousands of years. From the Ancient Greeks to modern mathematicians, online gambling looks likely to continue doing so. Today’s blog takes a look at five fun gambling facts from its ancient origins to the arrival of the card counter.
1. Ancient Gamblers
Many gambling games found in modern casinos have existed in some form for thousands of years. For instance, the Minoan civilization of Crete played a game very similar to modern poker 3,500 years ago, while the works of Homer and other Ancient Greek writers contain references to dice games, coin games and other games of luck. Indeed, Greek mythology tells of the gods Zeus, Hades and Poseidon playing a game of ‘throw the dice’ to determine how the Universe would be split between them. Both the Ancient Greeks and the Romans played a precursor to checkers, while the Chinese invented keno, a card game much like the lotteries of today, some 2,000 years ago.
2. French Playing Cards
Although there have been different styles of playing cards over the years, it is the four French suits of clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades that have become the most commonly used in the world. Playing cards reportedly reached France in 1377 and the French suit insignia, a derivation of German suits, was created about 100 years later in 1480. The French established the suits to represent the French church (hearts), military (spades), merchant class (diamonds) and peasantry (clubs). The four kings each represent a notable king from Western civilization:
- King of Spades: King David (Hebrews)
- King of Hearts: Charlemagne (Holy Roman Empire)
- King of Diamonds: Julius Caesar (Roman Empire)
- King of Clubs: Alexander the Great (Ancient Greece)
French cards are the most common type as a result of France’s geopolitical, cultural and commercial influence across the world during the past two hundred years.
3. Origin of the Casino
The word is of Italian origin, with its root casa originally referring to a small country villa, pavilion or summer house. During the 19th century the word’s meaning expanded to describe other types of public buildings that featured civic functions such as music, sports and gambling. These buildings were typically built on the grounds of larger villas. The first known European gambling house was itself not called Casino, but instead Il Ridotto, which means ‘The Private Room’ in Italian. It was established in Venice in 1638 and closed in 1774 by the city’s Great Council on account of its negative influence on the local gentry.
4. The Gambler’s Fallacy
The Gambler’s Fallacy, also known as the Monte Carlo Fallacy and the Fallacy of the Maturity of Chances is a common misconception often experienced by amateur and professional gamblers alike. The fallacy refers to the error of belief that if an event occurs more or less frequently than normal during a specific period of time, the frequency of occurrences during the subsequent period will be reversed, or balanced out. A group of gamblers famously fell victim to the fallacy on the 18th of August, 1913, at a roulette table in the Monte Carlo Casino. The roulette ball fell on black 26 times consecutively, a very rare occurrence, leading the gamblers to believe that a long streak of red would follow. It didn’t, and the gamblers lost millions of francs due to their incorrect prediction.
5. Anyone can Card Count
Contrary to Hollywood movies, most blackjack card counters do not possess unusual or advanced mathematical abilities, as card counting does not require counters to memorize or keep track of what cards are played. Instead they simply assign a point score to each played card, which estimates the value of that specific card, and keep track of these estimations. The process is known as running count, and is based on statistical evidence that high cards such as aces and 10s are more beneficial to the player than the dealer, while lower cards like 3, 4 and 5 are of more use to the dealer than the player. Dr. Edward O. Thorp, an American mathematician, is credited with popularizing card counting thanks to the publication of his 1962 betting and gambling strategy book, Beat the Dealer.
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