Wednesday, December 1, 2021

A Brief History of Casino Games

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For a long time, casinos were seen as the playground of the rich and famous, with the likes of James Bond and Frank Sinatra dressed to kill and ready to play. These days, with the arrival of online casinos, casino games attract a much more diverse range of players from all walks of life.

Most online casino games follow the same format and rules as their real-life counterparts, but where do these original games come from and how did they end up in the modern casino? Let’s take a look at the origins of some of the most famous casino games all over the world. 

A Brief History of Casino Games 1
Source: Unsplash

The history of roulette

Roulette was invented by mistake by the French scientist and engineer Blaise Pascal. He was attempting to achieve the impossible, by creating a perpetual motion machine, but instead came up with a smooth-running wheel that could generate genuinely random outcomes for a spinning ball. Quickly realising the potential of his invention, he partnered with mathematician Pierre Fermat (or Fermat’s theory fame) to work out the odds of various outcomes.

Pascal’s original game had no zero or house edge, and the game remained fair to players and casinos alike until 1863. At this point, entrepreneur Francois Blanc added the dreaded digit, giving the house a guaranteed profit of 2.7%. The so-called American double zero arrived soon after, raising the house edge to 5.26%. However, we shouldn’t blame American greed for this, as it was regularly seen across Europe long before the game crossed the Atlantic.

The history of slots

A Brief History of Casino Games 2
Source: Unsplash

Slots originally began life as an automated form of poker, as the inventors wanted to create a new game based on rules that people were familiar with. Partners Sittman and Pitt created their first poker machine in 1891, which consisted of five reels with playing cards on each reel. While this was hugely popular, with so many possible combinations, it was also incredibly complicated to work out the prizes. Charles Fey simplified the game in 1895 to just three reels with a choice of five symbols. This meant that for the first time, prizes could be paid out automatically by the machines.

The familiar symbols on traditional slots also have intriguing histories, with some more obvious than others. For example, the bell was based on the Liberty Bell, as a symbol of Americana, while the Bar was the brand of the Bell-Fruit Corporation who made the machines. The origin of the cherry and melon, however, needs a little more explanation. They came about as a way of circumventing the strict gaming laws in many US states. Instead of offering cash prizes, slots awarded sticks of gum instead, in cherry and melon flavours and so featured these on the reels.

The history of craps

Dice games can be traced back thousands of years, with the ancient Greek gods apparently deciding the fate of all mankind over a game of dice. Astragali, the oldest dice ever found, date back to around 8000B.C., and Roman soldiers made crude dice out knuckle bones right across the empire.

The origin of the dice game now known as craps is thought to date back to 1125 and the crusades, when Sir William of Tyre and his army laid siege to Hazarth Castle. It is said that Sir William invented the game to entertain his troops, with the castle giving the game its name of hazard, which persisted for many years. The name craps is thought to be a corruption of the French word crapaud, or toad, which refers to the crouched or toad-like position of players as they throw the dice. The game finally came in from the streets and became a casino staple in the early 1900s, when the aptly names John Winn created the first rules of craps that allowed players to play against the house instead of each other.

Modern games, ancient origins

Next time you log on to your online casino, take a moment to consider the long and rich history of the games you are playing. Who knows, if the inhabitants of Hazarth Castle had surrendered sooner, or Pascal has been more successful in his original plans, we may never have had these games to play.

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