The world’s oldest casino games
We know how much you love playing your favourite casino games online – Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat and more. And with so many casinos, and so many different games available, it often seems as if gambling has been around forever.
Actually, it may surprise you to learn that’s sort of true. But while the world’s first casino was opened in Venice in 1638, in fact many of our most popular casino games have been around for far longer – and evidence even shows that gambling first began thousands of years ago. Which means that the practice of gambling significantly predates casinos themselves. So which casino games are actually the oldest, and how long have we been playing them for? Let’s take a look.
Believe it or not, the title of the world’s oldest casino game goes to Craps – and even if you’re not a fan of the game, you’ll still love how rich its history is. In fact, it stretches all the way back to the Roman Empire, where soldiers used to carve pig’s knuckles into square shapes resembling modern dice – which is where we get the term ‘rolling the bones’.
From here, the game moved to France, where it was known as ‘hasard’, or ‘hazard’, in English – a game of two dice that even found its way into Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the 14th century. Eventually the game began to become known as ‘crapaud’ – the French word for toad – based on how players would sit on their haunches while playing the game on the floor. So now you know!
After making its way from France, to England, and then across the sea to the new world, the game eventually evolved into the modern version we play today, thanks to the involvement of the American John H. Winn in the 19th century. Fast forward a few years, and with the evolution of gaming into the online space, Craps became a standard offering in the table games section of every reputable online casino – which is exactly where you’ll find it today, if you ever want to hazard a bet on it!
While playing cards themselves first appeared in ancient China in the 9th century, the games that were played with them have since been lost in the annals of time. However, one of the earliest card games on record is in fact Baccarat – or at least, an early form of it. Played as far back as the 15th century, Baccarat first originated in Italy before moving to France, where it evolved over hundreds of years into the version we’re familiar with today.
Thanks to its popularity amongst the French nobility, and its reputation for being played in private rooms prior to the opening of formal casinos, Baccarat has a reputation for being one of the more exclusive table games. However, don’t let its sophisticated veneer intimidate you. These days, thanks to the availability of online casinos, you’re able to play Baccarat whenever you like – and it’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. Worth giving it a try? Absolutely!
It’s hard to find a card game simpler than Blackjack – just get a card hand value as close as possible to 21 without going over, and if it beats the dealer’s hand, you’ve won! Simple, but effective – and it’s a simplicity that’s captured the imagination of players ever since it was first originated in the early 1600s. Of course, back then it was simply known as 21, but it was already so popular that it merited a mention in a story by the famous Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes – he of Don Quixote fame.
After centuries of being enjoyed by players in Europe, 21 made its way over to America at the turn of the 19th century, where it was renamed Blackjack, and underwent a few changes for the sake of player engagement. Today the modern game of Blackjack is a staple at every reputable casino, and many home casino nights as well, loved for its thrills, and its simple way of turning a regular bet into a winning one.
Normally when we make mistakes, we get rid of the evidence as quickly as possible, because it’s usually a colossal mess. However when you’re mad scientist, Blaise Pascal, you don’t make mistakes – you create Roulette instead! That’s what happened when this French physicist tried to invent a perpetual motion machine in the 17th century. He failed at his original task, but succeeded in inventing the game of Roulette instead – a mistake for which the gaming world is eternally thankful.
Once the foundations of Roulette were laid, the game took off in France, and by the following century, began to feature in gaming establishments across the country. Having taken the idea for numbers on the wheel from the Italian game Biribi, Roulette was then further improved upon by
Francois and Louis Blanc, who added the zero space on the wheel and increased the house edge at the same time.
Thanks to this small but lucrative change, Roulette became an even more popular addition to gaming houses and casinos, taking Monaco by storm and then eventually moving to the USA, where it gained a double zero space (and a higher house edge) along the way. Today Roulette has many forms – European, French, American, and even progressive, but at its heart, it’s still the thrilling game of chance that was mistakenly invented so many centuries ago. Best happy accident ever!
So the next time you sit down to a game of Craps, Baccarat, Blackjack or Roulette, have a think about the history that turned these games of the past into the hugely popular versions they are in the present. They may have begun life in a more rudimentary form, but today they’re the backbone of modern casino play, and the ones that continually keep us coming back for more excitement, and more winning opportunities. The good news? If their popularity has endured this long, there’s no question that it’ll continue for many more years to come. And that’s gaming we can get behind.
Happy Spinning 🙂