Casino gaming culture is extremely well distributed worldwide with legal gambling hubs on every continent. From New Jersey to New Zealand, you can find a plethora of casino table games, online slots and various other games to enjoy in both land-based and online casinos.
This hasn’t always been the case, though. It took a long time for different casino games to travel around the world and they often changed during their journeys. Let’s take a look at how some of the most popular casino games got to where they are now.
The precise origins of poker remain uncertain, with various theories proposed. One possibility is that it evolved from a Chinese domino-style game favored by a 10th-century emperor, while another suggests it originated in the 16th century as a Persian card game called “As Nas.”
In 17th-century Europe, the closest predecessor to poker was a game known as “poque” in France and “pochen” in Germany, which was based on the 16th-century Spanish card game “primero,” and involved betting and bluffing with a three-card hand.
French colonists took the game with them to North America (Louisiana) during the 1700s where it was picked up by English-speaking settlers after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. They called the game “poker” and made some changes to the rules, such as five cards for each player and playing with a 52-card deck.
From New Orleans, casino poker games traveled up the Mississippi on the riverboats and spread to the saloons of the Wild West. Soldiers on both sides of the Civil War played a lot of poker, too. The game jumped back to Europe in 1871 when Queen Victoria asked a US minister to explain the rules.
During the 20th century, strategic variants such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha developed. The debut of the World Series of Poker in 1970 led to a worldwide poker boom that has continued to this day, fuelled by the rise of online poker tournaments and live dealer games.
When people first start playing casino games, they often begin with blackjack. It’s considered one of the best and most calming games to play for beginners thanks to its easy rules and relaxed style of play. Blackjack is descended from a 16th-century Spanish game called “veintiuna” (twenty-one), which was played with a 48-card baraja deck.
From Spain, the game of twenty-one spread to France and England and on to the American colonies. By then, people were playing with a 52-card deck. The game was popular in gambling halls and really took off when the state of Nevada first legalized gambling.
The story goes that the name changed from twenty-one to “blackjack” because casinos were offering a bonus for a black ace of spades plus a jack of spades or clubs. The bonus fell away but the name caught on.
Blackjack really took off in casinos worldwide in the 1960s after Ed Thorp published “Beat the Dealer” in which he explains how players could use blackjack strategy to get an edge. The game’s popularity declined in the 2000s, but the arrival of online casino games restored its popularity. Today millions of people play blackjack in online casinos globally.
Baccarat is a card game that many people still associate with the kind of wealth and glamor typified by James Bond in the original “Casino Royale.” Its origins go back to Italy in the 1400s when a man named Felix Falguiere or Falguierein created a game called “baccara,” meaning “zero,” because tens and face cards were worth zero.
This rule is supposedly based on an old Etruscan legend. A virgin had to throw a nine-sided die. If she threw an 8 or a 9, she would be made a priestess. If she threw a 6 or 7, she would be banned from the community. Lower than a 6 and she would be cast into the sea to drown.
The game spread to France and became a favorite of King Charles VIII and his court. From there it spread to England where it was known by the French name “baccarat.” In time, baccarat migrated to South America and the Caribbean.
Then Tommy Renzoni brought baccarat to the Sands Casino in Las Vegas in the late 1950s. At first, the game didn’t catch on, so casinos marketed the game as one of the most profitable and sophisticated games for high rollers.
The strategy succeeded and was adopted by casinos worldwide, especially in Macau, China (Asia’s major gambling hub). Today, baccarat is the biggest game in Macau and a popular live dealer game in online casinos.
The exact origins of roulette are shrouded in mystery. Many historians attribute the invention of the first roulette wheel to the 17th-century philosopher-mathematician Blaise Pascal who was actually seeking to invent a perpetual motion machine rather than creating a gambling game.
Eventually, someone had the idea to merge the roulette wheel with the Italian game Biribi, which involved placing bets on a board marked 1-70 and a dealer drawing a numbered ticket from a bag. This proved to be a winning combination and roulette quickly became a popular game in 18th-century Parisian casinos.
The first roulette wheels had two zero pockets until casino owners François and Louis Blanc advertised a roulette wheel with a single zero and a lower house edge. This was attractive to players and roulette spread throughout Europe.
When gambling was banned across the continent the Blancs moved to Monte Carlo and established a gambling mecca where their single-zero version of French roulette reigned supreme. Meanwhile, in America, roulette (like poker) spread up the Mississippi from New Orleans.
Operators used the double-zero wheel and saw no reason to change, with the result that American roulette still has two zero pockets today. Roulette was one of the first online casino games to appear, back in 1996.
In 1894, a mechanic named Charles Fey invented the first-ever slot machine in San Francisco, California. His “Liberty Bell” machine had three spinning reels with symbols such as hearts, diamonds and horseshoes. You had to pull a lever and hope the symbols landed in a winning combination.
People loved it and the Liberty Bell became a huge hit in bars and saloons all over the US. Other manufacturers quickly jumped on the bandwagon and started making their own versions of the machine.
Companies such as Bally Manufacturing, International Game Technology (IGT) and Mills Novelty Company were some of the companies that began to manufacture and distribute slot machines globally. These companies exported their machines to casinos and gaming establishments in various countries around the world, helping to spread the popularity of slot machines as a form of entertainment.
Fast forward to today and slot machines are still going strong. They’ve become super advanced with the latest technological developments, such as video screens and electronic sensors. Slot machines are among the most played casino games online in the world right now.
The game of craps, also known as dice, is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt. The game evolved from the practice of Egyptian witchdoctors who would throw bones along with numbered stones to determine the fate of people who were ill.
The modern game is believed to have evolved from the game of Hazard. Hazard was played in 17th-century England and involved players betting on the outcome of a roll of two dice. The game was eventually brought to America by Sir William of Tyre and was played by French settlers in New Orleans where it became known as “craps.” The version we know and love today, with its distinctive layout and rules, was developed in the early 20th century by John H. Winn.
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