Casino Game Origins
The majority of today’s most popular casino table games have their roots in man’s distant past. Proof of this can be found in the rudimentary nature of the most popular tools of tables gaming, dice and cards, both of which have been used as the basis of games of chance for many hundreds of years.
Today’s most popular casino table games are the product of hundreds of years of evolution and the influence of various ancient cultures. During the colonial era the majority of today’s most popular casino games took shape, with these games evolving rapidly as they were exported from Western Europe to the New World and beyond.
Games incorporating both bluffing and hand hierarchies have been in existence for over a thousand years. However, games resembling modern poker emerged only recently, with the German game of Pochen generally considered to be the true forerunner of poker.
Variations of the Pochen game, which translates into ‘to brag’, were initially played in both Spain (Primero) and France (Poque). European settlers in the New World spread the game to additional territories, and the Mississippi region of the United States is generally recognised as the home of modern poker, as this is where the first familiar 5 card version of the game emerged in the 1800s.
The exact origins of blackjack have been lost in the mists of time. The simple rules that govern the game suggest that it could be far older than its first recorded mention, in Spanish author Miguel Cervantes’ story “Rinconete y Cortadillo”, a story detailing the exploits of two card sharps, written in 1602.
Cervantes’ story refers specifically to a game called veintiuna, which translates from Spanish as 21. Cervantes provides detailed descriptions of the rules of the game in the novel, which include all the basics of modern blackjack, including attempting to reach a total of 21, and busting when drawing cards over this total.
Only minor amendments have been made to the game of blackjack since being first recorded by Cervantes. The Spanish game was played without 10s in the pack, and the modern practice of awarding bonus payouts when a player draws 21 with two cards, only emerged after the game had been exported to the United States.
The modern game of roulette was invented in France in the late 18th century, with the first recorded mention of the game made by French novelist Jacques Lablee, in La Roulette, ou le Jour, in 1786. The game of roulette is believed to be a fusion of earlier games, the English wheel-based game of Roly Poly and the board games Hoca and Biribi.
It appears as if the game of roulette was specifically designed for use in French casinos, as the game could not easily be adapted to informal gambling sessions in which players competed against one another. By the middle of the 1800s roulette had reached the end of its evolution, with Germans adding the final touch to the game by introducing an additional 0 pocket to the roulette wheel design.
Dice are probably the oldest of the instruments used in gambling. Dice games are believed to have been popular amongst soldiers, dating back to the time of the Romans and even earlier. Many believe that the modern game of craps has its roots in games played by European armies during the Crusades.
The first identifiable precursor of modern craps was the ancient English game of Hazard. This game was embraced and simplified by French gamblers during the 18th century, giving rise to the game of crapaud.
Frenchman, Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, is credited with having brought the game to the United States, where it was enthusiastically received and then spread by the African American community in Louisiana.
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