A history of gambling through the ages
Gambling is one of the oldest past times in the world. In fact, archaeologists have found evidence of gambling activity from Ancient Egypt and China, as well as civilizations from the Fertile Crescent.
Since then, gambling has ceaselessly evolved – but no more dramatically so than it has done in the last 20 years. The advent of the internet has seen the gambling world morph into something that people from even the last century would now find unrecognisable, with so many games available at the click of a button and touch of a smartphone – and with better graphics and faster speeds than ever.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of a series of gambling games and explore how technology has transformed them.
The clue to the origin of this game is in the name. In French ‘roulette’ simply means ‘little wheel’. It was first recorded in its current form in 18th century France, but Blaise Pascal actually built it a century prior with what he called his ‘perpetual motion machine’.
In the mid-19th century the game experienced a major update – the introduction of the zero pocket. This introduction greatly revolutionised the game as it gave the house a larger edge and thus cemented its place as a mainstay in casinos around the world.
Such was the popularity of roulette that it was the main attraction for tourists visiting the famous Monegasque Casino de Monte Carlo.
In the past two decades, the spinning game has made the move to the internet with ease. Firstly, as a simple 2D screen image, which was good enough for online players when virtual gambling was in its infancy, and players were happy with the simple offer a basic online version on the game they could play on their desktops.
Today, at the cutting edge of virtual casino technology is live casino, where players are linked up with real-life croupiers via high quality video and audio – immersing them in genuine gameplay that features a strong human element that was previously lacking.
There’s also 3D gaming, where you can see the spin of the wheel and roll of the ball up close – making feel like you’re actually there in person.
While the format roulette is played in has changed dramatically, its appeal hasn’t. The fact that huge sums of money can be won at the spin of a wheel has made this the quintessential casino game.
Card games have been played for centuries, but it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that poker was first played in the US. Its popularity lay in the fact that all players were forced to bet, meaning that there could be limited gamesmanship involved in winning.
The popularity of poker remained fairly average up until 2003, when Chris Moneymaker thrust the card game into the limelight by winning millions of dollars in the World Series of Poker after entering for just $37.
That move forced casino providers to up their game when it came to poker to appeal for a new-found audience.
Video poker was introduced to casinos in Las Vegas 40 years ago before eventually being used online towards the end of the 1990s. Early poker games on computer were primitive by today’s standards, but now there is a world of opportunity available for poker enthusiasts online. Jacks or Better, otherwise known as Draw Poker, is one of the most popular forms of the game you can find online. Its success stems from the fact that the chances to win are so lucrative. For every winning hand the player achieves, they are given the chance to ‘Gamble Win’. This means the player must guess the colour or suit of the next card to be drawn, a correct guess means their winnings are immediately doubled! That should entice you, but if not, consult this comprehensive guide and to learn how to play Jacks or Better for yourself, you certainly won’t regret it.
Other forms of the game including Quick fire poker, Chinese poker and of course Texas Hold ‘Em are all available to online consumers and technology also allows players to participate in an augmented reality environment.
New York based company Sittman & Pitt created what is recognised as the first ever slot machine in 1891.
The primitive machine contained 50 card faces and was based on poker. The machine was placed in bars all around the city and quickly became popular amongst bar goers. The first machines didn’t have the capability to reward the user directly with cash, so various prizes such as free beer, cigarettes or cigars were issued for winning variants.
Just before the end of the 19th century, a slot machine was produced that was able to pay out punters – The Liberty Bell – which was named after one of the five symbols on the slot. This creation provided the blueprint for slot machines for almost a century.
Video slot machines were developed in 1976 and a second screen was added to games in the mid 1990s. Similarly to poker and roulette, the true advancement of slot machines came online.
If you want to play a slot machine now you can sign up to an online slots provider in a matter of minutes and have thousands upon thousands of slot games at your disposal. There are tonnes of themed games based on films, music genres and much more all developed by some of the best games developers in the business.
Also known as 21, blackjack is one of the most simple card games in the world. The cards that are dealt are given their traditional numerical value and the aim of the game is to reach 21 or get as close as possible to it before the dealer.
The birth of blackjack is unknown but the first recorded mention of it was by Miguel de Cervantes – the author behind Don Quixote – in his short story collection Novelas Ejemplares. The story Rinconcente y Cortadillo Cervantes chronicles the adventures of two gambling cheats from Seville who are adept at a game called veinte uno (21).
When the game was first introduced to casinos in the US, players were offered extra incentives to make the game more appealing. Instead of just the traditional reward of beating the dealer, there were ten to one pay-outs for winning with the ace of spades.
Since then, the game has seen relatively little evolution in style. There have been, however, improvements in players’ strategic approaches. Blackjack strategies were devised in the mid 50’s and then in the 70’s a blackjack team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology rocked the world with their then-innovative ‘card counting’ technique.
Over three decades, MIT blackjack teams descended on three of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas and reportedly won over $2.5 million from their card counting technique. Card counting has been largely forbidden, and casinos now have experts employed to spot players using the technique.
Blackjack has also been brought to the internet platform, but the main advancement in online blackjack is the availability of a live dealer and the option to play in live land-based casino games.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know how certain gambling games came to creation, but it is interesting to imagine early humans coming up with the rules to complex games that we still play today. What we do know is that the internet and the use of mobile devices has revolutionised the way people play – and only time will tell how much further technology can enhance our favourite casino games.