Fun Facts About Gambling in Ancient Times

In the present days gambling is everywhere, but it wasn’t always like this or at least in the format it is now. These days we can’t even say for sure if we have more people playing online than in real casinos, so that says a lot of how gambling has evolved, as we have real and virtual platforms where we can gamble on.

Today we go to the casino, and we play Poker, Slots, Blackjack, Roulette or whatever we are in the mood like, but do we wonder how everything started, how was it in ancient times? Maybe we would be surprised to know that some of the games we play today are not that different from the games played thousands of years ago.

Gambling in ancient Greece

It’s said that the origins of poker go back 3.500 years, to the Minoan civilization, currently island of Crete and other Aegean islands, Greece. It’s hard to imagine people playing poker such a long time ago, but this wasn’t even the only game played at the time. If we lived in that time, most likely we would have known that the expression “throw of Aphrodite” would mean rolling a pair of sixes when playing dices, and this would mean that we would have won the game.

If we have read Homer and other ancient literature, we know that gambling was a common activity, and places where gambling took place also existed. Unlike today though, a casino was not seen as a place where we could get a good night of entertainment, but was seen as a shameful place, so gambling actually had a bad reputation. Heads and tails, dices and other games where luck was involved were pretty common.

Similarly to what happens today, people would also lose a fortune gambling at the time, but that could simply happen in a heads or tails game. They had something going for them though, the support of Gods. Greek mythology says that the Poseidon, Zeus and Hades divided the Universe between them playing dices. This is called gambling at the highest level!

Contradictory that the Gods were gambling, while philosophers condemned gambling, coming to the point that some authors mentioned gambling as being a plague. Most likely this was associated with cheating and all the problems coming from there, making that the government had to take measures to reduce the gambling activity.

Playing in ancient Rome

If we hear about the game of twelve lines, most likely it doesn’t ring a bell. If we hear Tilia, the same situation, but these were the names that Greeks and Romans gave to our game of checkers. Animal fights is something that we, fortunately, don’t see on casinos today, but were also pretty common at the time.

Similarly to what happened in Greece, the Romans also played head and tails, but instead of shells, the Romans already used coins as we do today. Gambling evolution continued, and the three clay cubes used in Greece, were replaced just by two dices, how we still play today.

Other civilizations

It’s hard to find an ancient civilization where gambling didn’t took place. In Jewish texts, and even in Buddhist religion, we find references to gambling, but also negative ones in this case, as punishment to gamblers was a mentioned expression.

Travelling to China, we find the white pigeon ticket game going back 2000 years. Uncertain of what game is this? Today we name it Keno. Also fascinating the gambling structure at the time in China, as gambling houses existed and the governor granted licenses for them to operate, in exchange of a commission, not so different of how it is done today.

Gambling goes back to periods we can’t even imagine, and the fact that dice similar objects were found with 40.000 years old, just proves how natural it is for us to gamble.