- These legends from throughout history liked a bet
- Royal rulers who enjoyed their status as high rollers
Many high profile gamblers noted through the annals of time were notorious characters who loved a flutter. Some were degenerate gamblers, while others managed to conceal their vice behind a veneer of respectability. Make no mistake though, when the chips were down, these mavericks had no qualms about going all in.
Author of Crime and Punishment, acclaimed literary legend Dostoevsky tops our cultured gamblers list. The Russian went so far as to imitate life in his art with a novel entitled The Gambler and, despite great success, owed large sums due to his hobby spiralling out of control.
From classical Russian times to Olde England and an influential monarch who increased the popularity of gambling in the country during his reign. Known as the Merry King, he couldn’t resist a game of chance and when colonists travelled to North America, they took many of these games with them.
Wild Bill Hickok
Legendary gunfighter of the American Old West and well-known across the frontier, Hickok hailed from Illinois and lived in a time when lawlessness and vigilante activity were rife. In 1876 he met his end during a poker game in Deadwood, South Dakota, when shot from behind by an unsuccessful player. The character was later featured in the HBO series Deadwood.
King Henry VIII
Another English king who loved to gamble was the famed monarch of excess, Henry VIII. Living an overtly lavish lifestyle, betting was a popular pastime for him, with dice and card games being his favourite. It must’ve been a nerve wracking experience for anyone playing with the ruler who beheaded many of the women in his life. No doubt his opponents ensured he always won.
This 18th century historical figure’s name became synonymous with womanizing, but Giacomo Casanova wore many more hats than just his signature one as lady-magnet. The adventurer, polymath, lawyer, politician, medic, philosopher, diplomat, writer, dancer and gambler (among other things) was accomplished and highly intelligent. Tutored by professionals and often very successful, his gambling was hampered by a fitful temper that often led to his losses ending in duels.
King Louis XIV
This extravagant royal known as the Sun King loved to gamble at his opulent Palace of Versailles, the seat of the French monarchy. As a man who assumed control of the government, he liked to wield power and saw gambling as a way to control the nobles – they would lose and he would win (adding to his unending home renovation and extension fund). Some people can never have enough.
These tales from history are much more excessive and dramatic than modern day gaming; you’re considerably less likely to be at risk of treason or a bullet in the back these days thanks to law enforcement, casino regulations and the demise of such extreme royal belligerence.
But it’s interesting to reflect on the colourful past of something so embedded in our culture, albeit often recognisable with so many technological advances in our modern day gambling. When we hop online for a flutter, we’re following in the footsteps of many historical figures before us.
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