People view casino games as entertainment that they can enjoy in lavish gambling venues.
Most of these same people put little thought into the history of casino games. If gamblers did know the past behind certain games, they might feel uneasy about playing them.
Some casino games have eerie histories that involve everything from sacrifices to demonic numbers. I don’t personally have a problem playing such games. But others might feel uneasy about casino games with foreboding pasts. That said, you may want to stay away from the following five games if you’re highly superstitious.
1 – Baccarat Was Used in Virgin Sacrifices
Baccarat got its start as part of an Etruscan ritual over 2,600 years ago. The Etruscans, who were early settlers of Italy, had a strange ceremony to determine worthy female priestesses.
A blonde virgin has to roll a nine-sided dice in honor of the Nine Great Gods. Her fate depended upon the outcome of a single toss.
Here are the ceremony’s potential outcomes based on the virgin’s roll:
- An 8 or 9 meant the girl was worthy of being a priestess.
- A 6 or 7 meant that she could live, but couldn’t take part in future religious ceremonies.
- A 5 or under meant that the gods required the blonde as a sacrifice, which involved her being drowned at sea.
Only four of the dice’s nine sides allowed the girl to live, meaning she had a 55.56% chance of dying. Luckily, baccarat would become more sophisticated and less deadly in future years.
Many credit Italian gambler Felix Falguirerein with inventing a modernized baccarat version in the late fifteenth century using Tarot cards. The game eventually spread to France, where it was played illegally by noblemen.
In the 1950s, Tommy Renzoni introduced a baccarat variation called chemin de fer to Las Vegas’ Dunes Casino. Chemin de fer, which allows players to act as the banker, became popular among high rollers.
But chemin de fer is costly and inefficient, meaning casinos can’t offer it low rollers. Mini baccarat has solved this problem, though, by featuring a smaller table size (7 players) and not letting gamblers act as the banker.
The result is a smooth-running game that has greatly increased baccarat’s popularity.
2 – The Bingo Card Inventor Goes Insane
Bingo began as a lottery game offered by Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia. This organization started bingo in 1530 as a way to earn revenue for state and local governments.
The lottery version of bingo would spread to other European countries like France, Germany, and the UK. By the early 1900s, this game made its way to the US and was being played at American carnivals. This is where the eeriest aspect of bingo’s history begins.
The game was so popular that Lowe couldn’t even get a seat to try it himself. But he picked up the basic rules and began working on his own version when he got back to New York.
He invited friends over to try beano and noticed that they responded well to the game. One friend was so excited that she jumped up and shouted “bingo” on accident when she won.
Considering that bingo is a term for a surprise realization, Lowe felt that it made for a better name than beano. Lowe was eventually approached by a Pennsylvania priest who was looking to raise money and get his church out of financial troubles.
The priest bought lots of bingo sets and had success in raising money for his church. The only problem was that each game was producing too many sets of winners.
Bingo would experience rapid success after saving the priest’s church in Wilkes-Barre. But Leffler, sadly, was driven insane by all of the cards that he helped create.
3 – Roulette Numbers Add Up to the Devil’s Number
Francois and Louis Blanc got an early start in the gambling industry, working at casinos in both Marseilles and Luxembourg. These stops gave them the knowledge to open their own casino in Bad Homburg, Germany in the 1840s.
Located near Frankfurt, the Bad Homburg casino experienced some success. But business didn’t truly take off until the Blancs developed a new style of roulette that only featured a single zero pocket.
Given that Bad Homburg was the first place to offer a European-style wheel, the local casino was able to compete with bigger establishments in Paris.
The Blancs’ casino became so popular, in fact, that it helped bring revenue to many different Bad Homburg businesses. This fact led to Francois being nicknamed “The Magician of Homburg.”
It also attracted negative publicity, though, when people started rumors that the Blanc brothers made a pact with the devil. Fuel was added to these rumors when people considered how the European roulette wheel’s numbers add up to 666 — the Number of the Beast.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that you can make the same case for the American wheel, because the two zero pockets don’t count when adding all of the numbers. This devilish detail didn’t stop Monte Carlo from accepting the Blancs with open arms when they decided to move their operation.
The rest is history, because the Blancs helped lay the foundation for Monte Carlo being a popular gambling destination today.
4 – Craps Dice Used to Be Animal Bones
Perhaps you’ve heard craps dice referred to as “bones.” Some gamblers, including myself, previously, think that this nickname comes from how dice are sometimes white and feel hard like bones.
But the true origin of the nickname comes from the fact that Craps dice used to be made out of sheep knuckles. These animal knuckle bones were sanded down to create smoother sides.
Craps players are quite possibly the most superstitious group of gamblers. They hold a number of superstitious beliefs that they truly believe makes the difference between winning and losing.
For starters, players are staunchly against the number seven. People at the table are supposed to avoid even saying the word.
The dice are made so that adjacent sides don’t add up to seven. For example:
- 1 is opposite 6.
- 2 is opposite 4.
- 3 is opposite 5.
Gamblers also believe that it’s bad luck to change dice in the middle of a hot roll. Furthermore, nobody is supposed to touch the shooter when they’re having a successful round.
Another superstition is that new female shooters supposedly bring good luck, while new male shooters bring bad fortune. This belief is why some players avoid betting when the new male (a.k.a. virgin) makes their first roll.
5 – Poker Could Be Deadly in the Wild West
Poker got its start on Mississippi riverboats. But most of the game’s earliest legends come from the Wild West. The Wild West (a.k.a. Old West) is known as a period between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the twentieth century.
This era is characterized by people settling lands between Texas and California. It’s also symbolized by lawlessness, considering that these territories didn’t have legal frameworks and established governments like eastern states.
Towns like Deadwood, Dodge City, and Tombstone featured thriving poker scenes. The game was so popular that it was common to see outlaws and peacekeepers playing together at the same table.
Due to the Wild West’s dangerous nature, many players sat with their backs to the wall so that they could keep an eye on their enemies. The same was true of Wild Bill, who was known as one of the deadliest gunmen in the Wild West. But on August 2, 1876, Hickok was unable to find such a seat during a game at Deadwood’s Nuttal & Mann’s saloon.
This situation proved fatal, as John “Jack” McCall shot him in the back of the head. McCall later admitted that he shot Wild Bill over an insult from the previous morning.
Western settlements and mining towns eventually grew tired of violence and immorality. Most Wild West settlements either banned gambling or taxed it heavily and used the revenue to build their communities.
While Old West dynamics died out in the 20th century, the danger involved with underground poker games has never subsided. 10-time WSOP champion Doyle Brunson used to travel to poker games throughout rural Texas in the 1950s. Brunson said that he was robbed several times during these games.
Luckily, players have much safer outlets to enjoy poker today. They can play at online poker sites or in land-based casinos.
Should you let the eerie and sometimes deadly history of these five casino games keep you from playing? I say no, because all of these games have evolved and become something entirely different from the early origins.
Baccarat was once used to decide whether a blonde virgin should be sacrificed or become a priestess. And what’s sad is that the young lady had higher odds of dying than living.
Today, baccarat is the world’s most popular table game, and it gives players one of the best chances of beating the casino (1.06% house edge).
Carl Leffler, the mathematician behind developing modern bingo cards, went insane after coming up with 6,000 different number groups. But thanks to him, bingo is now a more-randomized game with fewer duplicate cards.
Roulette is sometimes believed to be the devil’s game thanks to the numbers adding up to 666. This represents the Number of the Beast, which may allude to Roman emperor Nero Caesar.
Of course, beating roulette doesn’t mean that you’re making any pact with the devil or a despised Roman ruler. Instead, you’re merely getting lucky and beating the house edge.
They say that the world is safer today than ever. And the progression of these five casino games— which are now free of sacrifices, Wild West gunfights, and number-induced insanity — backs up this assertion.
That said, feel free to play any of these games regardless of their murky pasts.