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Gambling/General : Why the Casino remains with us

By Andrea Klein

Level: May 28th 2007

"An individual plays only when he is human in the full sense of the word, and he can be wholly human only when he is playing.” (Friedrich Schiller)

It is well known that in 49 B.C., the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, having won brilliant victories over barbarians, wasn’t satisfied only with these. His dream was to make the Eternal “the center of the power”. He didn’t want to listen the advices of the senators to return to Italy. His response is still reverberating nowadays “Alea jacta est” (“The die has been cast.”). So, together with his troops, Caesar crossed the border river Rubicon. This action provoked almost unstoppable civil wars in Rome.

Today, everybody knows the famous words said by Caesar, but their original meaning is almost lost. As it was proved, the Ruler Caesar actually cast the dice. It seems he was so passionate about gambling that he truly believed in the mystical power of the dice to predict the future.

Even if gambling is a flourishing industry nowadays, it is still perceived as a negative fact. Similarly, in the ancient times the word “player” was assumed as a swearword and also all the things related to gambling were not accepted.

But, the people from the old time were conscious that nothing can stop the thirst for gambling. The Greeks, very famous for their mythology, invented a myth about a goddess of the fate Tyche (also known as Fortune) who gave birth to Zeus’ daughter. The girl was talented in creating various dangerous and exciting forms of distraction that determined people to lose a lot of money, cheat, scuffle and commit suicides.

Tyche loved her daughter and thus she entered in her “games”. She even gave her a beautiful house, where the little goddess attracted the most naïve players to make them feel miserable in the end. Surprisingly, there are more than two thousand years since then and the stories about Tyche are still told, but people hardly throw an ear to them. The only thing that remained unchanged is the human need for gambling.

The desire was stimulated along the centuries due to the development of special establishments for gambling activities. Usually, people were playing with each other or against the owner. We know these establishments as “casinos” since the 16th century.

Gambling sites attracted people from everywhere and from all social strata. Maybe there are a few which know that celebrities like chancellor Bismarck, composers Berlioz and Brahms, the writer Dostoevsky, the poet Mayakovsky and the automobile king Citroen were passionate about gambling. They had diverse occupations, but they were all fascinated by gambling.

Some of them even used tricks of fortune in order to attract winnings. Moreover, some celebrities were known as lucky and they used to win a lot. Citroen is one of those lucky players. He was merely playing high stakes in order to impress other rich men. Journalists made famous his habit to wear a green cloth at the gaming table or at the office as he believed green is a lucky color.

Also, there are others which followed the fortune myths and lost almost everything. Mayakovsky was such an unlucky player. He was thrilled by billiards and roulette. But he was playing well only at the billiard table while at the roulette table achieved huge debts.

Gambling venues were also surrounded by legends. The most memorable is the story of a Frenchman monsieur Blanchard who won twice at the “Casino Monte-Carlo”. First time he entered the casino, his hat was stained by a dove and he believed this brings luck.

He was right because he won a few thousand that night. But we can also say that this was the beginners luck. Anyway, he continued to believe in his “luck” and he entered for the second time in a casino, only after a dove spoiled his hat. And it seems it was again a lucky event. He won a larger pot. After that the fortune disappeared, but it didn’t counted as long as all fanatic gamblers believed the bird marks as a sign of luck.

For sure all these strange habits of the gamblers didn’t escaped them of losing, but they certainly made the winnings more delightful. So, maybe it’s good to keep some of the tricks of fortune just to give the game the allure of sophistication and mystery.

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