History of Casino Table Games
Gambling games have been around for centuries, and many of them have long been forgotten or are not very popular in modern casinos. However, the history of casino table games in the USA is much more fascinating; such games as blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and craps have been in high demand for hundreds of years. They have withstood the test of time and are the backbone of any gambling site today, so let’s learn where these games stemmed from and where gambling originated.
Table Games Explained
Table games participants sit at tables with marked boxes, sectors, or fields on which they can place their chips. The croupier or dealer conducts the game: they accept bets, draw cards, announce results, and so on.
Any table game has a particular house edge; this criterion works in the long run and is responsible for the casino’s profit.
You make bets on specific outcomes; if you win, you get a prize according to the payout table.
The exact house edge value depends on a specific casino game; the game version and selected bet also matter.
The History of Casino Table Games
Archaeologists’ finds of game boards and different parts confirm that gambling has been around for centuries. The oldest known table games were dedicated to racing.
Their point was to be the first to move chips to the end of the lane.
The finds, ancient documents, and mentions of this game date back to the 31st century BC; such racing games used dice to determine results.
In general, the table games story begins with racing games; they appeared almost 5,000 years ago and existed as far back as Persia. In 2006, during excavations in the so-called burnt city of Shahr-e Sukhteh, archaeologists found parts of the game sets that were used around 3000 BC. The finds consisted of several elements:
- A board made of ebony.
- Playing fields drawn in the form of snake rings.
- Two dice.
- 60 playing chips.
The specific game rules remain unknown, but the fact that the object is made of ebony, found on the Indian subcontinent, suggests its larger scale than previously thought.
Before archaeologists found table games in Persia, the oldest game sets were supposed to be objects found in Ur, but in fact, they appeared 100 or 200 years after the Persian ones. In ancient Mesopotamia, the royal game of Ur was popular among all social strata; it was also dedicated to racing. Two Babylonian tablets have been found with wedge-shaped descriptions of the game’s rules. The most recent dates back to 177 BC, while the other was already several centuries old.
Ancient Egyptians played another racing game called Senet. Parts of the board were found in the First Dynasty burials in 3100 BC, but it is not yet possible to determine whether this is exactly a Senet fragment.
Archaeologists also found Senet in neighboring Cyprus, the Levant, and other places. The game appeared there, most likely, due to trade relations with Egypt.
The first images that clearly indicate its existence come from the Third Dynasty, around 2686-2613 BC. Similar pictures of people playing Senet were found in the tomb of Rashepses and other tombs, while the oldest boards date to the period of the Middle Kingdom.
The history of table games in casinos is truly rich, and one of the oldest games is Tabula. It is described in an epigram written by the Byzantine emperor, Senon, and dates from about 476-491 AD. The board was divided into 24 numbered rectangles: 12 on each side; participants used three cubic dice with numbers from 1 to 6 to play. Each player had 15 chips, and the goal was to transfer them to the other side and remove them from the board.
Tabula is the predecessor of modern backgammon; the main difference is the number of dice used: backgammon has 2, but Tabula has 3. The ancient game didn’t have a doubling dice or a vertical bar in the middle. By the way, the name Tabula is still used in Greece to mark table games.
In ancient Rome, the Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum game was popular; this can be translated as the Game of Twelve Lines. It had no middle row, and only the two outer rows were used. In fact, it was a forerunner of the Tabula of Zeno’s time.
The game uses three rows of 12 rectangles, 15 chips moved in opposite directions and three cubic dice. The earliest mention of the Game of Twelve Lines is in the poem The Art of Love by Ovid, written between 1 and 8 AD.
Middle & Far East
In the epic poem Shahnameh, the Persian poet Ferdowsi mentions that backgammon was invented in the 6th century by the doctor Borzuya. It tells how he met Indian rajas and learned about chess from them; in return, he demonstrated backgammon.
The dice were made of teak and ivory.
Backgammon was also popular in China, where it was called Shuanglu, but after a while, they were supplanted by Chinese chess.
Backgammon also has a predecessor called Persian Nardshir. Their invention is associated with the rule of the Sassanid dynasty founder, Ardashir I (224-241 AD).
In Japan, backgammon was called Ban Sugoroku; this game appeared in the 6th century and came to Japan from China. You can find its mention in the famous Tale of Genji work. By the way, this game of chance was banned and declared illegitimate many times.
In the Edo period a new table game Cho-han was invented, and in the 13th century, Go, originally played only by aristocrats, became widespread. A similar gambling game called Ssangryuk was also available in Korea.
The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first use of the word “tabula” concerning table games on the European continent to 700 AD. A set of Gloucester tabula was discovered on the grounds of Gloucester Castle in 1983. This game seems to have marked a transitional phase between the Roman square dots and triangular ones common in the 13th century.
The concept of table gambling in France first appeared in the 11th century. However, in 1254, Louis IX issued a decree forbidding gambling among court officials and subjects.
In the 12th century, table games reached Germany, and in the 13th century, they became widespread in Iceland. In Spain, the manuscript Libro de Jos Juegos, published by Alfonso X in 1283, describes the rules of dice and other table games.
The Most Ancient Casino Table Games
Many ancient games have changed over the centuries and spread to new territories. These include Quinze Tablas, Doce Hermanos, Fallas (Drop Dead), Catch-Dolt, Queens Game Ura, and many others. Today they no longer exist and are the ancestors of modern table games available at casinos; the oldest of these are considered to be:
- Dice that date back approximately 6000-400 BC by various estimates.
- Baccarat that appeared in the 14th century.
- Roulette that was invented in the 17th century.
- Blackjack that appeared in the 17th century.
Later came slot machines: their prototypes began to be developed in the 19th century. The history of keno appearance is also quite interesting.
There is a legend that the appearance of this game coincided with the construction of the Great Wall of China.
This information is not confirmed but also not denied. It is possible that keno came to the European continent in the 19th century through Chinese immigrants.
The History of Popular Casino Table Games
Customers of modern gambling sites can choose from hundreds of different table game versions. However, remember that they are all based on games invented centuries ago; let’s take a closer look at the history of casino table games for USA players.
Blackjack is believed to be the very first card game to appear at casinos; it first appeared in France in the 17th century. French settlers brought the game to the United States of America in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t widespread until the 20th century. There were many versions of this card game on the European continent, such as French Chemin de Fer or Spanish One and Thirty; they all influenced the rules of modern blackjack.
This is another old table game that originated, like the previous one, in France in the 18th century and migrated to America in the early 1800s. In French, the game’s name translates as “little wheel”. Roulette quickly gained popularity because of the game’s simple rules and many available bets with different payout ratios.
In modern online casinos, the most popular are the French and European roulette versions, with 37 sectors, among which is one zero. The USA has its own kind of roulette with 38 sectors; the additional sector is double zero.
You can bet on a specific number, their range, even or odd, small or large numbers, and red or black. The payout is yours if the ball lands on the sector you bet on.
This game is not as popular as roulette or blackjack but appeared before them; dating back to the 15th century, it was invented in Italy. In Italian, the word “baccarat” means “zero”; this word was chosen as the name because all tens and cards with pictures give 0 points.
A few centuries ago, baccarat was widespread among French aristocrats, but hundreds of years later, it became popular in other European countries as well. To win, you have to guess the side that will collect a combination of two or three cards with a total score of 9 or as close to 9 as possible. In baccarat, you can bet on the banker winning, the player winning, or a draw.
Dice games existed as far back as the days of ancient Rome, so it is the oldest table game offered in casinos, but it gained popularity only in the 1900s. Craps is one of the fascinating casino games in which many players worry about the same dice roll result.