Game and gamble has followed the humanity since its first steps. A grain of gamble is evident almost in everything, starting from hunting in the primitive society and up to major financial deals in the 21st century. Elements of game are inherent to many competitions and entertainments, which our forefathers arranged. For example, it is evident in competitions in strength and deftness, which were later transformed into famous tournaments. Later on the first gambling games appeared. They were based on the element of chance, trying one?s destiny.
The historians believe that the very first game was casting various stones, shells, animals' bones ? these objects were the prototypes of the dice. Documental evidence of the first games is stored in the British Museum. Among this evidence are dice, made by an unknown Egyptian craftsman from the elephant?s tusk (16th century B.C.) and a board for playing draughts, also called checkers which belonged to the queen Hatchepsut (1600 B.C.).
Historical evidence attests that all ancient civilizations played dice. Astragalus,i.e. fetlocks of the animals, were mostly used as dice. The word "astragalus" also referred to tetrahedral bricks with indentations, which more resembled modern dice - hexahedral bricks with somewhat rounded corners, in which the opposite facets, when added up, always amount to seven.
In the old days the people played odd and even, cast dice in the circle or threw them, trying to hit certain openings. Dice were also widely used for fortune-telling. It is also interesting that the players treated dice with nearly reverent trepidation, as if the dice were alive: the players talked to them, whispered charms and tried to persuade them to bring victory.
Since their emergence dice almost at once became one of the most venturesome gambling games. The players placed everything in their bet: money, things, dwelling and even freedom (ancient Germans who lost in dice humbly became slaves). At the same time there appeared various lawful bans on this seemingly harmless game. For instance, in the 3rd century B.C. the first known in history law against gambling games was adopted. It was called Lex aleatoria (alea means a die).
In Ancient Greece there was a legend that the Olympic gods divided the "spheres of influence" by casting lots (Zeus got the Olympus, Poseidon received the ocean, and Hades came to rule the underworld). The laws of Ancient Rome formally forbade gambling games, but there was no specific punishment for violation of the ban. The only "penalty" for the players was the right of the defeated player to reclaim everything he lost, if he though that he was wrongly or unfairly defeated. Officially the games were allowed only once a year, during the Saturnalia (annual festivities in honour of the god Saturn).
Throughout the years the significance of the game increased. There appeared new game contrivances, for example cards. Some researchers argue that the first playing-cards appeared in China. In the Chinese dictionary, Ching-tsze-tung (1678), mentions that cards were created in 1120 (according to the Christian chronology), and in 1132 they were already widely used. Cards at those times were long and narrow plates with numbers from 1 to 14 on them. Four suits symbolized four seasons, and the number of cards (52) corresponded to the number of weeks in the year.
The prototype of the modern deck of cards is the Tarot cards. The first documentary witness that we know of refers to 1254, when Saint Louis issued an edict that forbade card game within France under the fear of punishment with a whip.
Other researchers call Egypt the homeland of cards. The Tarot deck was used for fortune-telling. It had 78 sheets - arkana (22 seniors and 56 juniors). The pictures on the senior arkans correspond to golden tables, which are preserved in the dungeon of the god Tote in Egypt. Their names are as follows: 1. Fool; 2. Magician; 3. Priestess; 4. Hostess; 5. Host; 6. High priest; 7. Lovers; 8. Chariot; 9. Power; 10. Hermit; 11. The wheel of fortune; 12. Justice; 13. The hanged man; 14. Death; 15. Abstinence; 16. Devil; 17. Tower; 18. Star; 19. Moon; 20. Sun; 21. Court; 22. Peace.
It is considered that cards reached Europe in the 10-11th century, during the crusades to the Near East. Other argue that the majority of card games were born in France, which is called the homeland of European cards. The first factory-made deck of Tarot cards included 56 cards of four suits (swords, wands, money and cups). Besides there were 22 trump-cards with numbers from 1 to 21. Every card had a name of its own: the emperor, the empress, the nun, the conjurer, the fool etc. Thus, the deck incorporated 97 cards. Gradually it was substituted by new cards, which more closely resembled the modern ones.
It is surprising that the symbols of suits and the suits themselves did not change since 15th century. In the Middle Ages card games were very popular among various strata of population, ranging from a king's court to the common people. By the way, in those times cards were not only a means to beguile the time, but also a symbol of the society structure: hearts embodied the priests, diamonds meant the bourgeoisie, spades represented officers and aristocracy, clubs referred to the peasants.
Modern card games (poker, blackjack) arose in the U.S. in the second half of the 19th century. It is difficult to name them all. There are card games for adults and children, games for training logic and wit - and there are games just to beguile the time. The more mature is the individual, the more complex are the games he plays. Having become financially independent, he lets loose his gamble: makes bets, plays in the lotteries, makes bets on the totalizator and finally funds himself in the very temple of game, the casino. Here the individual totally submits to the game, which sharpens his feelings and emotions and makes him forget everything, but the green cloth and roulette wheel. The thirst for such feelings lures again and again those people, who have at least once been in the casino. Meanwhile, the skeptics say: "If you want to win in the casino, buy one of those".Also See: Gambling Games, Card Games, Those Times, Tarot Cards, Games, Game, Dice