Gambling and casinos have been around for a long time. Like, a really long time. So it stands to reason that there are many historical figures that have a distinct link to games of chance. In some cases it may come as a surprise, since God forbid that a person of historical stature sat down and enjoyed a game of cards from time to time, while in other cases it is all but expected that a particular personality likely played a bit of poker. Either way, here are 3 historical figures that found entertainment in gambling.
1. Wild Bill Hickok
Wild Bill is one of the most well known figures in American history, famed for being a person who stood as a pillar of justice in an otherwise lawless land. He had a reputation for being a man of honour, a man who could be counted on, and for acting as a protective shield for the defenceless. Yes, it all sounds a bit over the top and perhaps leaning into romantic territory, but what was the Wild West if not a place where exaggerated legends were born?
Wild Bill may or may not have really been the one infallible man in the old west, but one thing everyone knows for sure is that he was all but obsessed with poker.
Yes, the Wild West was also a place where people played a lot of poker, more than likely in a dusty, foul smelling saloon where people said stuff like “Howdy, pilgrim.” And Wild Bill was no exception. It is said that the man played poker regularly, and would challenge a person to a knife fight if they were caught cheating. Thank goodness people are not allowed to bring knives to online poker games.
Sadly, Wild Bill was shot during a game of poker, and died with a potentially winning hand to boot. This is why two aces and a pair of eights are known as the “dead man’s hand.” Both interesting and morbid at the same time.
2. Casanova de Seingalt
The word Casanova brings to mind images of a man who knows how to woo a lady. But, interestingly enough, the real Casanova should be remembered for things way beyond simply being a ladies man. He was said to be one of the most influential people of France and Europe in the 1800s, famous for his writing, for being an outstanding lawyer, and also famous for rubbing shoulders with the nobles of the time. Prince Charles de Ligne is quoted as saying that “there is nothing in the world of which he is not capable,” about Casanova, which should put into perspective how the man was perceived.
So where does the gambling angle come in? Casanova set out to become a professional gambler at the age of 21, but failed.
He had the skill and mathematical ability, but gave up on the quest after he confessed he could not quit the game while he was ahead. He himself said that he lacked the self-control to; “leave off when fortune was adverse, nor sufficient control over myself when I had won.” At the very least we can all agree that Casanova was at least honest about his own short fallings in the ways of gambling. Either way, Casanova gave up on being a gambler and started doing some writing. Probably for the best, else we would not have had one of the greatest writers in history.
3. John Montague
John Montague is perhaps not as well known as the other two men on this list, but arguably gave one of the longest lasting, and most important gifts, to the world. The sandwich. Montague lived in England in the 1700s, and played a key role in both the political and military scene. He may not have had the best reputation overall, but many argue that these rumours were spread by his political enemies. He also happened to be an avid gambler, who played on a regular basis. So how, we hear you ask, did this man go about creating the sandwich? This is clearly a very important moment in history we should all be aware of.
Well, when John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, played cards, he was very paranoid about getting his playing cards dirty. So, when having a meal while playing cards, he would ask his servants to put greasy meat between two slices of bead, so as to avoid getting the playing cards greasy. His card playing guests at the table were so impressed by the idea that they started asking for their food in the same way. And yes, the little habit soon spread across the entire world, giving us the much loved sandwich of modern times. Just think about it; if one man hadn’t been obsessed about keeping his playing cards clean, we may not be putting cheese, lettuce, and other food items, between slices of bread. That is a pretty interesting thought indeed.