Language Options:

Gambling: Cards and Dice

The gaming in 1624 could even be seen among the churchmen, so that a Virginia congregation deemed it appropriate to enact the statue, saying that ministers will not give themselves to anything excessive in drinking and yet spend their time idle, day or night, engaging in playing cards, dice, or any game that is deemed unlawful.

Aside from lotteries and horse racing, colonists continuously gambled with cards and dice. The first Dutch settlers in New York gambled on lansquenet, a card game that requires to use a deck of 73 cards.

Card games and dice were very much accepted at local bars, as is seen in the comment of a New Jersey grand jury saying, 'attendants, and the decrease of your town and country gathered and congregated together for the much secure gratification of the several fashionable, and without your Honor's comment, legal diversions of cards, dice, cursing, drinking, swearing and the whole series of debaucheries' incident to such shameful places..'

Undergraduates from Harvard University also played cards so comprehensively that representatives found it necessary to fine the players five shillings - the most high-priced of the collegiate vices.

In 1661, Plymouth Colony legitimated that attendants and minors caught gambling with card games would be 'whipped in public.'

Thomas Jefferson, while benevolently proclaiming that 'dishonest gaming robs our disposition and enlightens us a habit of antagonism against all mankind,' always gambled at cards. While creating the Declaration of Independence in June 1776, he wrote in his personal log the games in which he kept track of his winnings and losings.

On the other hand, Benjamin Franklin used his printing company to produce playing cards that were marketed at post offices all over Pennsylvania. Henry Clay was a popular Poker gambler and at one point, won $40,000 pot from a northern industrialist.

Another notorious gambler was Andrew Jackson, who early in his gambling career staked his horse and won, on a dice roll.

Cards and dice' popularity in post-revolutionary America stimulated the commercialization of these games. Businessmen opened saloons, halls, and parlors for gamblers - places to indulge in dice throwing and card playing.

This advancement made it possible for accomplished players to earn a living from their gambling spree, and a new occupation rose - the professional gambler.

New games, namely craps, faro, roulette, and three-card Monte were carried, games that could be easily controlled to give the operators with an unfair advantage.

Rigged faro boxes, bent roulette wheels, marking cards and dealing from the deck's bottom skyrocketed the profits of immoral gambling operators.


Other Related Links