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Card and Sports Betting Throughout History

15 Jun

Ever since the invention of uncertainty, someone has been willing to place money on the outcome.

Games of chance provide a perfect setting for wagers. There are more than 40 types of dice games, where gamblers can bet money on what number they think will be rolled next. Card games, undoubtedly the most prolific form of gambling, offer a multitude of ways to make or lose money through wagering on the outcome of each player’s hand. Games like blackjack depend on holding a certain total value, based on the value of the cards in your hand. Others, like the poker family (five card stud, seven card draw, Texas Holdem) award the winnings to the person who can form the best hand with the cards that they are given. Table games like backgammon rely on moves on the board controlled by objects of chance; usually dice or a marble. Backgammon is the modern descendant of a game that dates back to 3,000 B.C.E.

In America, early colonists enjoyed not only wagering on amusement games, but also gambled on boxing matches, putting money on the man they thought could beat the other. Animal competitions of strength also attracted wagers. Activities like dog racing, cock fighting, and horse racing became popular both with aristocracy and lower classes. With the 19th and 20th centuries, the advent of sports like baseball, basketball, and football, sports betting skyrocketed to the forefront of the gambling world. Sports is one of the more lucrative betting arenas. An estimated $63 billion a year is lost and won betting on sporting events.

The same tenant that existed thousands of years ago still rings true today: If there are two possible outcomes, people will choose the one that they think will come out ahead, put money on it, and cross their fingers.