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Taking a look back through history, there have been a number of hardcore gamblers who made a name for themselves and surprisingly, were highly educated in the spheres of politics, science, literature, and art, as well as having important positions in society. People have always gambled for a variety of different reasons, whether it’s to make a quick buck, or as a form of social entertainment, and today it’s as popular as ever, probably more so with online gaming factoring into the equation. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the interesting stories of the famous ‘respectable’ gamblers of times gone by.
The French gambling greats
It’s a known fact that in France dating back as far as the 1500’s, noblemen and even women indulged in some heavy gambling. In fact, some of the oldest games and gambling rooms are in France and date back many hundreds of years. Some noteworthy French men were involved in developing many famous casino games for the nobility. In the 17th Century Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician invented the roulette wheel, which later became the iconic roulette game, and the Parimutuel betting system dates back to 1870 and also hails from this part of the world.
The court of Queen Marie Antoinette was quite a den of iniquity and gambling was the order of the day. She loved to spend heavily on gambling, fashion and anything precious or luxurious that caught her eye. This was to the detriment of her wretched subjects who were starving and poor. It’s no wonder it was ultimately “off with her head!”
Another notorious French gambler was a renaissance writer and statesman by the name of Michael de Montaigne. During the later part of the 1500’s he rose to fame as the creator of modern skepticism and wrote many essays on the subject. He was, however, also an avid gambler in French society.
The French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist Rene Descartes decided to make his career in gambling after graduating in law. Descartes is famous for the quote “I think, therefore I am” and has been called the father of modern philosophy and science. His gambling career didn’t last long however he continued to gamble avidly for pleasure for the rest of his life.
The Brits were no slouch
Have you ever heard of the Earl of Sandwich? Well believe it or not this well-educated gentleman from the English aristocracy would spend so much time playing card games that he would order his staff to make him two pieces of bread with meat in between when he got hungry. From that time on the humble sandwich became his namesake… an amazing true story! Although Montague was a not so well-liked English politician of his time, it was his gambling and the common sandwich that is his main claim to fame.
Another Englishman whose gambling antics earned him quite a reputation is John Aspnall. He famously bought a 9-acre zoo with many exotic animals with winnings from his gambling and casinos. The most amazing thing about John Aspinall was that he created a new philosophy about animals and how they should be treated with respect. He was forced to sell off his possessions in times of financial difficulty so he could buy food for his beloved animals. Although his gambling antics earned him a dubious reputation, his love and care of animals turned him into a reputable pillar of the community.
Charles II was known as the merry king due mainly to his love of gambling, in fact, he even wrote a book about the card games he played as well as the strategic plans he had to restore the monarchy in England. He made games of chance popular at court which even spread throughout North America where the indigenous people had some of their own games of chance to share.
North American gamblers of note
Wild Bill Hickok was as the name suggests wild but on the other hand quite honorable too. He rose to legendary status as a man of law and a war hero, indeed he was a protector of the less fortunate, and fought for the justice of others. Another interesting side to Bill was his obsession with gambling, especially poker. He was known to react quite aggressively to those he suspected of cheating him, by drawing his gun and threatening them. Sadly he himself was shot in the back of the head whilst in the middle of a poker game. When he fell he revealed he was holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights which famously became called the ‘Dead Man’s Hand.’
Wyatt Earp was another notorious Yankee, who was around in the times of the wild west. He had many claims to fame as a hunter, businessman, owning several saloons and brothels, and of course a legendary gambler. You may have heard of the famous gunfight, the O.K. Corral, which he took part in and ensured his name in history. In his pursuit of making quick money, he developed a lifelong passion for gambling.
In addition to the colorful characters above, there were many, many more gamblers of prestige throughout history. Jerome Cardan was an Italian Renaissance mathematician, physician, and gambler, Casanova, who was not only popular with the ladies but an educated and distinguished member of society. Fyodor Dostoevsky, who wrote “The Gambler” novel about his own personal gambling experiences. He explored the psychology behind his addiction and used the income from his books to pay off his heavy gambling debts. And finally, we all know the fantastically talented and successful French artist Claude Monet… he used gambling shrewdly in order to pay for his painting pursuits, which was his real passion. He was once known to have won the equivalent of about $13,000 which allowed him to quit his day job and focus on his painting full time.