About casino games
Mankind has always loved a bit of a flutter. Dice and – one assumes – dice games have been around for nearly four and half thousand years. Allegedly, two thousand years ago King Olaf of Sweden won control of the district of Hising in a dice game by rolling double six twice in a row.
Casinos themselves have been around since the early 1800s. Gambling houses originated in France and Italy but they really took off when the French helped colonise New Orleans in the fledgling United States. Casinos on paddle steamers became popular and both casinos and casino games travelled up the Mississippi towards the central states. They eventually found homes in Las Vegas and Atlantic City to add to other world-wide gambling hubs such as Monte Carlo and Macau.
In the late 1990s casinos found another home, this time on the internet. Since then, hundreds and hundreds of casinos have appeared online to offer all manner of casino games from roulette to red dog, and from craps to casino poker.
A history of casino games
The most popular casino table game, blackjack was known as ’21’ from its invention in France in the 1600s. It was renamed ‘blackjack’ as early US casinos would offer a bonus if you were dealt an ace and a black jack. The aim of the game is to beat the dealer without scoring more than twenty-one points. With perfect strategy, the house edge in blackjack is between 0.65 and 0.17 percent, depending upon the rules that are in play.
The game of roulette very definitely originated in France – indeed ‘roulette’ is French for ‘little wheel’. In roulette a tiny ball is sent hurtling around a roulette wheel with 37 (the European version) or 38 (the American version) numbered pockets. You can bet on which pocket the ball will eventually land up in. There are many kinds of bets you can make, and the house edge is 2.6 (European) or 5.2 percent (American).
Amazingly, the first slot machine was introduced in 1891 in New York. The slot had five drums containing ten playing cards each. The aim was to obtain as best a poker hand as you could. The machine had no automated payout system – you had to alert the bartender if you were a winner! Since then slots have advanced spectacularly in terms of sophistication, and online slots have blessed the humble slot machine with a whole new dimension. The house edge on a slot can be anything from 2 to 8 percent.
Another card game, baccarat is a very basic pastime that’s popular with high rollers and in Asian casinos. The aim of the game is bet on one of two hands – the ‘player’ or the ‘banker’ – and if you bet on the winning hand then you’re a winner yourself. The victorious hand is the one with a ‘units’ total closest to nine. Baccarat was invented in Italy in the 1400s and evolved as it made its way through France and then the USA. The house edge on the banker bet is 1.06 percent, and 1.24 on the player bet.
Probably the most recent entry into the casino games realm, video poker was ‘invented’ by Si Redd, a gaming expert at Bally who used the success of video poker to create his own company Sircoma, which eventually became IGT. Video poker is one player draw poker where you need to land at least a pair of jacks to gain a winning hand. Depending on the factors of a particular version of video poker, the house edge can be anything from between 1.1 and 0.46 percent.
Craps is the casino world’s most popular dice game, just beating the Asian favourite of Sic bo into second place. Craps is all about the experience as much as it is about the gameplay, as the players themselves throw the dice down the table in the hope of starting and maintaining a winning streak. Craps is a distinctly American game, even though it originated in England as ‘hazard’. There are lots of bets in craps, each with a different house edge. The main bet – ‘pass line’ – has a house edge of 1.41 percent.
There are a number of different versions of casino poker – a game in which you play ‘heads-up’ style against the dealer. All the different games have different rules, but mainly they are based on Texas Hold’em poker. Some popular casino poker variants include Caribbean Stud Poker (house edge 5.22 percent), Heads-up Hold’em (2.36 percent), Pai Gow Poker (1.46 percent) and Three Card Poker (3.37 percent).
If you like to play the lottery, then keno is the game for you. Keno is to Asia as craps is to the USA. It’s thought that keno was invented in China and goes back many hundreds of years. It spread to the US when railroad firms hired cheap Chinese labour and the workers brought keno with them. In the game you pick up to twenty numbers on a keno ticket, and then twenty numbers are drawn from a keno machine. The more you get right, the more cash you win. Keno has a house edge of between 4 and 35 percent, depending upon how many numbers you choose.
These games then are the main diversions you’ll find in casinos, both online and real world. Other games you might come across include Casino War, Red Dog, Wild Viking and Let it Ride, plus online scratch cards, arcade games and even single player versions of bingo. Whatever takes your fluttering fancy, you’re bound to find a casino pastime to satisfy any wagering whims you might have. Just remember to play responsibly, and to have fun!