GAMES AND GAMING
The first practical guide for gamblers was written more than 400 years ago by an Italian doctor and mathematician named Geronimo Cardano (1501-76) in his Book of Games and Chance.
Cardano worked out the laws of chance governing games of cards and dice, and explained in his book the most profitable strategies to adopt at each stage of the games. Cardano’s calculation still hold good. For example, he worked out correctly the likehood of throwing any particular number with one, two or three dice.
THE CINCINNATI KILL
The United States World series baseball championship in 1919- between the champions, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Chicago White Sox- left a riddle which has still not been solved. Was the game fixed?
Though Cincinnati won comfortably, so did a New York gambler called Arnold Rothein, who made a $ 350’000 killing on the game. When it became known that Rothstein had handed over a total of $ 100,000 to ten Chicago players before the game, there was uproar.
Rothstein was arrested and charged with conspiracy over what became known as the Black Sox scandal. But the court could not decide whether he had bribed the players or merely lent them the money. As what happened to his winnings – and what happened to his $ 100,000 ‘investment’ in the losing team has never been revealed.
WINNER WHO LOST
A winner bet on a 15th – century sporting contest cost a Mexican Indian chief his life. The story of the contest- involving a ball game called tlachtli, which was played rather like the modern sport of volleyball- is told a chronicle written by an Indian historian named Ixtilxochitl
According to the account Aztec emperor Axayacatl (1469-81) led a team of players against the ruler of the neighboring city of Xochimilco. Axayacatl bet the marketplace of his capital Tenochtitlan (on the site of present- day Mexico City) against one of the ruler’s gardens- and lost.
But Axayacatl was a poor loser. The next day, his soldiers arrived at the palace of Xochimilco, ostensibly to salute the victor. In fact, the chronicle records, ‘while they saluted him and made him presents they threw a garland of flowers about his neck with a thong hidden in it, and so killed him’
THE MAN WHO BROKE THE BANK
Charles de Ville Wells, the gambler whose exploits were celebrated in the song. The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo, emptied the Monaco casino’s cash reserves not once, but six times over three days, during an extraordinary run of luck in July 1891. Playing roulette and using a version of the Martingale system, in which the gambler doubles his stake every times he loses a bet, the 50-years- old London businessman turned his 400 pounds into 40,000 pounds. Later that year, he won another 10,000 pounds at the same casino.
Wells was later jailed, however, for false pretences over his English business ventures and lost his fortune and his reputation. He dies penniless in 1926.
During the 1920s the Dolly sisters, Jennie and Rose, two Hungarian- born American cabaret artistes, had two unlimited credit at the fashionable Deauville and Le Touquet casinos in France. The reason; Jennie was being courted by Gorden’s Selfridge- the wealthy owners of one of London’s largest department stores. Selfridge bought a sizable interest in both casinos so that the twin sisters could gamble his money away- and he could collect most of it again through the casino’s taking.
DEAD MAN’S HAND
A poker hand consisting of the two black aces, the two black eights and the Queen of the Hearts is known to professional poker players as a ‘Dead Man’s Hand’. The hand got its name after the murder of the US frontier marshal and gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok (1837-76). Hickok was holding the five cards when he was shot in the back during a poker game at Deadwood, South Dakota, in August 1876.
He was the last of four players to be seated and it was the only time that he had been known to sit with his back to adoor. He asked his fellow gamblers to change places with him, but they refused to do so in case this spoilt their luck. Hickok’s killer was an old enemy of his named Jack McCall, who the previous day had lost $ 500 playing poker to Wild Bill.