Archive for January, 2018

The History of Gambling in the Old Wild West

In common culture like films, the Wild West is renowned for a place of whiskey, gambling and gun-slinging cowboys. However it wasn’t all about drink and guns in the old west. Gambling was a huge pastime and especially when the frontier towns opened up.

The boom years for gambling were 1850-1900. Many cowboys were looking for ways to make money or let their hair down from long cattle drives.

Prostitution was rife but gambling was one of the most popular activities in many Wild West towns. It was the California gold rush of 1849 which many historians believe sparked the interest in gambling in the Wild West frontier towns.

The Birth of Professional Poker Players

The game of poker in all of its various guises originated during this period. Cowboys, cattle herders, women and even frontier Indians were keen to gamble. The shrewdest of the gamblers could make very good money once they learned the skills of the card games. Five card stud and Five card draw were the two most popular forms of poker at the time. This led to many a vicious contest as many players were drunk at the tables due to the fact that the games were often played in saloons and bars.

Many players were physically harmed during poker games and either shot, punched or stabbed. In fact the famous cowboy “Wild Bill” Hickok (real name was James Hickok) was killed whilst playing poker. He had many jobs and positions from lawman to gunfighter to soldier and then professional gambler. The story goes that Hickok was playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood. A drunk by the name of Jack McCall sat in the game and proceeded to lose heavily.

Clearly losing due to the efficiency of Hickok as a poker player, McCall didn’t see it that way. The next day he entered the saloon and shot Hickok in the back of the head killing him instantly. After two trials, McCall was hung the following year in 1877.

Saloon Gambling

Gambling in the old Wild West wasn’t all about playing poker, far from it. In fact poker was one of the least popular games at that time due mainly to its slow pace of play.

Saloon owners were rapidly jumping on the gambling craze and opening mini-gaming tables inside their establishments. So games like Roulette and Faro became popular as these saloons were basically Wild West “casinos” but unlicensed.

Saloon gambling was very popular but the lack of laws and rules meant that gamblers were often at risk from crooked operators. Many gaming practitioners opened their own businesses inside saloons and paid the saloon owners a percentage of the take.

However the proprietors did little or no background checks on these shady dealers who were often fleecing their customers with poor house rules and blatant cheating. Regulation was non-existent but most people were either drunk or too merry to care as long as they were having a great time.

Riverboat Gambling

It is impossible to mention the old Wild West and gambling culture without mentioning Riverboat Gambling. This is the true romantic side of gambling during this period. The Mississippi steamboats were another place where card sharps, cheats and professional gamblers took aim. Anybody that could afford such a trip was already targeted as someone with wealth and affluence and this was a big reason why card sharps and hustlers targeted them.

Many people were often bored aboard steam ships and so gambling and drinking amongst the affluent was just as popular as it was in the frontier towns. Once again there was very little regulation and many people were either killed, injured or committed suicide between 1830-1900 due to gambling on Riverboats. All in all then, the Wild West was an extremely “colourful” time for gambling and was the very bedrock for modern gambling that we know and love so much today.

There will be no such Wild West antics at the online casino at Sun Bets but there are many chances to win, so why not give it a go today.

 


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