Playing games is a big part of the human happiness puzzle, and games of chance seem to be part of our makeup. Dice and game pieces found in prehistoric cave dwellings indicate that our early ancestors had a knack for gambling. These ancestors discovered the thrill of guessing the outcomes of seemingly random events like tossing dice or sticks. In fact, large caches of these artifacts have turned up in North America, indicating that gambling was an important aspect of early American civilizations.
Some of today’s most popular games are quite a bit older than you might guess. Poker, for instance, dates back to the 16th century. Poker probably got its start in Spain as “primero,” a game in which players hold a three-card hand and bet on high and low cards. Primero eventually became “poque” in France and migrated to the U.S. with French immigrants. Blackjack and roulette also arrived on the continent with the French.
Craps is perhaps the oldest of the modern casino games. The dice game was being played by English noblemen as long ago as 1125 under the name “hazard.” When the French picked it up 500 years later, they called it “crabs.” One of the few casino games that didn’t come to America via France is the slot machine. Slot machines were invented in the U.S. in the late 1800s and developed something resembling their modern form around the turn of the 19th century. Check out this infographic for more fun facts about the history of your favorite casino games.