NK - Period gambling

Jennifer Carlson JCarlson at firstchurchtulsa.org
Wed Apr 21 14:56:18 PDT 1999

Her Excellency asked what kind of gambling was done in period.

Dice, playing cards, backgammon, tennis matches, bowls, and horse racing 
all provided venues for gambling.  One would assume, and I'm sure someone 
can come up with documentation, that "making book" is an ancient 
profession.  I'm not sure if bagatelle is period, but it was popular in 
gambling salons in following centuries.  It also seems plausible that 
gentlemen might put a bit down "just to make it interesting" on chess, 
draughts (checkers), and which knight would unhorse which. Of course, the 
early form of the tournament, with defeated knights losing their horse and 
armor, is a form of gambling - they betted their equipment that they could 
best someone else.  Does anyone know when the first national lottery was 

Heironymous Bosch (d. 1516) did a painting of a man running a shell game.
George de La Tour (late 16th, early 17th c) painted at least 3 canvases on 
the theme of card sharks taking in a naive young nobleman.
The queens Mary Tudor and Elizabeth of England were both fond of card games 
(whist is the period precursor of bridge)..  Their father, Henry VIII, an 
adept tennis player, had in his keeping a French duke (a prisoner of war), 
of whom the Great Harry is supposed to have said "between the tennis court 
and the card table, he practically paid his ransom."

Sounds like a fun topic to do some reading on.

Backgammon, anyone?

More information about the Northkeep mailing list