Games of chance hold an honored place in probability theory, because of their conceptual clarity and because of their fundamental influence on the early development of the subject. In this article, we explore some of the most common and basic games of chance. Roulette, craps, and Keno are casino games. The Monty Hall problem is based on a TV game show, and has become famous because of the controversy that it generated. Lotteries are now basic ways that governments and other institutions raise money. In the last four sections on the game of red and black, we study various types of gambling strategies, a study which leads to some deep and fascinating mathematics.
The birth of Poker has been convincingly dated to the first or second decade of the 19th century. It appeared in former French territory centred on New Orleans which was ceded to the infant United States by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Its cradle was the gambling saloon in general and, in particular, those famous or notorious floating saloons, the Mississippi steamers, which began to ply their trade from about 1811.
The earliest contemporary reference to Poker occurs in J. Hildreth’s Dragoon Campaigns to the Rocky Mountains, published in 1836; but two slightly later publications independently show it to have been well in use by 1829. Between about 1830 and 1845 Poker was increasingly played with all 52 cards, enabling more than four to participate and giving rise to the flush as an additional combination. The end of this phase saw the introduction of the draw, already familiar from contemporary Brag. This increased the excitement of the game by adding a second betting interval and enabling poor hands to be significantly improved, especially the worthless but potentially promising fourflush.
The introduction of Poker into English society is often credited, if only on his own claim, to General Schenck, the American ambassador to Britain. ‘Tragamonedas the Rat Pack’ quotes a letter from Schenck to General Young of Cincinnati describing a weekend retreat to the Somerset country home of a certain ‘Lady W.’ in the summer of 1872, when he was prevailed upon by the other guests to teach them this peculiarly American game. As part of the exercise he drew up a written guide for them. Some of his pupils subsequently had these rules printed in booklet form, much to Schenck’s surprise when he received a copy upon his return home.
According to recent research, there are nearly 1,500 gambling facilities in the United States alone, and the number is constantly growing.
By Victoria Evans
Victoria Evans is an amateur writer and researcher; looking for the best worldcup tickets at the moment.