Gambling is a global pastime and as such comes with its own vast library of myths, legends, facts and loads of fiction. We’ve delved into these stories to bring you twelve gambling and casino facts that sound stranger than fiction.
✓Blackjack Saved FedEx from Going Under
The 70s were a tough time for a struggling freight and delivery company named Federal Express. Failing to secure the $24,000 he needed to pay the company’s outstanding fuel bill Fred Smith, FedEx founder, gambled the last $5000 in the company account and won. After a successful run of luck playing blackjack Smith turned his $5000 bankroll into $27,000 saving the company.
Today FedEx has an annual turnover of more than $60 billion, making it one of the biggest paydays in gambling history.
✓Card Counting is Actually Legal
Despite Hollywood’s portrayal of card counting as a dubious practise the reality is that it is nothing more than an intelligence-based method for keeping track of cards. Where the confusion comes into play is that casinos will do whatever they can to maintain the house edge, especially where low margin games like blackjack are concerned, and as such remove card counters from the casino. They do so by invoking their “right of admission reserved” clause, not by citing any law or legal precedent.
✓The Playing Card Roots of Slot Machines
It is not only FedEx which has a deck of cards to thank for its existence, so does the slot machine, video slot and fruit machine industry. Prior to 1890 gambling consisted primarily of dice and card-based games. Looking to spice things up a mechanic built a drum wheel and populated it with paying cards. Winning lines on this first slot machine was based on winning poker hands. The stronger the hand the higher the prize the bar would offer which included sweets, free drinks and even cigars.
✓Early Las Vegas Supported Feminism
The 1920s was a powerful time for women in America, not only would they receive the right to vote but a woman would lead the charge in legalised casino ownership. The Northern Club was opened on September 5, 1920, by Mayme Stocker. Her venue offered patrons refreshments and access to the only casino games that were legal at the time, these being stud, draw and lowball poker.
When Las Vegas officially began offering gambling licenses in 1931 her standing in the community saw Stocker receive the first one.
✓Las Vegas Does Not Rule the Gambling World
While Las Vegas dominates popular culture and media as the epicentre of gambling the real king of the hill lies more than seven thousand miles to the East. Macau is the worlds largest gambling centre and generates more than three times the amount of revenue annually that Las Vegas does. Vegas generates annual Gross Gaming Revenues (GGR) in excess of $6 billion while Macau’s GGR can exceed $28 billion.
✓Pachinko Rolls Around Japanese Gambling Laws
Japanese residents are avid gamblers however access to local land-based casinos is strictly regulated. Gambling fans are only allowed to visit a licensed casino once a week and must pay a hefty entrance fee for the privilege. However, Pachinko machines are legal as patrons purchase trays of silver balls to play with but cannot win cash from the machines, only more silver balls which can be traded in for a variety of items or prizes.
On an interesting but totally unrelated note, there are always curio shops not far from the Pachinko parlours willing to buy these trinkets from lucky players for cash. What a fortunate coincidence.
✓The Great Wall of Keno
While modern gambling companies are seen to donate large sums of money to local charities, programs to support the prevention of problem gambling and other honourable causes, however, this is far from being something new. Keno was invented in China during the 2nd century BC and soon became a favoured game with nobles and peasants alike. So much so that when the Great Wall of China was being built the Emperor used taxes on Keno as a way to supplement the project.
✓The Rise and Fall of Archie Karas
While it is true that what goes up must come down the story of Greek gambler Archie Karas is one of the dangers of chasing wins and losses while gambling. The 1950s saw Karas go on what has become known simply as The Run, a gambling streak that saw him turn $50 into more than $40 million in less than three years. Unfortunately, his streak of luck turned sour and Karas lost it all in less than three weeks. The moral of the story is to know when to cash in your chips and enjoy your success.
✓Playing the Long Game
We have all heard the tales of how skilled poker players can face off against one another over extended periods of time, however, the truth, in this case, will sound stranger than fiction. The longest recorded poker game in history was played in Arizona and began in 1881 when all was said and done more than $10 million had changed hands over a period of nearly eight and a half years!
✓A Million Dollar Lotto Lesson
NN ran the story of Glenda Blackwell, who protested her husband's ongoing fascination with the lottery by buying a ticket of her own. Intended to be a lesson in the pointlessness of playing the lottery Glenda had to eat her words when her $10 Carolina Millions Scratchcard paid out a staggering $1 million! If ever there was a lesson worth learning this was one of them.
✓Craps Hall of Fame
When it comes to gamblers who have defied the odds and carved out a niche for themselves in the gambling hall of fame nothing compares to tales told at the Las Vegas Desert Inn of an anonymous sailor from the 50s. As the legend goes this lone sailor made 27 consecutive winning passes while playing Craps, the odds of this astounding feat are 12,467,890 to 1. In honour of his amazing streak, the dice are on display in a glass case at the Desert Inn till today.
✓Gambling on the Go
The term ‘gambling on the go’ is most often associated with mobile gambling today given the burgeoning mobile casino market, however, it is a label that perfectly fits the world’s smallest casino. Birmingham’s Grosvenor Casino unveiled their smallest gambling location in 2016, a converted local taxicab. The casino-cab features a gambling table, its own dealer, a bar, television screens for sporting events and access to online casino games.
What is your favourite tall tale or unbelievable gambling fact? Create a free GamblersPick account today and share your stranger than fiction factoids in the comments section below.
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