6 December 2023

Famous historical faces who were massive gamblers

The world of gambling is now bigger, better and more exciting than ever. With hundreds of virtual slot, blackjack, roulette and poker variants now widely available and designed using the latest gaming technology, it’s little surprise millions of us have an online casino account.

But gambling is nothing new. In fact, it’s a pastime almost as old as civilisation itself. And though you may assume that the gamblers of the past were probably just plucky outlaws, money-hungry criminals and desperate chancers, the truth is that some of history’s most notorious high-rollers were renowned poets, incredible mathematicians and even members of English royalty.

Check out this list of some of the most famous gamblers of all time to find out more. . .

1)   Charles II

Whilst he’s now best remembered as the man who restored the English monarchy and brought Britain back to glory, Charles II was well known in his day as a risk-taking gambler. Nicknamed the ‘Merry King’, he enjoyed playing the fashionable card games of the 17th century against distinguished lords and ladies. And gambling wasn’t just limited to upper classes during his reign – it was one of most popular social activities across the entire country.

2)   Gerolamo Cardano

Not only was he an astrologer, physician and one of the most influential mathematicians of the Renaissance, but Gerolamo Cardano was also a famous gambler. This celebrated thinker applied probability calculus to games of chance and even wrote a lengthy book on the subject, titled Liber de ludoaleae.

3)   Charles Bukowski

Whilst gambling may seem a million miles from the world of literary art, Charles Bukowski, the celebrated German-American poet and novelist, loved nothing more than a flutter on the horses. He often credited the racetrack for his development as a writer, saying: ‘the racetrack tells me quickly where I am weak and where I am strong, and it tells me how I feel that day and it tells me how much we keep changing’. Right up until his death in 1994, gambling inspired much of his writing. He even penned a poetry collection composed entirely of racing-themed works.

4)      Giacomo Casanova

He was an Italian author and adventurer, but Casanova is probably best remembered for his wild and elaborate affairs with the fairer sex; his name has become synonymous with ‘womanizer’. However, this romantic didn’t just get tied up with the ladies, he also had a complicated affair with gambling. His memoirs are filled with tales of lotteries, faro, basset, piquet and many other forms of gambling popular during the 18th century. And when luck wasn’t on his side, Casanova was known to act out violently, often calling for a duel against his opponent.

5)      John Montagu

John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, was a Cambridge graduate and British statesman of the 18th century, whose passion for gambling is said to have led to the invention of a lunch-time staple. Rumour has it that Lord Sandwich would spend so long at the card table, he’d have no time for meals. Instead, he would call for his servants to bring him slices of meat held beneath two slices of bread. His fellow gamblers around the table soon picked up the habit, beginning to order ‘the same as Sandwich’ – and thus the sandwich was born.

6)   Claude Monet

Claude Monet was the founder of French impressionist painting. But like many other artists, he was burdened with financial troubles – that was until he got lucky and won 100,000 francs in the French Lottery. The windfall allowed the fortunate gambler to freely pursue his passion for art.


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