From ancient China to modern day casinos, gambling has always exerted an irresistible attraction on mankind. Even on their skin…

The origins of gambling are lost in the mists of time seeing as how chance and foretelling the divine, that is what is as yet unknown, have always gone hand in hand. The Chinese, for example, were gambling with dice as far back as 5000 years ago, while in Egypt, around 4000 B.C., they played “Senet”, a sort of checkers, to decide the fate of the soul once it had reached the afterlife. This tradition, with some inevitable variations, then spread throughout India and Japan.

Carlos Rojas, Black Anchor Collective, Hesperia, USA
Carlos Rojas, Black Anchor Collective, Hesperia, USA

The ancient Greeks were mad about gambling and dice are quite a frequent subject in the paintings on their vases whereas the Romans banned the game in the street (supposedly on grounds of public order!) while gambling was allowed by legal means. It was permitted solely and exclusively on holidays to celebrate the goddess of Fortune and hundreds, thousands of sesterces (ancient Roman coins) were lost betting on the outcome of chariot races or on which gladiator would make it out of the Colosseum unharmed.

Mike Devries, MD Tattoo Studio, Northrige, USA
Mike Devries, MD Tattoo Studio, Northrige, USA

Gambling prospered during the Middle Ages to such an extent that around the 8th-9th century, the Papal State took two opposing positions on the subject. For some popes betting money on something unpredictable was simply a “diabolical vice and an incurable evil. Others, more pragmatically, saw it as a source of income which was in any case impossible to wipe out.

The latter approach was that promoted in 1720 by Cardinal Giovanni Tolomei on the orders of Pope Clement XI. Obscurantism came back into force under Pius VII (who was pope from 1800 to 1823) for whom gambling was simply a “forbidden game capable of inflicting untold damage on society”. But even he was powerless to eradicate this social phenomenon.

Igor Pedi Pesic, BL Tattoo, Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Igor Pedi Pesic, BL Tattoo, Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Between the end of the 19th and early 20th century, the first international casinos were set up where, over the years, people could play (and at times bet dizzing amounts of money) at passtimes like roulette, blackjack, chemin de fer, slot machines and baccarat.

All the games in the real Casinos (just like the stakes in the betting shops) are structured in so that the bank always wins on the basis of the law of large numbers.

Victor Policheri, Edo Times Tattoo, Gothenburg, Sweden
Victor Policheri, Edo Times Tattoo, Gothenburg, Sweden

A law we can sum up like this: the longer a player stays at the table, the more money he will lose on average.

Perhaps blackjack is the only game where there can be a kind of strategy based on mathematics, while no other forms of gambling (based on an unpredictable course of events) can be manipulated in any way whatsoever. Not even by a professional cheat. Right?

The best of luck browsing through our gallery dedicated to tattoos inspired by gambling!