The Origins of 6 Casino Favorites

Planning a trip to Vegas in the near future? Never forget that in the long run, the house always wins. But knowing the history of some of your favorite casino games may help soften the blow the next time you're losing your shirt. If you're going to be forking over your money to a casino, you might as well have a few good talking points.

1. Roulette

Roulette, which takes its name from the French for "small wheel," traces its roots back to 18th-century France, and there are a number of interesting tales about its supposed invention. One of the most frequently repeated legends is that mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal invented the game at some point during the 17th century, possibly while searching for a perpetual motion machine. While it's a great story—as are similar narratives about French monks importing the game from China—it probably isn't true.

In fact, no one's quite sure who invented roulette. Encyclopedia Britannica notes that the first record of a similar game called "roulette" dates back to Bordeaux in 1716. The game, which is probably a synthesis of previously existing games called hoca and portique, took a while to evolve, but by the 1790s the familiar roulette wheel layout was in widespread use.

Roulette's popularity in the United States and Europe exploded during the 19th century, but it wasn't so widely practiced in its homeland. From 1836 to 1933 roulette, along with several other forms of gambling, was banned in France.

2. Craps

The next time you toss the dice, remember the traditional game called hazard. Hazard dates all the way back to the 13th century and probably has Arabic origins; the game made its way to Europe following the Crusades.

Craps is a simplified version of hazard that supposedly grew rapidly in popularity after Creole aristocrat Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville introduced it to slaves in Louisiana during the early 19th century. Players shot dice against each other throughout the 19th century, but the casino version we now play didn't burst onto the scene until around 1910. That's when John H. Winn, a bookie and dice maker, invented "bank craps," which is what casinos now offer.

What are the origins of the odd name "craps," though? In the parent game hazard, a roll of two or three is generally referred to as "crabs." When the simplified game came to North America through French-speaking Creoles, they corrupted the word "crabs" into "craps."

3. Keno

Think the senior citizens you usually see playing this bingo-like game are old? They don't have anything on the game itself. Keno traces its roots back to Chinese villages over 2000 years ago. Chinese people played a lottery-like game called "baige piao," which translates into "white pigeon ticket" and operated like modern keno games. As early as the 3rd century B.C. many Chinese towns had an officially sanctioned baige piao game.

When thousands of Chinese immigrants made their way to the United States during the 1840s, they brought the game with them. Although the immigrants first played the game among themselves, it soon caught on with the general population under the name "Chinese lottery," which later gave way to "keno," a slant on the French word quine for "group of five."

Keno made its casino debut in Reno in 1933, but with an interesting twist. At the time, Nevada outlawed lotteries, so players' cards couldn't include numbers. Instead, players bet on the names of racehorses, which were then drawn. In 1951, Nevada law changed, and the familiar numbered cards came into fashion.

4. Blackjack

Blackjack is another game with murky origins. Some historians give the Spanish credit for inventing the game and note that one of the earliest written records of a similar card game comes from Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes around 1601. Others point to the 17th-century French card game vingt et un as the closest forerunner to modern blackjack. Either way, by the 19th century, gamblers in Europe and the U.S. had embraced the task of getting cards that added up to 21, and the game's popularity soared.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the name "blackjack" is just as mysterious as the origins of the actual game. The word "blackjack" goes back to at least 1591, when it was used to refer to a tar-covered jug of beer. By 1889 it had become synonymous with the small club weapon, and only in 1910 did it start referring to the card game. Some sources claim that the name comes from a stipulation in some casinos that getting a blackjack with the ace of spades and a black jack triggered a special bonus payout.

5. Slot Machines

Something like the coin-spewing one-armed bandits that can suck down your quarters so quickly has been around since 1888. Earlier in that decade, similar mechanized gambling devices had started to pop up in American bars, but instead of paying out coins, they usually just earned patrons a free drink or two from the barkeep.

The slot machine didn't really take off until around 1894, when San Francisco mechanic Charles Fey, a German immigrant, built a slot machine of his own. He talked a local saloon owner into putting the machine on his bar, and it made so much money that Fey soon quit his job to open a slot machine factory. In 1898 he introduced the Card Bell, the first three-reel slot machine with automated payouts like modern slots have.

Within 15 years, Fey had placed over 3000 slot machines around San Francisco, but in 1909 the city of San Francisco banned his wares as an amoral menace. At that point it didn't matter, though, as Fey's creations had caught on around the country; he simply shipped his machines out of state.

6. Poker

Records of games like poker exist as far back as 1526, when Europeans played a game called primero or primiera with three-card hands that were ranked like modern poker hands. The bluffing-and-betting variation we now play dates back to around 1700 in England, which later morphed into a French came called "poque." When the French brought the game to Louisiana in the early 19th century, Americans corrupted the name in "poker," and the game caught on.

Texas hold "˜em, the popular variation often played in competitive tournament formats, has cloudy origins, but the Texas State Legislature officially recognizes the small city of Robstown, Texas, as the birthplaces of Texas hold "˜em at some point during the early 20th century. Hold "˜em began to catch on in Las Vegas during the 1960s and really took off when the World Series of Poker gained popularity.

Everything You Need to Know About Record Store Day

The unlikely resurgence of vinyl as an alternative to digital music formats is made up of more than just a small subculture of purists. Today, more than 1400 independent record stores deal in both vintage and current releases. Those store owners and community supporters created Record Store Day in 2007 as a way of celebrating the grassroots movement that’s allowed a once-dying medium to thrive.

To commemorate this year’s Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, a number of stores (a searchable list can be found here) will be offering promotional items, live music, signings, and more. While events vary widely by store, a number of artists will be issuing exclusive LPs that will be distributed around the country.

For Grateful Dead fans, a live recording of a February 27, 1969 show at Fillmore West in San Francisco will be released and limited to 6700 copies; Arcade Fire’s 2003 EP album will see a vinyl release for the first time, limited to 3000 copies; "Roxanne," the Police single celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will see a 7-inch single release with the original jacket art.

The day also promises to be a big one for David Bowie fans. A special white vinyl version of 1977’s Bowie Now will be on shelves, along with Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78), a previously-unreleased, three-record set. Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Neil Young, and dozens of other artists will also be contributing releases.

No store is likely to carry everything you might want, so before making the stop, it might be best to call ahead and then plan on getting there early. If you’re one of the unlucky vinyl supporters without a brick and mortar store nearby, you can check out, which will be selling the special releases online.

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The Little Known Airport Bookstore Program That Can Get You Half of What You Spend on Books Back

Inflight entertainment is a necessary evil, but the price can quickly add up without the proper planning. Between Wi-Fi access and TV/movie packages, you can run into all kinds of annoying additional charges that will only increase the longer your flight is. Thankfully, there is one way to minimize the cost of your inflight entertainment that’s a dream for any reader.

Paradies Lagardère, which runs more than 850 stores in 98 airports across the U.S. and Canada, has an attractive Read and Return program for all the books they sell. All you have to do is purchase a title, read it, and return it to a Paradies Lagardère-owned shop within six months and you'll get half your money back. This turns a $28 hardcover into a $14 one. Books in good condition are re-sold for half the price by the company, while books with more wear and tear are donated to charity.

If you haven’t heard of Paradies Lagardère, don’t worry—you’ve probably been in one of their stores. They’re the company behind a range of retail spots in airports, including licensed ventures like The New York Times Bookstore and CNBC News, and more local shops exclusive to the city you're flying out of. They also run restaurants, travel essentials stores, and specialty shops. 

Not every Paradies Lagardère store sells books, though, and the company doesn’t operate out of every airport, so you’ll need to do a little research before just buying a book the next time you fly. Luckily, the company does have an online map that shows every airport it operates out of and which stores are there.

There is one real catch to remember: You must keep the original receipt of the book if you want to return it and get your money back. If you're the forgetful type, just follow PureWow’s advice and use the receipt as a bookmark and you’ll be golden.

For frequent flyers who plan ahead, this program can ensure that your inflight entertainment will never break the bank.


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