7 Famous Historical Figures That Were Gamblers – Everything You Didn’t Know About Them 2023

Check out a history book and you’ll be graced with many famous faces. From great discoverers to those that changed the course of human civilization, they all deserve respect. However, just because these people were busy doing great things, it doesn’t mean they didn’t have time to enjoy themselves.

These are 7 famous faces from history that also enjoyed a bit of gambling.

1. George Washington


You won’t get far in a history book without finding some reference to George Washington. As the first president of the United States, he played a big role in shaping the world. But did you know that Washington was also big into gambling? He and his good friend Thomas Jefferson were gambling buddies, in fact, demonstrating just how big the influence of games of chance has been.

What’s more is that Washington is known to have bred his own race horses. Who knew that the first president of the USA liked to bet on the ponies? Well, he did, even if it isn’t something you often read about in the history books.

2. Marie Antoinette


Marie Antoinette doesn’t have the best reputation, notoriously known for her lavish lifestyle. But she certainly knew how to have a good time. It is well known that the queen of France threw enormous parties, many involving some or other form of gambling.

Though, sadly her spending sprees and love for gambling are also what lead to her eventual downfall. The people of France at the time barely had enough money to feed themselves, never mind throw luxurious parties. So, as most know, the queen eventually landed up being removed from her position of power. Her head was also removed from her shoulders, as was customary at the time.

3. René Descartes


Who is Descartes? If you’ve ever heard the famous phrase ‘I think, therefore I am,’ you’ve at least heard of the contributions Descartes made to philosophy. But the so-called Father Of Modern philosophy didn’t just enjoy discussing the mysteries of the universe; he also happened to be a professional gambler.

Of course back in the 1500s Descartes didn’t have the luxury of jumping online and checking out Grand Rush casino. He had to travel between gambling halls in France, finding games of chance where he could. The constant traveling didn’t dissuade him though, as Descartes is known to have obsessively tried to hone his gambling skills for years.

He did, however, eventually give up gambling later in life, deciding to dedicate all his attention to philosophy.

4. King Charles II


King Charles II, ruler of Scotland, England and Ireland, is also widely known as the Merrie Monarch. Along with enjoying a peaceful rule Charles is known to have been tall, charming, and intelligent, marking him as amongst the most fondly remembered kings in history.

However, Charles’s early years were rather difficult. His father was killed during a civil war, forcing him to flee abroad with nothing but his name. He thus spent his twenties begging favours from various European kings, some of which offered him at least a roof over his head.

However, after eventually returning to London Charles took up position as the rightful heir. From there he enjoyed an impressively luxurious and jubilant life, with most of his rule spent in peaceful celebration.

Charles also took up gambling later in life. Most interesting is that he is known to have treated gambling very seriously, spending a great deal of time working out strategies and contemplating tactics. It is said that he got so good at gambling that he often impressed visiting monarchs by taking their money in friendly games of chance. Though, he was also as generous as he was good at gambling. So, even if he took the money of visiting guests, he generally gave it right back to them by means of gifts and parties.

5. Wild Bill Hickok


Of all the names on this list it is perhaps Wild Bill Hickok that is most commonly known to have been a gambler. A Poker hand is even named after him, referred to as the Dead Man’s Hand. What that hand is exactly differs depending on who you ask, but it is most commonly known as a pair of black aces and pair of black eights.

As far as Wild Bill himself is concerned, his real name was actually James Butler Hickok. He was also alternatively known as Duck Bill, but most history books prefer Wild Bill for obvious reasons. Either way, James Hickok was a Civil War veteran turned lawman, widely known for his fierce attitude and incredible accuracy with a pistol. Yes, James Hickok was also passionate about Poker, playing religiously at a number of saloons.

Sadly, in 1876 James Hickok was shot and killed doing what he loved; playing Poker. The hand he had at the time of his death? Dead Man’s Hand, of course.

6. Claude Monet


It isn’t widely known, but French impressionist painter Claude Monet owes his success almost entirely to his love of gambling. As a young man, Monet wasn’t sure about committing himself to his art, given that he was sceptical about being able to make a decent living. But then fate stepped in and made the decision for him.

Monet won the French lottery, landing up with $15,000 in his pocket. $15,000 was an enormous sum in 1890, so much so that Monet decided to commit all his time to painting. The effort paid off, and today, the Frenchman is widely seen as amongst the most influential artists of all time. Who knew that his success story all started with a lucky win in the French lottery?

7. Fyodor Dostoevsky


Last is renowned Russian philosopher and novelist Dostoevsky. It isn’t that surprising that Dostoevsky loved gambling, especially given that he wrote the novel The Gambler. He is widely known to have based the book on actual experiences, which pretty much says it all.

While The Gambler is a fairly dark book, primarily focusing on the dangers of games of chance, Dostoevsky is known to have loved hitting up the local casinos well into his senior years.

Written by Philip Goguen

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