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From Books to Blackjack: How gambling appeals to literature lovers

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Gambling has been around for centuries. Writers throughout history have been so interested in the charm of the chance to win big, and have used their pens and imaginations to craft pieces that have influenced poetry and literature in many ways.

Many writers have looked into the unpredictability of gambling and realized that it is just a game of cards that explains how life works. Writers incorporating this reality of life as a gamble into their work just makes literature beautiful.

History of Gambling in Literature

Gambling is not a novel concept. It passes as one of the oldest activities of humankind and has been woven into every sector of entertainment for centuries now. From Bible times, there has been gambling, with the “casting of lots” to determine an outcome. The popular flipping of the coin is not something new, just like rolling the dice.

The well-known concept of sports betting has always been around, too, with people betting on their favourite racehorses in those times. Different writers of literature have incorporated gambling into the themes of their books. This has made more book lovers familiar with the concept.

Gambling and Poetry

Poetry, a mind-engaging work of literature, is as old as literature itself. Many poets have come and gone, but the art remains, and their work is still remembered to this day. Many poets have written poems that either have direct or subtle cues about gambling. In this section, some of these poets and their works have been curated for you.

  • David Lehman: An American poet and nonfiction writer, David Lehman is known for his poem, The Morning Line, which shows gambling as an integral part of human nature, as life in itself is a gamble.
  • Rudyard Kipling: In his most famous poem, If, this poet referred to gambling, too. In his words…

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss…”

  • Homer: The works of this Greek poet feature the playing of dice and other luck-dependent games. He is recognized as the author of the Odyssey and the Iliad.
  • Charles Baudelaire: His poem on decadence, Le Jeu, talks about women who squander their hard-earned money gambling.

Gambling and Fiction

Like in poetry, many fiction writers have made allusions to gambling. Whether it be plays, screenwriting or prose, lots of fictitious stories have been written about gambling or maybe about other things while making mention of gambling. Some notable fiction that either made mention of or made allusion to gambling include:

  • All’s Well That Ends Well: This is a play written by William Shakespeare in 1602. Many critics have acclaimed it as one of his best works. Act II of this play is based solely on gambling, with one of the acts making mention of himself as a gambler.
  • The Great Gatsby: This all-time classic by F. Scott Fitzgerald is set in the twenties, where the protagonist, Jay Gatsby, makes risky investments. This novel shows readers the allure of sports betting.
  • The Hustler: Walter Tevis’s novel is about scam artists and pool betting. Readers get to see the emotional and mental involvement in high-stakes pools and even in betting generally.

Other Notable Literary Works on Gambling

Literary art has been associated with gambling for as long as it has existed. Lots of writers and poets have attributed the source of their inspiration to gambling. Here are some of the most well-known works and their authors:

Literary Work Author
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock T.S Elliot
The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway
The Gambler Fyodor Dostoevsky

Roles of Gambling in Literature

As seen up until now in this article, gambling and literature have been quite interwoven. Gambling has significantly influenced the literary works of great artists over the years. Let’s discuss some of these roles:

A Source of Inspiration

Gambling has proven to be a source of inspiration to many writers throughout history. The unpredictable nature of gambling has made these writers craft stories from carefully woven words to depict the facts of life, one of which is unpredictability. Life is a game of chance, just as gambling at the no deposit casino is. These writers can craft stories to depict just that.

An Emblem of Luck and Risk

Gambling is a game of risk and luck, and literature has often portrayed it so. Characters who gamble are seen to be risk-takers who are willing to see where their decisions lead as they take chances. Excessive gamblers have been portrayed as unwise people who lose all they have.


Gambling has portrayed itself to be a subject worth learning about. Literature has made it easy for book lovers to learn about it, as writers craft beautiful stories on it out of their inspiration. While readers don’t necessarily become gamblers, they can take cues from the works of these brilliant minds on how to live, as life is a gamble.

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