[toc]Lots of people love to gamble, whether it’s home games of poker for penny stakes with their grandfather or gathering a group of friends to hit up the roulette tables at their local casino. It follows, then, that plenty of the rich and famous among us share our passion.
You never know; after all, these famous historical figures enjoyed a wager or two…
3. René Descartes
Who is he?
He thought, therefore he was. Anyone who has even been within five miles of a Philosophy 101 class knows that he is the “Father of Modern Philosophy.”
Descartes and gambling
René Descartes (1596-1650) was a respected scientist and philosopher from France.
In fact, some might call him the respected philosopher. He came up with the famous statement “I think, therefore I am” that the vast majority of people know to this day.
Much of today’s philosophical thinking and teaching, at least in the western world, is a response to the writing of Descartes with his 1641 book, Meditations on First Philosophy, remaining required reading in many colleges.
So given that success, it’s quite remarkable that Descartes didn’t actually want to be a philosopher or scientist. After attending law school and spending two years in the military, his plan was to become a professional gambler.
That career didn’t work out, but “The Father of Modern Philosophy” continued to gamble throughout his remaining years, as described by his biographer Adrien Baillet.
2. Fyodor Dostoevsky
Who is he?
“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart,” wrote Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky in his acclaimed 19th century novel Crime and Punishment.
Dostoevsky and gambling
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) is arguably one of Russia’s, and the world’s, most influential writers. Ernest Hemingway and Anton Chekhov cite him as influences, and Crime and Punishment is still thought of by many to be one of the greatest novels ever written.
Sadly, Dostoevsky’s gambling life was not as glamorous and high-stakes as that of Descartes. Dostoevsky developed a gambling addiction during his travels through Europe; in fact, there is a legend that he wrote the last parts of Crime and Punishment in under a week to secure an advance from his publisher and pay off a gambling debt.
However, despite the financial hardships he suffered (sometimes having to literally beg for money), he is now one of the most successful authors of all time; his books have been translated into over 170 languages and he remains a towering figure in literary history.
1. “Wild” Bill Hickok
Who is he?
“Wild” Bill and gambling
Of all the people on this list, Hickok is the only person to have a poker hand named after him, which puts him squarely in the number one spot despite his historical influence being somewhat less than the Father of Modern Philosophy or a great novelist!
Hickok headed west from Illinois at 18, working as a driver and lawman in frontier territories. He fought for the Union Army during the US Civil War and quickly made a name of himself. He supposedly took part in (and won) many famous duels, and is one of the more celebrated names in the Old West.
He was killed while playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota, by a disgruntled gambler named Jack McCall. Hickok always insisted on a seat with his back to the wall when playing, but apparently this game was too good to pass up and he broke that rule.
It cost him his life when he was shot in the back mid-hand, holding two pair, aces and eights, which is now called “the dead man’s hand” thanks to him.