For almost as long as humans have existed, there has been evidence of gambling in some form. Thousands of years ago the Ancient Romans rolled dice made from bone while in China the game of Keno was just being invented; the popular modern game of Backgammon was first played in Persia over 3,000 years ago. Here is a little bit of gambling history.

According to supercasinosites nowadays the world’s best, richest and most notorious gamblers are mostly online Poker players. Their success requires hard work and dedication but, with a few exceptions, they spend their evening playing Poker at, rather than in seedy gambling dens.

But it wasn’t always this way. Gambling’s history is littered with larger than life characters who played epic matches and took on the house; often in an age where casinos were illegal and the law’s protection non existent. Here we take a look at some of the most famous:

Wild Bill Hickok

“Wild Bill” will be a familiar character to fans of Deadwood, but the real Wild West legend was just as accomplished. Having made his name as a war hero, scout and lawman, Hickok ended up in the infamous mining town of Deadwood, Dakota.

Hickok was obsessed with Draw Poker and would play with almost all his free time in the saloons of Deadwood. If he suspected an opponent was cheating, his signature move was to slowly draw a knife and pistol, lay them on the table and challenge his opponent to take the pot.

In 1876, while playing at Nuttal & Mans Saloon, Hickok was unable to take his customary seat facing the door. Unfortunately this allowed a small time deadbeat named Jack McCall to shoot the lawman in the head, killing him instantly. Hickok’s final hand; a 2 pair of Aces and eights, has entered gambling folklore as “Dead Man’s Hand”.

Amarillo Slim

Amarillo Slim (1928-2012) was a Texan who epitomised the big talking, big playing larger than life stereotype. With his 10 gallon hat and thick accent, he represented a dying world of the hustler – a man who would take any bet, if he thought there was profit in it.

Slim won the 1972 World Series of Poker (WSOP) but is more famous for his outrageous proposition bets. He once challenged a table tennis champion to a game, if he could choose the paddles. His opponent, a professional player, accepted and Slim appeared at the match with 2 frying pans he’d been practicing with for months. He later repeated this trick on a Taiwanese champion, but appeared with glass cola bottles instead! Slim won both matches and wrote a chapter of gambling history in the process.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky was an avid gambler who struggled with debts all his life. It is ironic that one of his most famous novels, The Gambler, was both a commentary on addiction and written in just 26 days to cover his vast debts.

In fact Dostoyevsky left Russia on his honeymoon, in part to avoid creditors, but ended up in the famous casino town of Baden-Baden, where his daughter was born. Dostoevsky makes this list as a brilliant author who captures the mentality of gambling brilliantly in The Gambler. Sadly he died relatively poor, due to lifelong gambling problems and persecution by Russian bureaucracy.

Nick Dandolos

Nick “The Greek” Dandolos was one of the most notorious characters in Las Vegas history. His life was dedicated to taking on the casinos with any game of chance – whether he had $50 in his pocket or $5 million.

Incredible stories of his daring are famous in history. Most famously he played a 4 month heads up match of Poker against Jonny Moss at Binion’s Horseshoe. Playing daily 18-20 hour session, Dandolos capitulated after 4 months and lost $4 million, creating the famous line, “Mr. Moss, I have to let you go”.

Another time, having won over $1 million from a rich Texan, Dandolos left the table after a long game. When his opponent accused him of “chickening out,” he immediately grabbed the deck, shuffled it, and offered to draw high cards for the entire amount!