Gambling is royal. How the rulers of different countries spent time playing

When it comes to rulers, their passions are often in the shadows. Not every textbook tells how a monarch from the Tudor dynasty nearly ravaged the bell tower of London’s oldest church, where Nixon took money for his campaign and what Marie Antoinette learned from her mother.

We dug through history and picked seven of the most gambling figures among those in power in the past years.


Henry VIII. The bells of excitement

Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII of England

Henry VIII was a very passionate and inconsistent monarch. He twice denied the Roman church, beheaded two wives and banned gambling establishments, though he himself was a passionate player. The king called himself the best gambleer in England, and partly it is true: he tried almost all the gambling in the country. But his favourites were still cards, dice and backgammon.

Fortune clearly was not friends with Henry the Eighth – the monarch’s debts were growing at a royal pace. Some claimed that during the games the king did not flaunt his title and even played with the commoners. However, this does not mean that he appreciated the people: the constant knightly tournaments, feasts and balls ruined the small peasants. One day Henry VIII set the bells from St. Paul’s Cathedral and lost them with one roll of dice. But the winner did not have to rejoice at winning for a long time. He was soon executed for treason, and the bells remained in the church.


Charles II. From Europe with a passion

Charles II of Spain
Charles II of Spain

When the English Revolution took place, Charles II was fifteen. The monarchy was abolished, the king was executed, and a large reward was given for the head of his successor. Charles II had to hide in France for almost ten years. During his exile, the young heir to the throne discovered gembling. After the restoration of the monarchy during the Restoration, Charles II ascended the English throne. He brought gambling to England, which was allowed throughout the country, and among the nobility became a passionate hobby.

Despite exile and the recent civil war, Charles II remained a “merry king” – a nickname he earned for his countless balls and frivolous behaviour. He was a desperate womanizer and as a result of his adventures he added fourteen bastards to the nobility, giving them titles of dukes and counts. But the autocrat did not show frivolity in the gemblings. He was a skilled dice player, and in cards he relied only on calculation and tactics.


Louis XIV. Card fever in Versailles

Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France

Louis Fourteenth was an absolute monarch, and this was manifested in everything, including the passion for gambling. It was the “king-sun” made gambling an expensive hobby of the French aristocracy. Moralists worried, no matter how they superseded the rest of the entertainment: cards were almost the main occupation of the Palace of Versailles. At least three times a week, the royal suite was open to card meetings, but the court was not enough, and they arranged additional rendezvous. To entertain guests, the autocrat and his wife often acted as croupiers.


Marie Antoinette. Gembling from a diaper

Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette

We’ll stay in Versailles and move half a century ahead. The wife of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, was a scandalous and at the same time charming special. She came from the Austrian royal family and was a stranger in France. Marie Antoinette was disliked by the courtiers and, feeling this dislike, the queen looked for ways to distract and unwind. She spent time at balls, hunting, horse racing, but played more.

With maps Marie Antoinette met as a child: the game she was taught by her mother, who was convinced that without this skill it is easy to be without money. Maria Antoinette came out of the Vienna Palace as a brave player: the stakes there were much higher than in Versailles. This led to the fact that she soon had card debts. Louis Sixteen, in order to protect the treasury from the waste of his wife, forbade her to play. She begged her husband in every way to let her play for the last time. The king gave in to the persuasion and let his wife sit at the card table for the last time. Marie Antoinette made sure that the last game would last three days.


Franklin Roosevelt. Poker by the fireplace.

Franklin Roosevelt
Franklin Roosevelt

It may seem that only medieval rulers could give such reckless excitement, and this is in no way unacceptable for the degree presidents of the United States. Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s biography will easily dispel this misconception. He regularly played poker at his official residence with his comrades-in-arms a couple of times a week. Some claim that Roosevelt went through poker chips during Radio Fireside Talks, in which he directly addressed ordinary Americans.

This man was inspired by his work. Franklin’s program, which was designed to pull the economy out of the Great Depression, was called New Deal – in poker deal means handing over cards, from this word came the term dealer. On the last night of Congress, the White House head always had poker games. In them, the winner was the one who was in the lead at the end of the Congress session. Roosevelt once lost, and when he got a call and was told that the session was over, he didn’t give a damn – the game continued. An hour later, when the president was winning, the phone rang again, and only at that moment did Roosevelt announce the end of the session.


Harry Truman. Stad poker as a diplomacy

Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman

Harry Truman seems to have borrowed a hobby from his predecessor. But while for Roosevelt poker was just a pleasant pastime, for Truman it was a diplomatic tool. On 5 March 1946, on his way to Westminster College, Truman played cards with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, after which the English politician gave the famous Fulton speech. It was the start of the Cold War with the USSR.

The 33rd president of the United States was considered a venerable player and preferred the seven-card flock with high stakes. Truman was not upset when he lost hundreds of dollars. He was a big fan of poker: he organized tournaments in the White House and even had special chips with the presidential seal. When an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Truman was playing in a herd with reporters on the Augusta cruiser. Another interesting detail: the planes that conducted weather reconnaissance over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were called Street Flash and Full House.


Richard Nixon. Gambler Officer

Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon’s teacher said that a man who doesn’t play well at poker can’t become president. Taking this advice for a note, Richard was a natorer in the card business in the army during World War II. One of his coworkers said that one day Captain Lieutenant Nixon was bluffing with a couple of doubles and won a thousand and a half as a result. During his service, the future American president made about $10,000, which ensured his campaign.

According to House Speaker O’Neill, the 37th president was good in politics, but not in poker. Nixon himself praised the fact that once he managed to collect a flash grand piano in a five-card herd, and once for the sake of the party in a favorite game he canceled a lunch with pilot Charles Lindberg, who first flew the Atlantic alone.