Online casino games are very much a 21st century phenomenon. And phenomenon is the right word. In the space of just a decade-and-a-half the online gambling industry has exploded into a $40 billion industry. Bear in mind that up until around 2003 online gambling simply did not exist and you begin to get a grasp on just how quickly and how dramatically the world has changed.
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But the fundamentals of the industry are far older. Online casino games like poker, Baccarat and roulette have their roots way back in time. It is thought that the first playing cards were produced in ancient China more than a thousand years ago. The circuitous route by which games of cards and other games that combined elements of both skill and chance made their way to Europe and even further west is a story that is as convoluted as any story ever told.
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Even the humble slots game, the online equivalent of the traditional slot machine has its own place in this ongoing story. Slot machines were invented in the 19th century as a way to mechanise poker. The now traditional emblems of fruit and bars were simply the advertising logos of the day. Original machines often paid out in fruit flavoured gum - hence the fruit - and the logo of one of those companies was, for no reason that makes any sense, a gold bar. The rest, as they say, is history.
But it was only as late as the 15th century - or as early if you prefer - that the suits that are universally recognised today were first employed. Previously, cards had been divided in terms of swords, cups, coins and - somewhat strikingly - polo sticks. The origins of these designs are - like so much else, now shrouded in mystery.
But just as there have been historical evolutions in the forms and formats of casino games, the online revolution is seeing new forms of traditional games being introduced. None of these is more eye-catching than the development of rush or speed forms of poker. The format is branded differently according to various different suppliers’ marketing emphasis, but the bottom line is a whole new card game.
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Given that the technology is still in its infancy, there will doubtless be further evolutions in the way the world plays online in the years ahead. The year of 2015 is still just the latest stage in what has been a long and unpredictable story, in which every single hand or spin of the wheel has been at least one small part. It is a weird thought, but every time we play, we are all making history.