Early Forms of Gambling in Ancient Greece

As an activity, gambling is known as one of the first forms of entertainment in human culture, which gives you a fairly good indication as to how long it has been around.

While our world of gambling predominantly consists of online and mobile casino gaming and sports betting, there is a lot of evidence that proves the gambling activities that we enjoy today date back to ancient civilisations, or to be more precise, a point of interest for Ancient Greeks.

Gambling With Gods

Much like the Egyptians that came before them, the Greeks believed gambling in its most simple form started with the gods, with one of the first examples appearing in Ancient Greek Mythology in the tale of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades drew lots to share sections of the universe.

Another myth refers to Poseidon and Athena competing over control of the city of Athens, where both of them wagered with high stakes. When Poseidon lost, she was said to have cursed Athens to lack water from that point on.

The First Games

Some of the games that were played in Ancient Greece still exist to this day, which is largely due to how popular they actually became.

From upper-class citizens right down to peasants and slaves, all those who lived in Ancient Greece would enjoy a bit of gambling from time to time, in spite of the fact that it was technically illegal then.

The most popular games that we can see evidence of include the likes of Heads or Tails, Dice games and Checkers, along with various other games of chance.


One of the very first games to grace the then tiny world of gambling was Checkers, which is now known, loved and played by people all over the world.

Back then it was given the name Tilia, and it first played out on a chess board, believe it or not. In later years it was ultimately developed into a game that offered a board with 12 pieces on each side.

Head or Tails

Another exceptionally popular game in Ancient Greece and throughout the city of Athens, Heads or Tails was originally played using a shell. In later years, as the game evolved, it was played using a coin, which is how we still play the game today.

In fact, not only is it played the same way but Heads or Tails is still a relevant game, even with the variety of casino games that have surfaced since.

Dice Games

In terms of the arrival of Dice games in Ancient Greece, there were two popular forms that were played throughout the country, namely the ones that would include board games and the others that simply included the dice.

A rather surprising fact about the dice games played back then is that most of them would typically be played with three or four dice, all of which were placed in a cup before being tossed out to provide a favourable or gloomy outcome. Much like Craps in a way!

Centuries of Changes

Back in Ancient Grecian times, when dice were cast it was not necessarily considered to have a lot to do with luck, it was a common belief that the gods were in control of the outcome. Thus, throwing dice was essentially a way of trying to determine the outcome of certain circumstances.

As might be expected, games have since changed over the centuries that have gone by, and certainly for the better. Today we see far more advanced games that offer a lot more entertainment, all of which can be attributed to the games played in Ancient Greece.

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