April 19, 2024

Looking back, gamblers haven’t only been outlaws or deadbeats who were looking for occasional fun in gambling, nor are they today. The ones who’ve made it all the way through history books enjoyed this form of leisure and entertainment too.

In this day and age, gambling is considered to be an easy money solution, and it is popularized more than ever before. But what about the old times? Besides being a quick-cash leisure activity, gambling meant much more to some of the most important names in the world’s history. Let’s see who deserves a spot on this list and who were some of the top gamblers in the world.

Claude Monet

This French innovator had no idea that he would be held responsible for the incipience of the new art movement, just after a few of his paintings got out. However, the Impressionism wouldn’t have even happened if Monet had to attend his day job and didn’t have time to explore his newfound talent. In 1851, he started attending a secondary art school because he struggled to pay his bills. During those years, he couldn’t afford to commit to something that brought so little funding, so he continued with the schooling, painting, and gambling on the side. However, he struck gold in 1890, when he won over $13,000 in the French lottery. That lottery ticket paid his bills and enabled him to pursue his creative passion. The whole world remains grateful for his interest in gambling, which allowed him to pursue his precious artistic gift.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dostoevsky made sure to write down his struggles with gambling addiction in the 1800s, way before this was even recognized as an illness. Known for Crime and Punishment and other pieces of greatness, Fyodor Dostoevsky was also known to have been an avid gambler. The author had a strange relationship with the gambling world — he considered it as his inspiration, besides being his most significant expense. He was a great fan of the Roulette wheel, and the novel ‘The Gambler’ was written in just 26 days so that he could pay off his roulette gambling debts.

This writer is known for making great insights into the contradictions of human complexity and the constant battle between our emotional and rational decisions. This was the source of his inspiration — constant comparison and life that dangled between the risky obsessions and his love for life. This ‘hobby’ lead him to severe debts and jeopardized his wife and children. However, in 1871, Dostoevsky made it through and finally managed to overcome his addiction. There was no further explanation of how he managed to do so, but the cautionary story remains and shows that when it comes to addiction — there are no exceptions to the rule.

King Henry the VIII

King Henry will be remembered for many things — the England reformation and the separation from the Roman Catholic Church being the most important one. But in order to be able to truly understand his outlandish nature, it is vital to know about his addiction to gambling. The Dice to Bragg was one of his favorites — he used to play it against some of the most influential people in the monarchy. However, even though he spent most of his leisure hours indulging in gambling activities, he was one of the most unfortunate gamblers of his time. He enjoyed playing one of the backgammon versions called ‘Tables’ and checkers-related version called ‘Betting Queek.’ While playing them, he had the custom of humiliating his opponents by calling them names and disrupting their game.

Moreover, he was no stranger to taking risks — he used to bet on many significant items. The best-known example is probably the time he wagered Jesus’s bells of the St. Paul’s Church. After losing that bet, he stated that they were pieces of metal that had little value to him. However, that didn’t stop him from convicting the person who won them of treason. During his sessions with the Parliament, he even claimed that he had no relations to gambling whatsoever, as well as that he banned his army from gambling too. Overall, since he was basically pouring people’s money down the drain, he was not one of the most beloved royals, but he surely deserved the title of the best gambler of England’s royal club.

Rene Descartes

This is yet another respected member of society who decided to make a career out of gambling, instead of further pursuing the law or the military. Although this choice wasn’t final, he continued to gamble for the rest of his life. Descartes was a rational person who managed to resolve almost every problem with a simple mathematical calculation. That is why this philosopher used the same approach with gambling too. He had no troubles with calculating every move or observing and predicting his opponents’ next step. Using his knowledge of psychology, he was able to ‘read’ his opponents’ cards by just looking at their facial expressions. Gambling enthralled Descartes so much that he directed an entire study on this subject, where he explained the tactics, the psychological effects, and the card counting strategy he mastered himself. According to him, it was not about the prize — it was about chasing a goal.

‘The greatest minds are capable of greatest vices, as well as greatest virtues,’ as he once stated clearly about himself.  


Even the most respected figures in arts, literature, and politics have been captivated by this form of entertainment. Many academic minds decided that they could use their intellect to get the edge while gambling, both in castles and in the streets.

These brilliant minds had a weak spot for taking risks, and even though they didn’t become one of the best gamblers in history, these brightest minds were intrigued by gambling and will be remembered as some of the most successful players of their time.