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Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling Hardcover – October 5, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This comprehensive and often entertaining history of gambling begins with the origins of odds and evens as an ancient divination "game" and ends with the 21st-century Internet gambling phenomenon. Schwartz, a historian at the University of Nevada's Center for Gaming Research, gets credit not only for his thoroughness in describing the development of gambling in Western Europe and the U.S., but also for including gambling in Native American, Chinese and other non-Western cultures. Similarly inclusive is his examination of the doctrinal attitudes of each of the world's major religions toward the human penchant for gambling. Schwartz adds interesting anecdotes, even if likely apocryphal: aces, for instance, supposedly became superior to kings as a result of 18th-century French revolutionary fervor. But this thoroughness leads Schwartz to devote too much space to the rules of archaic games of chance and to the exploits of famous and not- so-famous gamblers. Although he doesn't ignore the underside—such as compulsive gambling and cheating—this aspect is underdeveloped. Also, a more in-depth inquiry into why people gamble and the societal impact of government-sponsored gambling, such as lotteries, would have made this encyclopedic effort even more complete. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“An epic story with an epic cast. . . . Remarkable.”
The Washington Post

“[A] lively history of gaming through the ages.”
the New York Times

“[A] fine history. . . . Schwartz’s celebratory account of gambling’s history confirms the persistence of this human impulse down through the ages.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Remarkably detailed. . . . A wealth of fine material.
The Philadelphia Inquirer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (October 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592402089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592402083
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

If you're here, I'm guessing that you are at least a little curious about gambling and history. To be honest, that's why I'm here, too. Everything I've written has started with me asking a question and not finding an easy answer. I write to share the interesting things I learn by trying to find the answers.

I first got interested in gambling as a kid growing up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1970s. Some of my earliest memories are of the classic hotels of the city being imploded to make way for modern casinos with hotel towers that had none of the charm of the original. Despite this early evidence of that, perhaps, history might not have the strongest hold over people, I decided to major in it as an undergrad, along with anthropology. When it came time to go to grad school, I chose history over anthropology, though I can't recall as I'm writing this exactly why I made that decision.

In grad school I was preparing myself for a career as a college history professor when a small exercise called the dissertation stepped in my way. I would have to choose something to write a book-length historical study on, and it had to be something that would contribute in some way to the literature.

That's when I remembered the questions I'd had about casinos as a kid: Why did they need to blow up those beautiful old buildings to build new ones that didn't look nearly as nice? If they just wanted to gamble, why didn't they just let people gamble wherever they wanted? With a few questions like that, I was on my way to writing a dissertation that got me researching casinos.

From there, I haven't looked back, except for the year that I spent after I got my degree working in casino surveillance in Atlantic City's Trump Taj Mahal casino. I'd worked at the Taj earlier in security,and spending some time in surveillance gave me an appreciation for just how complex casinos are, and it kindled an interest in a whole other set of questions.

Since arriving at UNLV back in 2001, I've been running the Center for Gaming Research, which has let me look at some very interesting areas of gambling and Las Vegas history.

My website has a ton of info about my writing, professional, and creative work. So feel free to check it out at www.dgschwartz.com.

As far as the writing goes, I've written four books from cover to cover, put out a second edition of one with substantial revisions and expansions, and edited two more. You can read smaller bits of my writing (between a few paragraphs and 3,000 words) at Vegas Seven magazine, where I'm the gaming and hospitality editor. I write a biweekly column there, longer feature pieces, and shorter items as well.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Roll The Bones, is a history of gambling all the way back to an including ancient Mesopotamia. We get a look at the gambling (never 'gaming', always 'gambling' - this was before lobbyists!) habits of cultures including the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, other random Europeans and all the way through Americans. The message I was getting from this book was that gambling is a universal trait that seems to permeate every society, no matter how any of the other attributes stack up.

A book like this could easily be so boring as to guarantee a good night's sleep. That's not the case here as Schwartz is a gifted writer who is able to connect and reconcile all of the games across the centuries.

I really enjoyed Roll The Bones and I think that anyone who likes history would too. If you are interested in casino gambling, this book will give you some new insight into how it all hangs together.

I recommend this book to all readers.
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Format: Hardcover
Roll Them Bones is David G. Schwartz's wonderful account of the history and the impact gambling has made on our lives throughout time. I found this book to be a quick, fascinating, and a entertaining read; it is often difficult to combine so many of these characteristics in one book. Have you ever realized that gambling has been around as long as man has. I found the fact that even monkey's seem to prefer to gamble by their preference in taking chances, rather than going for an action that gets them a set amount of food, whereas the other task would give them a random amount of food which was always less.

Cards, dice, bones, or whatever else was handy, man has always enjoyed games of chance. Historical documentation from the Greeks, the Etruscans, the Eyptians and so much more lays the foundation that forms of gambling have always been popular. Roman emperors were known for enjoying gambling for recreation. Royalty has been known throughout time to enjoy and encourage gambling among the masses.

This is a terrific book as it is an enjoyable read, sprinkled with much historical facts. This historical information isn't given in a format that may be dull, or unexciting, but rather Schwartz does an excellent job of making you want to continue to turn the page. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys gaming, and those who are history buffs, you won't be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
Since I like to "roll the bones," I am fascinated by fun historical books on gambling. It seems mankind has been gambling since we were, well, actually rolling the bones.

This is a terrific, entertaining book.

Frank Scoblete: author of Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! and Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution!
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book in one afternoon at the UC Berkeley Business Library. ( For some reason the UC Berkeley Library catalogued "Roll the Bones" as a business title while another of his books "Suburban Xanadu" is over in the general collection). I'm planning on buying it because I enjoyed the writing, I'm familiar with the author's writing through his blog about Las Vegas and betting and I trust his scholarship.

Most of the general reading type books that cover gambling, Las Vegas the mob town, Las Vegas the latest Babylon etc. go for dazzling the reader with stories about scandals, excess, dissipation and various dramas that go into all kinds of human vice.

Roll the Bones is unique because it looks back, very far back to ancient civilizations and very quickly brings those long gone societies to life by uncovering how gambling in various shapes and forms has been present in every culture just like other cultural artifacts such as different art forms, mythology, religion etc.

What's so startling about this is how little seems to have been written about the nature of gambling throughout history ( at least for the general reading public - and in historical scholarship - as far as I know ).

Past cultures just seem to jump to life reading about the Romans, Chinese, Meso-Americans, the French and Mississippi gamblers and much more. Maybe because gambling has been brought out of the closet in US culture and is no longer illegal or only permitted in outposts like Nevada is it acceptable to look back at other societies and read how gambling was just an entertaining past time that has always had participants.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting and invaluable history of gaming in all cultures. Not only does Schwartz cover the games that are still popular in today's casinos he covers games that have fallen into obscurity.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Roll the Bones" takes you on a highly informative journey through the history of mankind and tells the story of how gambling has always been a dominate part of all human cultures. From the stone age, through Victorian Europe to glimmering LCD lights of modern Las Vegas. I have read many books on the history gambling but Schwartz, took it to a new level, with the grand scale of a Michener novel. I came away from this book with a clear and truer understanding of not only the history of gambling but how it has effected the human experience, from day to day life, wars, industrial age, rise and falls of governments, economic highs and lows and modern technologies. Roll the Bones not only tells the story of how we have gambled though out history, but in many ways why we gamble in our lives and it is not always in a casino. So please enjoy this book. C E Mitchell
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