Over many years, wild stories have come out from poker rooms, saloons of the Wild West, and more modern-day casinos. History is full of names such as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, who were as good at playing cards as shooting.
By 1910, pretty much all the gambling in the USA was illegal, and the Wild West was just history. It wasn’t long, though, before things got rolling again. The first casino in Nevada, which opened in 1905, was soon attracting gamblers again.
Although there were almost certainly many back rooms for poker players and casino fans, it wasn’t until 1931 that the Golden Gate Casino could open again legally.
Then the mob moved in, and Las Vegas started to be transformed into what you can see today. Characters like Bugsy Siegel had the ambition and imagination to create the first Mega-Resorts in Vegas, and then others followed.
Since then, online poker games and online casinos, like casinos, have taken a huge slice, but can they ever really match some of the tales and the atmosphere from the past?
How have online casinos moved in?
Put very simply, last year’s pandemic saw a seismic shift in how people sought out entertainment. Gamblers could no longer visit bookmakers or casinos, or even bingo halls in some areas. Lockdowns were brought in, and restrictions were put in place.
However, the internet was there waiting and operating 24/7, along with casinos and poker apps. Anyone who has played at an online casino in the last year will attest to the benefits of being able to play games from home with no travel time or expenses.
There is no floor space to worry about, so there can be as many gaming options in an online casino as the operator wishes. Then there are the payment methods and the sheer convenience involved.
But do they really have the same atmosphere?
The history of casinos is complex
In general, Hollywood, the mob, and the public have all had a fascination with casinos over the years. Poker games have an image of being played by sometimes dangerous, sometimes desperate men in saloons or illegal gambling dens. The reality now is that there are serious tournaments involving the world’s best players for millions of dollars.
However nonetheless, there are plenty of casino games that have been portrayed in the movies. Ocean’s 11 went the route of a casino heist, Mississippi Grind had poker and craps at the center, and Rain Man used blackjack.
The movie Casino attempted to show just how deep the mob was in Las Vegas and the officials’ attempts to clean it up. Times changed, but there are still stories about how many bodies are buried in that desert.
The biggest wins in poker
Poker has had some fantastic stories during its time. No doubt many from the old west have been lost to the past, but some figures such as Doc Holliday remain immortalized in books, movies, and legend.
Bugsy Siegel was gunned down in a classic mob hit inside his own home. The killer was never named or prosecuted. Modern Las Vegas’ stories have centered around big wins and losses and robberies (but more on those later).
One of the biggest was the famous ‘run’ by Archie Karas.
What happened in The Run?
There is a short biographical movie about Karas, but it is perhaps surprising that Hollywood hasn’t produced something else yet. Archie Karas’ story starts incredibly, gets bigger, takes a turn for the worst, and goes much darker.
Archie Karas went to Vegas with little to nothing in his pockets. He did, however, obtain a loan of $10,000. The legend goes that Karas took that bankroll and turned it into $40 million just over two years later.
The problem with Karas was he didn’t care at all about the money. He liked to gamble, but no one wanted to play him after his success. He then turned away from poker to dice, and although he initially started winning, he lost millions.
Baccarat took much of the rest, and in 2013 he was arrested for cheating at blackjack. The downfall was complete.
Something else happened in 2013, Nevada legalized interstate online poker and became the first state to do so. Annoying New Jersey somewhat, no doubt.
Online poker and casinos arrive
Over the last eight years, online poker has grown massively into a multi-billion dollar industry of its own. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of online casinos worldwide today.
For purists, online poker might not seem to have a serious poker room atmosphere, and they might be right, but the prizes are not bad. Some of the biggest online cash winners of all time have taken away millions of dollars in one go.
World tournaments are held online, and millions of players enjoy free-to-play games and place bets. Online poker is here to stay, but the stories are likely to remain far quieter and hidden than Archie Karas’ tale.
Fortunately, there may be some tales that won’t happen
One other area that Hollywood loves to connect with Las Vegas is robberies. Even with mobsters’ history, the movies like to depict card counting and outright heists in their movies.
Twenty-one showed the purportedly true tale of MIT students taking the house for a small fortune on the blackjack table, and Ocean’s 11 went for the vault. Quite a few people have attempted to do the same in real life.
One stands out more than the rest.
A trusted casino employee, Bill Brennan, walked out one lunchtime from the Stardust nearly 30 years ago with around $500,000. He simply filled a bag with chips and cash and casually left. He has never been seen again. That’s one story that online poker will probably never match.
Perhaps playing in an online casino will never end with stories to match the old days in Las Vegas, but it is a fun way to spend some time. Online poker is now more popular than ever, and just like the rest of the games, as long as they are played responsibly, there should be no problem.
Gambling is a form of entertainment, and poker is a game of skill. Keep that in mind, unless you’re Archie Karas.
Featured Image by charlemagne from Pixabay