Famous (and Unexpected) Gamblers through History, Part 2

Famous (and Unexpected) Gamblers through History, Part 2

There are more of us than you’d think! Here’s the next installment of our journey through the world of history’s most unexpected gamblers.

In last week’s article, we told you all about Richard Nixon’s South Sea bar and poker club, which was not quite what you’d expect of the US’s most notorious president. But, if you think about it, it actually makes sense: Tricky Dick had to learn his trade somewhere, and his bugging of the Watergate Hotel was because he wanted to know what cards his opponents were holding.

But what if the gambler wasn’t a famous politician, but rather produced some of the greatest art of all time? Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Fyodor Dostoyevsky, one of the great figures of gambling history.

You Mean The Fyodor Dostoyevsky?

None other than one of the greatest writers in Russian literature, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was a great literary figure, a political dissident, and a gambler of some note, though little success.

Dostoyevsky came from a family of minor Lithuanian nobility who were not overly well-off. Nevertheless, Fyodor’s parents insisted on sending their children, specifically Fyodor and his brother Mikhail, to the St Petersburg Military Academy. Mikhail was too ill to attend, though, and instead he went to Tallinn, Estonia.

It seems that Dostoyevsky’s love of playing cards came after a visit to his brother in Tallinn, where he was taught how to gamble by his brother’s friends. Thus began his slippery slope into gambling addiction.

Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun

Dostoyevsky found success relatively early on in his life, but his financial situation remained precarious. He continued to write, though, and indeed, after finally making some money off his writing, joined a group of writers and social reformers called the Petrashevsky Circle.

This was a bad move.

After being arrested and sentenced to death for his involvement with the Circle, he narrowly escaped execution, literally with his back against the wall, after the Tsar commuted his sentence to hard labor in Siberia.

Writing to Pay for his Gambling

His time in Siberia was very important to his development as a writer, as he used a lot of the events there in his novels, including his most famous, Crime and Punishment.

In fact, Crime and Punishment was written in part to pay off gambling debts that Dostoyevsky had run up after his return from exile and traveling to Western Europe. This wasn’t the first time he almost bankrupted himself by gambling, though, nor would it be the last.

And unfortunately, Crime and Punishment didn’t earn enough to pay off his debts, meaning that his new wife, Anna Snitkina, had to sell some of her own valuables to keep the family afloat.

Gambling addiction also formed the main theme of another masterpiece of Russian literature, The Gambler. In fact, The Gambler was what brought Anna and Fyodor together in the first place!

So gambling created one of the world’s great works of art. Gambling shaped the life of one of the world’s great artists. And gambling also brought 2 people together and made them happy.

The End?

However, Dostoyevsky realized he had a problem, and during his honeymoon with Anna, while they were in Germany, he allegedly paid a final visit to a casino, in April 1871. Whether he went back again is debatable, but it seems he realized the problems his addiction was creating for his family.

So there you have it. The story of one of Russia’s literary heroes is intimately entwined with gambling and casinos, and he struggled with his gambling addiction his whole life. We here at Casino Daily News would like to remind you that gambling should be fun, not destructive, and if you or a loved one have a problem, you can contact one of the organizations on our Responsible Gambling page.

What’s Next?

Well, that’s it for this week. Next week, we’ll find out which other famous historical individuals enjoyed a few hands of poker, or a spin of the slots reels.

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