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Casino Gambling and The Tao

It may seem strange to equate casino gambling with Taoist philosophy, but it may be because gambling is so much a part of and widely accepted in Chinese culture.

The very first recorded history of playing cards date back to 9th century China which makes sense being that they were the inventors of writing paper. The first book written with reference to playing cards dates to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) called Yezi Gexi. By the 11th century playing cards could be found throughout Asia featuring many of the 108 heroes of Lan Shun found in the Chinese classic the “Water Margin.” baccarat

In the 16th century playing cards had made their way to France and it is there that they began using the suits of picture cards that we are familiar with today based on figures of French nobility.

Taoist philosophy is said to be nearly 6,000 years old and came to prominence with the teachings of The Yellow Emperor, Huang Ti, the first emperor of China. With many of their scientific discoveries such as mathematics and astronomy, there was also a deep connection to astrology, symbology (a science of symbols and their effects), numerology and many forms of mysticism.

In the 7th Pillar of Taoism, “The Tao of Mastery,” The symbol for water is K’AN and states, “to be successful and fortunate, risk must be taken.” Luck to the ancient Taoists was a form of control and timing.

Clearly in all gambling, timing is an important factor. Regardless of the type of gambling, all of it’s forms tend to run in cycles, both winning and losing ones. It is the skill which one navigates through these cycles that the player conveys their level of control over the outcome.

The first serious studies of gambling in the 20th century were done by economists who expressed their confusion that gambling is a losing proposition and in effect, irrational behavior. In 1945 William Vickery, a noted economist, concluded that gambling should be measured not in expected gains but by the money a gambler doesn’t have that appears to be more valuable to them than what he does have.

The typical view is that gambling is self-destructive, undermines the work ethic and removes money that could be put to better uses in the economy. The notion that most people tend to gamble beyond their means remains unproven and was disputed in research conducted in 1966 in the “Economics of Gambling” published in London, England. In this study it was found to be an affective outlet for frustration, a relief from loneliness and a leveler of inequality among the economic classes.

 

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