The Changing Face of ‘Games of Chance’ in Latin America

By 10 February, 2021

There is a long and rich history surrounding games of chance in Latin America. Long before there was betting on sports at sites like there was Patolli, one of the oldest known games of strategy and luck in the Americas.

Patolli was a game of strategy and luck, played way back in the midsts of time between 200 BC and 650 AD. It was also, even back then at that time, a game ‘for everyone’. By this we mean that it was played and enjoyed by all, regardless of whether they were nobles or common everyday folk. Is was even reported by the conquistadors, that Montezuma himself often enjoyed watching his nobles play the game at court.

It is recorded that variations of Patolli, which was well known all over Mesoamerica, were played by a wide range of pre-Columbian cultures. It is said that the Teotihuacanos played it way back in 200 BC as well as the Toltecs, the inhabitants of Chichen Itza, the Aztecs, and all of the people they conquered. It is even believed that the ancient Mayans played their own version of Patolli.

Heavily focused on gambling, Patolli was race and a war game. Players would meet up before hand and check out what items each team had available to gamble with. They were known to bet precious stones, gold adornments, maguey plants, food or blankets. In some really extreme cases, players might even be found betting away their homes, or sometimes even their own family and their freedom! So, as you can see, agreeing to play against someone was not done casually, and they really meant business when they played this exciting game.

Older even than Patolli, was the Mesoamerican ballgame. Though all proper records of any rules for this game have long since been lost, it is believed to have been similar to racquetball. Played by the pre-Columbian peoples of Ancient Mesoamerica in around 1400 BC, this was a sport also associated with some of these ancient people’s rituals. The major formal ballgames are noted to have been held as ritual events, which in some cultures were occasionally combined with acts of religious human sacrifice. Though this was not common practice and the sport was also played for fun by children, there is some belief that it may have even been played by local women at that time too.

As for games of chance and even gambling on those games, Latin Americans no longer have to go and get physical. Let alone risk, even the slightest chance, of either having to bet away their home, family and freedom or face human sacrifice. In today’s world, Latin America is one of the fastest growing online gaming industries going, with many online American casinos, and as such, Latin Americans can freely choose to play either just for fun, or, they can play to win if they feel like it. Who knows, they might even be lucky enough to do so too!

We’re sure that people from all over the globe are enjoying many games of chance right at this very moment. If you choose to go and do the same, we wish you every luck! For everyone else, we hope that this article has been of some interest, and, that it has gifted you with a little more background about the ancient history and culture of the Latin American people.

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