Online gambling, particularly at online and mobile casinos, is one of the most popular pastimes in Australia. Aussie players have been enjoying online casino games since the 90s, from pokies to blackjack and roulette to baccarat, with the first online casino launching before the first online sportsbook or online poker room, but here are a few things you might not know about the wild and wonderful world of gambling.
Top 10 strangest Gambling Facts
1. The First Online Casinos Launched in 1994
With hundreds of different online casinos available to Australian players these days, it is almost unthinkable to recall a time when that total was in single figures. However that was the case just two short decades ago.
Laws passed by the government of Antigua and Barbuda led to the first online casino licenses being issued in the mid-1990s, and online gambling companies operate under the Caribbean country's regulatory system to this day. Of course the industry has grown exponentially ever since, with a growing number of other countries getting in on the act.
2. Biggest Ever Online Casino Win - €17,861,813
The great thing about online pokies is the chance to win a huge amount on a single spin, for a minimal outlay. And this was the fate that befell one player in 2013, playing the progressive slot game 'Mega Fortune'.
The player from Finland, who perhaps unsurprisingly chose to remain anonymous, surely wouldn't have been able to believe their luck when a bet of just a quarter of a Euro earned them a phenomenal €17,861,813 (more than AU$25million). We still can't quite believe their luck.
3. Poker's Biggest Win - $18m in Historic 'One Drop' Tournament
The largest ever poker win was almost as high, though this came in a live tournament rather than online. American poker pro Antonio Esfandiari won US$18,346,673 (AU$23.48m) in The Big One for One Drop, a charity tournament at the 2012 World Series of Poker that cost a cool million just to enter.
That win sees Esfandiari top the all-time money list with more than US$25m, more than double the lifetime earnings of Aussie number 1 and former world champion Joe Hachem. The Big One returned in 2014, but a smaller field meant winner Dan Colman walked away with 'just' $15m.
4. Betting on Your Family
A new arrival in the family is always a matter of huge pride, and when you come from a sporty family that pride can transfer into some rather ridiculous bets. But when those bets come off it can be well worth the wait.
Back in 2000, Welshman Peter Edwards made a bet that his infant grandson would end up representing his country at soccer, getting generous odds of 2,500/1. The bookies must have felt fairly comfortable, and they surely can't have imagined what would follow. In October 2013, Peter's grandson Harry Wilson made his Wales debut, netting the proud grandfather a huge £125,000 windfall (more than AU$240,000) from that speculative £50 bet.
5. Gambling is Older Than You Think
We've already established that online gambling dates back to the 90s, in the early days of the internet, but what about traditional pre-internet gambling games? Did they originate in the 19th century? 18th? 17th? Earlier?
Amazingly, the first recorded gambling games date all the way back to Ancient Greece, with variations of what we now recognise as Keno being played a couple of centuries BC. And you're worried about some of today's games not lasting that long?
6. The First Pokie Was Created in 1895
Pokies, or slot machines as they are often known outside Australia, are a more recent invention. In fact the first one was created by an American car mechanic, Charles Fey, and known as the Liberty Bell.
The famous American liberty bill symbol was one of those included on the reels, along with a spade, heart, diamond, horseshoe and star. It cost five cents to play, and the maximum payout was 50 cents for hitting three liberty bells.
7. Early American Roulette Games Didn't Give Great Odds
Anyone who has played roulette online will have quickly learned the difference between American Roulette (which has a zero and a double zero) and European Roulette (with just the one zero). However the American version originally had an even greater advantage for the house.
Some of the earliest American Roulette wheels (we're talking decades before internet casinos, here) had the numbers 1-28 as well as a zero, double zero and an American eagle symbol. This was marketed as a symbol of liberty, however players were quick to wise up to the edge this gave the house.
8. Royal Flushes Are Rarer Than You Might Think
The royal flush is probably the most beautiful thing you can see in a poker game, partly for aesthetic reasons and partly because they happen so infrequently that you'll probably feel blessed to have just been dealt them.
In a regular game of poker your odds of making a royal flush are just shy of 650,000/1, while in video poker it's even higher, closer than 4,000,000/1. But at least in those circumstances you don't have the added obstacle of betting the right amount to get your opponent to pay you off.
9. An Australian Player Carried Out One of the World's Biggest Casino Scams
Just a couple of years ago, an Australian casino was rocked by a creative scam that seemed like something straight out of the movies. A player allegedly manipulated the surveillance system at the venue, helping him walk away with an eye-watering AU$32m!
The identity of the gambler in question has not been revealed, however he was believed to have been a VIP casino player, regularly playing high stakes games, even before the incident. It just goes to show that while the house has an advantage if everyone's playing fair, even the largest casinos around have to stay vigilant.
10. Aussies are the World's Biggest Gamblers
According to an official study, Australian gamblers bet more money per capita than any other country in the world in 2013. This goes for online casinos as well as land-based games, plus sports betting, poker and more.
However Australia aren't even close to being the biggest losers - that honour goes to players from the United States of America. Maybe Aussies are better at game selection, or maybe they're just luckier!