Gambling in the Neath

I’m a big fan of fictional gambling games and gambling in fictional settings. It’s an odd fascination, but I’ve managed to find a way to live a full and productive life nonetheless.

There are many references to gambling taking place in Fallen London: card games, mostly, but there are also a few snippets referring to dice. I’m curious what games are being played in these cases, given the time period.

The dice are easy: Fallen Londoners most likely partake in hazard. It’s also possible that things have advanced enough in the Neath that folks play craps, or some other fictional derivation, but more likely than not, the game of choice involves setting a &quotpoint&quot or &quotmain&quot somehow and then trying to roll that target.

Trying to suss out the appropriate card game is more difficult. There are lots of mentions of playing for high or low stakes against full tables of people, which likely leaves cribbage out, despite it being period appropriate. Some variant of poker would fit the bill, but during Fallen London’s time setting, I believe poker was much, much more of an American game. This stellar infographic would maybe suggest either brag or speculation as being played here, with brag perhaps being a bit more appropriate in a gambling hall context, but neither feels quite right to me.

Is there a canon answer to this question? Anyone else have any thoughts? I admit it’s a strange thing to be curious about, but I definitely like over-thinking these sorts of things. :)

From the Gaming Tables storylet in the House of Chimes: Since pharo was banned by the Masters of the Bazaar, the casual game in the House is baccarat.

&quotHeart’s Hazard&quot (probably a fictional variant of hazard) is mentioned along with baccarat at the gambling tables in the House of Chimes, and if you pursue a Majestic Pleasure Yacht, you can cast about with a number of your gambling friends, including the roulette and bridge players, to figure out what Mr Apples plays – &quotan Oriental game. Much like rummy, but played with tiles.&quot So despite the date, even mahjongg has a smattering of players in the Neath.[li]

(… on that note, perhaps that particular storylet should be updated to match the rest of the long-fixed references to East Asia? And if it has, the wiki needs to get it as well.)

Mahjongg is also mentioned in the recent Port Carnelian content, as a game played mostly by Khaganians. Which doesn’t make much sense, as the game wasn’t around when the fourth city fell and the Cumean Canal is quite far from the Khanate. Possibly surface merchants brought the game to London, where it wasn’t well recived, and then London’s zailors brought it to the Khanate, where it caught on?
edited by Angus Turner on 6/8/2015
edited by Angus Turner on 6/8/2015
edited by Angus Turner on 6/8/2015
edited by Angus Turner on 6/8/2015

Maybe the expatriate community in London spread it to the Widow, who probably still has contacts in the Khanate to see it spread to Port Carnelian, or else they just picked mahjong as a generic asian game? I was never clear on how the Widow set up her London operation given that it was the faction besieging Karakorum that had ties to China.
But the ultimate game of chance in London has to be Heart’s Desire (some kind of card game?), where souls, sanity, and who knows what else is gambled.
I think it’s probable that we could see the Marvel played!
edited by fortluna on 6/8/2015

Aha, I had forgotten about that! Neither faro nor baccarat are really played against a table of other players, however, so it’s likely that the games being played in the Tower of Sparrows, the Carnival and in the Marvellous are neither of those.

Related, I went poking through the Carnival again for more hints, and I noticed mentions of jade chips and &quotgoing all-in&quot, which would suggest poker is being played. Hrmm.

I always thought those were generic betting terms.

Having said that, my main experience with betting on cards was with matchsticks, or sometimes chocolates, on camping trips, so I know I’m no one’s expert.

I always thought those were generic betting terms.[/quote]
They are! An all-in bet, however, implies that the game is being played with table stakes: that is, you can’t lose any more money than you put on the table to play with. My impression of brag, however, was that it was not played that way, and if you can’t cover an opponent’s bet with what you have on the table, you have to dig into your pocket for more money or borrow from someone else to call. Admittedly, I’m Canadian, and brag is virtually unknown here, so I don’t know for sure if this is the case. :)

That said, I was poking around some more and can’t believe I missed this in Unfinished Business in Veilgarden:

[quote]Get in on a card game
Amber stakes and four-card brag in a cramped back room in a honey-den. A night out unique to Veilgarden.[/quote]
So, I guess that answers that! It also explains why the fanned hand of cards symbolizing &quotluck&quot has four cards in it.

I really like that new image, incidentally. :)