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Henry VIII Loved Gaming

February 9, 2024

Henry the 8th is one of the most famous characters in British history. It can even be argued that current UK leaders often still build personal personas that mirror Henry’s.

A man who enjoyed his fair share of fun and games, it perhaps comes as no surprise that the big man indulged in a spot of casino gaming when he was not holding court on the throne. But which games were this portly king’s favourites? Scroll down o humble subject.

Three-Card-Brag and Primero

These card games are all about which players can bluff the best and were two of the precursors to what is now known as poker. They were particularly popular during the reign of Henry VIII, perhaps in no small part due to the fact the King was known to be a fan of both. Primero, as its name suggests, has Spanish origins, and due to the Spanish connections his first wife had, this might be the way Henry came across the game.

His love for the game certainly outlived his love for Catherine of Aragon, as the works of William Shakespeare depicted Henry VIII playing the game more than once. For modern casino players who want to get a feel of what Primero and Three-Card-Brag are like, the latter is available at most online providers. Just don’t expect to get away with dictating to the dealer like Henry probably did during his gaming days.


This was the name given to the original board game that is now known by the wider public as backgammon. Of course, backgammon is, strictly speaking, not a game that features in casinos, but it may have well done in Henry VIII’s epoch. The King was said to have lost somewhere in the region of £3,243 wagering on the game during a three-year spell that was a mixture of bad fortune and ill-conceived wagers.

That may not sound like much, but it equates to somewhere in the region of a whopping £1.5 in today’s terms, which is enough to make any high roller’s eyes water.

Despite not being very good at boardgames and seemingly having a narcissistic streak, knowing he could incur losses without fear of bankruptcy, Henry also dallied in a boardgame called Fox and Geese. This game was a particular favourite of high society at the time because it combined their love of gaming with their passion for hunting.

Dice Games

Henry VIII’s most dramatic and historically significant gaming exploits took place when he was let loose with dice. In one of his most ridiculous gaming sessions, he lost the coveted Jesus Bells of St Paul’s Church, to a certain Sir Miles Partridge.

Partridge unwisely followed through on collecting the winnings owed to him and suffered the ultimate penalty.