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Cross And Pile

Volume I

The Gaming Table by Andrew Steinmetz, Volume II

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Cross And Pile

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Casino Gambling in history


Cross and Pile, so called because anciently English coins were
stamped on one side with a cross, now bears the names, Head and
Tail, and is a pastime well known among the lowest and most
vulgar classes of the community, and to whom it is now confined;
formerly, however, it held a higher rank and was introduced at
Court. Edward II. was partial to this and other frivolous
diversions, and spent much of his time in the pursuit of them.
In one of his wardrobe 'rolls,' or accounts, we find the
following entries--'Item, paid to Henry, the king's barber, for
money which he lent to the king to play at Cross and Pile, five
shillings. Item, paid to Pires Bernard, usher of the king's
chamber, money which he lent the king, and which he lost at Cross
and Pile; to Monsieur Robert Wartewille, eight- pence.'

A half-penny is now generally used in playing this game; but any
other coin with a head impressed will answer the purpose. One
person tosses the half-penny up and the other cries at pleasure
HEAD or TAIL, and loses according to the result.

Cross and Pile is evidently derived from the Greek pastime called
Ostra Kinda, played by the boys of ancient Greece. Having
procured a shell, they smeared it over with pitch on one side and
left the other side white. A boy tossed up this shell, and his
antagonist called white or black,[68] as he thought proper, and
his success was determined by the white or black part of the
shell being uppermost.

[68] In the Greek, nux kai hmera, that is, 'night and day.'

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