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What Do Lucian Freud, Dostoyevsky and Mark Twain Have in Common? Their Attraction to the Game

As the online gambling market is set to continue to enjoy exponential growth up until 2020 and beyond - Statista predicts a revenue increase up to $59.79 billion by then - it's interesting to note that the pastime's widespread popularity is a lot more far-reaching than people may think. Many of the most successful artists and creators of other original content have been fans of the casino and it has been suggested on many occasions that there is a link between the creative arts and risk-taking. Whilst the reason for this supposed link has yet to be fully explained, it's possible to speculate as to why this is the case when looking at the various examples, both past and present, of figures who have indulged in a spot of casino gaming.


Lucian Freud

Whilst Freud will primarily be remembered as one of the greatest 20th century portraitists, he was also well known for liking a flutter or two. As this article by The Independent explains, he often paid back his bookmakers with paintings when he found himself in a tight spot and although he wasn't welcome at some racecourses, he often donned quite hilarious disguises in order to bypass security. The last point is quite illustrative of the risks that Freud was willing to take in order to enjoy one of his favorite hobbies and one could argue that it was the risk that drove him to the artistic lifestyle in the first place. The most creative people are often thrill-seekers and detest the idea of boredom - this was especially true in Freud's case, as he felt that both painting and casino gaming in particular relied on a certain degree of chance with the tiniest of margins between success and error. More often than not, Lucian Freud liked the odds he was faced with and as a result, rode his luck and went with his gut instincts. You could argue that this certainly served him well over the years, with his life-size nude portrait known as Fat Sue selling for $56.2 million at Christie's back in 2015.

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Francis Bacon

Bacon was already a famous artist when he died aged 82 back in 1992 but few could have predicted the levels to which his post-posthumous fame would escalate to. A painting by Bacon of his good friend, the aforementioned Lucian Freud, became the world's most expensive artwork to be sold at an auction after fetching a staggering $142.2 million. The fact that Bacon counted Freud amongst one of his closest friends speaks volumes about where his other interests lied and the former spent much of his time in Monaco, a riot of revving Ferraris and golden bling. Back in 1966, Francis Bacon told art critic David Sylvester that he wanted "a very ordered image" when it came to his work but "wanted to come about it by chance'" which indicates that both Bacon and Freud shared similar philosophies, asking themselves “what are the odds?” when it came to gambling and painting - they were both impulsive, brave and yet devil-may-care about the whole situation when it came to appreciating the losses they could incur whilst at the casino –. Nevertheless, it is often said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity and at times, Bacon seemed to walk that particular tight-rope with both eyes closed.


Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky is perhaps one of the best-known casino dabblers on this list, owing to the fact that he wrote two books which were explicitly about gambling. The Gambler is a short novel set in the 19th century and follows a young man who bets large sums of money whilst playing roulette in a casino. It's even rumored that the Russian wrote the last section of his other gambling-related novel, Crime and Punishment, in a matter of days to secure an advance from his publisher in order to settle some casino-related payments. Dostoyevsky often found inspiration for his novels from his experiences with games of chance due to the risk he experienced from his life as an avid gambler.

Mark Twain

In the words of Mark Twain, "There are two times in a man's life when he should [gamble]: when he can't afford it and when he can." Twain allegedly learned to play poker as a young boy in Mississippi and consequently gained a reputation as a tough customer in his later years at the five-card draw variant of the game. Twain famously defended the game of poker through his writing and wrote that it was a game that gave a man the opportunity to demonstrate his worth, be it intellectual, moral or social. Twain's 1889 work A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is still readily available on Amazon and explains the concept of bluffing in great depth and how the game of poker is more than just the cards that players find themselves dealt with. Perhaps Twain felt that this maxim was strongly relevant to his life up to that point and indicates why he felt such a connection with the game. And the casino gave it back to him as Twain now has a casino to his name!

The Thrill of the Chase

As has been previously touched upon, the correlation between creativity and risk-taking is a strong one partly due to the fact that the people in questions had to take risks to further their careers. Of course, once these risks paid off (and to some tune), you could argue that the writers and artists on the list got a taste for winning and the thrill that is associated with throwing caution to the wind. However, another credible explanation perhaps lies with the creative mind constantly needing stimulation and artists and writers are excellent examples of professions where it can take months and sometimes years to complete a project. This undoubtedly leaves a lot of spare time to fill and some of the most creative minds felt that the best way to do that was with a scotch in their hand whilst enjoying a variety of casino games...who can argue with that?!