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Put and Take: A Medieval Gambling Game

Updated on October 22, 2014
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Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

Detail of Girl holding a 4 sided Teetotum for Put and take from Pieter Brueghel the Elder's Children's Games (1526/1530–1569)
Detail of Girl holding a 4 sided Teetotum for Put and take from Pieter Brueghel the Elder's Children's Games (1526/1530–1569) | Source

Spin the Teetotum and Take a Chance

Put and Take is a medieval gambling game that, in it's standard form, uses a four sided teetotum. The game is quite simple to play, everyone puts a coin in the post then each player takes turns spinning the teetotum. Depending on what number turns up depends on how much you lose or win.

What the Heck is a Teetotum?

A teetotum is a multi sided top that when spun will eventually land on one of the sides. A teetotum can be anywhere from 3 sided on up to pretty much unlimited number of sides depending on the size of the teetotum. Four sided teetotum is common in the Jewish traditional game of Dreidle (which is actually a version of Put and Take.

Four Sided Teetotum Winnings Chart

Number
Winnings/Losses
1
Put one coin in pot
2
Nothing
3
Put one coin in pot
4
Take all from the pot

Six Sided Put and Take Winnings Chart

Number
Winnings/Losses
1
Take one from the pot
2
Everyone puts one in the pot
3
Take all from the pot
4
Put two in the pot
5
Take two from the pot
6
Put one in the pot
Six sided put and take can be played with a standard die as well.

I have a little dreidel. I made it out of clay.

When it's dry and hard, then dreidel I shall play.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, then dreidel I shall play.

Dreidel

The traditional Jewish Hanukkah game of Dreidel is a variant of Put and take that uses letters from the Hebrew Alphabet instead of numbers on the teetotum (called a dreidel). The letters used on the dreidel are: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin).

Dreidel Winnings Chart

Letter
Winnings/Losses
נ (Nun)
Nothing
ג (Gimel)
Take all from the pot
ה (Hei)
Take half the pot
ש (Shin)
Put one in the pot

The Avacal Games Guild is a group of people in the SCA Kingdom of Avacal who are interested in Medieval games

Badge of the Avacal Games Guild
Badge of the Avacal Games Guild | Source

© 2014 Jeff Johnston

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