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Tableau for Biribi (1788)
Richly illustrated historical Biribi game from the 18th century, shown in the Nordiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden

Biribi, or biribissi (in Italian) or cavagnole (in French), was an Italian game of chance similar to roulette, played for low stakes, that was prohibited by law in 1837. It was played on a board on which the numbers 1 to 70 are marked.[1]

The players put their stakes on the numbers they wish to back. The banker is provided with a bag from which he draws a case containing a ticket, the tickets corresponding with the numbers on the board. The banker calls out the number, and the player who has backed it receives sixty-four times his stake; the other stakes go to the banker.[2]

Casanova played it in Genoa (illegally, for it was already banned there) and the South of France in the 1760s and describes it as "a regular cheats' game". He broke the bank (fairly, he claims) and was immediately rumored to have been in collusion with the bag-holder; such collusion presumably was common.

In the French army "to be sent to Biribi" was a cant term for being sent to the disciplinary battalions in Algeria.[2]


  1. ^ Dumas, Alexandre (1998). Twenty Years After. Oxford University Press, UK. pp. 836–. ISBN 978-0-19-283843-8. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Biribi". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 981.