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The History of Gambling in Archery and Archery Gambling Games in Canada

By Jeffrey Heinz - February 14th 2017.

Back in 2016 a friend and fellow archer introduced me to a friendly gambling game involving archery. The game was "Three Arrow Quick Draw". But it was not the only game out there obviously. There is also:

  • Three Arrow Marksman
  • Le Mans Archery Race
  • Last Man Standing
  • Teer / Thoh Tim

    Games of skill / accuracy have often been a source of gambling. Darts, bowling, billiards, and of course archery.

    Back in the 1380s Richard III of England enforced a new law against dice games such as backgammon because the archers in his military were playing backgammon too much and not practicing archery enough. So how did his archer's respond? They did archery, but they invented a number of gambling games that involved archery skill so that archers could bet on themselves and also bet on others.

    That obscure British law later was adopted by Canada, as part of the British commonwealth, and that law prohibiting dice games like backgammon was still in law books in Canada until it was finally removed on March 15th 1999.

    Gambling wasn't new to Canada either. In 1497 John Cabot was exploring the region and learned that the Native population enjoying playing a wide variety of gambling games involving both chance, strategy and skill. Archaeologists in Canada have since found archaelogical evidence of such games dating back to 6,000 BCE.

    In 1892, the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to add a complete ban on gambling. But that didn't really stop people from gambling on sporting events such as horseracing, sculling/rowing (such as the famed sculler Ned Hanlan), hockey, and any number of sports - including archery and rifle marksmanship.

    Specific groups such as horseracing enthusiasts argued that the only way for the horse industry could be kept alive was through gambling. Without the proceeds from ticket sales to horse races and mutuel betting, the horse industry in Ontario would be dead. Thus exceptions were made so that people could keep the horse industry alive, and consequently the horseracing gambling industry too. Thus gambling continued to flourish in Ontario, despite many laws

    Over the years Ontario and other provinces in Canada has decreased their bans on gambling - lottery tickets, bingo halls, allowing in casinos in Niagara Falls and other locations, slot machines, and in recent years the Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto now allows people to bet on the horse races via the internet.

    These days people are not limited to horseraces any more however. With online sports gambling websites like William Hill, people can now gamble on archery sports competitions. While writing and researching this, we determined that William Hill does have a page about archery gambling - but it is blank. So maybe people don't actually gamble on archery via that website at all. Although to be fair, William Hill is the same website where people can gamble on whether or not Donald Trump will be impeached during his first term in office, whether he will resign, what year Donald Trump will no longer be president, and whether the USA will leave NATO under Trump's leadership. So really people can gamble on a wide variety of things on that website - but archery is apparently not one of those things.

    In Canada sports gambling has a tendency to be more "under the radar", via illegal bookies or even just friendly bets amongst friends. As an individual sport, archery lends itself more towards the "friendly bet" approach using small sums.

    In the examples of Archery Gambling Games below, each round of competition bets a meagre 25 cents. However with multiple competitors and rounds, that meagre amount can add up to a tidy sum - enough for gas money or buying coffee at Tim Hortons.

    People will no doubt invent and create their own archery games / competitions / ways to gamble with friends. The list below is some of the games we have seen in use.


  • Sports Betting in Canada


    A Guide to Online Sports Betting in Canada

    Archery Gambling Games

    "Three Arrow Quick Draw"

    The Rules

  • Each archer puts in their ante in the pot to join the competition. A typical bet is 25 cents. So if there is 6 archers competing there should be $1.50 in the pot.
  • The target is a small object, such as a Tim Hortons coffee lid pinned to the target, usually at a distance of 60 feet or more.
  • Each archer gets three arrows.
  • All archers begin shooting at roughly the same time.
  • The goal is to be the first person to hit the coffee lid.
  • The first person to hit the coffee lid wins the pot.
  • If the arrow is touching the coffee lid, it counts as a hit.
  • Since this is a speed competition the only way you get a tie is if two or more archers hit the target at roughly the same time, in which case they split the pot (or do a 2nd round shoot off between the two archers to see who is the fastest shot).
  • After the round is over the winner collects the pot.
  • If no one hit the target at all, the stakes are upped by another 25 cents per archer and a new round is done to see who hits first. This repeats until someone wins the pot.

    "Three Arrow Marksman"

    The Rules

  • Each archer puts in their ante in the pot to join the competition. A typical bet is 25 cents. So if there is 6 archers competing there should be $1.50 in the pot.
  • The target is a small object, such as a Tim Hortons coffee lid pinned to the target, usually at a distance of 60 feet or more.
  • Each archer gets three arrows.
  • Archers draw straws to determine who shoots first.
  • Archers shoot in order, their goal is to hit the coffee lid as much as possible (preferably all 3 arrows on the coffee lid).
  • If the arrow is touching the coffee lid, it counts as a hit.
  • The archer with the most hits on the coffee lid collects the pot.
  • If there is a tie, the archers split the pot evenly (or do a 2nd round shoot off between the two archers).
  • If no one hit the target at all, the stakes are upped by another 25 cents per archer and a new round is done to see who hits first. This repeats until someone wins the pot.

    "Le Mans Archery Race"

    The Rules

  • Each archer puts in their ante in the pot to join the competition. A typical bet is 25 cents. So if there is 6 archers competing there should be $1.50 in the pot.
  • The target is a small object, such as a Tim Hortons coffee lid pinned to the target, usually at a distance of 60 feet or more.
  • Each archer gets five or more arrows, usually a number agreed upon at the outset of the competition.
  • Each archer sets down their bow and arrows at the shooting line and walks away to an agreed upon distance / object, such as a fence that is further away from the shooting line.
  • Each archer places one foot touching the fence/object and waits for the signal to start.
  • When it starts each archer races towards the shooting line to grab their equipment. Shoving, pushing or tripping competitors is a foul and any person doing such unsportsman-like behaviour automatically is kicked out of the competition.
  • Once at the shooting line each archer begins shooting at the coffee lid. Archers can opt to kneel at the shooting line because it is faster, or they can stand after grabbing their equipment if they feel they are more accurate shooting from a standing position.
  • The first person to hit the coffee lid wins the competition and the pot.
  • If no one hit the target at all, the stakes are upped by another 25 cents per archer and a new round is done to see who hits first. This repeats until someone wins the pot.

    "Last Man Standing / First Person Who Misses"

    The Rules

  • Each archer puts in their ante in the pot to join the competition. A typical bet is 25 cents. So if there is 6 archers competing there should be $1.50 in the pot.
  • The target is a medium size object, such as a paper plate pinned to the target.
  • The range to the target is started off fairly close to the target. Each archer shoots one arrow and must hit the target or else they are knocked out of the competition.
  • Each archer then moves away from the target two paces, and they do another round. If one or more archers miss the target, they are out of the competition.
  • The competition continues moving back two paces after each shot at different distances until there is only one archer left who successfully hit the target.
  • If the last two or more archers all missed the target, they repeat the same distance until one of them hits and the other misses.

    "Teer, the Meghalayese Archery Game of Thoh Tim"

    Teer, sometimes called Thoh Tim, is a lottery-style gambling archery game popular in the Meghalaya region of India. The game is not popular in Canada, but we felt we should mention this rather unusual game. In India Teer is so popular there is an entire industry dedicated to Teer news, gambling, statistics, dream interpretation and numerology (see further below for why these last two are important).

    The Rules

  • 20 Archers from 3 different clubs line up to shoot at a target.
  • An official gives the word for the archers to begin shooting, which they all do rapidly.
  • The officials then inspect and declare the results.
  • Gamblers bet on what the resulting numbers will be via websites like teercounter.com or via local bookies.
  • Gamblers often pick their numbers based on a complex system of dream interpretation and numerology. The idea being is that if you have good dreams, you try to interpret them correctly and convert those dreams into numbers using numerology. Betting on those numbers is believed to be lucky.

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