The history of Roulette

Published by Dave Perez on May 19, 2020

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Published by Dave Perez on May 19, 2020

Roulette is a casino game that takes into account placing bets on a single number, a variety of groups of numbers, on colours (i.e red or black), whether the number is even or odd, or if the numbers are high (from 19-36) or low (from 1-18).

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This game is played by having a dealer spin the wheel in one direction and then in the opposite direction, then players have to wait for the ball to stop to see if they’ve won or not. Roulette has gained popularity because of its unpredictability and the suspense which builds with it. It has also been usedin many films where characters have placed enormous bets on a single number, rather than making an intelligent wager.


The Origins of Roulette


The name ‘Roulette’ is a direct translation of the French word which means ‘little wheel’, which is in reference to the wheel which is used to spin the ball. Though the origins of the game aren’t exactly known, it’s been widely accepted that roulette was invented in the 17th century by French mathematician, physicist, and writer, Blaise Pascal. Pascal had been trying to find a perpetual motion machine, and thus ended up with a primitive version of the game we know today.

The version of roulette we play today has been played since 1796 in Paris. The earliest description of the modern game ever found, had been in La Roulette, ou le Jour, a French novel. Within the novel, an exact description of the roulette wheel had been described, this included house pockets, slots reserved for the bank, the layout which included two betting spaces, and the single and double zero slots.

In the late 1700s, casinos in Paris used black and red for the zero and double zero on the roulette wheels, it was later changed to green to avoid confusion. In the 1800s, Prince Charles of Monaco had been facing bankruptcy and decided to open gambling houses to solve his financial issues. Most of them featured roulette and they’d become incredibly popular with the aristocrats.


The Chinese, The Romans, and the Greeks


Though it’s widely accepted that roulette originated in France, many people argue that it was, in fact, the Chinese which had invented the game. Their version of the game had 37 animal figures arranged to a magic type of square with values that tallied up to 666. Some claim that the game only reached France after its discovery was made by Dominican monks who had been involved in the Chinese culture.

Further claims have also been made which stated that the monks had modified the game by changing the square to a circle and then adding the slot for zero. There is no specified data on how the Chinese variation of roulette had been played. There is a hole in the Chinese origin story, as the wheel in France had already had both slots for zero and double zero, so the entire theory seems quite fake.

There are reports of Ancient Roman soldiers playing a variation of roulette. It’s said that due to the stressful nature of their job and having such a short life expectancy, the Roman commanders would allow soldiers to indulge in a bit of fun, as this would reduce stress and increase effectiveness while they’re at war.

The games which they played involved a variety of gambling methods, one, in particular, includes spinning the wheel of a chariot or a shield, this is the closest they came to playing modern roulette.

The Ancient Greeks would also partake in a game which is even closer to modern roulette, this involved drawing symbols in the inner side of a shield. The shield had been placed face-down on the floor and an arrow was placed right beside it. The shield would be spun and the soldiers would place bets on a specific symbol in the hopes that the arrow would land on it.

These games are great primitive examples of roulette, but there just isn’t enough proof to state that the Chinese, Greeks, or Romans had invented the game.


Spreading to Europe


Roulette started to spread, and in 1843, the game was introduced to a German spa in the region of Bad Homburg by Francois and Louis Blanc; however, their version included only one zero on the wheel and this was the birth of European Roulette. As they set up base in Hamburg, Germany, this is where the game became extremely popular.

The reason why European Roulette was invented was to eliminate the house edge by 2.70%, this compared to the 5.26% house edge that French Roulette had is a huge difference. This caused European Roulette to become increasingly popular as it had lower odds and a higher return-to-player percentage.

After many years, the Frenchmen returned to France with their version of roulette due to Prince Charles of Monaco III’s request. They then proceeded to establish what would now be dubbed as the first modern type of casino, with their prized European Roulette wheel being the highlight. Shortly after that had been accomplished, they went on to develop the prestigious Monte Carlo Casino Resort.

Legend has it that in order to learn the secrets of roulette, Francois Blanc struck a deal with the devil himself – which is why the total of all roulette numbers added up comes to a total of 666, which is weird.

Below is a short timeline on the gradual progression of roulette:

  • 1796 – Roulette makes its first appearance in French gambling houses.
  • 1842 – Francois & Louis Blanc introduced the first variation of European roulette in German territory.
  • 1863 – Louis Blanc develops the Monte Carlo Casino Resort.
  • 1873 – Charles Wells, a petty crook, wins $500 000 at Monte Carlo Casino Resort without cheating in roulette.
  • 1994 – Microgaming, a renowned casino software developer, created the very first online casino which also featured roulette.


American Roulette is Born


Roulette was first introduced to America during the 19th century by European settlers who set foot in Louisiana. The Americans didn’t receive the game as well as the Germans did, as casino proprietors were unhappy with the 5.26% house edge and decided to up it. This increased the odds and lowered return-to-player percentages, which frustrated players and they ultimately lost interest in the game.

This changed shortly as players rejected the single 0 roulette and agreed that it be discarded in favour of the double 0 version. This was the only acceptable version of roulette, and it’s now known as American Roulette.

As time progressed, American players grew tired of roulette and opted to bet on games that could be beaten, such as blackjack.


Roulette Today


Today, roulette is available in a host of varieties which can be found online or in a land-based casino. The game isn’t at the top of the list when it comes to overall popularity; however, it seems to be making a comeback. The convenience of playing at online casinos has made it easy for us to choose the exact variation of the game we wish to play. What makes roulette such a great game is that there is no strategy to beat it, and unless you find a biased wheel like Joseph Jaggers did in 1873, you’ll be holding your breath in suspense until the wheel stops, and that’s something that very few casino games can do.

Author: Dave Perez

Dave Perez is a casino content expert working in the industry for 5 years as a content manager, looking for the best online casino tips? follow this guy

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