Roulette is one of the oldest and most popular casino games. It is named after the French word for little wheel. The game comes in three main types – French Roulette, European Roulette, and American Roulette. While the basics of the game are the same, there are big differences when it comes to the house edge.
The game involves placing wagers on a single number, a set of numbers, or the colours red or black – the numbers can be odd or even or high (19–36) or low (1–18). To determine the winning colour or number, a dealer spins a wheel in a certain direction, then spins a ball in the opposite direction around the outer edge of the wheel. When the ball loses momentum, it passes through deflators and falls onto one of 38 (in American style roulette) or 37 (in French/European style roulette) numbered and coloured pockets on the wheel.
There are several theories explaining the origins of roulette. The most popular theory is that it was invented in the 17th century by Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, and inventor. Many historians believe that the scientist introduced the primitive form of roulette in 1655 during his search for a perpetual motion machine.
The second theory says that the game is based on the Sho game, a traditional Chinese game that involved arranging 37 animal statuettes into a magic square of 666. The game moved from China to Tibet to France through Dominican monks who were involved with the aspects of Chinese life. It is alleged that the monks made slight modifications to the game before taking it to Europe. They changed the statues to numbers and the square to a circle where the numbers would be arranged from 0 to 36.
The third theory says that Roulette was invented during the Greco-Roman period when the Roman and Greek soldiers played a game that involved spinning a chariot wheel or shield. The game also had an arrow which pointed to one of 10 spaces on the ground. The basics of the game were similar to those of the modern-day roulette – when the spun shield or wheel stopped, the marked space against the arrow was considered the winning one.
Although roulette is unique in itself, it is believed that most of its features were borrowed from other popular games at the time. Today’s modern roulette is a hybrid of English wheel games and Georgian-era favourites including Ace of hearts, Reiner, Roly Poly, Even-Odd, and two Italian games namely Hoca and Biribi.
Roulette has been played in its present form since 1796 in Paris. The earliest written record of people playing this table game for real money was in a French novel, La Roulette, ou le jour, which was written Jaques Lablee. The book, which was published in 1801, describes a wheel being spun at the Palais Royal. It described the house pockets and its layout as having two betting spaces containing a zero and double zero.
The wheels used in Paris casinos in the late 1790s had a black for the double zero and red for the single zero. In 1843, François and Louis Blanc opened a casino in Bad Homburg that featured a single 0style roulette wheel to make it stand out from other casinos that had the traditional wheel with single and double zero house pockets.
Some forms of the vintage American roulette wheels featured a single zero, a double zero, numbers 1 through 28 and another house pocket – the American Eagle. This additional house pocket was a house slot that brought the casino extra edge. Later on, this vanished and since then the wheel has had numbered slots only.
It is important to mention that the roulette wheel was placed on top of a makeshift table to prevent devices from being hidden under the wheel.
During the early 20th century, the only famous casino towns where gamblers would play roulette was Monte Carlo (single zero wheel) and Las Vegas (double wheel). In the 1970s, an impressive number of casinos were being established around the world. Three decades later, there was a large number of casinos offering roulette games.
In addition to the brick-and-mortar casinos, there are also hundreds of online casinos that offer variants of the table game. There’s also live roulette which allows gamers to play in real time with a dealer and other players.
Roulette is far from extinct on today’s consoles. The game Vegas Party on the Nintendo Switch puts you right in the middle of the world of Las Vegas City. The Playstation 4 also lets you bring the casino experience back into your living room with The Four Kings Casino and Slots.