It’s said that the game of Roulette was stumbled upon accidentally by French mathematician Blaise Pascal, in the 17th century. Pascal’s failed attempt to create a perpetual motion machine was the birth of the Roulette wheel that we and love know today.
There’s also evidence that certain forms of the game were played amongst ancient civilizations, so Roulette – or similar – can be found right at the back of the pages in the History book.
Read on to discover how Roulette came to be, and why the game spun into popularity, so that the next time you play – you’ll be an expert on the classic game’s history.
Ancient Chinese populations are said to have played a board game that involved arranging 37 animal figures into a magic square with numbers that – like Roulette – totaled 666. This game was discovered by Dominican Monks who later bought the game to Europe, but with slight modifications.
This story is not proven though, as there is no evidence of how the game was played. It’s said that the Monks changed the layout, making it a circle instead of a square and adding a pocket for the number zero.
Back in Ancient Rome, Roman soldiers would spend their hours on the battlefield –witnessing the horrors this bought with it. Commanders would let their soldiers have as much fun as possible to unwind – so they would gamble and play games.
One of these games involved a shield or a chariot wheel, and players would spin these and bet on the outcome. This sounds a little bit like Roman Roulette, don’t you think?
Ancient Greek soldiers would also use gambling as a pastime. They would draw symbols on the inside of a shield, place it on the ground face down and then put an arrow next to it, spinning the shield and betting on which symbol would stop in front of the arrow.
Despite the idea of the game being present throughout history – Roulette is definitely of French origin. Before Roulette came to be, the 17th century saw two very popular games called ‘Roly Poly’ and ‘Even-Odd’ take flight. These both involved spinning a wheel and betting on the outcome. As Blaise Pascal was a famous gambler at the time, it’s almost certain he knew about these games – and perhaps had their mechanics in mind when “accidentally” creating his version of the Roulette wheel.
The earliest of Roulette wheels had two green pockets – one for zero and one for a double zero – much like the now-American version of the game. If it wasn’t for two Frenchmen, called Francois and Louis Blanc, we would not have the popular ‘single zero’ wheel we know today.
The late 18th century saw strict gambling laws come into play – putting a halt to gameplay in France and the rest of Europe. When Prince Charles of Monaco faced some money issues and tried to use gambling to solve them – the game of Roulette became very popular in Monaco – and in turn – loved by aristocrats and royalty.
In 1842, gambling was again illegal in France, so to promote their new single-zero games, Francois and Louis Blanc moved to Hamburg, Germany.
The popularity of the game spun out of hand, and with a single zero wheel dropping the house edge and offering a better return to players – this version soon replaced the double zero version of the wheel – spreading around Europe as ‘European Roulette’. Francois and Louis Blanc later established the famous Monte Carlo Casino Resort.
In the early 19th century, European settlers took the game over to Louisiana in America. Over there, however, casinos were unhappy with the lowered house edge and fought to increase it.
Whilst the game became popular, and American’s generally preferred the double zero version of the game, Roulette didn’t quite take off as it had done in Europe – and games with more strategy – like Blackjack – remained more popular.
Today, Roulette is available in a variety of ways – with all versions of the game accessible online, from your very own home.
The thrill of watching the wheel spin and hoping to get lucky is something other games can rarely offer – keeping Roulette up there amongst the most popular casino games out there.