Roulette is one of the most popular casino games.
In the game, a player may choose to place a bet on a single number, various groupings of numbers, the color red or black, whether the number is odd or even, or if the numbers are high (19–36) or low (1–18).
Fanciful stories about the origin of roulette include its invention by the 17th-century French mathematician Blaise Pascal, by a French monk, and by the Chinese, from whom it was supposedly transmitted to France by Dominican monks.
In reality, the Roulette wheel was invented by a French physicist, inventor, and mathematician named Blaise Pascal. Initially, Pascal wasn’t trying to invent a casino game. In 1655, Pascal tried to invent a perpetual motion machine.
A a perpetual motion machine is a machine that continues to operate without drawing energy from an external source. The laws of physics say it’s impossible, but being an inventor, Pascal was attempting to defy the odds. His experiment failed, but the process gave birth to one of the most popular casino games of all time.
The game has been played in its present form since as early as 1796 in Paris. An early description of the roulette game in its current form is found in a French novel La Roulette, ou le Jour by Jaques Lablee, which describes a roulette wheel in the Palais Royal in Paris in 1796. The description included the house pockets, “There are exactly two slots reserved for the bank, whence it derives its sole mathematical advantage.” It then goes on to describe the layout with, “…two betting spaces containing the bank’s two numbers, zero and double zero”. The book was published in 1801. An even earlier reference to a game of this name was published in regulations for New France (Québec) in 1758, which banned the games of “dice, hoca, faro, and roulette”.
By the late 1700s, New Orleans becomes the gambling capital in the US. And thanks to French immigrants, roulette quickly became one of the most popular games in Louisiana. Early roulette tables in the US were a bit different than what you see today.
Early roulette wheels had both a single zero and a double zero. But in 1843, two Frenchmen created a single zero roulette wheel to help casinos attract business (a lower house edge is always great for business).
During the years 1836 to 1933, roulette was banned in France.
During the first part of the 20th century, the only casino towns of note were Monte Carlo with the traditional single zero French wheel, and Las Vegas with the American double zero wheel.
In the 1970s, casinos began to flourish around the world.
In 1996, the first online casino hit the Internet. The available games were limited to a handful of slot machines and a couple of blackjack tables. It took a few years for roulette to follow, but once people discovered how thrilling betting on red could be from the comforts on home, playing roulette would never be the same.
By 2008, there were several hundred casinos worldwide offering roulette games. The double zero wheel is found in the U.S., Canada, South America, and the Caribbean, while the single zero wheel is predominant elsewhere.
The roulette wheel (both 0 and 00 versions) is sometimes referred to as the “Devil’s Wheel”. This is because its numbers add up to 666, aka the “number of the beast” – according to the Bible.
James Bond, 007, was a big roulette player in Ian Fleming’s original books and his favorite number was 17.
In the summer of 1891 at the Monte Carlo casino, a part-time swindler and petty crook from London named Charles Wells broke the bank at each table he played over a period of several days. Breaking the bank meant he won all the available money in the table bank that day, and a black cloth would be placed over the table until the bank was replenished.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Richard Jarecki won about $1.2 million at dozens of European casinos. He claimed that he was using a mathematical system designed on a powerful computer. In reality, he simply observed more than 10,000 spins of each roulette wheel to determine flaws in the wheels. Eventually the casinos realized that flaws in the wheels could be exploited, and replaced older wheels. The manufacture of roulette wheels has improved over time.
In 1963 Sean Connery, filming From Russia with Love in Italy, attended the casino in Saint-Vincent and won three consecutive times on the number 17, his winnings riding on the second and third spins.
In 2004, Ashley Revell of London sold all of his possessions, clothing included, and placed his entire net worth of US$135,300 on red at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. The ball landed on “Red 7” and Revell walked away with $270,600.
The largest roulette wheel measures 8.75 m (28 ft 8.48 in) in diameter and was achieved by Casino Du Liban (Lebanon) in Jounieh, Lebanon, on 16 December 2017.