A Brief History of Roulette

Morten
31 January 2023
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a-brief-history-of-roulette

Roulette is a gambling game where players place bets on the pocket a ball will land on a spinning wheel. The spinning wheel is a cluster of numbered pockets with two different colours. Some are red and others black. The croupier releases the ball after the wheel is set in rotation. It will eventually land in one of the pockets after tumbling about for some time in the wheel.

The place where the ball lands will determine the game’s outcome and the winners. The players can place different types of bets in roulette, such as on whether it will land on a specific colour, number, or among a range of numbers.

The History of Roulette

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Named after the French word for “little wheel”, the origins of roulette are not entirely clear. The concept of the roulette wheel is believed to have been invented around 1655. It resulted from the work of a mathematician and inventor from France known as Blaise Pascal. Initially, he was trying to create something that could run indefinitely without an external energy source, known as a perpetual motion machine. The wheel evolved from this concept.

An alternative theory suggests that it is a creation of the Chinese, though almost no evidence supports this. Little is known about this part of the history of roulette in China. The concept of the spinning wheel evolved from the idea behind Pascal’s demonstration, and his name has been identified with it ever since.

The roulette spinning wheel is a key component of the game with no other known origins apart from its evolution from the perpetual motion machine. It must have been developed by various unknown and known inventors and engineers, undergoing refinement each time. However, it is also believed to have been created to keep players occupied and retain their interest while the dealer worked out the payout.

The mechanism behind the wheel uses a simple and effective design to perpetuate randomness in the outcome of each spin. A small ball is placed on the angled surface of the wheel while it rotates in the opposite direction. The ball bounces around for a while due to the difference in direction. Soon, it lands in one of the numbered pockets on the wheel.

By the 18th century, roulette had become popular in gambling halls and casinos around France, Europe, and America. The modern version of roulette we have now was developed in 1842 by two brothers in a casino in their Monte Carlo casino in Monaco, France. This single 0 roulette wheel style came to relevance the following year when brothers Francois and Louis Blanc used it to compete against other casinos using the traditional wheel with both single and double zero pockets.

The table in roulette is provided for players to place bets and the croupier to manage the game. Most likely, the first were simple wooden boards with a layout similar to today’s printed on them. Roulette tables these days have a green felt surface marked with the different numbers and betting areas. It also uses a “marker” to identify the winning number after every spin. The roulette table is key to the game, as it allows players to understand the layout of the game and easily place bets.

Types of Roulette

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There are three major Roulette variations known as European, French and American roulette.

European Roulette

This version of the game was introduced by the Blanc brothers in a casino in Monte Carlo, Monaco, and it quickly became a hit with players. The aim of creating this version by the brothers was to stand out from the competition by giving them better odds than the double zero wheel.

By using only a single 0, the house edge was considerably reduced, creating room for more wins. This ended up attracting more customers to their casino, becoming a hit throughout the gambling halls of Europe.

Played with a wheel that has 37 pockets, European roulette is popular for having better odds than its American counterpart. The red and black coloured pockets contain 1 to 36. The number 0 is labelled on a green pocket.

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French Roulette

This is a variation similar to European Roulette because of its single green zero segment. However, French Roulette has a distinct advantage: players do not lose 50/50 bets if the ball lands on the zero.

Depending on the variation, players can choose to follow the La Partage or En Prison rule. For La Partage, a punter will receive half of their stakes back with a green zero. Conversely, for the En Prison rule, the stake must be used on another spin and is returned if you win. It is cleared off in case of a loss.

American Roulette

The American version of the game was introduced into the country from Europe around the late 18th or early 19th century. It quickly became one of the most popular offerings from the casinos and gambling halls of the time. Roulette was introduced to the American market with the aim of increasing the house edge by including the 00 in the wheel and layout. By adding the double zero to the game, the chances of players winning are affected, and the casinos would profit more.

An outdated version of American roulette included an eagle head, also used to add to the house edge. With 38 pockets provided, the worse odds mean punters have mostly steered clear of it since in preference of European roulette. This is probably why this version of the game is not popular outside the United States and other countries in its proximity.

Notable Wins in Roulette

Despite the level of luck involved in the game, several notable wins have been observed in casinos where roulette is played. Either through keen observation or pure luck, some people have been able to inspire other punters to aim high. Some of the biggest wins ever recorded in roulette include the following:

Charles Wells

He is also known as “The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”. Charles Wells was said to have wagered on the number 17 in 1891. By betting on it repeatedly, he was said to have amassed winnings of almost a million francs. He won the entire amount in less than 24 hours and still managed to have a history of huge wins and losses throughout his life.

Joseph Jagger

Joseph was an engineer from Yorkshire, England, who observed a certain bias in the roulette wheels at the Breaux-Arts Casino, Monte Carlo. Once he was sure of the mechanical fault that made it give non-random results, he put his theory to the test. It paid off, and he won about $300000 within a few days of exploiting the bias.

Ashley Revell

This man is more famous for his daring act in a gambling game than for the amount he won. In 2004, he reportedly sold his house and every single one of his possessions and went off to the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was here that he decided to bet the entire sum he made from the sale and his life savings on a single roulette spin. That day, he wagered $135300 on the colour red, an even-money bet. It was a successful move, and he won $270600 from this.

Mike Ashley

A billionaire entrepreneur with many businesses, Mike Ashley, decided to try his luck at playing roulette sometime in 2008. At a private casino in Mayfair, England, he placed a complete bet around the number 17. He included all its corners, splits, streets, and six-line wagers. With his 480000 stakes, he won a total amount of £1.3m.

These are a few examples of people who have landed notable roulette wins over the years. While these may sound exciting, remember that gambling is a high-risk activity, and you should never attempt to chase lost bets. Always play responsibly and place bets that are within your means.

Conclusion

Roulette is a game of chance where you can bet on one or more of the different outcomes. It was developed from the idea of the perpetual motion machine invented by Blaise Pascal, a mathematician from France, around the 18th century. There are three main types of roulette played at brick-and-mortar and online casinos. European roulette was introduced by the Blanc brothers and has been popular ever since because of its higher odds for players.

Conversely, American roulette is not so much played outside the country due to its lower winning chances and higher house edge. Some punters have made incredible winnings from playing roulette. This highlights the wonders of roulette`s high payout odds, making roulette a perfect choice for all casino players in the UK. Whether at a land-based or online casino, ensure to gamble responsibly and play within a budget.

Author Morten

After being a recreational gambler for over 10 years, my professional gambling career started at LeoVegas in January 2019. I am now Head of SEO & Content at Casinogrounds, responsible for what you read on UKCasino.com, Casinogrounds.com, and Casinoscores.com.