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History of Roulette

You have seen the crowds around this table at the casino. As a little white ball speeds around the roulette table, the people get very excited and you wonder where did this strange little game come from? What is the appeal of roulette and why can people resist playing? The history of roulette is fascinating and mysterious.

You may have already guessed that the word roulette is a French word meaning “little wheel”. Some have speculated that the game was invented by mathematician, Blaise Pascal., who is known for his work related to probability. There isn’t a lot of agreement on this, but it makes for a nice story. The truth is, everyone seems to have a different story for the history of roulette.

One of the first stories about the history of roulette is about a game involving a ball spinning around a horizontal wheel, referred to as “roly-poly” that was played in the early 1700s. In 1739, the Gaming Act banned the game and other similar games in England. Clever people like Beau Nash managed to evade these laws by introducing “EO” or “even-odd” which was a simple version of the game of roly-poly. It too was banned in the 1700s. By 1800, the game had developed into the game we know today as roulette.

There is a legend that says a man named Francois Blanc, known for establishing the first casinos in Monte Carlo, had a large part to play in the history of roulette. The legend says that he sold his soul to the devil for the “secret of roulette”. Try adding all the numbers on a roulette wheel. They total 666.

There are stories about roulette being invented by a French monk that came up with the idea for the game to help make monastery life a little more exciting. Some even speculate that roulette is based on an ancient Chinese game in which players had to put 37 statuettes of animals in a square of 666 – but there is little information on how exactly the game was played. According to various sources the game was played in Tibet and was eventually picked up by French monks. The story goes that the monks changed the statuettes to numbers from 0 to 36 and arranged them around the ring of a turning wheel. However, since early French roulette wheels of the 1800s had both a 0 and 00, this story is somewhat implausible.

The modern roulette wheel with alternative colors and alternating odd/even numbers was first used in a casino in Paris in 1796. As with many things, the United States was introduced to the game of roulette by Europeans in the 1800s. The game was re-invented in the U.S., when American casinos created a 31 space roulette wheel in an effort to increase the edge the casinos had in Europe. You’ll often hear the terms American Roulette and European Roulette. The American wheel has an extra space and the odds for the player are not as good as the odds in European roulette. If you can, always try to play European roulette wheels.


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