Every casino, both brick-and-mortar casinos and online casinos, offer roulette gaming tables. Despite not being as popular as online slots and despite it being an “old-fashioned” game, roulette’s popularity increases from year to year. A short summary of how roulette achieved its place as one of the casino world’s most popular and most iconic games.
Some historians believe that roulette is based on an ancient Chinese board game in which players arranged g 37 animal figurines into a magic square. The animals were numbered and the numbered equaled 666. This game was discovered by Dominican monks who brought the game to Europe. Modifications were made, though the way that the original Chinese game was played remains unknown. Even skeptics have to admit that, since the numbers on the modern roulette wheel add up to 666 – there may be something to the story.
Another theory traces roulette back to ancient Rome when Roman soldiers gambled on spinning shields or chariot wheels. A third theory goes back to the ancient Greek Game in which gamblers (usually soldiers) would draw symbols on the inside of a shield. The shield would then be put face-down on the ground and an arrow placed next to it. The players would spin the shield and bet on which symbol would stop in front of the arrow. These ideas resemble the game of roulette but nothing has been proven.
Opinions vary as to whether French mathematician Blaise Pascal was influenced by these ancient games. What is known is that in 1720 Pascal, a famous gambler, was inspired to try to create a gambling game that would incorporate elements of the then-popular ‘Roly Poly’ and ‘Even-Odd’ games. Pascal wanted to take some of the features of these games, which both involved spinning a wheel and betting on the outcome of the spin, and combining them with his own wheel design.
Pascal’s efforts came at a time when France and Monaco had opened up to gambling entertainment. Their new gaming venues, called casinos, began o feature the Pascal’s “little wheel.” Roulette was an immediate hit with aristocrats, royalty and other members of Europe’s social elite and as other casinos opened, they added roulette immediately to their gaming floor.
The roulette game of 1720 was almost identical to the one we are playing today. Even the betting table was almost the same. There were both a one zero and a double zero pocket, the numbers went from 1 through 36 and the colors were red and black.
In 1842 Francois and Louis Blanc removed the double zero pocket. That single-zero pocket game became the standard roulette game and became known as European roulette. Shortly after the Blancs made their change, gambling was made illegal in France so the brothers moved to Hamburg, Germany, and introduced their new roulette game there. Thanks to the house edge having dropped to 2.70% with the removal of the double zero pocket, the game became extremely popular.
Even though roulette with two zero slots has an average casino advantage of 5.26%, the double zero wheel continued to be used, notably across the ocean in America where it migrated with early European settlers. It eventually became known as “American roulette while the Blancs’ version, which continued to be favored in Europe, remained “European Roulette.”.
After gambling was relegalized in France, the Blancs were able to bring their version of roulette back to France and Monaco. They established what would become known as the world’s first modern casino, the Monte Carlo Casino Resort, which featured the single zero roulette game as the centerpiece. The resort drew Europe’s royal families, wealthy and powerful decision-makers and other members of Europe’s high society. There were many games available but roulette became the main attraction. Slowly, roulette became popular throughout Europe.
Little changed until the Internet casinos debuted in the 1990s. The online casinos made it easy for anyone to enjoy roulette in the comfort of their own home. Roulette fans could play any type of roulette that they wanted and were not limited to the exact variations that a specific casino offered at any particular time. It became possible for roulette players to shop around for the casino that offered the best selection of games with the best bonus offers without ever leaving their living room armchair.
There have been a number of roulette scams and cheats over the years. Some involved the wheel and some were effected thanks to a collaboration between a player and a dealer.
The biggest roulette scam in history took place at Casino Deauville on the coast of the French Atlantic in 1973. A croupier joined forces with his sister who determined that, by embedding a small receiver in the roulette ball, the person holding the transmitter could, with 90% accuracy, cause the ball to land on one of 6 numbers.
The sister, used a pack of cigarettes to conceal the transmitter. She would then use the transmitter to send a signal to the ball. The brother and sister, together with the sister’s husband, employed the system by replacing the regular roulette ball with the ball that contained the receiver. The husband would place bets on one of the six identified numbers and the croupier would toss the ball with the receiver into the wheel.
Obviously five of the six numbers would lose but the odds were so much in favor of the cheaters that when they would get a hit, they would win enough to make up for any loses.
Eventually the scheme was detected and stopped. The trio didn’t serve any prison time but were obligated to return their ill-gotten winnings.
Today the online casino offers different roulette variations including both European and American roulette and French roulette with the En Prison rule.