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A brief history of roulette

  • Learn how roulette evolved into the game we know and love today
  • Impress your friends with your background knowledge
Roulette: It has a surprisingly interesting history

Roulette originated in Europe, and literally means nothing more than ‘little wheel ‘ in French. Incredibly, it wasn’t invented for the purposes of gaming at all, but for a completely different reason:

Designed for science; used for fun!

Over 100 years ago Blaise Pascal, a French physicist, mathematician, philosopher and inventor was attempting to devise a machine would achieve the holy grail of perpetual motion, which at the time was not considered impossible. Subsequent studies have revealed it to be exactly that  but luckily for avid roulette players throughout the world Pascal could not possibly have known that it was impossible to invent a machine that would be able to overcome energy loss as it turned, and thus never stop moving.Pascal’s prototype wheel became the basis for the modern roulette wheel and a spin-off benefit (excuse the pun) emerged in the form of the first roulette wheel. 

The basic game of roulette is thought to have evolved from a combination of a few different games. Those most often mentioned are the Italian board games, Biribi and Hoca, and English wheel games, Roly-Poly and Reiner. 

From Paris to Germany - and then to Monte Carlo

Roulette play was first recorded in a French novel at the end of the 18th century, which described the game being playing in a Parisian casino, the Palais Royale. The game soon became very popular, spreading across Europe. 

The original wheel had slots (or ‘bars’) for a single zero and a double zero. In 1843 two French brothers, François and Louis Blanc, introduced a single-zero roulette wheel in the town of Homburg in Germany. Their idea was to gain a competitive advantage over all the other casinos. This variation was the defining feature of what came to be known as European Roulette. The game immediately gained favour, but the brothers were dealt a blow when Germany banned gaming in the 1860s. 

In response to this, the Blanc brothers moved to Monte-Carlo, taking their game of European roulette with them. They were instrumental in setting up the first Monte-Carlo casinos, and European roulette found its home. It was largely due to roulette that Monte-Carlo became the centre of high-class European gaming, and from this base European roulette spread throughout Europe and has become one of the classic casino games. 

The game subsequently remained popular throughout casinos all over the world, though the double zero game made a huge comeback in Las Vegas where it still dominates despite offering twice the size of the European house edge. 

Variations of the game specific to France were also introduced in the 20th century, the most specific begin the La Partage rule: This variation pays back half of any outside bets if the ball lands in the green slot, so players betting on red or black, odds or evens etc will see their bankrolls unaffected in that scenario, improving the house edge even more. The French also introduced the En Prison rule, meaning that on some tables an outside bet is kept on for the next spin if the ball lands in the green slot – again, improving the house edge.

Play RNG or live games - both are great experiences

Eventually, of course, the game moved online and was first played on virtual wheels that used random number generators instead of the laws of physics to determine where the ball lands, though these are heavily regulated to ensure fairness and consistency.

Later, operators like Playtech and Evolution Gaming started broadcasting live roulette using virtual betting grids with camera feeds from real tables in casino studio mock-ups. These are hugely popular as players are guaranteed a genuine outcome and they can also chat to the croupiers for a true casino floor experience without the need to get dressed up or spend a fortune on taxi fares.

The advent of online roulette has also led to some interesting new ideas, combining the standard game with ante-based bonus rounds for additional returns, and even mixing up slot games with roulette to offer jackpot wins on top of standard roulette odds.

Now that these innovations have been brought in, anything could happen – so no matter you think you think you know about the game of roulette, prepare to be surprised. 


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A brief history of roulette

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