History of Roulette

Roulette is one of the oldest games still being played in casinos to date. Its history, while not too complicated, dates back a long way when compared to other casino games that you might be familiar with. In fact, it dates back to the 1600s to the creation of the roulette wheel, but you can truly say that roulette came to fruition as we know it in the 1700s. From then, the game of roulette has undergone some minor changes, but as it was such a simple game at heart, there was very little that ever needed changing.

The story begins around 400 years ago in France, and a surname that you might be familiar with. Blaise Pascal (the same Pascal of SI unit fame) is the man who is credited with inventing the first ever roulette wheel, which came about in his search for a perpetual motion device. Pascal was a talented mathematician (amongst other things), and has gone down in history for many things in the field of science and mathematics. However, if you’re of the gambling ilk, you will know him most for the roulette wheel. While his search for a perpetual motion device remained fruitless, the wheel which he invented outlived him and was made into the first roulette variant in the 1700s.

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The origins of the game comes from two games. The Italian game of Hocca, which, like roulette, involved a ball and holes for it to go into. In Hoka, the game involved 40 holes, instead of the 37 or 38 on the roulette wheel as we know it, and it also didn’t have a wheel. The other game is an English game called E-O, and that, like Hoka, involved rolling a ball into holes, but this was played in a round table. So, the fusion of Hoka, E-O and Blaise Pascal’s roulette wheel, came together to form the game of roulette in a form that we somewhat know it today.

The game, as you can guess, was first played in France, and the terms used back then are still used to this day. In fact, the name “roulette” is a French word which translates as “little wheel”. And we keep other French terms when playing roulette, such as Jeu Zero, Orphelins, Tiers du Cylindre and Voisins du Zero.

From the early casinos of France, the game spread throughout Europe, and the game transformed further. The original game had both a 0 and a 00. In the 19th Century, the game evolved when another Frenchman, Louis Blanc, removed one of the zeros from the wheel. This was done to generate business, as he tried to compete against other local casinos in his German locale.

As well as sweeping through Europe during the 19th Century, roulette also made its way to North America, where the American casinos put their own slant on it, keeping the 0 and 00, and also adding another “number”, which was an American Eagle. This square gave the house just a little bit more of an edge, but it didn’t last too long, as American casinos came into line, more or less, with their European counterparts.

In the mid-19th Century, gambling was being banned throughout Europe, and it was only in Monte Carlo that the European elite could play roulette, and it was on Blanc’s wheel with only one 0 that the European elite played. Because of this, European Roulette as we know it became the game of choice in all of Europe’s casinos from then on.

While the game was flourishing throughout Europe, it was also flourishing in the United States, once the American Eagle was removed from the wheel. The American Roulette game kept the 0 and the 00 on the wheel, which was the old French variant, and swept through the country where gambling was legal, and also into areas where it wasn’t.

Once roulette became a dominant force in gambling by the end of the 19th Century, there was no avoiding it in casinos around the world. While casinos were not as common back then as they are now, roulette was a mainstay in them, purely because of the simplicity of the game, and also the fact that the game was played at a fast pace, meaning you could place more bets and win more money.

And now, at present day, every casino you go to will have a roulette wheel, or several of them. It is a long way from the perpetual motion device that Blaise Pascal tried to invent back in 17th Century France, and although the game has had some changes since its 19th century origins, the fact remains that it is still, at its heart, the same game minus a few slight changes, most notably the removal of the 00 from the European game. And now it is also a staple of the online casino industry, with every casino offering at least one variant of the game, if not both European Roulette and American Roulette, as well as some interesting twists on the game.

What does the future hold for roulette? Well, if the previous 400 years is anything to go by, the game will not change at all. There’s not been many changes over the last 200 years, so why fix perfection? There are simplified tables that don’t have the outside bets on them, but that is purely to speed the game up – the rules remain the same. Some casinos try and put a twist on it, but the players always come back to the classic game, because we know it and we enjoy playing it. So it is safe to say that in another 400 years time, people will still be playing the same game of roulette as we are playing now, maybe just without the felt and wood and human croupiers. » For Dummies » History of Roulette
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