History of Roulette – A Look at One of the Most Iconic Games

Roulette has been around in one form or another for centuries. The history of roulette is rich and storied, deserving to be told.

True Story?

It is said that roulette was invented in France in the 18th century. The King of France was looking for ways to increase revenue for the treasury. He promised bounty to anyone that brought forth an idea. A destitute, but pious monk realized that the citizenry would happily pay money if they received something in return. And so, roulette was born; a chance to win and a voluntary tax. The King was pleased with the monk’s work and roulette was a great success, filling the Royal coffers. But, the King never compensated the monk.

The monk’s ire was great. He decided that if the King would not pay him, he would resolve himself to defeat the game he had invented. For, who knew better than he, how to beat the game?

He would spend the remainder of his life trying to outwit his own game, to no avail. Eventually, his failure became too much to bear and he committed suicide. Roulette became known as the Devil’s Game, as the sin of Greed had become the demise of the monk. But more notably, adding all numbers together in roulette from 1 to 36 totaled……….666.

More Likely?

Though very little historical record exists to pinpoint dates, the ancestor of roulette is thought to have begun in the early 1600s in Italy. Certainly, it would have been a rudimentary game compared to today. There are references of a game played with with a ball and 40 cups on a circular table. 3 of these cups were house cups, or zeros. This game was called “Hoca” and quickly became very popular in France and offered in many casinos as a way of increasing revenue for the treasury.

In 1654, the famous French scientist and philosopher, Blaise Pascal, is said to have developed the first primitive roulette wheel. It was created as a by-product of his desire to create a perpetual motion machine. At this time, his study of gambling problems also led to the first mathematical theory of probabilities.

This contributed to the creation of roulette in a form similar to the modern game we see today.

History of Roulette – What We Really Know

Roulette, as we know it today, has been played as early as 1796 at the Palais Royale in Paris. What is less known, is that Roulette began with a 0 and 00. The zero was red, and the double zero was black. Zeros did not become green until the 1800s. They were changed to avoid confusion.

On December 31, 1837, the government of France banned all games of chance. Thus, all gambling clubs and casinos closed. This had the effect of introducing the golden era of casinos in Germany.

French brothers, François and Louis Blanc, opened the Kursaal casino in Homburg, Germany in 1843. They brought roulette with them, and in an effort to draw business, revolutionized the game. They removed the double zero, and thus, the single zero game was born. Competition forced other casinos to follow suit with the Blanc brothers.

By the 1850s, casinos were banned in parts of Germany, to be completely based by 1872. The Blanc brothers packed up and moved to the only place that casinos continued to thrive; Monte Carlo. In 1863, François Blanc created a company called Société des Bains de Mers (SBM) and opened the now, world famous, Casino de Monte Carlo. This is where the history of roulette truly became global. His single zero version became widespread around the world.

However, the United States held onto the original roulette wheel with both zero slots. It made its way up the Mississippi from New Orleans and spread from there. To this day, 00 wheels are only common in the United States, as well as parts of Canada, South America and the Caribbean. The rest of the world maintains the single zero.

So, what are the differences between the two games? Well, stay tuned for the next installment!

One thought on “History of Roulette – A Look at One of the Most Iconic Games

  1. Aaron says:

    I believe the primitive wheel that blaise pascal designed ended up becoming a french game, popular in the 1800s, called “La Boule”. This had one of the heaviest casino advantages I have ever seen (11.11%). Basically it had the numbers 1-9 in a very large wheel, with the number 5 acting like a zero, and was spun with a large rubber ball. You can still find this game in select casinos in France.

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