Roulette is a French word that means little wheel. It might be a little wheel, but it’s also one of the most emblematic casino games. To play the roulette the players place bets on numbers that are distributed around the roulette. These bets can be made on a single number, or in a range of numbers, and there are additional variants for the bets, which are the colors (red or black) and even or odd numbers.
Once the bets are placed, the croupier makes the roulette spin in one direction, and the ball is sent in the opposite direction. The ball is just not sent randomly though, no, it goes through the tilted track around the wheel, and it’s just when it loses its momentum that falls on the wheel.
After losing its momentum, if we are in the United States, the ball falls on one of 38 colored pockets of the wheel, but if we are in Europe, those pockets are just 37 and that’s when players can collect their winnings or try their luck again.
Century old game
France was the country where roulette was born back in the 18th century, even if a primitive roulette already existed in the 17th century, but the goal of that machine was a perpetual motion machine, and not gambling.
It’s believed that the game as we know it is a fusion of English wheel games and a French board game already called roulette. Unlike many other casino games, the roulette acquired its final format, the one we still play today, in 1796 in Paris. It’s rather interesting to read testimonies from that time describing that “our” roulette was already being played at that time.
Some details have been perfected though, as the single zero at the time was red and the double zero black, being later replaced by the green color that is still used today. Even so, that change was made in the 1800s.
As in any other games, there are always variations, and some early American wheels only had numbers from 1 to 28, zeros and an American Eagle. This wasn’t a tradition that last a long time, so the few of the existing roulette in the world today that feature the American Eagle are worth a small fortune due to their rarity.
It was just in the 19th century that the roulette become a popular game all over Europe and in the United States. A curious story about this boom involves the abolishment of gambling in Germany in the 1860s. When this happened, a family called Blanc moved to Monte Carlo, the only legal gambling location in Europe at the time.
The elite of gambling Europe loved playing the roulette and this trend was exported from there to all over the world. At the same time, history was making its way as well in the United States, from New Orleans through the Mississippi to the rest of the country.
It’s said that due to cheating from both sides, meaning that both gamblers and the game operators were cheating, that was determined to place the roulette on top of the table. This not only gave the wheel better visibility, but also worked as a prevention method for cheating hidden devices.
It’s this American style roulette that features in most casinos worldwide today, and if in the first half of the 20th century we only had Monte Carlo and Las Vegas as the so called casino towns, from the 1970s onward the number of casinos grew so much, that today we have hundreds of casinos that offer a chance of spinning the roulette.