Roulette is a casino game named after the French word that means “little wheel.”

In the game of roulette, players have to choose where to place their bets on either a single number, different sets of numbers, the colors red or black, if the number is odd or even, and also if the amounts are high (19–36) or low (1–18). Players can also choose among three different column bets, which each offer a different variation of 12 numbers.

To decide the winning number, a croupier turns a wheel in one direction. Then he turns a ball in the opposite direction around a tilted circular track running around the outer edge of the wheel. The ball eventually loses momentum, passing through an area of baffles.

double zero roulette wheel

A double-zero roulette wheel in action

In the end, the ball will fall onto the wheel and into one of 37 (single zero French and European style roulette) or 38 (double-zero American style roulette) colored and numbered pockets on the wheel. At the end of the process, players who placed a successful bet, will be paid their winnings.

Where did the game of roulette start?

We know that the first game of roulette was designed in the 18th century in France. Many historians believe that the man who started it all was Blaise Pascal. In fact, it was he who brought in a primitive type of roulette wheel in the 17th century in his examination for a perpetual motion machine.

It was called a “perpetual motion machine” because it was a machine that continued to operate without drawing energy from an external source. The laws of physics thought it impossible, but Pascal attempted to defy the odds. His experiment failed, but in the process, he created one of the most popular casino games of all time.

In fact at the beginning, Pascal wasn’t trying to invent a casino game. The roulette functioning is a medley of the gaming wheel invented in 1720 and the Italian game known with the name “Biribi.” The game has been used in its current form since 1796 in Paris.

We have an early description of the roulette game in its current form, found in a French novel named “La Roulette”, ou le Jour by Jaques Lablee. This novel describes a roulette wheel in the Palais-royal in Paris in 1796.

A description of the house pockets is also included; and reads, “There are precisely two slots reserved for the bank, whence it obtains its sole mathematical advantage.” It then continues describing the layout with “…two betting spaces containing the bank’s two numbers, zero and double zero”. The book was published in 1801.

There is an earlier reference to a game of this name in regulations for New France (Québec) in 1758, which prohibited the games of “dice, faro, and roulette.” The roulette wheels used in Paris casinos in the late 1790s used red for the single zero and black for the double zero.

To avoid some misunderstandings, the color green was used for the zeros in roulette wheels beginning in the 1800s. In 1843, through a German spa casino town called Bad Homburg, François and Louis Blanc thought to introduce the single 0 style roulette wheel in order to compete against other casinos that also offered the traditional wheel with single and double zero pockets.

There are some types of early American roulette wheels, which had slots for 1 through 28, plus a single zero, a double zero, and an American Eagle. The Eagle slot, considered as a symbol of American liberty, was a house slot that gave the casino an extra edge. Eventually, that tradition disappeared, and since then, the wheel uses only numbered slots.

According to Hoyle’s description of the game offered back then, “the single 0, the double 0, and eagle are never bars; but when the ball falls in either of them, the banker brushes everything upon the table, except what may take place to be bet on either one of them, when he pays twenty-seven for one, which is the quantity paid for all sums bet upon any single figure”.

In the 19th century, roulette spread across Europe and the U.S., becoming one of the most famous casino games. When the German government decided to abolish gambling in the 1860s, the Blanc family moved to the last legal remaining casino that operates in Europe (Monte Carlo). They established there a “gambling mecca” for the nobility of Europe.

single zero roulette

A single-zero roulette game at the famed Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco

Here the single zero roulette wheel became the main game, and during the following years, it was exported around the world, not including the United States, where the double zero wheels prevailed.

In the United States, the double zero wheels made their way up the Mississippi from New Orleans and then went westward. It was here that the wheel was finally placed on top of the table to impede cheating devices being  used in the table or wheel, and the betting layout was made more simple.

roulette table layout

A double zero roulette wheel table layout

This finally evolved into the American-style roulette game. The American game was expanded in the gambling dens across the new territories where improvised games had been settled up, whereas the French game developed with style and ease in Monte Carlo.

Throughout the first part of the 20th century, the only casino towns known were Monte Carlo with the normal single zero French and Las Vegas with the American double-zero wheels. In the 1970s, casinos began to expand around the whole world.

Rules of the game of roulette

Roulette players have different betting options. Placing inside bets is either selecting the right amounts of the pocket the ball will land in, or a small selection of pockets based on their proximity on the layout.

outside bets in roulette

All of the marked “outside” bets pay even money, or 1-to-1

All players wishing to bet on the ‘outside’ will select bets on larger positional groups of pockets, the pocket color, or whether the winning number is odd or even. The payout odds for each kind of bet are based on its probability.

The roulette table normally forces minimum and maximum bets, and these guidelines usually apply independently for all of a player’s inside and outside bets for each round.

For interior bets at roulette tables, some casinos are allowed to use separate roulette table chips of various colors to discern players that are around the table.

Players are allowed to place bets as the ball turns around the wheel until the dealer declares no more bets. When a winning number and color is decided by the roulette wheel, the dealer (or croupier) will place a marker, also known as a “dolly”, on that winning spot on the roulette table configuration.

Players can’t remove any bets from the table, while the dolly is on the winning number. Initially, the dealer will sweep away all losing bets by hand and then pay the winning bets. When the dealer has finished making payouts, the marker is removed from the board and then players can collect their winnings and make new bets. The winning chips will remain on the board.

Roulette Today

After a lot of years where roulette wasn’t very popular when compared to other casino games, now it is making a slow but sure return to the gambling scene. The benefit of online casinos makes it possible for players to accurately choose what kind of game they desire to play, so they don’t need to file out of their houses according to bet on a few spins.

Even though roulette is exclusively a game of chance and there are no proven strategies to beat it, watching the wheel spin holds a charm that not many other casino games can emulate. The ancient Romans and Greeks knew the enthusiasm of waiting to see if you will get lucky. And you probably will do that, eventually.

Roulette is still considered one of the greatest casino games, and today it’s more accessible than ever for all who want to play. Take advantage of that, and enjoy it!

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