Blackjack, baccarat, and poker are all card games, so they’re at least somewhat similar to non-casino games like war and go fish. Craps is a dice game, so it’s related to other games that use dice, like Yahtzee. But there is no other game in the world that uses a wheel like roulette.
The fact that there’s nothing else like it anywhere in the world makes me wonder where roulette comes from. We can trace card games throughout history because archaeologists have found evidence of tiles that were used before paper cards. But there is nothing else like the roulette wheel that we can compare the game to that would help us figure out where the game came from.
Once I started thinking about it, I could not stop wondering about the history of roulette and where the game came from. While I was reading about the history of the game, I realized that roulette has gone through some significant changes over time. Each of these changes was lasting enough to change the way that we play the game hundreds of years later.
Here is a brief history of roulette and how it has changed over time.
Ancient Roman Entertainment
There are two competing theories about where the game of roulette actually came from initially. In ancient China, they played some type of game with a circular or square game board with animal figurines painted on each space. According to historians, the game traveled around the globe after Dominican monks learned about it from Chinese monks.
Some people believe that this ancient Chinese game was a precursor to roulette because the board game seems similar to the roulette wheel, especially because the numbers 666 were inscribed in the middle. But historians do not have any idea how they played the game. It could have been a different kind of game entirely.
The more popular theory about where roulette came from is that it was a game that ancient Roman soldiers played. When they were not busy expanding the empire, they enjoyed their time off by playing games. They drew symbols on the ground or lined up some of their arrows in a circle. Then, they spun a shield or a chariot wheel and took bets on where it would land.
Whether it came from China or Rome, no one can be absolutely sure, but the game of roulette spread throughout the world, and it changed over time.
E.O. was a game that was played at gambling halls and the earliest casinos. This game was much closer to today’s version of roulette because they used a ball and a wheel with spaces for the ball to land. The wheel had forty pockets that were each labeled with an e or an o. Players had to guess whether the ball would land on an even space or an odd space.
Some of the spaces on the E.O. board were also dedicated as house spaces so that the casino could make a profit from the game.
However, the problem with the E.O. game was that the owners of the game could use whatever object they wanted to create the wheel, which means that they were not balanced. They could easily change the balance of the wheel so that the ball fell into the house pockets more often than not. That all changed when Blaise Pascal came along.
Blaise Pascal and the Devil’s Wheel
Blaise Pascal was a physicist and inventor who lived in France in the seventeenth century. I am not sure if he would appreciate the fact that he is remembered as the man who invented roulette because that was not his intention. He probably would not appreciate the legend that surrounds his story, either.
As a physicist, Pascal was studying the laws of motion. He wanted to build a machine that could defy the laws of motion. More specifically, he wanted to find a way to create continuous motion without using outside force. Pascal thought that he could do that with a perfectly balanced circular wheel. Unfortunately for him, his perpetual motion machine did not work.
However, after a trip to a Parisian casino, he found a different use for his invention. After playing a game that was probably similar to E.O., he began to realize the faulty wheels that they used were unbalanced. So, he went home and modified his previous invention. The machine that he had intended to be a perpetual motion device became the first modern roulette wheel.
It had thirty-eight pockets, which he numbered and painted red or black, with two green spaces for the zeroes. As far as I can tell, Pascal was also the first person to call the game roulette, which is the French word for little wheel. However, it could have been an unofficial term for a variety of games played in French casinos before Pascal created his wheel.
The legend that has become associated with Pascal is far more sinister. According to the myth, Pascal made a deal with the devil. He supposedly exchanged his eternal soul for information about how to make the wheel and where to place each number.
You are probably wondering where the legend of Pascal’s deal with the devil comes from. It relates to the fact that people often call roulette the devil’s wheel. That is because when you add up all the numbers on the roulette wheel, from one to thirty-seven, the total is 666. According to the book of Revelation, 666 is the number of the beast.
It is also interesting to note that there are several ways that you can manipulate the numbers on a roulette table so that they add up to six.
For example, if you add all of the numbers for a street bet, such as 34 + 35 + 36 together, you get 105. When you add the digits in 105 together, the total is six. That same logic can be used on any set of three numbers that appear horizontally or diagonally on the roulette wheel.
I cannot tell you whether Blaise Pascal made a deal with the devil or not, but the reality is that roulette had a connection to the number 666 since long before he invented his perpetual motion machine. As I already mentioned, the ancient Chinese game that may have been a precursor to roulette also had 666 inscribed in the middle of the board.
No matter what you believe about roulette’s connection to the devil, Blaise Pascal is the father of modern roulette. He was certainly inspired by other games that were already being played at the time. Still, his perpetual motion machine made the game much more impartial by guaranteeing a balanced wheel that is much harder to tamper with, and roulette players everywhere can be grateful for that.
The Blanc Brothers and the House Edge
If you were paying close attention, you will have noticed that I said that Pascal’s roulette wheel had thirty-eight spaces that the ball could land on. This fact is surprising because of the way we speak about roulette wheels today. Let me explain the difference between American and European roulette as we know them today.
American casinos use the same kind of the roulette wheel as Pascal had when he first invented it in 1657. It has a total of thirty-eight spaces, with the numbers one to thirty-six represented in black or red, and two green spaces for zero and double zero.
A couple of centuries after Pascal invented his roulette wheel, France outlawed gambling and closed down casinos and gambling halls. Louis and Francois Blanc were two brothers who owned casinos in France, and they needed to find a new way to make money since the government had shut down their business.
The Blanc brothers moved to Bad Homburg, Germany, to set up a new casino, but there were already several gambling halls around. Francois and Louis needed to find a way to convince customers to visit their casino instead of their competitors’, and it was not going to be easy because they were outsiders.
So, Francois and Louis Blanc removed the double zero space from their roulette wheels. They created a thirty-seven space wheel that only had one green space. It was a small change, but it had a significant impact. The house edge dropped from 5.26% to 2.7%, which made it significantly easier for players to win.
Thanks to their change in the roulette game and some strategic marketing, the Blanc brothers’ casino became a quick success. Word spread quickly that their casino had better odds than all of the other gambling halls around town.
Francois Blanc moved to Monaco to help build and manage the Casino de Monte Carlo in 1863, but the casino in Bad Homburg continued to prosper. Their casino is still operating in Bad Homburg, and it is still one of the most popular casinos in Germany.
Other casinos in Germany quickly realized what the Blanc brothers had done to attract their customers. So, single-zero roulette spread throughout Germany and the rest of Europe.
Players began to understand the mathematical differences between the games, so they refused to play roulette at casinos that only offered double-zero roulette. Soon enough, the only roulette variation that was available in Europe was the single zero version.
American casinos were far enough away from the casinos in Europe that they could continue offering double-zero roulette without much competition. They were unwilling to part with the extra money that they earned because of the increased house edge. Most American gamblers did not realize that there was an option that would have better odds, so they continued playing double-zero roulette.
Over time, the double-zero version became known as American roulette because that is where it was played most often. Single-zero roulette became known as European roulette because that was the only version available in Europe.
The truth is that both versions of roulette originated in Europe, but they are named according to where each version is most popular.
Random Number Generators and Online Roulette
Roulette has continued to be one of the most prevalent casino games since the time of the ancient Romans, and each of the changes that it has gone through has made it more exciting and fair for the players. But the wheel itself is the most essential part of the game. So, how do you offer roulette without a wheel?
When online casinos began to offer card games and slot machines online, they needed to find a new way to incorporate roulette as well. Thanks to the advancement of computer technology, they were able to use random number generators to recreate the randomness of a traditional roulette wheel.
Random number generators are programmable so that the program can define which set of numbers can get generated. Casino software developers simply have to set the numbers between zero and thirty-six, and they have the option of creating a double zero symbol as well. The computer chooses any one of those numbers at random.
Once the program has a number that has been produced by the random number generator, they can tie that number to the traditional roulette wheel. That way, the number has the same characteristics as it would if you were playing roulette in person. So, if a red number gets chosen, bets placed on red will win. It is a very simple process that the computer completes in a matter of seconds.
Some people get concerned that online roulette games are less fair than traditional games, but now that you know how they work, you can see that they are almost the same. The outcome of the game always depends on the randomness of the number that gets chosen. It doesn’t matter whether a white ball falls on a number or if it gets created with a random number generator because the result is the same.
You can think of random number generators as a different tool that does the same thing as a traditional wheel. It is like deciding whether you want to clean with a spray and a washcloth or a presoaked wipe. Either way, the surface will still get clean. The same goes for roulette games that use random number generators instead of traditional wheels.
Now that you know you don’t have to worry about the fairness of playing online roulette, you are probably ready to get playing. Check out these recommendations of online casinos that give you options for playing roulette and have some excellent bonus offers as well.
Roulette has gone through some significant changes over time, but the basic premise of the game has remained the same. Roman soldiers spun their shields on the ground and placed bets on where the arrow on top would stop. That morphed into the E.O. games were popular in early European casinos.
Blaise Pascal invented the wheel that was much more balanced and fair than the games that people were used to playing, and he became the father of modern roulette.
The final piece of the evolution of roulette was the invention of single-zero roulette by the Blanc brothers. All of these changes have made the game more consistent and fair than the version before it, despite the fact that American casinos continue to offer the double-zero variation.
The changes that have been made to roulette over time have added a sense of mythology to the game. That is especially visible when you start adding up the numbers on the wheel, but you do not have to make a deal with the devil to win the game.