History of Roulette - Finding the Origins of Roulette

An examination into the history and evolution of the original casino game of roulette, while tracing roulette history from Europe to America.

The Origins of the Game

The exact origins of the game of roulette are unknown. It is rumored to go back as far as the invention of the wheel. Others claim that a version of the game was brought to Europe from China and was then adapted into the game that we know today.

The Origins of European Roulette

One opinion states that the casino game that we know today as roulette was invented in France in 1655 by Blaise Pascal. While attempting to create a perpetual motion devise, the famous mathematician came up with the roulette wheel. Another opinion of the origins of the game is that the French combined concepts found in a number of other games – the English wheel games of Roly Poly, Ace of Hearts and E&O with an Italian board game that was called Hoca and Biribi. There was already a French board game in existence known as roulette and the name was adopted for this new wheel game. The original roulette wheel contained a 0 and a double 00, as well as the numbers 1 through 36. The only difference between this wheel and the wheels of today was in the color of the numbers. Roulette was known be played in Paris as early as 1796; however it was mentioned in writings even earlier than that. In 1758 roulette was mention in a publication regarding the regulations for French Quebec. A roulette wheel used in Palais Royal in Paris was mentioned in a book in 1801.

Modification of the Original Roulette Wheel

This roulette wheel remained basically unchanged until 1842, when two Frenchmen, named Francois and Louis Blanc, added a zero ('0') to the wheel. There are varying opinions as to whether they added the single zero to a wheel with no zeros in order to increase the house edge, or they removed the double zero, leaving only the single zero in order to increase the player's odds and decrease the house edge. Now, instead of the original 36 numbers (possibly plus the two 00 spots) on the roulette wheel, there are 37 numbers (numbers 1-36, plus the 0). At the time that the single 0 was added to the wheel, roulette was banned in France. However, its fame spread throughout Europe. Francois Blanc established the first casinos in Monte Carlo and in his casinos, the roulette wheel became known as "King of Casino Games." Roulette was exclusive to this area until 1933.

Roulette Arrives in America

During the 1800s, the casino game of roulette arrived in the United States to the casinos in New Orleans. A double zero ('00') was added to the American roulette wheel in addition to the single 0 in order to further increase the house edge. On the original American roulette wheels, the American eagle was also depicted, along with the additional 00. The American roulette wheel today therefore contains the numbers 1 through 36, a single 0 and a double 0.