Roulette is a game that’s instantly recognisable. And regardless of whether you like to play online roulette at a free-bonus, no-deposit casino on the internet, or you visit brick-and-mortar casinos to take in the experience in person, there’s no doubt that this game is a key part of the casino-gaming culture.
This is why we’re going to look back at the origins of this enduring casino table game. We’ll look at the history of roulette, and how the game was created and evolved.
The invention of roulette
While many other gambling games were always created for that purpose, roulette is an interesting case of a “happy accident”. In the 18th century, Blaise Pascal, a French physicist, mathematician, and inventor, was working on his idea for a perpetual-motion machine when he developed the mechanisms and design for what would eventually become the iconic roulette wheel.
With the wheel ready, it’s possible Pascal himself, or some other gambling entrepreneur, saw its potential and decided to combine it with another gambling game that was enjoyed by the Italians, biribi. Biribi is similar to roulette in that players have to guess a number and place a wager on it. The wagers themselves were placed on a board with 70 numbers, after which the banker would reach into a bag and pull out a number. If the number had a matching wager on the board, the player won while the rest of the wagers would go to the banker.
As you can tell from the description of the game, it didn’t take much to transfer the concept of biribi to the wheel for roulette, as well as add additional mechanics such as the colours on the wheel and additional bets.
Early records of roulette
One of the earliest official records of the game is found in La Roulette, ou le Jour, which was published in 1801. This book describes the roulette wheel in specific detail, including the numbered slots from one to 36, as well as both the zero and double-zero pockets.
While roulette may have been relatively unchanged since its inception, with only minor cosmetic changes such as changing the zero and double-zero pockets to green to help them stand out from the other numbers on the wheel, a major change to the game would arrive in the 19th century.
In 1843, two French brothers who had been running a gambling operation in Germany, François and Louis Blanc, decided to make a tweak to the game of roulette that would change the game forever. In the face of tough competition, they decided to remove the “double zero” from the wheel with the aim of increasing the odds that a player could win. As a player, it was undoubtedly the best roulette strategy to play this version of the game over its competitors, which still featured both the zero and double zero, since it literally lowered the house edge in your favour.
After the German government banned gambling in 1860, the Blancs moved their operation – and new style of roulette – to the last country in Europe where it was legal to gamble: Monaco. In Monaco, the city of Monte Carlo was where people went to gamble. And they did it in style! It was here that the single-zero design for the roulette wheel caught on, and this version of the game soon spread across the rest of Europe.
However, roulette had already made its way across to the US, and American casinos and players never adopted this new style of the roulette wheel, sticking instead with the zero and double-zero design. This remains true to this day, with this style of game being referred to as “American roulette” due to its popularity in the US, even though it has its roots in Europe.
The ups and downs of gambling in the 20th century
Across the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries, gambling went through tumultuous times. Many countries banned various forms, although some types of gambling, such as horse racing, remained untouched in many places. This curbed the popularity of many casino games, including roulette. But once major regions started to ease back on their gambling laws, these games once again took off. Since you no longer had to travel to places like Las Vegas or Monte Carlo if you wanted to try your luck, casino games like roulette again found a place in mainstream society.
Roulette goes online
The development of the internet gave roulette, and other casino games, an incredible new platform on which people could play. InterCasino, the first online casino, was launched in 1996 and offered internet gamblers a variety of games, not least roulette. This led to the explosion of online casino roulette variants, with game developers across the world releasing their own takes on the age-old formula, including speed roulette, multi-ball roulette, and even multi-wheel roulette games.
As internet connections sped up, it became possible to livestream video to people around the world. This led to the rapid rise in popularity of live dealer casino games, which are hosted by real casino dealers in professional studios. This game format helps bridge the gap between traditional online casino games and playing in a real casino; gamblers interact with the game and dealers via specially designed online interfaces. Roulette, being the classic that it is, has also made the transition to this growing genre, with players already enjoying Auto Roulette, Speed Roulette Live, First Person Lightning Roulette, and many other exciting titles. There’s something really tangible about seeing a real person drop a ball into the spinning wheel and seeing what number it’s going to land on – all while sitting on your couch, playing from a device of your choice!
Where next for roulette?
Whether online casino games such as roulette make the leap into virtual reality, or live dealer games become the default way to play your favourite game of chance online, there’s no doubt that, one way or another, roulette is here to stay. If – and how – you play it is up to you!
Enjoy online roulette and more at your favourite mobile casino
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