Roulette is one of the oldest casino table games. The story of its creation begins over three and a half centuries ago, and through the years its history has become steeped in folklore, full of tales of colourful, outlandish characters, both big winners and big losers.
The creation of the roulette wheel is often attributed to Blaise Pascal, that extraordinary seventeenth-century French thinker and child prodigy, who contributed so much to mathematics, science and philosophy. Apparently, in his quest to make a perpetual motion machine, he instead came up with a prototype for the early roulette wheel that went virtually unchanged for two hundred years.
Until 1843 that is, when two Frenchmen, Francois and Louis Blanc, decided to entice more customers, by using single-zero wheels. Previously, the wheel had contained the numbers 1-36 and two house pockets (0 and 00), but the brothers changed theirs to compete with the other casinos in the German spa town of Bad Homburg; these days the European version of online roulette has slots 0-36 and the American version contains the additional 00 slot. You can play online roulette and other casino table games
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Among some of the more outlandish tales in roulette mythology, is the one that tells how the Blanc brothers sold their souls to the devil in exchange for the secrets of roulette. The facts that the numbers 1 to 36 add up to 666, the number of the beast, lends the story a tiny bit of legitimacy. Whatever the case, roulette’s popularity grew during the nineteenth century and it spread across Europe and into America. The 1860s saw the German government abolish gambling and the Blancs moved their operation to Monte Carlo, which would soon become the gambling Mecca of Europe.
When the game entered America and spread from New Orleans up the Mississippi, both operators and gamblers encountered problems. Dishonesty and rampant cheating from both parties meant that the wheel was eventually placed on top of table so that no one could tamper with the wheel out of sight. The layout was also simplified to make for a faster-paced game and one that would be more appealing to the masses.
Roulette’s enduring popularity is still felt today. In the early twentieth century the casinos of Vegas and Monte Carlo were the only places of note to have single-zero wheels, but by the 1970s casinos were popping up everywhere. Now, there are literally hundreds of casinos that offer roulette and many more online casinos that offer different versions of the game. The land-based casinos in America, Canada, South America, and the Caribbean favour the double-zero wheel, while the single-zero is used predominantly in other regions.