How Roulette Began
Roulette’s roots can be traced back to a similar-looking numbered wheel built by French mathematician, Blaise Pascal in the mid-17th century. His intention was actually to build a perpetual motion machine. He didn’t get very far with that, of course, but a century later his wheel inspired the game now known as roulette. Apparently, the great mathematician didn’t foresee the money-making potential his wheel had.
By the 18th century, numbered wheels virtually identical to Pascal’s original 36-slot wheel started to make an appearance in France as a game of chance called roulette. It’s not the most imaginative name they could have found, but far better sounding in French than its English translation “little wheel”.
An interesting myth arose around the game when it was realised that the 36 numbers on the wheel if added together total 666 – the biblical number of the beast! The satanic connection with roulette didn’t seem to put many people off playing it, though, so that myth soon died out, and the game flourished.
In 1842, two brothers in Germany, Louis and François Blanc, modified the wheel to include a slot for the number zero in addition to the existing 36 slots. That was an important modification because it reduced the probability of winning and gave the house more of an edge. Unfortunately for them, Germany outlawed gambling including roulette, just as things were picking up. Undaunted, they took their wheel to other parts of Europe and opened gambling dens with their roulette wheels in pride of place. They made a success of it and soon popularised roulette on a Europe-wide scale, and in 1863, the famous Monte Carlo Casino opened in Monaco.
Meanwhile, as the 19th century progressed, roulette wheels found their way into the USA. Yet another modification was made. They added a new slot for double zero increasing the total number of slots to 38 and reducing the odds of winning even further.
During the mid-20th century, some enterprising gamblers with a bit of tech savvy looked for ways to increase the odds of winning. It’s impossible to predict which slot the ball will fall into, but under laboratory conditions, with cameras and computers, it’s possible to predict which region of the wheel the ball will eventually fall into, which greatly increases the odds of winning. There have been attempts to try it in actual casinos – very discreetly of course, as casino managers don’t take kindly to people coming in and setting up cameras, stop watches and the like. Some have been caught with concealed devices and unceremoniously ejected – or worse. Some haves succeeded, but we’ll never know much about them as they tend, rather sensibly, to keep quiet about it.