The Origins of Roulette

Roulette, like slots, is a standout in the casino. While cards and dice have been around for hundreds of years, the wheel is relatively new in comparison and is often considered to have been invented in 18th century France. But the truth is, the roulette wheel was actually invented in 1655 by a famous mathematician and not intended for gambling at all!

Blaise Pascal is a well-known mathematician who invented, among other things, Pascal’s Triangle; an easy way to express the mathematical concept of binomial coefficients, and invented both the hydraulic press and the syringe. Pascal’s invention of the roulette wheel was intended to be an attempt to make a perpetual motion device. The experiment was a failure (largely because of the laws of physics) but the invention was not forgotten. Perhaps, ironically, while the roulette wheel was not intended for use by gamblers, Pascal did make a contribution towards gambling in the form of mathematics with elements like Pascal’s Wager and inventing the mathematical field of probability with Pierre de Fermat.

So while the wheel had existed since the 17th century, it didn’t see use until the 18th and featured a change that allowed it to be used for more profitable gambles. The roulette wheel now featured a 0 and a 00 space which was for the banker, and gave the house an edge so they could turn a profit from the game. The inventor of these spots is unclear as they are mentioned existing in 1796 by a French novelist who saw a wheel in the Palais Royal sporting the 0 and 00. Some cite Francois and Louis Blanc, though some equally cite them as instead removing the 00 in order to appeal to a wider audience, which is backed up by later events. While it’s not clear exactly what their contribution, it’s probably safe to say that rumours that they sold their soul to the devil for the secret of roulette is not true. The rumour is because the numbers on a roulette wheel all add up to 666, which is probably just a coincidence.

Far from deals with the devil, the Blanc brothers could well be considered the 19th century patron saints of roulette as they moved to Monte Carlo following a ban of the game in Germany and established a gambling paradise where single 0 roulette was a major draw. This version of the game spread so far that there was only one country where the 00 variant was more common: the USA. A lot of the procedures and mannerisms around roulette were born from this American version. Primarily because it was developed in gambling dens and cheating was so rampant from both players and croupiers that they had to find ways to keep things fair.

At the start of the 20th century, the only major casinos in the world were in Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, but has since spread globally with the Blanc’s single zero remaining the most popular outside of the Americas. But with the advent of online casinos, you can now play whichever game you want no matter where you are in the world. So why not go and give it a spin?