The basic concept of roulette which involves choosing a number from a spinning wheel or disc, has origins that span all the way back to ancient Greece where soldiers would spin a marked up shield and take bets on which symbol would stop next to an arrow. Many more variations on this theme were implemented throughout history until the modern form of roulette as we know it was born in France sometime between the 17th and 18th century. There are two main schools of thought regarding who actually invented the modern roulette wheel.
One claims that Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, invented the modern game, while the other attributes the modern wheel to Francois Blanc, founder of the first Monte Carlo casino. Although the concept for the modern game was invented as early as the mid-1600’s, the game didn’t become a casino mainstay until the late 1700’s in Paris. The game has evolved over time into a modern format that is both appealing and challenging however a few details have persisted. Roulette games have always used alternating colored slots on the wheel, traditionally red and black.
One of the few things that haven’t changed are the numbers in the slots which are made up of either a single zero slot or a zero and double zero slot. Early American wheels only had 28 numbers, with two different zero slots and an eagle symbol slot. This game had a very high casino advantage and was eventually ignored by players leading to the eventual adoption of the European style wheel in the states. The European wheel has 37 or 38 total slots numbered one to 36 with either a single zero slot or a zero and double zero slots.
The sum of all numbers on the roulette wheel totals 666 leading to the moniker “the devils wheel”, as well as a nasty rumor about Francois Blanc selling his soul to the devil in exchange for the invention of the roulette wheel. In the United States, roulette first became popular in New Orleans and travelled up the river in the gambling parlors of river boats to other cities. Eventually, the game moved into the young American west and became highly popular in gold town saloons and gambling halls.
The game that evolved in both Europe and America in the late 19th century is largely the same game played in online casinos around the world today. The modern American version of the game uses a double zero wheel while the European game uses a single zero wheel that offers a lower house advantage. Single zero wheels are popular in American casinos in the high limit rooms due to this fact.
There are additional rule variations available in European style games that allow for even lower house odds by allowing a second chance for an even-odd bet when a spin results in a zero. Roulette also has a rich history of double-dealing from both operators and players. Cheaters have attacked the game from a wide variety of angles. Schemes as simple as distracting the dealer and adding to or taking down a bet to modern electronic ball tracking have been tried. Reactions and solutions to these problems have made the current game very fair and one of the hardest to cheat or be cheated.