Roulette has long been one of the most popular games in the casino – both online and in bricks and mortar establishments. Its simplicity and aesthetic beauty is beguiling and enduring in its appeal. As with most of the long-standing casino games, however, its origins are shrouded in mystery and folklore, so here we present some of the more popularly held beliefs about how the great game of roulette came into existence.
There is a theory that the origins of roulette stretch right back to Roman times when a wheel-based gambling game was undertaken by troops as they waited in camp before battles. It involved firing arrows through a pre-determined section of a cart wheel, with bets being placed on whether the shot would be made or not.
A strongly held belief is that roulette was in fact invented by the French mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal in the 16th century and that he was actually trying to invent a perpetual motion machine at the time.
The English had a number of wheel-based games that pre-empted the 18th century version of roulette that appeared in the gambling dens of France, with Roly-Poly (often known as Even-Odd) favored as the prime candidate to have evolved into the roulette game we know and love today. Mentioned as long ago as 1730 in a letter from the Countess of Suffolk, the game had a wheel with 20 sections, each of which was marked either even or odd, with a section allocated for the house (instead of the zeros on today’s roulette wheels) and a ball that was spun around the wheel to discern whether even, odd or the house won.
The Tibetan Monks
Another theory suggests that roulette was invented by French Dominican monks who used as their inspiration a game invented centuries before by Tibetan monks in which 37 animal statuettes were arranged in a particular way. The French monks, it is suggested, used numbers instead of the animals and put them around the edge of a wheel. Sounds a bit far-fetched to us.
But if that’s far-fetched, what if the devil himself invented roulette? One legend claims that Frenchman Francois Blanc made a deal with the lord of darkness to gain the secrets of the game. This theory is given credence by the fact that all the numbers of a roulette wheel add up to 666. Spooky!