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Roulette – what, why and how? If you’re looking for a nice bite-sized history of the game name then you’ve come to the right place!
In this instalment of “What Does It Mean?” We’re looking at the history of the game, how it is played now, what some of the key roulette terms mean, and much more. Once you’re done, you’ll be at croupier level understanding.
Roulette is the French for “little wheel” and was first created all the way back in the 18th Century. It was a hybrid game that merged a gaming wheel, invented in 1720, and the Italian game of Biribi.
How does it work? Let’s find out!
The roulette wheel is a metal disc with either 37 or 38 numbered pockets on it. The pockets are designed to catch a small ball which is thrown onto the wheel when it is spun, strictly in the opposite direction to the motion. Once the wheel slows the ball falls into a pocket and the corresponding number is the winning number. The numbers on the wheel are also alternatively coloured black and red.
The bets that can be made in roulette are all made on a tabletop, adjacent to the spinning wheel. Bets come in two types, ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, named as such because of their location of the table. Inside bets are either bets on specific numbers on the wheel, or small groupings of such numbers. Outside bets are bets on larger groupings of the numbers. The inside bets have greater payouts, whereas the outside bets have smaller ones.
Bets are placed when a player places their chips physically on the table, in a region corresponding to a specific grouping of numbers on the wheel.
The potted history of roulette begins with the French philosopher, mathematician, and child prodigy Blaise Pascal. When he wasn’t arguing that people should bet their life on the existence of God, he was inventing the mechanism that allowed people to bet on a spinning wheel. Before he invented this mechanism, whilst researching how to create a perpetual motion machine, there existed a similar game to roulette called Biribi. Once biribi came into contact with Pascal’s wheel, roulette was born.
The game, as it is today, can thus be traced back to the 1790s in Paris, however, there appear to be references in Quebec law regulating the play of roulette dating by to the 1750s.
Between then and now in the Americas the roulette wheel has maintained the double zero, whereas the European wheel dropped the double zero and uses only one zero. In an ironic twist of fate for Pascal, the sum of the roulette wheel numbers (0 – 36) is 666: the devil’s number.
As mentioned, roulette in the modern casino comes in two broad forms: the European 37 pocket wheel and the American 38 pocket wheel. The difference is that the American wheel has two zero pockets: the single zero and the double zero.
Roulette in the modern casino is also mainly online, in both video format and live dealer format. NetEnt make the best versions of these games, and readers can find more out about these over on our table games page and live casino page.
The online versions of roulette are the same as the traditional versions, however, game designers have tended (more recently) to program in extra features or game mechanics similar to the modern video slot. This means some versions of roulette come with free spins rounds or other mini-games.
Some online versions also incorporate the increasingly popular triple zero pocket, or even the American eagle pocket – a feature present on the very early American roulette boards, but which is now defunct.
Welcome to the end of this article and congratulations, your brain is now filled with facts about roulette – you big pulsating casino brain you!
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