***Updated: August 25, 2019***
The origins of Roulette are rooted in mathematics and literature. The name of the game literally means “small wheel” and that wheel first belonged to a French physicist and mathematician in the 1600s named Blaise Pascal. He was actually chasing the age-old dream of a perpetual motion machine but instead, his design became the model for the early recognizable roulette wheel, appearing in the Palais Royale Casino in Paris in 1796.
It had borrowed from Pascal’s creation, as well as elements of other ancient spinning games such as Roly Poly and Reiner, popular in England, and Biribi and Hoca, twirling happily in Italy. The wheel features alternating black and red slots but the numbers do not run around it sequentially and instead are grouped in order to create sections with approximately equal values. Any odd number between 1 and 10, and 19 to 28 is red, and even are all black. From 11 to 28, and 29 to 36, the pattern reverses and odds are instead black, and even are red.
The eye-catching circle then caught the fancy of the French almost immediately. In 1801, a spirited rendition of the game was featured in a novel by Jacques Lablée called La Roulette, ou le Jour, introducing the wheel across Europe. French brothers François and Louis Blanc ran a small casino in Hamburg, Germany in the 1840s when they decided to liven things up by releasing it with just one zero slot, slicing the House edge from 5.36% to only 2.70%.
The Blancs were indeed doing great business but the German government snuffed out gambling in the 1860s so the brothers packed up their wheel and left for Monte Carlo. There they were instrumental in establishing the Principality’s first casinos and single-zero roulette was the star of the show. It remains the modern European standard.
There is little a Frenchman from the 1800s would not recognize if he sat down at a roulette table today because it’s barely changed at all. The betting field is laid out in a 3×12 grid and the numbers 1 through 36 snake sequentially through the grid starting in the upper left corner to the bottom right corner.
A block for the zero and double zero, if used, are inserted at the head of the grid. In the area outside the grid are betting spaces for groups of numbers with their payouts.
Chips placed on the numbers grid are called inside bets and include:
- Straight: Chips placed on a single number.
- Street: Chips placed on the line at the beginning or end of a row that put all three numbers in play (1-2-3, 4-5-6, etc.).
- Split: Chips placed on two adjoining numbers, either vertically (1-4) or horizontally (1-2).
- Corner: Chips placed at the intersection of four numbers (1-2-4-5).
- Trio: Chips that cover the 2, zero and double zero at the top of the grid.
- Basket: The zero and 1-2-3, depending on how the table options are configured.
Wagers placed on the combinations available around the grid are called outside bets and include:
- 1-18: Covers the lower half of the 36 numbers
- 19-36: Covers the higher half of the grid
- Red or Black: The result is red or black
- Even or Odd: The results is an even or odd numbered pocket
- Dozen: Numbers 1-12, 13-24 or 25-36
- Column: The numbers in any of the three columns.
- Snake: The numbers 1, 5, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 23, 27, 30, 32, and 34 as they twist through the number grid. When offered, players can set chip stacks on a snake head to make this play.
How To Play
The genius of roulette is the addition of the zero and double zero spots on the wheel. Players make even-money bets and instantly double their cash flow…without noticing the House is collecting handsomely. This is due to the fact that every now and then the ball finds a green-colored home and not red or black.
Many different systems have been spawned by those who are determined to beat the game’s 50/50 nature, with the most popular being the Martingale System, which instructs the player to double the stake after every loss. The rationale is that the hefty wagers will eventually pay off and cover the preceding losses. Although, the increased amounts and losses can starve the bankroll before the salvation spin ever shows up, so it’s not a recommended strategy to employ.
Also, some participants track the results of the wheel in search for the “hot numbers” or outcomes that are “due”. Such thinking may be comforting and casinos are more than happy to post the recent numbers to help these superstitious individuals in their quest for a pattern. However, the outcome of the current spin is completely independent of everything coming before it, and the conclusion is the essence of random chance.
Finally, for as long as silver balls have been bouncing around the numbers, customers have accused operators of guiding them into preferred sections and influencing the results. Perhaps shady croupiers and unbalanced wheels influenced a colorful gambling past, but today’s are engineering marvels devoid of such shenanigans. Play confidently both in person and online: they are not a scam and are 100% safe.
When the game came to America it was the double-zero wheels packed onto sailing ships, so the betting world remains split between European Roulette and American Roulette. All of the action and payouts are the same, with the only difference being the meatier House edge in the American version.
The citizens of France were not about to let their history in its origins be washed away in anonymity, and the product was an even more player-friendly variation called French Roulette. Anyone who makes the “even money” bet (even or odd, red or black, 1-18 or 19-36) will only lose half the original stake should the ball tumble into the dastardly zero pocket. Rather than take the stake, they may leave the chips “imprisoned” for the next spin. If it results in a win, the total wager amount is returned.
Some places go further still, continuing after losing spins, coined “double imprisonment” and then collect the full bet. Imprisonment sometimes continue until the wheel delivers a non-zero verdict. When used with the double-zero slot it is considered to be “Atlantic City” rules. People can draw their own conclusions on how the term originated.