There are several theories as to the true origins of roulette, but the main three all have the birthplace of the game in a monastery. One theory holds that French Dominican Monks in-vented the first roulette, basing it on a similar game played in Tibet and China. A second simply proposes that roulette was invented by a bored monk.
The third, and most popular, theory is that roulette was invented by the famous French mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal whilst he was trying to develop a machine to demonstrate perpetual motion. Pascal was very religious and some proponents of this theory claim that he was on a monastic retreat at the time of the game’s invention.
Roulette, Roly-Poly and Biribi
Throughout the 18th century there are accounts of popular games being played across Europe that all bore a resemblance to the modern game of roulette. In England a variant known as Even-Odd or Roly-Poly was played. The game consisted of a wheel and a ball, with the wheel split into 20 sections each marked either ‘even’ or ‘odd’. In Italy, Casanova describes a game that ‘all the great ladies were mad for’ called biribi. Biribi varied from roulette in that there was no wheel and ball. Instead the winning numbers were picked out of a bag. The players did however bet on which of the 36 numbers on the board was going to be drawn out of the bag and in that respect is similar to roulette today.
Much debate rages about whether these games were precursors to roulette or contemporaries of the French game. It is clear from the name though that the French form of the game was the eventual victor, the word ‘roulette’ coming from the French for little wheel.
Monte Carlo & Las Vegas
In 1856, the King of Monaco, Charles III was struggling with the country’s financial prob-lems. Instead of turning to austerity measures Charles hit on the idea of opening a casino in Monte Carlo – why didn’t David Cameron think of that?! After a few false starts Charles en-listed the help of French gambling entrepreneur Francois Blanc who made a huge success of the casino. Blanc is credited with creating the modern European version of the game with the single zero added. Legend has it that Blanc entered into a pact with the devil on the game’s creation as the numbers on the Monte Carlo roulette wheel all add up to 666 – the number of the beast!
Around the same time, European settlers to America had taken the game across the Atlantic. It flourished in the US and grew to become one of the most popular casino games stateside.
The game evolved on each continent giving rise to two variants of roulette; the American game, with the ‘0’ and ’00’ format and the European game with just the single ‘0’.
Roulette continues to be one of the most popular casino games with broad appeal. It has evolved with the digital times and is massively popular as an online game where you can play live dealer roulette from your own home, or a software version. It has also proved popular as a mobile betting game, allowing gamers to enjoy roulette wherever they are and whilst there are a number of new online variants, including progressive versions of roulette, essentially the roulette so many play online today is the same as that which has been played for the last 200 years or so!