Reinventing the Wheel: A Brief History Of Roulette
Roulette is typically one of the most popular casino table games we offer, and with good reason. It’s easy to get into, approachable, and pretty darn exciting once you get into the swing of things – or is that the spin of things?
Whether you always bet on black, like to take your chances on your lucky number or birthday, or if you’re just spinning the wheel for the first time, there’s probably a lot about the history and facts behind roulette that you might not have known about, and if there’s one thing we love doing here at Greektown Casino it’s giving our friends and guests more information about our games than they expected to have!
For the history of roulette, it’s important to start at the beginning. 17th-century French discoverer Blaise Pascal, a scholar who revolutionized mathematics and invented an early precursor to the calculator and the computer, had accidentally invented the roulette wheel while trying to perfect a perpetual motion machine. For the non-scientists in the audience, that’s a machine that continues operating without needing external power – we haven’t found it yet (and physics says it’s largely impossible) but Pascal’s early discoveries would lay the groundwork for what would become the modern roulette wheel.
Some time later, enterprising gamers (whose names have been sadly lost to the ages) would take Pascal’s design and convert it into a small device called the “roulette”, which translates in French to “small wheel”. Now, the roulette wasn’t the first time a wheel had been used for gaming – ancient England had games called Roly-Poly and Ace of Hearts that were kind of similar to roulette as we know it today, but it’s safe to say that roulette is the version of the game that really took off.
As early as 1796 in Paris, roulette as we know it now was being played. The rules were basically already set in stone – two different colored slots evenly distributed throughout the wheel with accompanying numbers, betting spaces for each number, and so on. As has been the case with many different casino games, different regions of the world had slight variations of the rules, such as different amounts of ‘house’ slots, different colors, and so on, but roulette as we knew it was slowly getting there.
The game had made its way to America by 1886, when it first appeared in a Hoyle book detailing games found in casinos of the time (you might recognize their name as being one of the most popular manufacturers of playing cards in the world). The book described the game of roulette largely as it still works now, with the inclusion of both the single- and double-zero slots that were a recent addition to the game, as well as an extra slot with an image of an eagle similar to one included by many slot machines of the time. American casinos are typically credited with the inclusion of the 00 wheel as an additional anti-cheating measure, and as the American style of the game tended to move a lot faster (with shortened bet times and quicker play) it worked its way all around the world, including back to its native France!
Impressively enough, it’s largely remained unchanged from there. While some casinos around the world might make small tweaks like removing the double-zero slot or changing the colors (some places use green, can you believe it?), roulette has been almost exactly the same ever since Pascal gave up on trying to invent the perpetual motion machine. And while we can’t track down exactly who came up with ‘roulette’, we should all be grateful they did.