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The History of Roulette

Roulette is one of the most easily recognisable casino games to ever grace the floors of gambling spots worldwide. Few of us would be surprised by this game’s iconic status, especially considering how many cultural, literary and film references it inspires on any given day. The game itself has been around for ages and hasn’t failed to create a giant following among gambling fans! So, what is roulette’s background and how did it become the quintessential casino game? We’ll take a look at exactly that in this page, including a handful of references to the biggest wins in the history of roulette and an overview of the game’s rules. Stay tuned for an exhaustive look at one of casino’s most iconic staples!

The Roulette Origin Story

As history would have it, the famed game is not so much the result of an intention, as it is actually a by-product of something else. And that ’something else’ was Blaise Pascal’s search for a perpetual motion machine sometime in the 17th century. So, while our man Blaise didn’t invent the roulette wheel per se, he made the game into what it is today. You see, roulette had already existed in France as a board game, and combining this with a variety of British games like Roly-Poly and E.O. gave Pascal the magic combination of elements – a true recipe for success, if there’s ever been one! Pascal, a brainiac well versed in maths and physics, missed the mark with this invention by a wide margin – since the wheel is far from being perpetually in motion – but therefore left the world with a fantastic gambling tool that soon took over royal courts and gambling halls all over Europe.

Image of an old-fashioned roulette wheel

The Roulette Background Could Go Even Further, Though

Those seriously doubting that a French mathematician could invent the game can turn to speculating about whether roulette’s origin stretches even further than assumed. In fact, several pieces of evidence point to an existence of roulette-like games being played in ancient civilisations! For instance, the Chinese supposedly played a board game with 37 animal figures positioned on squares, with a total value of 666 (just like roulette!). Also, Greek soldiers would also play a game where they drew numbers on a shield, spun it next to a spear and guess which number the spear would point at. Whether this is true – we’ll never know, unfortunately. There aren’t any documents supporting or refuting these suspicions, so we can keep on playing the guessing game in this respect as well.

In Comes the Zero to Give the Casinos an Edge

The early wheels in the casinos in Paris actually had a single and double zero pocket, one in red and one in black. Eventually, the colour green was chosen for both zero slots, as to set them apart from the rest of the numbers. These two slots on the wheel were reserved for the house, giving it a major advantage over the players.

Image of an early version of a French roulette table

Later on in 1843, a single-zero wheel was introduced by the Blanc brothers and soon proved to be more popular than its predecessor. It’s no wonder this reinvention of the wheel was a crowd-pleaser: it reduced the bank’s advantage over the players by half! What’s not to like? It is supposedly here where the split between European and American wheels originates – before the Blancs’ version of the wheel got popular in Europe, the double-zero variant had already been imported into North America.

America Brings in the Double Zero and then Some

Once across the ocean, the game became the talk of the town not only among the French immigrants who brought it over, but also the rest of the populace. The epicentre of this action was in none other than the iconic jazz land city of New Orleans, a gambling hub that was also filled with French immigrants at that time. Even though the wheel still had a single and double-zero slot, casinos weren’t happy with their cut so they placed yet another slot onto the wheel – the eagle slot. With a whopping edge of 12.9%, it’s no wonder gambling halls pushed their agenda for a modified wheel. Eventually, these style of wheels went out of fashion (thank goodness), leaving the wheel again with the two zero slots in the US.

Image of an early version of an American roulete table

If you’re looking for some American flair, you’ll be happy to know that you can easily find American Roulette in pretty much every online casino. Those of you keen to up the thrill with a higher-edge game should take a look at our take on American Roulette and the best online casinos to play at. And, of course, European Roulette has stayed firmly put since it took over casinos in Monaco and kicked its double-zeroed sibling to the curb – which is good for you and your wallet! In fact, European Roulette and French Roulette are wildly popular when compared to its Yankee offshoot – with many online live suites offering primarily these two variants.

Roulette Goes Digital

The rise of the internet – and, inevitably, internet gambling – has ushered in a special kind of heyday in roulette history. As popular as it has been on land, it became even more notorious in virtual casinos thanks to players no longer having to leave their houses to spin the wheel. The prospect of playing while tucked into a blanket on your sofa is just too hard to resist for many – and there’s no wonder why! Gambling has never been so easy-going and low effort – and who doesn’t love a chance to be lazy when given the opportunity? Random number generator-operated software has replaced the fate of physics in this case, but, on the other hand, this gave way to exciting new variants of roulette, for example, Pinball Roulette.

Live Roulette Takes Things to the Next Level

Refusing to be just another online game, roulette has moved on with an even better format based on live streaming of the game and betting via the casino’s online platform as you watch. Since the 1990s, live casinos have been getting into the swing of things with more and more exciting game variants of popular casino games, and as streaming quality got better, the market just started booming with choices spreading out among a handful of renowned live game providers. So, those who do still prefer the “real” touch, as opposed to RNG, can enjoy countless live roulette tables offered at all major casinos in the UK.

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Roulette Today

Online roulette has enjoyed a stable level of popularity in the UK, and, unlike slots, there’s not that much need for kooky and out-of-the-left-field variants of this game. The rules go according to one of three variants – European, French or American. Between these three, you’ll find plenty of choice to stay entertained but still within a manageable-sized roster. There are, however, a few recent additions to the scene which might make your ears perk up. For instance, Age of the Gods Roulette has brought the progressive jackpot format to this famed table game as well. Based on a franchise of mythology-themed slots, this variant triggers a jackpot round at random, giving you the chance to land one of the four jackpot levels. In the live roulette department, Double Ball Roulette from NetEnt or Book of Ra Roulette from Extreme Live Gaming are intriguing twists on the standard template, with the latter even incorporating side game offshoots of the famous Novomatic slot of the same name.

The Biggest Roulette Win in History

With such a big reputation, it’s no surprise to guess the source of the fame – the possible explosive wins that you can land while playing roulette. Though we wouldn’t promote these one-off chances as something regular, we still have to acknowledge the payout power this game can have when it is done well. Let’s have a look at some of the most legendary wins in roulette history, courtesy of some very lucky (and slightly reckless) players!

Ashley Revell from the UK – Live on TV

Ashley Revell, evidently a man with a lot of faith, thought it was a great idea to sell his possessions, empty out his back account, and put it all on a roulette bet. This certainly sounds unorthodox, at best, and insane at worst, but believe it or not – Ashley did right. Of course, nothing is as innocent as it seems, as our friend also got a sweet TV special deal out of it. But the crux of the story remains: he bet every single penny of the $135,000 he had on red – and won! And though we’ve seen bigger wins than this, Revell’s story takes the cake thanks to the epic setup and backstory.

Charles Wells – The Guy Who Broke the Bank

Another player who happily threw caution to the wind was Charles Wells, back in 1891. It took him two legendary visits to a Monte Carlo casino to scoop up a million francs at each visit, which was a massive amount of money back then! Unfortunately, his luck couldn’t keep up, and Charles was soon on the receving end of some pretty harsh blowback. His epic wins were followed by a series of losses and arrests – which was not helped by the fact that he was a famed suspected trickster and scammer. Wells never recovered from his extreme financial rollercoaster, and he died broke and destitute.

Image of Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle United

Mike Ashley – Lucky 17, Like James Bond

If there are people who can truly play roulette with abandon, its millionaires, nay – billionaires – like Mike Ashley. The owner of Newcastle United has surely got no shortage of funds, made clear when he headed to the roulette table in 2008 with a bold wager in mind. He thus made headlines with a “complete” bet focused around the number 17, meaning he made every possible wager on inside bets, splits, streets and line bets. It’s definitely a ballsy move to make, but, clearly, Mike subscribes to the ‘If you got it, flaunt it’ lifestyle. Wagering a “measly” £480,000 on one spin, he won £820,000 in return. Not sure how much he had lost before, though.

Image of a red roulette slot with number seven

Chris Boyd – UK Computer Programmer

Similar to Ashley Revell, Chris Boyd bet a grand sum of $220,000 on the colour red. Though not as extreme as in the former case, Boyd’s wager came from his intense savings of over three years – so fortunately, he still had possessions of his own, including a car to drive off in in case he lost. However, there was no need for that as the bet on red worked out for Boyd, to the tune of some sweet cash. In another freaky twist of events, it’s rumoured that the slot the ball landed on was the same as Ashley Revell’s lucky red 7!

The Future of Roulette

From the humble beginnings as perpetual motion reject to the current state of roulette as the premier casino game online and offline, there’s surely much more in store for the famed game. The introduction of novelty variants and progressive jackpot roulette games at our top online casino picks will surely continue with further expansion. We can also hold our breath for more virtual reality games which are sure to permeate the gambling world in no time. Several of these are already on the market, with Microgaming delivering a standout flagship VR roulette in 2015 – one that already managed to scoop up a coveted Digital Gaming Innovation of the Year award at the Global Gaming Awards!

How to Use Your Knowledge of Roulette History

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Knowing the history of roulette unfortunately won’t improve your chances of winning the game, but you will hopefully navigate from this page with a newfound appreciation for this legendary pastime. You can take inspiration from the guys who made our ‘Big Wins’ list – though we’d advise you not to get swept away by emotions just yet. Instead, check out the roulette rules page to get some deeper knowledge or explore a betting system like Martingale in hopes of minimising your losses. If you’re into getting down to business, you can go ahead and play a round or two of the best roulette games at our following top casinos, in addition to countless other casino games.