The Bizarre History of Roulette

It’s fairly easy to see how most casino games developed, an organic evolution from card and dice games to a more formal setting – because after all, you can play those just about anywhere with enough willpower and a few easily pocketed items. But what might be a bit harder to play in the street is a quick game of roulette what with the wheel being something of a specialty item. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the roulette wheel being used for anything except the gambling. But nevertheless you’ll find it in casinos across the world and offered online at places like, so how did it come to be that this unique form of gaming was so prevalent?

Invention of the Wheel

Roulette is believed to have been invented by one Blaise Pascal, who was, perhaps fittingly, a famous statistician who contributed a lot to the field of probability as a study. And while he added a lot to that area of study, his invention of the roulette wheel was actually down to his desire to invent a perpetual motion device. Yes, Pascal was also a student of physics and he was working to create a wheel that would spin indefinitely – which he never quite managed but the mechanism would be adopted and combined with the Italian game Biribi which allocated a random number as well, but by drawing stones out of a bag. The end result was both more random and more fun to watch – leading to roulette’s immense popularity.

Single or Double?

As a means to gamble, roulette needed to have an element that enabled, what is conventionally called, “The House Edge”. Basically, the casino is looking to have a margin so the house will win every now and then, and for roulette this was achieved by having two zero tiles on the wheel dedicated to the house. It meant that every now and then a spin would land on one of these so the casino owner would see a profit – but while the double zero tile was used in Paris and is still used in America, there’s a separate version of the game which uses only one zero space. And this game is mostly found (or is at least most famous) in Monte Carlo!

The story goes that when roulette was being banned across Europe, two French twin brothers called Francoise and Louis Blanc introduced a version of roulette in their casino in Hamburg that had only a single zero which offered the players more favourable odds. This was initially so that they could compete with other more established casinos but eventually they fled Germany for Monaco and it was here that their wheel truly flourished and became an iconic feature of Monte Carlo’s gambling scene.

There was also, briefly, a three zero option used in some American casinos but proved unpopular and the double zero game soon returned.

And there you have it! While it was never really a street game, roulette has been popular for centuries and it’s likely to continue to be so in the future!