One aspect that may come as a surprise is that, for a game based on pure luck and chance, mathematics makes up its core. In fact, talk to any historian worth his or her salt, and they will tell you that it was Blaise Pascal who practically invented the first ‘little wheel’ – from where the game gets its name – setting in motion the rise of the modern-day version of the game.
The celebrated 17th-century mathematician and physicist chanced upon the very first model in his quest for a device known as the perpetual motion machine.
Cut to the present day, and modern roulette is also based on the sound principles of calculus. Right from the table layout to the numbering of the pockets, from the dice to the odds and the strategies employed by professional players, roulette is entirely hallmarked with mathematics.
Although a mathematician has been credited with roulette’s early version, due credit must be given to the royal houses of Europe, especially Paris, that gave the game its appeal.
Without that touch of sophistication and class which only royalty can bring, roulette may not have attained the current heights of popularity. And neither would it have the perception of being a rich man’s game, even though we normal folks play it too.
The journey, which began in France, took the game to other royal houses of continental Europe, including Germany and Austria. The popularity of the game was such, that it even found mention in a French novel by noted author Jaques Lablee.
From the royal houses of Europe, roulette travelled again; this time across the Atlantic to the United States. The game then changed forever.
Trust the Americans to leave their impression on anything they touch: left hand drive, Americanised spelling, and roulette.
The game underwent some radical changes and innovations when it began passing through the American continent, the first of which was brought about because of rampant malpractice by the operators. In order to gain an edge over the playing public, gambling dens would place devices inside the table or the wheel, hidden from view.
The rigged games brought in a lot of wealth for the makeshift casinos, until they were brought under jurisdiction. The result was that the wheel was placed on top of the table, in plain view, to prevent any kind of rigging. Over the years, some aspects of the European and American games merged, until we find the situation now where the visible wheel is preferred, probably for reasons of aesthetic and the excitement of watching the ball roll round the wheel.
Opinions differ on whether the single zero or the double zero came first. Having two zero slots increases the house edge by over five percent, being as there are two places where the ball can end up where the house automatically wins. Some say that the Americans introduced the double zero for this very reason.
More likely is the story that the elimination of the double zero was a ploy to encourage more people to a casino that was an immediate predecessor of the casinos of Monte Carlo. The single zero stayed as a hallmark of the European game, but the original game, complete with the double zero pocket, was the form that made it to the United States. Aficionados of the game will argue over which roulette is best, but clearly the European version has the edge if you want to see some winnings.
Roulette has made the switch from physical to virtual, and can be found at many online casinos in the table games selection. As technology has improved, players have gained confidence that the programs are just as random as a spin of a physical wheel. Unlike in a traditional casino, there is often a chance to play on a demo version, so players can try the game out and practise all the different bet types before wagering any real money.
More recently, there has been a rise in the number of online casino sites offering roulette and other table games played live from a studio, where players can watch a croupier spin a real wheel and bets are placed via the online portal. This method of playing roulette online returns a bit of the glitz and glamour of the original game that players may find to be missing from the simulated screen versions.