History of roulette


The origin of roulette (a French word meaning small wheel) is shrouded in mystery. Reinforcing this aura of mystery is the belief that roulette is a "demonic" game. In fact, by adding all the numbers in the game from 1 to 36 we obtain the sum 666: the devil's number .


However, it is an "ancient" origin. The history of roulette seems to begin in the time of the ancient Greeks. In fact, it seems that they were the first to invent a rudimentary form of roulette using wagon wheels.


Even the ancient Romans, especially the legionaries, are part of the history of roulette: in fact, it seems they played roulette using a shield that was spun on the tip of a spear. Other sources regarding the history of roulette report that the Greeks played with the shield and the Romans with the wheel.

They probably both played both games.


There is also a hypothesis about a Chinese origin of roulette : it seems that in ancient China a game using 37 animal statuettes, arranged in a "mystical" way, was widespread.


Roulette most likely comes from the fusion of two games:

  • The Italian game of "goose"
  • The English game "EO" ("Even" - "Odd", even and odd)

Other games also seem to have had a certain influence on the birth of the roulette game: among them we remember Roly-Poly, Reiner, Ace of Hearts and the Italian Biribi.

The prototype of modern roulette is attributed to the French scientist Blaise Pascal , known for his studies on the calculation of probability. During research into perpetual motion, he created the first roulette in 1655.


The first "official" reference to roulette as a game, however, does not come from France but from Canada. In 1758, an act that banned certain games in Quebec also included roulette. This "Canadian appearance" contributes to creating doubts about the real origin of the game. According to many, however, the term roulette in the Canadian case referred to an old table game, and not to a "kind" of French roulette.


The first reference, complete with description, is found in a book published in France in 1801. We are referring to a French novella, La Roulette, ou le Jour by Jaques Lablee , which describes the game in the Palais Royal in Paris in 1796. Yes it was a cylinder with alternating red and black numbers, zero and double zero. The zero was red and the double zero was black; but the colors are not paid with the release of these combinations.

At the beginning of the 19th century the color green was used for both zeros: this was to avoid confusion.

In 1837, Louis Philippe ordered the closure of all casinos and gambling halls in France. Many managers moved to Germany. Among these we remember the brothers Francois and Louis Blanc: in 1840 they arrived in Hamburg and acquired the local casino. They also had a winning idea: in 1843 they decided to abolish the double zero, which forced the opposing casinos to follow the same policy so as not to see their customers run away.

In 1856 he opened the Monte Carlo casino but it did not have the desired success, so much so that Princess Carolina called Blanc to revive its fortunes. After an initial refusal, Blanc accepted the proposal and in 1863 founded the  Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers (among the company's investors we remember the bishop of Monaco and Cardinal Pecci, who would become Pope Leo XIII). The company received the casino concession for 50 years, until 1913.


Here is an excerpt from a very beautiful book that cannot be found in Italy, fundamental for understanding the history of roulette.

Gros Jeu - histoire secrète de Monte-Carlo (1953) , which gives an idea of the situation of the game at the beginning of the 20th century:

"Between the end of the 19th century and the very beginning of the 20th century, after a number of exceptional years, peace finally reigned in Europe. The Boer War, which took place in a region of the globe very far from Monaco, had no influence on nothing about the tranquility of the principality and its own situation. England is rich, the United States is prosperous, France is recovering from the hardships of the war of 1870 and the heavy indemnity demanded by Prussia.

The French no longer pay inheritance taxes and relatively little income tax. Around the world there are a large number of rich and idle people, with no other purpose in life than having fun, with no other passion than gambling. Night clubs were not yet known, there was little dancing, very little tennis and golf were played, and no bridge at all.


The gaming technique, particularly trente-et-qurante and roulette, was then the most widespread subject of conversation, as was that of canasta around 1950. Newspapers and magazines dedicated a series of articles on the various gaming systems and to their respective effectiveness…….."


The closure of German casinos helped attract more users to Monte Carlo, helping to create the myth that still lasts today.


Roulette arrived in America at the time of the French Revolution . In fact, some French immigrants brought roulette to Louisiana and New Orleans became the American gaming capital and also exported roulette to other cities.

"Primitive" American roulette had 0, 00 and a sort of "triple 0" represented by the image of "Eagle A". There were also numbers 1 through 28. Soon the numbers were increased to 36 and the "Eagle" was removed. Even today the double 0 resists even if, in the main casinos it is possible to find some single 0 roulette (European Roulette), where, however, the minimum bets are usually high.