Although it has always had a place in land based and online casinos, the popularity of roulette has increased dramatically since the turn of the century.
Its popularity is down to one thing: it's so simple to play. No skill whatsoever is required. Couple that with the thrill of winning 35:1 your bet if your single number comes in and you've got a ‘winning' combination. Old and young, rich and even poor, roulette has something to offer everyone.
The object of the game is simple; predict what number a ball will land on when it is spun around a wheel. Different areas on the table represent different bets and the odds and payouts of these bets vary.
The creation of roulette is widely credited to Blaise Pascal who was a French scientist and invented what we now refer to as a roulette wheel.
This was all the way back in 1655 and since then the game has advanced considerably. But it wasn't until the mid 1800s that roulette wheels we would recognise today could be found in Monte Carlo casinos.
Pascal's original wheel was numbered 1-32 but shortly after the game's emergence in casinos a 0 was added. This was done in 1842 by Francois and Louis Blanc who were said to have made a deal with the devil in exchange for the secrets of roulette. While we're sceptical about whether this is true, we do know that the addition of a 0 actually added a house edge to the game, which is probably the real reason.
As with most modern casino games, roulette found its way on to US shores. Unfortunately those stingy US casino bosses decided the game was still too player friendly and introduced a second 0 and further increased the house edge. This version of the game was named American roulette and can still be found in online and land based casinos today. We always recommend avoiding American roulette as it carries a house edge of 5.26% compared to the 2.7% of European roulette.
Atlantic City casinos took American roulette one step further in an attempt to drum up popularity. They created the en prison rule which meant that if the ball landed on 0 or 00 then even money bets are not lost. They remain on the table until the next spin when if they win they're given back to the player (but not paid) and if they lose then they're taken away. This rule was dropped in 1980 by the Casino Control Commission. You can still find the en prison rule alive and well in most British bricks and mortar casinos.
Along with blackjack, roulette was one of the first casino games to be available online back in the mid 1990s and its popularity is unlikely to wane anytime soon.
Here's how to beat roulette...
For some reason, people seem determined to find a system which allows them to beat roulette. Obviously this is motivated by a desire to win money, but roulette appears to be a target of these systems more than any other game.
Take Norman Leigh for example. As explained in his book Thirteen Against the Bank, Leigh led a team of thirteen people into Monte Carlo casinos and came out with huge profits. Leigh claimed to use the reverse labouchère system to great effect but mathematicians have doubted whether the winnings he claimed to have made are possible.
The development of personal computers led to a new generation of tech-savvy roulette system players. Of these, the most high profile was a group of physics students from the University of California who called themselves the Eudaemons.
Following research on the roulette wheel, these students developed a formula to track its motion. As this formula was so complicated they created a small computer which they would take with them into the casino and would calculate which eighth of the wheel the ball would land in.
This appeared to work with a 44% profit that led to winnings of around $10,000. However, they abandoned their efforts when one of the computers burned a hole into a female team member's skin.
Other people that have taken on the roulette wheel and claimed to have won include Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo, Edward Thorp and Claude Shannon, and Charles Wells.