Roulette History – The Origins, Early Beginnings till Present Time
The origins of the game known as ‘roulette’ are shrouded in mystery. The most widely accepted version is that the first incarnation of the game was created by French math wizard and accomplished nerd Blaise Pascal somewhere in the 17th century, while he was hard at work trying to create a perpetual motion machine.
However, evidence shows that many ancient civilizations played games quite similar to roulette. Let’s take a look at a few curious cases from the rich history of the world.
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The Chinese Conspiracy
Many people believe that roulette is based on an ancient Chinese board game that involved arranging 37 animal figurines into a magic square with numbers that total 666. The game was discovered by Dominican monks who were deeply involved with all aspects of Chinese life and was later brought to Europe by them, with slight modifications.
Unfortunately, no one can find specific information on how the original Chinese game was actually played. The monks allegedly changed the layout, making the square a circle and adding a special slot for the number zero. The problem with this story is that even the earliest French roulette had both a zero and a double zero slot – so the whole ‘ancient Chinese game’ theory is probably not true. Still, it’s true that the numbers on the modern roulette wheel add up to 666 – which is pretty cryptic.
Killing Time in Ancient Rome
Shields Were Used as Gambling ToolsBeing a soldier in ancient Rome was not a particularly fun and perspective occupation. Aside from the short life expectancy, they also had to deal with witnessing their friends and comrades being constantly wounded and murdered in battle. This was more than enough to bring the soldiers’ morale down, thus reducing their effectiveness on the battlefield.
To combat this, Roman commanders would let their soldiers have as much fun as possible – including participation in gambling games. Many of those games involved spinning a shield or a chariot wheel, which is close to how roulette is played.
Ancient Greeks Were Spinning Too
Greek soldiers also had their fair share of gambling games to enjoy while not dodging arrows and spears. One particular game is pretty similar to modern-day roulette. Soldiers would draw symbols on the inside of a shield, then put it face-down on the ground and place an arrow next to it. Then they would spin the shield and bet on which symbol will stop in front of the arrow.
Both those soldier games can be related to roulette, but there simply isn’t enough evidence to support the claim that roulette is a Greek or Roman game.
France Takes All the Credit
Roulette is undoubtedly of French origin, hence the name. However, the design and gameplay are clearly influenced by two quite similar games, popular in 17th century Europe. They were called ‘Roly Poly’ and ‘Even-Odd’, and both involved spinning a wheel and betting on the outcome of the spin. Blaise Pascal was a famous gambler, so he undoubtedly knew about them while creating his version of the wheel.
Gambling was not very popular at the time, mostly due to the fact that it was illegal in many countries in Europe. The late 18th century, however, saw the introduction of strict gambling laws, thus reviving wagering games in France and the rest of Europe. Meanwhile, Prince Charles of Monaco was facing some money issues and had the brilliant idea to use the rising popularity of gambling to solve some of them. He opened several gambling houses in Monaco, where roulette was prominently featured. Consequently, the game became really popular among aristocrats and royalty.
The roulette that was played in those gambling houses was almost identical to the one we are playing today – even the betting options were almost the same. The numbers went from 1-36, there were one zero and one double zero pockets, and the colours were red and black.
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