The casino game of roulette is said to have its roots in French scientist Blaise Pascal’s attempt to devise a perpetual motion machine, which he attempted to do with a wheel in the 17th century. The wheel didn’t keep going perpetually, but it did manage to keep spinning for a good while, inspiring those looking for unique ways to devise gambling devices to come up with the roulette wheel.
Roulette therefore originated in France in the next century, although it didn’t really become all that popular until it started showing up in Paris casinos in 1796. The mesmerizing anticipation it created in players as they watched the wheel spin waiting for the result ended up becoming a real hit in the casinos, a fact that remains to this day.
Roulette, French for “little wheel,” continued to spread throughout the 19th century. Originally designed with 38 slots, including slots for the numbers 1 to 36 plus a zero and a double zero, the game paid out bets at even odds as if the zeros were not present, in other words if the wheel only had 36 slots.
So in other words, a bet on any given slot pays 35 to 1, which is still the case today, but there are 38 slots, so the house enjoyed an edge at the time of the 2 extra slots. A German casino in 1843 decided that they would be satisfied with just a singe zero on the wheel, reducing the house edge by half, in order to get more business, and the idea spread throughout Europe.
The French also brought roulette to America in the 19th century, first coming to New Orleans and then spreading up the Mississippi. The format there was the double zero, and the single zero wheel never did catch on, and even to this day we distinguish between European roulette, with its single zero, and American roulette, with its two zeros, and this has persisted in spite of the fact that the European version has half the house edge.
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How To Play Roulette
Roulette players place various bets on the outcome of a roulette spin, which always results in the ball ending up in one of the 37 or 38 slots on the roulette wheel, depending on the version. Once again, all of the bets pay even odds based upon a 36 slot wheel, although the wheel of course has 1 or 2 extra slots.
The dealer, or croupier, then spins the wheel and then places the ball in the spinning wheel, which bounces around and ends up landing in one of the slots.
The betting layout consists of a felt cloth where players place their chips prior to spins. Each of the slots are represented by a number on the layout, the inside area of it, and there is also space to place outside bets on various combinations of slots.
Inside bets include betting on a single number, on two adjacent numbers either vertically or horizontally, on three numbers on a horizontal line, called a street, on four numbers in a corner, on six numbers comprising two horizontal lines, a double street, as well as other bets depending on whether the wheel is single or double zero.
Outside bets consist of betting on larger combinations, such as red or black, even or odd, low or high, one of the three columns, one of the three dozens, or a snake bet involving a third of the numbers.
The odds with all these bets are similar and the only distinctions are that bets involving more numbers have less variance, for instance if you bet half the numbers you will win about half the time, as opposed to betting on only one number where you will only win once in 37 or 38 spins, although the payout is of course larger.
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Does Playing Roulette Involve Skill?
In spite of the fact that this game is theoretically skill neutral, in other words it doesn’t matter a bit over the long run which bets you make, as all have exactly the same expected value, players have attempted to devise schemes that seek to take away the normal house edge, about 5% for a double zero wheel and about 2.5% for a single wheel one, to no avail.
These schemes are based upon what is known as the gambler’s fallacy, which believes that you can affect probability by tinkering with betting amounts, or that past random outcomes influence future ones. In theory, if you could just double your bets to infinity, this would work, but this requires an infinite bankroll and infinite betting limits.
So it really doesn’t matter what sort of bets you select or how you vary your bets depending on previous results, as luck has no memory. So if you’ve lost a certain amount of bets in a row, this has no bearing on the next outcome.
In order for physical roulette wheels to be random though, or close enough to it, they need to be extremely well balanced, and there have been cases where wheels haven’t been balanced enough, which some very sharp players have been able to take advantage of.
Casinos and roulette wheel makers do their utmost to prevent this though, and wheels do tend to be balanced enough that they can’t be exploited these days, although that’s not always been the case.
With online roulette, there is no wheel involved, and the software uses the same random number generator as other casino games, with the spinning of the wheel used for graphic representation only.
In spite of roulette being a matter of pure luck, it remains extremely popular among players due to the sheer enjoyment of playing it.