“Faites vos jeux”, is the sound you hear at the roulette table when players spread their chips over the numbers and colours and the wheel starts spinning. Moments later, when the croupier says “rien ne va plus”, all eyes turn to follow the little white ball. Win or lose, fate decides.
Roulette, French for ‘small wheel’, probably originated in 18th century France from a mix of board and wheel games. There was no standard size for the wheel and some initially only had the numbers 0 and 00 together with even and odd boxes on it. This evolved into a game with a wagon wheel around which there were playing cards to bet on. These were red and black, still the colours of today’s roulette.
One of the origin stories tells that the final rotating wheel was accidentally invented in the middle of the 17th century by the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal who was looking for a perpetual motion machine. Another Frenchman, one Francois Blanc, would then have given the wheel its current shape. It was given the digits 1 to 36 with alternating red and black areas. The 0 was put in green. Spicy detail: the total sum of these numbers is 666, which is the “Number of the Beast“. It is said that he sold his soul to the devil for the knowledge of these numbers.
In 1796 the first variant of the casino game roulette was introduced in Paris with both the numbers: 0 and the double 00. It quickly became immensely popular all over the world.
The use of the double 0 was abolished in 1843 by the two French brothers François and Louis Blanc. This made it easier for them to compete against other casinos offering the traditional wheel with single and double zero house pockets. Soon that became the standard variant in Europe and we started to call it European roulette. This is of course the form we also maintain in VIAGE. The more boxes there are on the wheel, the less chance you have of winning with a specific number. The American roulette contains 38 numbers and the advantage for the casino is 5.26%. The European variant has 37 numbers that brings the casino advantage down to 2.70%.
“Alea iacta est,” said Julius Caesar as he crossed the Rubicon and thus went against the will of the Roman state. The die is cast, freely translated in French as ‘rien ne va plus’. The roulette game belongs irrefutably in every casino. The relatively simple rules of the game might make it so charming. You bet your chips on one or more boxes, on black or red, on even or odd, or on a mix of all of these. Then the croupier turns the wheel one way and the ball the other. If doubt strikes, you can still change your bet until the winged words ‘rien ne va plus’ resound. You too cannot go back and will surrender yourself to fate.