It is hard to imagine a casino without roulette. The roulette wheel is the classic symbol of casino gambling and it is easily one of the most popular games found on the casino floor, due to a perfect blend of simplicity, tension and opportunity to win big.
The name “roulette” comes from the French, meaning “little wheel” and primitive forms of the game first emerged in 17th century France. There is plenty of myth and legend surrounding the game too, such as the story of a businessman who supposedly struck a deal with the devil in order to learn the secrets of beating roulette. This story is thought to have developed from a mathematical quirk of roulette wheels – every number added together comes to a total of 666, the supposed “number of the beast.”
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The rules of roulette are straightforward enough. Simply place your chips on the relevant areas of the layout (the green baize where the bets are written) and wait for the ball to land in a pocket, which determines whether you win or lose. You can bet as much or as little as you like within the betting limits of the table, which will be displayed prominently.
Depending on the type of wheel (American or European), there will be 37 or 38 numbers on the roulette wheel and after the betting is over, the croupier will spin the ball in the opposite direction to the spinning wheel and wait for it to land on a number. All losing bets are removed from the table, before the croupier settles each winning bet individually.
There are many different types of roulette bet. The most common is betting on the appearance of a single number, which pays 35/1. Other common bets include whether the colour of the number will be red or black (returns even money), odd or even (also an even money bet) and corners (one chip covers four numbers, which pays 8/1 if any of the four numbers appear).
An American roulette table provides the casino with a guaranteed edge of 5.26%, whilst a European table, which doesn’t feature the 00, offers players a much better value 2.70%. There is simply no excuse for playing on an American roulette table, if the option to play either is available to you.
Einstein supposedly said that the only way to beat roulette is to steal money from the table. There just isn’t a system that can guarantee a profit. There is a strategy to avoid though – “Martingale”.
Martingale systems involve doubling the bet after a loss, which theoretically guarantees a profit of one unit. For example, if you bet £1 on red and it wins, you make £1 in profit, but if it loses, you bet £2 on red for the next spin. If this wins, you have spent £3 to win £1, and if it loses, you bet £4 next time and so on. The only problem with this seemingly perfect strategy, is that a long sequence of losses will either see a player run out of money and no longer in a position to double the bet, or run into the upper limit of the table, meaning that the required bet amount is larger than the maximum bet allowed.
The best way to play roulette is to forget strategy and to simply play for fun, setting yourself a small limit that you can comfortably afford to lose and placing whatever bets you feel like – the game is unbeatable in the long run and bettors are relying purely on luck.
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The History of Roulette
It is difficult to hear the word “casino” without conjuring up the image of a spinning roulette wheel, the green layout and a croupier armed with a rake and dolly. The game is a classic, a gambling icon, popular with many gamblers due to its simplicity, stylishness and the promise of the big win. But where did the game of roulette come from?
The precise origins of roulette are unknown, though many claim that the game is based on one of several older, wheel based games, such as “E.O.” or “Hoca”. It is likely that roulette is simply a combination of many games rather than having developed from just one source, as man’s inclination to gamble is as old as time and it would be no surprise if primitive gambling games were devised utilising a wheel, shortly after its invention.
The murky history of roulette’s development has spawned many a myth, the most popular being that the game’s creators sold their souls to Satan himself, in order to learn the workings of the roulette wheel. Surely it can’t just be coincidence that all of the numbers in the game add up to 666, can it?
Another speculative theory about roulette is that Blaise Pascal invented the game by accident, when undertaking his famous work into the creation of a perpetual motion machine. It is highly unlikely that this story holds any water, however.
The game that we recognise today was certainly played by the French aristocracy in the late eighteenth century and in those days, the wheel featured the double zero pocket, as seen on today’s American tables. The single zero wheel was invented in France, but much later and was only really popularised in Monte Carlo. It eventually spread throughout Europe, whilst America retained the double zero wheel.
Roulette first appeared in America in the nineteenth century and it is likely that the French were responsible for introducing the game originally, as New Orleans produced the earliest, successfully commercial gambling in the US. Like much of roulette’s history though, this isn’t certain, as there are theories to suggest that the English may have been behind the move.
In the modern era, the widespread development of casinos across the world, coupled with the internet bringing the game into people’s homes, has given the roulette player more options than ever before to enjoy the delights of the iconic casino classic