Who Invented the Roulette Wheel and When?

Ever wondered who invented the roulette wheel and when? Before I give you the answer, let me give you a quick introduction.

Roulette is a popular gambling game named after the French word meaning small wheel or little wheel, because of the design of the roulette wheel. The wheel is divided into sections known as pockets

Each pocket is numbered and is either painted red or black. The game is played by spinning the roulette wheel and dropping a small ball that spins in the opposite direction and eventually lands on a pocket. 

Players have to predict the number or characteristic of the pocket on which the ball will land. The payout is determined by the odds of your bet. The history of this riveting game is shrouded in mystery as different people and countries have taken credit for inventing it. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the three main sources where the game purportedly originated. So, let’s get started.

Who Invented the Roulette Wheel?

Blaise Pascal was the man who invented the Roulette wheel. He was a renowned French physicist, mathematician, and an inventor. Initially, Blaise Pascal was not trying to create a casino game but in the year 1655, he tried to invent an incredible perpetual motion machine.

According to historians, Blaise Pascal was the man who created a primitive roulette form in the seventeenth century while researching the perpetual motion machine. 

Interestingly, the roulette system is a hybrid of these two:

  • The gaming wheel created in 1720 
  • An Italian game called Biribi

Even today, the game is played, even though it started in Paris during 1796. (Source: Wikipedia)

who invented the roulette wheel

French History of Roulette

This is the most widely accepted historical account of the game. The roulette wheel is said to have been invented by the famous French philosopher and physicist, Blaise Pascal, in the early 17th century. 

You’re probably wondering why a scientist like Pascal decided to invent a gambling game. The thing is, that was not his intention.

Blaise Pascal was a highly respected mathematician and an early pioneer of the game and probability theory. But at the time, he was not trying to create a device that could test those theories. 

In 1655, he took up a project which was to create a perpetual motion machine — a hypothetical machine that defies the first and second law of thermodynamics, thus allowing it to continue in motion forever without the need for an energy source. 

Unfortunately, the project failed, but one of the failed attempts gave rise to the roulette wheel and what is now known as one of the most popular casino games in the world. 

The design of the roulette wheel remained the same until 1842 when two French men, Francois and Lois Blanc, decided to redesign it for King Charles III of Monaco. 

The new design included a single 0 which increased the house edge for the casino. King Charles requested this amendment because his kingdom was in a bit of a financial pinch.  

The model quickly began attracting more wealthy men (especially since France had just outlawed gambling) and generating income for Monaco. 

The single 0 version of the game also became popular in Europe in the 19th century, and is now one of the top two variants of roulette in the world today. 

After the game made its way to the US, the Americans decided to redesign the roulette wheel again to make the house edge even bigger. They added an extra zero which is called the “double zero”. To attract more players, the American-style roulette betting layout was also simplified. These helped casinos flourish in the 20th century. The game with 38 numbers has remained dominant ever since. 

Chinese History of Roulette

The second version of the history of roulette notes that it was some Chinese monks who created it. According to some game historians, the design of the roulette wheel was based on a stone spinning wheel that was used in ancient China. 

Roulette wheel invention

The stone wheel had 12 animals drawn on it (Chinese star signs). Each animal sign had 3 pockets, therefore adding up to 36 signs. The 37th pocket was given the number 8 which is known to symbolize luck in China. 

The 12 signs used were the Dog, Dragon, Goat, Horse, Monkey, Ox, Pig, Rabbit, Rat, Rooster, Tiger, and Snake.  

The stone wheel also had the number 666 etched in the middle of it. If you look at the modern roulette wheel, you’ll notice that all the 37 numbers (European version) add up to 666. This is also the case with the American version. 

In the game, players had to guess the sign that the small ball would land on. The game had a low house edge because animal signs were used instead of numbers, and technically, there were only 12 real numbers to bet on (since three pockets would have the same sign). The low risk attracted many players. 

It is said that the Chinese monks taught their Dominican monks the rules of the game, and these monks then converted the animals/signs to numbers. 

After a while, the Dominican monks also taught the Europeans and the numbered version of roulette became a hit with European traders.

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Roman and Greek History of Roulette

Although there isn’t enough evidence to justify the claims that the roulette wheel invention occurred in Rome or Greece, here is what some historians believe. 

In the ancient Roman empire, roulette was created and used as a pastime for the soldiers. Roman commanders encouraged their soldiers and comrades to participate in the gambling game to ease the stress of war and also boost morale. 

The Roman soldiers would mark 10 fields on a chariot wheel or shield and spin it, just like the wheel of fortune. A spot on the ground was also marked to indicate where the wheel or shield stopped. Whoever bet on that spot, won the game. 

Greek soldiers were also notorious gamblers. One of their favorite gambling games resembled modern-day roulette. The soldiers would draw symbols on the interior of their shield, place it on the ground, and also place an arrow next to the shield which would serve as a pointer. 

After this, the soldiers would then spin the wheel and start placing their bets on the symbol that they think would stop in front of the arrow. This is very similar to modern-day roulette that involves guessing the number that the ball would land on. 

Conclusion

I can’t say for sure who invented the roulette wheel and what the country of origin of the game is, but it is clear that it was invented centuries ago and was passed along to different cities and countries as trade relations grew. 

Today, the traditional roulette game has once again evolved and is now being played online. Who knows if the design of the wheel will be changed soon? 

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