Roulette: The ‘little wheel’ keeps on rolling

The little ivory ball of the roulette table (now usually made of a synthetic material) has been rolling for centuries

EDMONTON, Alta. Feb. 28, 2017/ Troy Media/ – The little ivory ball of the roulette table (now usually made of a synthetic material) has been rolling for centuries.

Blaise Pascal, that intellectual giant of the 17th century, became the accidental “father of roulette” – French for the little wheel – when he stumbled upon it in 1655 during his quest for a perpetual motion machine.

Pascal may have also been one of the first people to try to game the system. Correspondence between Pascal and mathematical theorist Pierre de Fermat led to probability theory – the branch of mathematics concerned with the analysis of random phenomena – a prominent feature in various gambling systems, including roulette. Enter the search term roulette system and over a million results come up.

roulette
A single zero roulette wheel

While played in its current form since at least 1796, two unlikely champions of roulette, Provence-born twin brothers Francois and Louis Blanc, introduced an innovation – the single zero roulette wheel – on May 23, 1841 in the German town of Homburg vor der Höhe. Single zero roulette wheels, as opposed to double zero roulette wheels, decrease house odds, and made Bad Homburg – which the brothers had previously described as “a small, filthy, one-horse town” – into a gambling mecca. In fact, Francois Blanc’s Casino Bad Homburg is still rolling roulette balls today.

Francois also helped make Monte Carlo the most fashionable gaming centre in the world. Ever the visionary, ‘the Magician of Monte Carlo’ purchased the Societe des Bains de Mer in Monte Carlo for the then enormous sum of 2,290,000 francs. Francois died in Switzerland in 1877 with a fortune of 72 million francs.

Thanks to the Blanc brothers and other visionaries, roulette has become one of the leading games in casinos and a popular culture icon of gambling, gamblers, and the opulent lifestyle of the rich, the famous – and even the fictional super spy.

In Chapter 7 of Casino Royale – aptly called Rouge et Noir – Ian Fleming’s James Bond walks away from the table with a cool million francs to then introduce us to his iconic martini order (shaken not stirred). Bond roulette strategy was closely akin to the Labouchere System Roulette Strategy and has its own webpage.

From super spies to legendary tough guys, roulette is the pop culture symbol for gambling and the gambling world. Who can forget the scene in Casablanca when Humphrey Bogart, as Rick, takes sympathy on a Bulgarian couple and arranges for the husband to hit it big on number 22 not once but twice, and then tells him to get out with his winnings. Fortunately for modern gamblers, modern roulette wheels make it impossible to cheat as Bogie did.

Roulette fills the annals of popular culture showing up in other movies such as Run Lola Run, California Split and many other books besides Casino Royale. It even features its modern legends. In 1891, Charles De Ville Wells, a later-to-be convicted swindler, ‘broke the bank’ twice at the Monte Carlo Casino, then run by Camille Blanc, the son of the renowned Francois. Breaking the bank meant winning more than the reserve of 100,000 francs set aside for the table and involved a ceremonial draping of the table in black (conceived of by the ingenious Francois) while the casino went to its vault to procure more funds.

In April of 2004, 32-year old Ashley Revell of London, England sold everything he possessed and travelled to Las Vegas to bet it all. And, bet he did, placing his entire net worth (£76, 840 – about $164,286 today) on red seven and doubling his stake.

Roulette continues to inspire gamblers and casino goers to this very day. On March 30, 2017, the very first European Championship of Roulette will be held at the luxurious Portomaso Casino in St. Julian’s on the beautiful, historic Island of Malta where roulette lovers will compete for a €200,000 prize.

From perpetual motion to perpetual emotion, roulette is a stirring game that thrills and chills its players. From the spin of the wheel in one direction to the rattle of the ball around the backtrack in the opposite direction, and on to the rake of the croupier gathering bets, roulette is a game that permeates the senses and energizes all the players and onlookers involved in the excitement.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by all Troy Media columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Troy Media.

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