Monasteries, Californian Defiance, and Ant and Dec: Explaining Roulette's Enduring Popularity Around the World

Ruben Hill
April 6, 2017

Despite its apparent simplicity, or perhaps because of it, roulette – or the ‘little wheel’ – is a game that has sprung to prominence across the globe. From India to Australia, to Spain, to Brazil, where one of the country’s richest men recently won millions of dollars playing roulette, this is a game that transcends borders and has also, more importantly, stood the test of time.

French Origins

As with many popular hobbies and games, theories abound as to how roulette was created, but the most credible theory relates to the game being invented in French monasteries in the 1600s to alleviate some of the boredom of living there.

The game’s simplicity has continued to do it favours over time; in fact, it was the game’s transferable nature that led to it being one of the first games available when the live dealer casino boom started online a few years ago.

All About Those Zeros...

Is there more to roulette, though, than watching a ball whizz around a wheel before eventually landing on a number? The straightforward answer is a resounding ‘yes’. A quick glance through 32Red’s selection of roulette games, for instance, shows that there are 12 variations of roulette game to play online, from American Roulette to Premier Roulette, to, of course, Live Dealer Roulette. Another online provider, Sky Casino, even offers themed variations on roulette, such as Age of the Gods Roulette. 

But what are the differences between the two main variations offered by most operators: French roulette and American roulette? Well, the differences largely come down to the amount of zeros on the roulette wheel. In French roulette, you only have a single zero on the board, but in American roulette, there are is a zero and a double zero. 

"Roulette"  by Chris Yiu ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

This difference may sound minimal, but the increase to a double zero means that the house edge (the advantage the operator or casino has over the player) in American roulette is 5.26%, far higher than the house edge in a single zero roulette game (2.7%). The trade-off for players picking American roulette and accepting this greater element of risk is, of course, that the potential pay-offs can be greater.

So That's It, Right - Just Worry About the Zeros?

The number of zeros has a big impact on which form of roulette people like to play around the world, but there are other geographical influences that help to differentiate roulette around the globe, in the process helping to keep it hugely popular in different territories.

Take Californian Roulette as an example. Californian roulette originated after playing roulette with cards was the only way to make the game legal in the state of California. This means that in some forms of Californian roulette today, the roulette wheel is not even spun! Instead, the cards are randomly picked from an American Style roulette deck of cards.

In other forms of the Californian roulette game, there may be a physical wheel that is spun, but the spinning of the wheel solely represents which part of the layout to pluck a card from. This may sound a little odd, but it shows how eager some parts of the world are to still take part in a game that mirrors as many aspects of the traditional game of roulette as possible.

Meanwhile, in the UK, a form of roulette found its way onto prime time television on the show Red or Black, hosted by the ever-popular Ant and Dec. In order to win the big prize, the final contestant on the show would have to guess red or black before a giant roulette wheel (split into 36 sections, 18 being black and 18 being red) was spun. This show was not a huge commercial success, but the fact that the climax was the use of a roulette wheel highlights how far and wide roulette has spread into popular culture across the globe.

Here to Stay?

Roulette has been around since the 17th century, so clearly this is a game that isn’t going to depart from public consciousness anytime soon. As we hinted at earlier in relation to the wealth of games offered by 32Red and others, most online casinos offer at least one form of roulette as an option for playing online, and whilst it may have received modern twists and updates, the simple premise that made it so popular in the first place will surely keep it a hit around the world for many more years to come.    

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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