French Roulette History

Roulette School

History is not an exact science and often historians argue over the exact turn of events that led to the invention of the French roulette. The process of going back hundreds of years to try to uncover the exact origin of the classiest of all casino games is not an easy process so even in our days the history of French roulette is a mixture of facts and myths.

Before addressing the path that led to the creation of the French roulette, let us examine gambling games and wheel games that predate French roulette and probably formed the foundation for its development into the exciting gambling game it became to be.

The Ancient China Roots

The earliest accounts of a spinning wheel being used for entertainment purposes come from ancient China where Chinese soldiers played a sadistic game with their captives by tying them up between two rotating wheels that had sharp wooden spikes attached to their rims. Some of the wheels were big with long spikes that could cut a grown man in two and others smaller wheels with shorter spikes that could only administer minor cuts.

The captive will get the chance to select at random the type of wheel they will be tied to and the Chinese soldiers will gamble on whether the wheel will “win” by cutting the captive in half and killing them or whether it will simply injure them with minor cuts.

The Greco-Roman Roots

The concept of using a spinning wheel for entertainment and gambling moved from Ancient China with traveling merchants and history shows that during the Greco-Roman period the spinning wheel was very popular as a means for gambling in a similar method to the way ‘Wheel of Fortune’ is played today.

At a later period Roman soldiers used chariot wheels for their games and the Greeks were using metal shields that had had markings on them that soldiers wagered on. These gambling games were encouraged by the heads of the army that believed that soldiers require entertainment after and before battles.

Blaise Pascal’s French Roulette

Roulette means “little wheel” in French and the recent history of French Roulette starts with famed French mathematician Blaise Pascal that during his attempts to create a perpetual-motion device in 1655 inadvertently created the first French roulette wheel. The game proved to be very popular and Pascal’s basic wheel design has changed only slightly in the last four centuries.

Francois and Louis Blanc

The two French brothers improved the game in 1842 by adding a zero to the roulette wheel thus making it a game of 37 numbers ranging from 0 to 36 and increasing the house edge and making it very lucrative for gambling hall operators to promote the game to punters.

However by that time France has already outlawed gambling but the game quickly spread to other European countries and enjoyed great popularity. Francois Blanc even opened the first casino in Monte Carlo and turned the game of French roulette to the main attraction.

Unique Features

Many people and even some casinos confuse European roulette and French roulette. French roulette is different than the European one as it offers two special rules; the ‘En Prison’ rule that allows a player making an even-money bets to imprison their wager for another spin when the ball lands on zero. This rule also allows the player to opt to get half their original wager back rather than leave it on the table for another spin. The second rule is the ‘La Partage’ rule that only allows the player to get back half their original even-money bet when the ball lands on zero.

Many casinos offer both or one of these rules as part of their European roulette games but in actuality they should only be offered when playing French roulette. Another distinction is that the writing on the French roulette table is in French and on European roulette tables the writing is in English.

Not many people know but the French roulette was originally offered using the double zero roulette wheel and later on offered both single zero and double zero versions. Nowadays beacuse many people mistakingly think that French and European roulette are exactly the same game, you might come across many French roulette games that are offered using a single zero wheel only.

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