The roulette wheel has graced the cover of magazines, been the subject of songs, and appeared in countless movies. It is immediately recognizable in every part of the world and across all languages and cultures. It has been celebrated, hated, and outlawed. On the surface it seems like an extraordinary amount of impact and history for what really is just a simple numbered wheel and a little white ball.

Using a wheel as a gambling device is nothing new however and is thousands of years old. The ancient Romans used a chariot wheel which was spun with the sections of the wheel assigned different values and an arrow serving as a marker. Prior to the appearance of the roulette wheel proper, there was an English game using a spinning wheel called Odds and Evens and an Italian game called Hoca which also used a spinning mechanism to decide winning numbers.

There are two differing accounts about the invention of the roulette wheel. One is that it was invented by the math prodigy Blaise Pascal in about 1655 and who was actually searching for a perpetual motion machine. The genius of the invention may not have been readily apparent at the time but it ranks right up there today with any of his mathematical theorems.

The second story was that it was invented by a Dominican monk whose name is unknown to this day. If it was indeed a true story, then legend has it that the monk was driven mad trying to beat the very game he had invented. In the end he became convinced that it had been invented by the Devil and he had to be committed. A little known fact that may give some credence to the rumor is that the sum of all of the numbers on a roulette wheel adds up to 666!

Although there is no definitive date for the creation of modern Roulette, it appears well entrenched in France by 1796 although it certainly appeared earlier. It became very popular at that point although gambling was banned by the authorities of the French Revolution. Napoleon had officially legalized it again by 1806 as he looked for revenue sources to fund his wars.

By the middle of the century it had become the premier casino game in Europe and was all the rage in the United States. Monte Carlo was packed throughout the season with the rich and famous who lost and won staggering sums in a single spin of the wheel. In America, Roulette was to be found in many states regardless of whether it was legal or not. Introduced by French settlers in Louisiana, New Orleans soon became the preeminent gambling hub with Roulette being the main attraction.

From these two traditions came the main variations of Roulette known respectively as European Roulette and American Roulette. European Roulette is distinguished as having only one zero while American Roulette wheels have both a single and double zero which further increases the house edge. At one time the European version was the norm but now aside from Europe the rest of the world typically uses the American design.