Posted April 9, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Why roulette is called the devil’s game

Why roulette is called the devil’s game
Why roulette is called the devil’s game

Roulette has been called many things over the years, especially by those losers as they leave the table. The casino game we know today is named after the French diminutive for Little Wheel which is more than ironic given that diminutives are most often used as a sign of affection.

The game as we recognise it, first appeared in 18th century France where it is believed to be mixture of an English game called Roly-Poly, an Italian board game called Horca and Biribi and a French board game that was also called roulette.

In these games the wheel contained the numbers 1 to 36, to which we will return shortly plus a zero and a double zero that provided the house advantage, or bank. In Germany in the 1840s the wheel changed with the introduction of a single 0 wheel and eventually this version proliferated in all countries except for America where the single and double zero wheels are still used to this day.  Early American wheels have also been described with numbers from 1 to 28 but the 1 – 36 numbered wheel is now used worldwide.

So why is roulette called the Devil’s game? There are two possible causes, the first dating back to 1843 when the single zero wheel was devised by Francois Blanc in Bad Homburg. According to legend (and who are we to argue) Blanc negotiated with the Devil himself to understand the magic of the game and create a version that wold leave him as winner. So nothing to do with understanding odds and probability then Mr D?

Perhaps slightly more believable is the chance occurrence of the total of all the numbers on a roulette wheel, go on, get out your calculator and tot them up – they reach the mystical 666, the number of the devil himself. Whether a deal with the devil or not, Blanc knew what he was up to as his version of the roulette wheel is now the one most widely used across the world.