icon imageRoulette History

    Find out more about the history of the popular online casino game roulette from European to French and American tables. Discover some of the big winners and the tactics they used to score big and win thousands of pounds

    Roulette History


    Roulette history image of early roulette game
    One of the earliest drawings depicting a game of roulette ca. 1800.

    Getting the definitive history of roulette is a bit like opening a can of worms. But with this simple roulette guide, you will get most of the facts. As with a lot of things in history, there are lots of conflicting reports making it hard to track, however, given that the name is French it would seem like that when it comes to roulette history the story goes something like this. 

    In 1655 there was a French scientist called Blaise Pascal when he went into a monastery as a monk to get away from the world. There is certainly a lot of evidence to suggest that it was invented by French monks, and as he was there at the time, and there is an element of maths and probability to the game it is likely a scientist would have had interest in developing such a game. Roulette is a French word that literally means small wheel and so the argument that the monastery history gains even further support. 

    Sometime later in 1763, there is an account from Casanova where he speaks of the game being played by women, although the wheel did not feature. In his account, the board contains 36 slots, and a random number was picked from a bag. Instead of losing your stake, an unsuccessful bet saw you paying back a whopping 32 times the stake - perhaps unsurprising that this version did not gain longevity and make it through to today. It seems that close varieties of the game continued to travel across the globe and develop. A record from Canada in 1758 shows that it was specifically named in a decree when the authorities banned ‘dice, hoca, faro, and roulette’. A similar law was made in England in 1745, so it seems that roulette had well and truly arrived here by then. 

    Much controversy surrounds the green zero slots on a roulette wheel, with many claims that the American roulette wheel, now the only wheel to feature both 0 and 00 was a deliberate move by the casinos to bring the game further back into their favour. However, further delving into history suggests that the earliest French wheels also had the two zero slots and the American wheel is historically correct. 

    In 1842 the game received a facelift by two Frenchmen, Louis and Francois Blanc and it was their input that saw the now popular European wheel. Initially the 0 was red, and actually, both wheels are confirmed to have been in use in France until the turn of the century. Since then, whether using the American or European and French games, the zeros have now become green rather than red, and of course, do change the stakes, but it is accepted that the American wheel is just sticking to the original design not trying to skew the game in the favour of the bank. If the ball lands on either zero all bets are lots unless of course a direct bet was placed zero itself, in some European variants an even bet placed on a game that sees zero win, results in your stake being imprisoned until the next spin when a second zero would see your bet lost. Or in La Partage rule, you would lose half your stake if zero wins. 

    Biggest Roulette Win in History

    There are lots of stories circulating about players who got lucky and managed to stake their bets on winning numbers; however, these have also resulted in house limits being placed to ensure that such vast sums do not come up again. 

    As you will see these are pretty much lucky bets that could easily have gone the other way. In 1891 Charles Wells managed to use his luck to snag about 2,000,000 francs, and this known small-time crook became dubbed the man how broke the bank at Monte Carlo, such was his win that there was no money left and the table was closed. It is alleged he managed to win 23 out of 30 spins, one after the other. Despite his reputation as a world-class scammer the win, which happened over two different nights winning a million each time, the casino could not find any evidence of cheating or foul play, and it seems this crook just got lucky. 

    More recently in 2004, our next winner makes the list through sheer guts and glory. Deciding his life was not what he hoped, Ashley Revell sold his house, his car and ever possession he could find and drove to Vegas with the sole intention of changing his life, for the better, which could have course have gone horribly wrong. However, lady luck was on his side that night, and a £135,000 bet on red saw him double his money. Using his winnings, he is now firmly in the industry himself having started Poker UTD an online gaming site, and more recently Gaming Recruitment which is a job site for the online casino industry.

    In a more calculated move Mike Ashley, already a billionaire entrepreneur decided to cover the whole board with a complete bet which cost him the small change amount of £480,000. A complete bet covers all the inside bet combinations including corners, splits, streets and more. His single number bet went on 17, and the number also featured in other combinations. This gamble paid off, and he won £820,000 when calculated back to net profit. His actual win was £1,300,000.

    When it comes to cases like this we are not sure if the term ‘no guts no glory’ applies, for sheer luck paid off for some of our plucky winners, or perhaps if this was balanced with the largest failed bets, Forrest Gump’s ‘Stupid is as stupid does’ is more accurate. It certainly takes some bravery to gamble everything you have on any game. There is no real way to cheat a roulette wheel so it is a game of chance, with a little bit of strategy as demonstrated by Mr Ashley, while we would not recommend the all or nothing approach it has to be said for these winners it certainly did pay off.