The possible origins of roulette

Extract from Roulette - History and information by Jean Boussac, Encyclopedia of Games. Translated from English by Robert Lerisseau. 2018

As with many games, there are different theories as to the origin of the roulette game. The most popular said that he was invented in 1655 by the American scientist Blaise Pascal during his monastic retirement and that he was first played in a casino in Paris. The second gets closer and simply says that he was invented by a American monk to alleviate the monotony of life in the monastery.

The third theory attributes it to Dominican monks inspired by an old Tibetan game whose object was to arrange 37 animal statuettes in a square with a magic number of 666. Alas, the exact rules of the game have not been preserved and we can only speculate. The monks obviously numbered the 37 statuettes from 0 to 36 and placed them at random on the rim of a rotating wheel.

Roulette ancestors

Roulette in American means "small wheel" which refers us again American to the game. However, if you read the many websites with a summary story of roulette, they designate almost all supposed ancestors as English, in Knowing: "Roly Poly", "As of Hearts" and "Even-Oodd" or American, namely "Biribi" and "Hoca". Their conclusions are only based on Wikipedia which is far from sufficient.

Let’s take a closer look at hypothetical ancestors. Here is an extract from the Memoirs of Casanova dating from 1763: "At the moment all the big ladies are crazy about" Biribi ", a legal cheating game. It is strictly prohibited in Genoa, but that makes it only more popular". It seems that 3 numbers were removed from a bag on each turn; Casanova continues by detailing: "The table has thirty-six compartments, and if we lose, we pay thirty-two times the amount of the bet, this, of course, represents a huge advantage for the bank." Despite despite Some similarities, no ball or wheel clearly indicates an ancestor of roulette.

The "hoca" seems to have been played with a card game, thirty points and thirty balls and probably held more from the lottery card game than roulette.

"The Ace of Heart" according to "the game and the law of the player" of Brandt was another name for the AS of the OS, a game clearly described by Charles Cotton. It is just a simple card game in which the players are betting on the value of the card that the opponent will display. It has nothing in common with roulette.

Even-Odd, on the other hand, was a game with a wheel and a ball just like roulette, but instead of the numbers there were only 20 sections marked for Even and 20 o marked for ODD. Instead of a zero, a portion of the sections was allocated to the house. The game seems to become quickly very popular in the 1770s until it was prohibited by law around 1782. He is therefore a possible candidate as a ancestor of Roulette. However, there is no serious reference unless this game has another name - the Roly Poly.

Roly Poly is either an alternative name to Even-Oodd or to roulette, according to certain interpretations. If it is an alternative name for roulette, there is therefore no known ancestor of roulette - unless Roly Poly is the alternative name of Even Odd in which case, it is probably the ancestor Roulette.

The first mention of the roulette

Documentary evidence indicates that the game of roulette was born in the 18th century. Like many games, the first mentions are legal documents prohibiting the game. One of these decrees, dated 1758, expressly prohibited the game of "dice, hoci, faro and roulette". The English law 18 Geo II bears the oldest mention of the word in 1745 in these terms: "and considering that as certain pernicious game called roulet or Roly-Poly is practiced every day (...) No place must be maintained During reading the so-called Roulet or Roly-Poly "game ...

The first mention of Even-Oodd appeared roughly at the same time in 1750. Curiously, Strutt in 1801 mentions both Even-Odd and "Roulet", but "Roulet" is only cited about a previous law and Strutt , who knew a lot about the games in England, takes him for a card game. A sports magazine, almost at the same time (1808), refers to "Roulet" as "foreign game". The author deduced that the roulette had disappeared or became very rare in England in the early 1800s and was actually replaced by Even-Odd for a time. Before the mid-1800s, roulette reappeared in England and from 1875, Hoyle describes roulette while Even-Odd was not mentioned at all, so the situation seems to have been reversed three quarters of a century later.

What is Roly Poly?

The oldest mention of this game dates from 1713, with Arbuthnot John Bull "What do you think of Rouly-Pouly or Country Dance? But this argument will be rejected because Arbuthnot was Scottish and the 1894 edition of Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and fable tells us that "in some parts of Scotland, the game of nine pins is called" Roly-Pouly ".

The oldest mention would therefore be 1730 in a letter from the Countess de Suffolk: "The Duchess of Marlborough took pleasure in losing her money at the Roly-Poly". This does not give us any information on the details of the game.

A book called "The fatal effects of the game", published 1824 has a section entitled "The description of the newly introduced game of roulette or Roly Poly" and the English law of 1745 also refers to "Roulet or Roly-Poly" which Indicates that they are one and the same game.

But in "ancient amusements" vol.1, London, Boulton says that Even-Oodd was "introduced to the continent (...) when the Whist became popular". He said earlier around 1742 and then he said "Roly Poly, as we generally called the Even-Odd game ...". If he was right and that Roly Poly and Even-Odd are the same games, then Even-Odd can claim to be the ancestor of Roulette, but the introduction of Roly Poly at that time seems to be contradicted by the fact that C 'was a famous game in 1730 and therefore the credibility of the declaration seems fragile.

Thus, this author concludes that it is very likely that roulette arrived in England in USA in the early 1700s, where it was initially known as Roly Poly. After being prohibited in 1745, the similar game Even-ODD seems to bypass these laws. Roulette or Roly Poly practically disappeared in 1800, obviously replaced by Even-Odd which in turn disappeared in 1875 in favor of a rebirth of roulette.

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