An American wheel of the same period.  Below, two wheels and layouts of the kind used in American casinos of the 1890s.  Early wheels varied considerably in size, style, and accuracy-and the players’ chances varied accordingly.

Returning to the 18th century: A variation of roulette called boule became popular in European casinos game at this time.  Like roulette, boule is played with a numbered wheel set into a bowl, and a ball that is spun around the rim of the bowl-only in this case the wheel is stationary and the ball does all the moving.  On the boule wheel there are no zeros and only 18 compartments, numbered 1 to 9 twice (i.e. each number between 1 and 9 occurs twice).  The number 5 is reserved for the house, which can thus expect to win one ninth of all the money bet against it; this is the casino’s “edge” or favorable percentage.  Players may bet on any number (including 5), and the payoff on each is 7 to 1.  Or they may bet on odd or even numbers, or on either of two “bands” (numbered 1,3,6,8 and 2,4,7,9); the payoff on any of these is even money.

Boule is still extremely popular-particularly among women-partly because of its comparative simplicity and partly because the minimum stake is always low.  It is one of the few forms of gambling that are allowed in Switzerland (where casinos, most privately-run lotteries, numbers games, and betting on horse races are all forbidden).  But Swiss boule would not attract many dedicated gamblers, sine the maximum stake allowed in the resort hotels and similar places where games of boule occur is only two Swiss francs (about 50 cents.)
The fascinations of roulette made itself felt almost everywhere during the 18th and 19th centuries.  In the court of Catherine II of Russia roulette tables were set up not only in the sumptuous reception rooms of the palace but also in the kitchens, where the chefs played for Ukrainian serfs as well as for money.  Selim III of Turkey heard about roulette from French prisoners of war captured at the battle of the Pyramids in 1798, and instructed his artificers to construct a wheel for him.  The British diplomat Edward Clive introduced the game to India during his governorship of Madras in 1799.  and in Switzerland the game began to make an important contribution to the country’s economy since the Swiss aptitude for manufacturing delicate machinery brought in many orders for properly balanced wheels.  None of these, however, was put into action in Switzerland itself.

In 1854, the Duc de Vallombrosa took some English friends in his yacht to visit the principality of Monaco where, under the direction of a young Parisian named Francois Blanc, a new gaming house had been opened.  After some searching, the Duc and his party eventually found the gaming tables two roulette and one trente-et-quarante – installed in a barn.  Yet within just a few years, Blanc (who was described by the Lord Chancellor of England as the most brilliant financier of his time) had transformed this barn into a glittering casino, and people from all over the world were clamoring to try their luck at its tables.  Even today, when casinos can be found in many cities and fashionable holidaycenters, Monte Carlo retains its position of supremacy (though its annual betting turnover-the equivalent of about $ 20,000,000-is small compared to that of a top Nevada casino-usually about $ 300,000,000).  Throughout the world its name is considered synonymous with gambling at its most expensive and most glamorous.

If this widespred view of Monte Carlo has any basis in reality, much of the casino’s magic probably emanates from the roulette tables.  For roulette is as much a spectacle as a game, a challenge that most sportsmen can’t resist-even though the chances of winning at roulette in the long run are less than even, as a detailed look at the game itself will show.

Practically all dice casinos except those in the U.S.A. use a wheel with 37 spaces- one zero and the numbers 1 to 36.  The American wheel has two zeros (38 spaces).  Odd and even numbers are alternated around both wheels, and (except for the zero or zeros) the slots are colored alternately red and black.  Apart from this, the arrangement of numbers on the European wheel seems entirely hap-hazard.  The American double-zero wheel, however, does have a definite pattern.  Consecutive numbers appear opposite one another; also, successive pairs of numbers of the same color total 37 – pairs like 14 and 23 (red) or 4 and 33 (black).  (the presence of the zeros causes exception to this rule: The numbers 9 and 28, both red, are side by side by the single zero instead of being separated by a black number; and the black 10 forms a pair with the adjacent red 27, beside the double zero.)

The typical boule wheel used in many European casinos today.

A roulette game is operated by two or three croupiers – according to whether it is played on a single or double-ended table.  (The only advantage of the double-ended table is that it can accommodate more players and take more bets.  The layout is the same at each end.) The word “croupier” originally meant a person who rode tandem on the backgammon end of a horse, either to instruct the rider in the saddle or for a free ride.  The word was adopted for gaming use in France in the early 18th century, when novice card players could hire the services of an expert to stand behind them and advise them on play.  Today, croupiers are, in the easygaming sense, representatives of the casino, and the conduct of the game is their responsibility entirely.

In roulette, one of them spins the wheel, rakes in chips from the losers, and hands out chips to the winners.  His colleagues help by sorting out the chips into their different values (usually ranging from 25c to $ 25 in America, and from five to 500 new francs in Monte Carlo), and keep an eye on the betting.  Croupiers will also place bets for novice players who have not yet learned the betting procedure and terminology.

The European betting table is divided into six areas labeled pair, impair, passé, manqué, rouge and noir (even, odd, high, low, red, black).  At the bottom of the table there are nine smaller spaces; the middle three are blank and each of the others is labeled 12.  By placing chips in various prescribed positions on this table a player can bet on one or more numbers or combinations of numbers.  If he wins, he will be paid off at prescribed odds.  (Casinos, of course, give themselves a slight advantage – or favorable percentage on all other bets by making the actual payoff odds slightly less than the mathematically true odds, as explained in Chapter 5.)

A boule wheel layout comparing the odds paid on the various bets with the correct odds.  Players may bet on any one of the nine numbers, on all the even numbers 2,4,6,8 (pair), on all the odd numbers 1,3,7,9 (impair), on all the numbers 1,2,3,4 (manqué), and on all the numbers 6,7,8,9 (passé).  Because the odds are simple and the minimum stake low, boule has become extremely popular as a small-scale gambling game in Europe.

The Wheel and layout for roulca (or card roulette).  The wheel (modeled on the roulette wheel)has 25 compartments, each marked with a card symbol.  Players may bet on individual cards, on suits, and on high, low, even, and odd numbers.  Roulca was invented and first poker played at Germany’s Baden-Baden casino.

If you put chips on pair, you’re betting that the winning number will be an even number; on impair, that the winning number will be odd.  Chips on passé are a bet that the winning number will be between 19 and 36; on manqué, that the winner will be between one and 18.  Chips on rouge are a bet that a red number will win; on noir, that a black one will.  All these are “even money” bets- i.e., the player is paid the same amount as his bet if he wins.  In even money bets the true odds are 1 1/18 to 1 (1 1/9 to 1 on an American wheel ); the zero provides the bank with its slight edge.

The roulette wheel that is used in American casinos games today.  Unlike its European counterparts, the American wheel has two zeros working for the bank.