As it is with many sports and recreational games, there are various theories that overshadow the origin of one of the most glamorous and equally addictive casino games, roulette. The most common theory is that roulette was invented in 1655 by Blaise Pascal, a French scientist. The game itself was played for the first time in Paris as the theory suggests.
A second theory, and one quite similar to the first one, is that roulette was fist invented by a French monk to increase monotony in the monastery way of life. Bizarre as it may seem, let us uncover how this popular casino game was initially developed.
The first two theories have more substance to them than the third one. The third theory states that roulette was invented by a Dominican French monk who got inspiration from a Tibetan game where 37 animal statues are arranged on a square of 666. However, this method has a cloud of mystery and lack of evidence surrounding it. In all fairness though, roulette is a French word that translates to ‘small wheel’, which again refers to the French origin.
Variants of Roulette
There are many people who believe that roulette was invented by the English as Roly Poly. The following is an extract from the memoirs of Casanova from 1763 to give you an idea of how old the game of roulette is:
“Just then all the great ladies were mad over 'biribi', a regular cheating game. It was strictly forbidden at Genoa, but this only made it more popular. The board had thirty-six compartments, and if one lost, one paid thirty-two times the amount of the stake; this, of course, was an enormous advantage for the bank."
Biribi, or Hoca are Italian words for roulette, and appears to be a game of cards with thirty balls and thirty points. As the description is self explanatory, you can realize that Biribi is more lottery than roulette.
Roly Poly, as popularly recognized by the English, came into existence as early as the 1700s. In fact, the earliest reference of the game was in 1713 by Arbuthnot John Bull, which goes:
"let us begin some Diversion; what d'ye think of Rouly~pouly, or a Country Dance?" but this should be dismissed 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 rouly-pouly".
That said the earliest authentic reference of roly poly only dates back to 1730 when Countess of Suffolk coined the term. In the Amusements of Old London Volume 1, the author concludes that roly poly made its way to England from the French nation as early as the 1700s, where it was then coined as roly poly.
However, after being banned back in 1735, the game virtually disappeared until the resurging roulette made a comeback to the shores of England in 1875. Since then, roulette has not looked back and has become a mainstay in modern day casinos. Seems we have do have more to thank the French for other than kisses and bread!