The Devil’s Game: Roulette

Perhaps one day, while gambling away your children’s inheritance in some nameless casino someone told you that Roulette was invented by Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and Catholic theologian who lived in the 16th century.  Maybe you heard he devised the wheel while trying to create a perpetual motion machine.  That part of history may be all well and good, but there’s perhaps a darker side of Roulette’s beginnings that’s not talked about much in “proper” circles.  A history that doesn’t begin anywhere near Paris or the 16th century, for that matter.  A history that might involve (cue dramatic music)…the Devil?!?!

roulette 1800s

Odds Are…

It’s true.  Some historians contend that the origins of Roulette pre-date Pascal’s “little wheel” by at least 200 years.  One explanation states that the Chinese had a spinning stone wheel game-of-chance that used drawings of animals instead of numbers. Some versions even go so far as to say the specific monk who developed the game went mad trying to find a way to cheat the game and mysteriously included a “666” inscription at the center of the wheel.

The game could possibly have been traded across the continent for Europe, but others say the Romans were partially responsible. There are some accounts of Legion soldiers gambling by spinning their shields and chariot wheels during off-time.

No matter who invented the game, its association with the devil wasn’t widespread until Francois “Magician of Homburg” Blanc brought Roulette into the spotlight, first in Homburg, but eventually also at the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. Built as a temple to wagers, the casino was inundated with gamblers once Germany outlawed gambling. Here, the state government of the micronation ran the casino itself, and Blanc was right at the center.

Rumor was that Blanc had made a deal with the devil to learn the secrets of Roulette, explaining why the numbers added to 666. While gambling halls in Paris at the time had both a zero and double zero for the house, Blanc advertised patrons had better odds of winning because his wheels only featured a single zero.

roulette double zero layout

A double zero layout.

Devil’s in the Details Math

From there, it gets a more complex and—at times—a little arbitrary.  For instance, adding any three numbers that appear horizontally together on the Roulette table can be related to the number six.  The numbers 28, 29, and 30 appear horizontally toward the end of the table.  The total for those three particular numbers added together is 87.  Add those digits together (8+7) and you get 15, and if you add the digits once more (1+5) you get the dreaded six!

Another reference to the number 6?  Adding any 3 numbers that appear diagonally on the table will combine to get the number six in much the same way.  Looking back at the table 12, 14 and 16 appear diagonally.  12+14+16 = 42.  Add the 4 and the 2 of 42 together and you’ll never guess what number you’ll get!


34+35+36=105, 1+0+5=6!

While the true person behind these machinations could be a monk, a Roman soldier, or a gambling magnate, it’s likely the mathematician in the mix could be responsible for making a math joke about gambling as a vice.

Still…trying to figure out ways to add the numbers on the Roulette table so they don’t equal six just might make you mad, too.

By Jesse Gormley, contributor for