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DANCING WITH THE DEVIL • In the early days of roulette, some patrons would get so flustered and frustrated at the operation of odds, which seemed so patently against them, that they sincerely believed that the game's origins lay with the devil himself. Part of this, many said, was in the logic and arithmetic of the numbers themselves: 36 squares, six times six equaling 36. Just far too many sixes, they seemed to think, for there to be no connection with the great Christian enemy. Also, by adding up all the squares at the roulette table one arrives at 666 in any case. Double trouble.

DANCING WITH THE DEVIL • Perhaps more likely is that the religious explanation for the supposed evils of roulette derived from the fact that many patrons simply lost enormous sums of money playing the game. And because everybody loves a scapegoat, it was easy to blame it on diabolical forces rather than on mathematical and statistical probabilities. When François Blanc, for instance, saw waning popularity for the game (François and his brother Louis owned a major casino in Monte Carlo in the mid-nineteenth century), he decided to scrap the idea of having the double zero on the board. This increased the player's odds of winning and reduced the house’s advantage.

DANCING WITH THE DEVIL • Blanc's plan in the long run was of course to allow the increased traffic at the roulette table to compensate for any comparative loss in statistical advantage. It certainly seems to have worked, because roulette is a veritable mainstay at almost all casinos worldwide. Interestingly, it's only the Americans who retain the pre-Blanc design of both a double and single zero on one table. Some of the early American boards even had a third square with the insignia of the American Eagle, thus rocketing the house's edge to astronomical portions.

DANCING WITH THE DEVIL • Even today, just the addition of a double zero ups the houses advantage by about 2 to 3%, because the double zero doesn't only offset straight-up bets but also colour-based bets, given that the zero squares are green and therefore immune. • Most American casinos will still offer roulette in its European version, but they will usually specify minimum wagers if a patron requests to bet on a European table.

DANCING WITH THE DEVIL • Are you dancing with the devil by playing roulette? Our answer is this: no more so than any other casino game. It's all chance, all luck, almost all the time. And casinos are unashamed about the fact that yes, over the long run the patron will lose, even if a short term victory is imminent and successful. • The next time you step into a casino, just enjoy yourself playing with, moderation. The devil may be in the details, but the money and the choice of play are always in your hands.

Roulette - Dancing with the devil