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Roulette in Popular Culture

September 29, 2022

Roulette is possibly the most famous casino game in the world, with an instantly recognisable red and black wheel. Often taking front and centre on the casino floor, this old French game is a casino classic.

No wonder there is so much roulette in pop culture. Take a look.

Roulette in Hollywood & movies

The roulette wheel is an iconic sight, familiar to all gamblers and non-gamblers alike. No casino is complete without a bustling roulette table, and indeed no casino scene in a movie is complete without roulette.

Casablanca (1942): the rigged roulette wheel

Most of the film is set in Rick’s Café Américain, which has a rigged roulette wheel to benefit the proprietor (Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart). Rick tells a newlywed husband, trying to get money for visas to get to America and escape the war, to bet number 22 on the roulette wheel. He does so and promptly wins.

To Catch a Thief (1955): hiding the chip

This Alfred Hitchcock films stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Taking place at casinos, villas and hotels all over the French Riviera, it’s no surprise that roulette makes an appearance. Grant plays John Robie, a former jewel thief hired to follow Frances Stevens (Kelly), on suspicion that she is currently a jewel thief. In one casino scene, Robie drops an expensive chip down the décolletage of a female roulette player.

The Sting (1973): going broke at the wheel

One of the most famous movies about games of skill and luck, as well as confidence tricks, stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford as dishonest gamblers. They spend most of their time trying to win money from even more dishonest gamblers. In one scene, Robert Redford’s character loses his stolen profits on a fixed roulette wheel.

Lost in America (1985): put it all on 22

This comedy finds Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty playing a husband and wife ready to leave their fast-paced lives behind. Just a few days into their new lifestyle of driving a Winnebago cross-country, they stop in Las Vegas lose all their money at roulette. Hagerty’s character bets 22 but, unlike the husband and wife in Casablanca, never wins.

Toy Story 3 (2010): Ken the roulette croupier

In the third instalment of this popular Disney/Pixar series, the toys have established a casino. The Ken doll runs the roulette table, which is a See ‘N’ Say toy. The stakes are batteries.

Roulette in popular culture

Roulette in books & literature

The randomness and suspense inherent in roulette appeal to literary of uncertainty, risk, and fate. Russian novelists Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky were both passionate about roulette, and on separate occasions summoned Ivan Turgenev to German casinos to help pull them away from games.

The Gambler, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Legendary Russian novelist Dostoevsky had to finish this story in a hurry – to pay off his own casino debts. The story involves indebtedness to others and features numerous scenes at the roulette table.

Daniel Deronda, George Eliot

The story of Daniel Deronda and Gwendolen Harlech starts with Ms. Harleth losing all of her money at the roulette table. She pawns a necklace to gamble further, but Deronda buys it back and has it returned to her.

Casino Royale, Ian Fleming

The first James Bond novel opens with Bond playing roulette. The roulette table is a frequent setting in the Bond novels, and enthusiasts of the game have even developed a James Bond betting system based on the fictional superspy’s strategy.

The Eudaemonic Pie, Thomas Bass

This non-fiction book is an account of a group of graduate students who built toe-activated computers to predict the results of casino roulette games.

Roulette in popular culture

Famous roulette players & bets

Roulette doesn’t quite have the sex appeal of blackjack or poker, probably because of the lack of skill involved, but that hasn’t stopped some roulette bets becoming legendary.

Sean Connery’s James bond betting

To say that the late Scottish actor Sean Connery is best known for his stint as James Bond is probably an understatement. For many people, Connery is the James Bond. So is this roulette story simply method acting?

Shortly after his first Bond role in 1962, Connery visited Casino de la Vallee in Saint-Vincent, Italy. He bet twice on number 17 and lost. Undeterred, he then placed a third bet on 17 and hit for a substantial payout. He let those winnings ride on 17 and hit again before spinning an incredible third win. The actor walked away with £10,750.

In an homage to this anecdote, Connery’s Bond bets on 17 in the 1971 film Diamonds are Forever.

Charles Wells breaks the bank

In 1891, inventor Charles Wells became a world-famous player at Casino de Monte Carlo. During a three-day winning streak, he won a million Frances and temporarily closed several roulette tables by cleaning out their cash reserves. He immediately became an international celebrity and was immortalised in the song The Man That Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.

In 1892, he returned on a 291-foot yacht and lost heavily, including some money he solicited from people who thought they were investing in a device to burn coal more efficiently. He served an eight-year prison sentence for fraud.

Chris Boyd & Ashley Revell go double or nothing

In 1994, English computer programmer Chris Boyd sold his house for £147,000 and took it to Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas. He bet every penny on red, doubled his money when the wheel landed on red seven, and flew back home to England. His girlfriend was unaware of this plan.

Fellow Brit Ashley Revell knew of Chris Boyd’s feat. In 2004, Revell sold his home and possessions and flew to Las Vegas. He arrived at The Plaza downtown wearing a rented tuxedo, having sold all his clothes. He bet all his money – £76,500 – on red. The wheel stopped on the red seven, the exact number hit by Boyd. Revell, too, simply collected his winnings and returned to England to resume his life.