Roulette remains one of the most popular casino games on the planet. In many respects, it embodies the casino like no other. And a large part of that comes down to the sheer thrill of watching that little ball go round and round the roulette wheel until it finally slows down and stops on a number that will immediately tell you if you won or lost.
Have you ever wondered, though, about what that little ball is actually made of? Possibly not, but did you know that the kind of material used in the fashioning of each ball can actually greatly affect how it performs on the wheel’s track? There’s not a ton that you can do about it at the casino, but knowing what kind of ball is at play may well help you better predict how a spin will turn out.
The History of the Roulette Ball
Prior to the advancements made in manufacturing technology, roulette balls had to be made out of natural materials fashioned into balls that were seldom perfectly round and certainly never lacking in flaws.
Cheaper roulette tables in, generally, less up-market betting establishments would have to make use of the cheapest material available. Glass, steel and stone may have been used but without modern production tech like lasers, fashioning a properly round ball was all but impossible. That left wood as the only semi-reliable material and, indeed, this is what cheaper roulette balls were actually made of.
Wood, though, can very easily warp and chip away so it was never remotely close to the best material for roulette balls. Those establishments that could afford it instead made roulette balls out of ivory. And though ivory-made roulette balls would fall out of favor over the 1980s, this was more because of the huge ethical issues associated with the ivory trade than for any weakness of the material itself.
Roulette Balls Today
With better manufacturing and the rightful realization that killing elephants for their tusks was and is completely unacceptable, a better alternative was searched for that would replicate the performance of old ivory balls but without the high costs and ethical compromises. What was ultimately settled on was two different materials, both of which are entirely synthetic but would perform quite differently from one another.
The first of these synthetic materials is ivorine – which, as its name suggests, is a synthetic material meant to replicate the properties of ivory. Easily identifiable by its yellowish tinge, ivorine has a heft to it that gives it a nice bounce when it spins around the roulette wheel. This gives it a fairer, more unpredictable nature as it will bounce numerous times over the numbered pockets before finally coming to a rest.
The second synthetic material is teflon, a plastic material of pure white. Lighter than both ivorine and real ivory, teflon balls are slower and have less bounce, making them easier to predict as they travel around the track and are less likely to jump in and out of those numbered pockets.
Does It Make a Difference
It would be foolish to suggest that players have much control over how a spin of the old roulette wheel will turn out, which is why outside of the betting, there is almost no strategy involved and it is a true game of chance. That said, though, while ivorine balls are completely unpredictable, teflon balls are slightly easier to predict over a number of different spins.
It doesn’t exactly turn roulette into a game of skill, but teflon balls can give you a very slight edge. And that may be enough.