Russian Roulette | Thrill or Simply Madness?

Russian Roulette | Thrill or Simply Madness?

/ 8 min

Soldiers and gangsters played the lethal Russian roulette. Now it’s an interrogation technique used by the police and supposedly the CIA.

So, what is Russian roulette? A deadly game of chance involving loading at least one bullet in a revolver, spinning the barrel, and putting the gun next to one’s forehead. Bets can be placed on one of the two possible outcomes.

With this being said, let’s take a walk through the deadly game’s history, odds, and fame.

Who invented Russian roulette?

Who invented Russian roulette

The exact origin is disputed among scholars. But three main theories are referenced as the origin.

Keep in mind that the game’s inception is not known precisely. It could have appeared much earlier—even a few years after the invention of the first gun.

Tsarist army

It’s considered that Tsarist officers first played the contest in the Russian army. The whole idea was that soldiers showed their bravery when confronted with death, although it usually was a trick. Its secret was they betted if the gun was loaded or not, and it was often not loaded.

The theory is validated by the story “The Fatalist”, part of “A Hero of our Time” collection written by Mikhail Lermontov. In this book, the protagonist takes a random pistol and puts it to his forehead, asking who will make bets.

The whole idea in the story was if the gun was loaded or not. Since the revolver with six chambers was only a prototype in 1840 when the book came out.

Russian prisons

Another theory suggests that Russian prison guards in the 19th century made prisoners play the deadly game. The inmates would play while the guards made bets if the convict would live or die.

Police interrogation technique

The theory says that police officers would use it as an interrogation technique to scare detainees into confessing or getting information out of them. But, this is the only theory with no historical basis since there are no references before the 20th century.

It was documented that law enforcement agents from different countries used it to force suspects into admitting crimes that sometimes they did not commit. This method is also allegedly used by the CIA.

How it got the name

How it got the name

Although it is widely considered the game originated in Russia, the name we all know today was first utilized by a Swiss writer named George Surdez in 1937. He coined the term in a story with the same name featured in the magazine Collier’s.

George Surdez’s story

A French soldier tells the story when he witnesses how Russian officers would play the deadly game just about anywhere. However, the tale does not focus on the conventional one projectile game but the much deadlier five bullet version.

Types of Russian roulette

Multiple roulette types emerged over the years, each with its payout, and odds. One mentionable thing is that this game is mainly played with a six-chamber revolver.

  • With one bullet

With one bullet

This is the most conventional version that’s widely known around the world. Only one chamber contains a bullet out of the six.

After the revolver is loaded, the wheel is spined, and nobody knows what shot will be the deadly one. Depending on the rules, the wheel can be spined after each shot or remain the same until a fatality happens.

  • With five bullets

You can say this is the most hardcore variant since only one in six chances is not lethal. This game cannot go on after the first shot since if the player lives, the next try will bet the last one.

As for how everything is prepared, it’s the same as for the one projectile version. Five chambers are loaded, after which the wheel is spined, making the position of each bullet random.

  • Electroshock roulette

This game is played with a taser gun that imitates a six-barrel pistol. It has a cartridge that produces electric shocks. You could call it the modern-day version of the infamous game.

Fun Fact

It was developed by a former mix-martial arts fighter Valery Eshchenko during his recovery from paralysis that retired his fighting career. He says the game is harmless but brings out adrenaline-filled emotions.

The inventor hosts what you can call a Russian roulette casino about twice a month. People meet up in his basement, where an entrance fee of 200 rubles or a little over two pounds sterling is asked.

In this game, there is only one champion after multiple rounds. The contesters shoot themselves and each other with the possibility of bluffing if they received an electric shock or not.

  • Russian roulette drinking games

Russian roulette drinking games source:

This is the first version with one bullet, but the only shots fired are vodka shots.

To play the game, you need one person that does not participate. The individual will fill five shot glasses with water and one with vodka. Typically, it’s some bad quality vodka to make drinking it less attractive. The shots are arranged in a circle, and each roulette player takes one at random. The competition goes on until someone gets drunk.

Beer Hunter

To play this one, you need six cans of beer, and one of them is vigorously shaken. After which, the cans are scrambled, so everything is random. The players take turns opening the cans under their noses until someone opens the previously shaken one becoming the loser.


Although playing drinking games with your buddies can be entertaining, we urge our players from the UK market to never mix gambling with alcohol. Studies show that the decision-making process is greatly impaired by the consumption of any beverage that contains alcohol.


Even in the cases where you are not gambling your own funds, like no deposit bonuses drinking alcohol is strongly advised against. A smart gambler always has to have a clear head when betting.

The classic roulette variant

The classic roulette variant

It is generally found in online and land-based casinos from the UK market has three distinct versions. They are European, American, and French.

The European Roulette wheel looks the same as the French one; only the rules differentiate the two-game types. Similar to how the deadly competition has rules that differentiate the one bullet version from the five-bullet version.

Things change a little from the other two varieties when it comes to the American Roulette wheel. The most significant difference is that two zeros are inscribed on the wheel instead of only one that the other versions have.


The best online casinos from the UK market feature all these roulette wheel types, so some versions will always be available for a try.

If you have never played the game before you can try it out with a low wagering casino bonus for better budgeting!

The odds are not that bad

The odds are not that bad

This deadly game’s odds are more straightforward than the regular odds in roulette, which are more diverse since there are so many betting options.

One bullet odds

The one bullet version has a 16.7% chance of losing and 84.7% to live another day. If the first shot hits an empty chamber and the game goes on, the probability of losing goes up to 20%.

If the same thing occurs a second time, the probability of losing goes up to 25%. The third try will have a 33% chance of losing and the fifth 50%.

Five bullet odds

The five-bullet version has even simpler odds, but, unfortunately, they don’t favour the player. After the revolver is loaded with five bullets, one chamber remains empty. The individual who plays the game has an 84.7% chance of losing and a 16.7% probability of telling the tale.

If the first shot is an empty chamber, the whole game must be restarted. Since any other try from there on will have a 100% chance of losing.

How we did our odds calculations

Just like in the case of casino bonuses or other gambling-inclined elements, we took the data from real-life scenarios and applied formulas to get to a mean.

Russian Roulette & The fascination with death

Russian Roulette & The fascination with death

The controversial game is often mentioned in popular culture, and the movie industry has many direct references to it. But why is the game so well known?

Because there is no bigger bet than your own life, and this is a thrill on its own.

It’s usually associated with the underground mafia, some illegal activity, or taboo interrogation techniques. If you can imagine a Russian roulette casino, it will indeed be operated by the mob.

In a few words, it’s associated with some darker aspect of life that fascinates and scares us simultaneously.

Russian roulette in movies

These hidden corners of thrill and mischief are usually portrayed in movies. Some films make direct references to the deadly game, and some adapt it to our time.

There are different examples in movies that show how the idea can be adapted to our times. Others show the emotional roller-coaster created by staring at death through the barrel of a gun.

Famous Russian roulette movies

Russian Roulette Movie Box Office Year of Launch
Starsky & Hutch $170 million 2004
LA Confidential $126 million 1997
Arizona Dream $113 thousand 1993
Malcolm X $72 million 1992
The Deer Hunter $49 million 1978
Leon: The Professional $46 million 1994


The legendary contest of chances has a lot of versions and even some that are not deadly. You can make your Russian roulette casino and play drinking games with friends if you have a bar at home.

However, we encourage any gambler from the UK market to be responsible in any endeavour. With disciplined behaviour, you can stay away from any situation that may ruin your life.


If we had to guess, probably one in six players die prematurely, assuming most people play the one bullet version.

This famous game inspired a lot of stories, from movies to novels alike. It will always fascinate us regardless of the era or country of origin. Although it’s not a conventional casino game, it surely deserves a spot in any UK market casino hall of fame.


Now that you know the dark history of this game, you can have a deeper understanding of the classic casino game. As experts, we think you should couple your session with a welcome bonus, which is a good start for a new player.


Dragos Dragan
Author Dragos Dragan Author & Editor at CasinoAlpha

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