Russian Roulette: Getting to the Bottom of the Barrel

Where It All Started

Most legendary stories about the history of the game point to nineteenth-century tales that tell of Russian prisoners who were made to play the game, with prison guards predicting the outcomes. Other stories tell about officers of the Russian army playing Russian roulette to impress each other.

The standard sidearm issued to the officers of the Russian army from 1895 to 1930 was the double-action revolver Nagant, which is very conducive for playing the now-termed Russian roulette. However, despite other mentions of the officer’s outrageous behavior and suicidal tendencies by playing Russian roulette-like games, history experts still argue that the origin of the game should not be given credit to the Russians as there have been no documented texts to prove that this was the case.

A Game of Chance

A potentially lethal game of chance, Russian roulette entails players to put a cartridge on some (usually one is enough) of the chambers in a revolver. So that the players are unable to determine where the cartridge is located, the cylinder is spun and closed. One by one players take turns in aiming the revolver at their heads and pulling the trigger. Obviously, they are all taking the risks of dying once they get the loaded shot.

Russian Roulette Variations

Based on what has been showed in movies and in television, two players taking turns in spinning and firing the revolver in a Russian roulette game both have the probability of being shot placed at 17%. This variation of the game means that the game could continue indefinitely and bets can be places on which player will get shot and which will not, or they may predict the number of turns that the game will last. Another Russian roulette variation can be done when the players simply take turns pulling the trigger without spinning the cylinder. In this case, both players have 50% chance of success or failure and one player will most likely die within 6 turns.

  • The simulated version of Russian roulette. Although this is less exciting for those who are in the game of Russian roulette for the thrill of it, the use of a toy gun or other simulations is a good way to play the game the non-lethal way. One may choose from using cap guns, a video game light gun, a Nerf gun, or the Japanese toy that uses a balloon and one chamber containing the pin that will pop it.
  • The “beer hunter” version is the Russian roulette for you to play with your drinking buddies. Bob and Doug McKenzie popularized this version in their album Great White North. In this Russian roulette variation, one can is removed from a six-pack and is shaken vigorously. The same can is placed back into the six-pack. Of course, the unfortunate player will be sprayed with beer once he picks the shaken can of beer, while the other players stay clean.
  • The Russian roulette with fireworks can be played with players placing fireworks in their mouths. The winner is the player who delays the spitting out of the firework the longest. Of course, the fuses of the fireworks are lit once they are put in the player’s mouths.
  • The Russian roulette in darts. In the 2000s, another version of the game Russian roulette was invented in Russia. Here, instead of aiming for the human head, players use a darts board. They take turns in shooting the boards three times in a row, with the one getting the most points winning at the end of the game.
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