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Russian roulette is a potentially lethal game of chance in which a player places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against his head, and pulls the trigger. "Russian" refers to the supposed country of origin, and roulette to the element of risk-taking and the spinning of the revolver's cylinder being reminiscent of spinning a roulette wheel. Because only one chamber is loaded, the player has only one in n chance of hitting the loaded chamber, where n is the total number of chambers in the cylinder. So, for instance, in a revolver that holds six rounds, the chance is one in six; for a revolver that holds five, the chance - or risk - is one in five. Whilst the above calculation of the odds is correct in a purely mathematical sense, it does not take physics into account: A properly maintained and lubricated weapon with a single round in the cylinder will still be subject to the laws of gravity, meaning the full chamber which weighs more will usually end up near the bottom of the cylinder, altering the odds further in the player's favour - but only if the cylinder is allowed to come to a complete stop before the cylinder is relatched.
- ‘Did you ever hear of Russian Roulette?’ [...] With the Russian army in Romania, around 1917, some officer would suddenly pull out his revolver, put a single cartridge in the cylinder, spin the cylinder, snap it back in place, put it to his head and pull the trigger.
Legal status 
As participating in a game of Russian roulette is considered to be a grossly reckless risk to human life, most common-law jurisdictions in the United States would support a finding of depraved-heart murder (or equivalent) or conspiracy to commit murder for persons who join a game of Russian roulette in which a participant dies. This notably occurred in Commonwealth v. Malone, 47 A.2d 445 (1946), in which a Pennsylvania teenager's conviction for murder as a result of shooting a friend during a game of Russian roulette was upheld.
Notable incidents 
Numerous incidents have been reported regarding Russian roulette.
- Dion Mays, a Slamball player, died from Russian roulette September 2012 in San Bernardino, CA. His team was the Slashers.
- In his autobiography, Malcolm X says that during his burglary career he once played Russian roulette, pulling the trigger three times in a row to convince his partners in crime that he was not afraid to die. In the epilogue to the book, Alex Haley states that Malcolm X revealed to him that he palmed the round.
- On December 24, 1954, the American blues musician Johnny Ace killed himself in Texas after a gun he pointed at his own head discharged. Many sources, including the Washington Post, attribute this to Russian roulette.
- Graham Greene relates in his first autobiography A Sort Of Life (1971) that he played Russian roulette, alone, a few times as a teenager.
- In 1976 Finnish magician Aimo Leikas killed himself in front of a crowd while performing his Russian roulette act. He had been performing the act for about a year, selecting six bullets from a box of assorted live and dummy ammunition.
- John Hinckley, Jr., the man who attempted to murder President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was known to play Russian roulette, alone, on two occasions. Hinckley also took a picture of himself in 1980 pointing a gun at his head.
- PBS claims that William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor and winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, had attempted suicide by playing a solo game of Russian roulette.
- On October 12, 1984, American actor Jon-Erik Hexum suffered severe brain damage as a result of a Russian roulette stunt. The revolver that Hexum used was loaded with blanks and he apparently believed that the stunt was a harmless prank. However, the overpressure wave from the discharge of the blank propelled the round's wadding into his temple. The impact shattered his skull and caused massive brain trauma. Six days later he was declared brain dead and was taken off life support.
- In February 28, 2000, a man from Houston, Texas died after attempting to play russian roulette with a semi-automatic pistol. The man was apparently unaware that semi-automatic pistols automatically insert a cartridge into the firing chamber when the gun is cocked. He was posthumously awarded a Darwin Award.
- On October 5, 2003, psychological illusionist Derren Brown appeared to take part in a game of Russian roulette on British television Channel 4. The stunt was broadcast with a slight delay allowing the program to cut to a black screen if anything were to go wrong. Also, the final firing of the gun was not shown, as the gun had gone out of camera shot. A statement by the police said that they had been informed of the arrangements in advance, and were satisfied that "at no time was anyone at risk".
- The BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? on 13 September 2010 featured the actor Alan Cumming investigating his grandfather Tommy Darling, who he discovered had died playing Russian roulette while serving as a police officer in Malaya. The family had previously believed that he had died accidentally while cleaning his gun.
- In the Discovery Channel reality series Bering Sea Gold, cast member John Bunce loaded a bullet into a .44 Magnum spun the chamber, pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire. He pulled the trigger a second time, which fired the chamber with the bullet in it, killing him. This incident occurred off camera at night between while John, an alcoholic, was "blackout drunk."
In magic and mentalism 
In popular culture 
Russian roulette has been portrayed in many different works of modern culture.
- Russian roulette was made famous worldwide with the 1978 film The Deer Hunter, which features three soldiers who are captured during the Vietnam War and forced to play Russian roulette as their captors gamble on the results. Their captors demand an especially brutal variation of the game: the game is played until all but one contestant is killed. The game takes place in a bamboo room above where the other prisoners are held, so that the losers' blood drips down on future contestants. Several teen deaths following the movie' release caused police and the media to blame the film's depiction of Russian roulette, saying that it inspired the youths.
- In 1986 German heavy metal band Accept released an album called Russian Roulette.
- In 2008, 10 Years released a song called "Russian Roulette" on their album "Division".
- In 2009, Rihanna released a song called "Russian Roulette".
- In 2009, Lady Gaga released a song called "Poker Face" which contained the lyrics "Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun."
- In 2010 the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured characters playing russian roulette.
- In 2012 South Korean group Spica released a song and an EP entitled Russian Roulette.
See also 
- Georges Surdez, "Russian Roulette," Collier's Illustrated Weekly 30 Jan. 16, 1937; "Russian roulette n.", Oxford English Dictionary.
- "Really Old School", Washington Post, December 25, 1998.
- Garbus, Martin (2002-09-17) . Courting Disaster: The Supreme Court and the Unmaking of American Law (hardcover ed.). Times Books. ISBN 978-0-8050-6918-1.
- Transistorized!, Public Broadcasting Service, 1999.
- "Jon-Erik Hexum's Fatal Joke". Entertainment Weekly. 1994-10-14. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
- "Gun Safety Training". Darwin Awards. 2000. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
- "Roulette gun stunt 'a hoax'". BBC News. 2003-10-07. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
- BBC1 13 September 2010.
- "The Deer Hunter Suicides". Snopes. August 16, 2007. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
- Grierson, Tim (May 13, 2008). "10 Years - 'Division' Review". About.com. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
- "Rihanna Released First Single called “Russian Roulette”". tonicgossip.com. October 20, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
- G, Amelia (2009-03-18). "Lady Gaga is Bluffin with her Muffin". Blue Blood. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
- Stuart, Keith (November 9, 2010). "Call of Duty: Black Ops – review". The Guardian. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
- "SPICA Releases Debut MV for "Russian Roulette"". Soompi. February 7, 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2013.