The game of roulette can be found in casinos around the globe, and it remains a popular option for both online and land-based gamblers. This article looks at the basics of the game, from the odds and betting options to rules for both American and European versions.
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American vs European
While a few betting options differ, the biggest difference between American and European roulette is this: the European wheel has 36 numbers and a zero (2.70% house edge), while the American wheel also adds a 00 (5.26% house edge).
Rules of Play
The first step in playing roulette is to convert your cash into chips. Once this has been done, look over the felt layout and decide what wagers you wish to make. When you’ve determined this, carefully place your chips on the area corresponding to your wager or ask the dealer to do it.
Once all wagers are made, the wheel begins to spin. Next, the roulette ball is set spinning in the opposite direction. Once the ball comes to rest in a pocket, winners are announced and receive their payouts. All losing wagers are collected by the house, and then the next round of betting begins.
Roulette Betting Options
The following are the types of bets that can be made in the game of roulette:
Odd or Even Bets
- The player bets on whether the winning number is odd or even. A payout is issued if they guess correctly. Odds are 19 to 18 (French) and 1.111 to 1 (American).
Black or Red Bets
- Since all pockets on a roulette wheel are colored red or black, the player may wager on which color is going to turn up during the next spin. Odds are 19 to 18 (French) and 1.111 to 1 (American).
Straight Up Bets
- The player chooses a specific number and wagers on it being the winning pocket during the next spin. While the payout is respectable, this betting option offers the worst possible odds in the game. Odds of winning are 36 to 1 (French) and 37 to 1 (American).
- The betting layout includes three groups, each comprised of a dozen numbers. These include 1-12, 13-24, and 25-36. Odds are 25 to 12 (French) and 2.167 to 1 (American).
- Also referred to as a “corner” bet, this wager requires the player to select four numbers on the layout that form a square. An example would be 16, 17, 19, and 20. Odds are 33 to 4 (French) and 8.5 to 1 (American).
- A wager on one of the three vertical rows of numbers on the layout. For example, a wager on the first row would commit the player to the following numbers: 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, and 34. Odds are 25 to 12 (French) and 2.167 to 1 (American).
Top Line Bets
- Player wagers on 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3. This is only available in the American version, and it offers odds of 6.6 to 1.
- A number from 19 to 36 wins this wager, as they are considered the high digits. Odds are 19 to 18 (French) and 1.111 to 1 (American).
- Player wins if the 0 or 00 turns up. Only offered on the American version at 18 to 1 odds.
- The player wins if the ball lands on a number from 1 to 18, as these are considered the low numbers. Odds are 19 to 18 (French) and 1.111 to 1 (American).
- A wager on three numbers that are positioned together in a horizontal line. Odds are 34 to 3 (French) and 11.667 to 1 (American).
- The player places their bet on two numbers, but the pair must be connected horizontally or vertically. Odds are 35 to 2 (French) and 18 to 1 (American).
Five Number Bets
- This wager pays out if 1, 2, 3, 0, or 00 hit. It’s only available in the American version of the game.
- Only available in the European version of the game, players can wager on one of the following trios: 0, 1, 2 or 0, 2, 3.
Six Line Bets
- Any six numbers taken from two of the horizontal lines on the layout. An example would be 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21. Odds are 31 to 6 (French) and 5.33 to 1 (American).
- Player wagers on one of three combinations: 0, 00, 2; 00, 2, 3; or 0, 1, 2. Odds are 34 to 3 (French) and 11.667 to 1 (American).
Roulette is impossible to master, but understanding the basics of the game can at least help you avoid making wagers with a high house edge. The most important tip I can provide is to concentrate on having fun instead of turning a profit.
Finding a successful roulette strategy is akin to hunting a dangerous beast. While the prospect is thrilling and the potential reward is enough to make your pulse race, it’s just as likely that you (or your bankroll) end up torn and bloodied. That’s because roulette in one of the classic examples of a game of chance, and even the luckiest individual will fall behind with enough spins of the wheel.
Some people have to learn the hard way, however, which probably describes you since you’re still reading this article. Out of respect for your persistence, I’ve put together a collection of possible winning roulette strategies. But if the little white ball drives you to ruin, don’t come crying to me.
Basic Roulette Tips
The following wouldn’t be classified as “strategies,” but they remain useful for any would-be roulette player:
Play European Roulette
The American version of the game includes 36 numbered pockets, plus a zero and a double zero. The European version, meanwhile, only has the single zero. This one difference is significant, reducing the house edge from 5.26% (American) to 2.7% (European).
Find a Biased Wheel
In roulette, a biased wheel is one that’s either been altered by the casino or has some inherent flaw. In either case, it produces results that aren’t entirely random. If a player can pick up on this, they can make a fortune.
The downside is that biased roulette wheels are almost unheard of in the modern age, as the house edge is more than sufficient to guarantee the casino a profit. Games are also inspected on a regular basis, which means that any sort of flaw is going to be discovered.
If you want to check anyway, you’ll need to document a few thousand spins and look for biased patterns. If you find one, perhaps you’ll be the next Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo (who won over a million euros in the 1990s while playing on a biased wheel at a casino in Spain).
Know the Odds
Roulette offers a vast array of betting options, so it’s prudent to memorize what they are and how much they pay. Once this knowledge has been retained, you can concentrate on those bets that offer the best risk/reward.
The best options are the 50/50 wagers, as you can expect to win half the time. These include wagering on 1 to 18, 19 to 36, even or odd, and red or black. I’ve read about people risking their life savings on one of these bets, so they’re at least worth a try (at a less ambitious amount, of course).
Avoid Long Shot Bets
Once you’ve learned the odds of roulette, you’ll realize that some wagers are harder to hit than others. I suggest avoiding these, as their steep odds more than make up for the generous payouts.
The worst of the bunch is the single number wager, as the odds of winning are 37 to 1 (on an American table). The payout is an impressive 35 to 1, but even a blind optimist should only expect to hit this on occasion.
Roulette Betting Systems
If you’re desperate for a betting system, here are some of the most popular options for the game of roulette:
The first step in the Labouchere is to determine the amount of money you want to win during the course of a gaming session. Next, write down a series of numbers that equal the sum of your desired winnings. When you wager, take the first and last numbers on your list and bet their sum. If you win, remove those numbers from your list. If you lose, add the amount lost to the end of your list. This system is also known by the names Cancellation and Split Martingale.
This system is designed to compensate for losses by generating bigger wins. After a losing spin, double your next wager.
In addition to doubling their wager after a losing spin, the player also makes a single bet. This system is not advised for those who are playing for fun, as the wagers can become unmanageable for most.
The opposite of the Martingale, this system requires the player to double their bet following a winning spin.
Instead of betting random numbers, some players prefer to wager on certain large sections of the wheel. The Full Orphans Bet, for example, covers the following numbers: 1, 6, 9, 14, 17, 20, 31, and 34.
Some players swear by their chosen roulette strategy, while others simply swear at having been naïve enough to think that they could beat the house. Of course, there’s no way to know which category you’ll fall into until you choose a system and give it a try.
The best piece of roulette advice I can offer is this: play for fun instead of profit. If you happen to win along the way, then it’s an added bonus to an already enjoyable evening.
The game of roulette offers players a wide selection of betting odds from which to choose. Some pay almost even money, while others offer as much as 35 to 1 on your bet. Which odds you decide to play is up to you, but it’s obvious that the closer to even odds you get, the better your chances of winning.
Each bet on the roulette table has a house edge. That edge on an American roulette table is 5.26% on every bet except one. If you bet on the First Five numbers, the house edge goes up to 7.89%, making the First Five bet the worst place to put your money on the table. The rest of the bets have an equal risk-versus-reward ratio, and how you play them is up to you.
Six Even Money Bets
There are six bets on the roulette table that will pay even money on your bet. Betting on Red, Black, Odd, Even, 1 to 18, and 19 to 36 will all pay you 1 to 1 on a bet, but they all have a 47.37% probability to win. That 2.63% amount shy of 50-50 is attributable to the two green spaces on the roulette wheel.
three 2 to 1 BETS
There are three bets on a roulette wheel that pay 2 to 1 on your bet. Betting on numbers 1 to 12, 13 to 24, and 25 to 36 pay out double your bet, and have a 31.58% probability to hit. Betting on a Sixline (six numbers) pays 5 to 1 with a 13.16% probability. The dreaded First Five bet pays out 6 to 1, and a four-number corner bet is worth 8 to 1 on your money.
The longshot bets on the roulette table are the Street bet, Split bet, and any one number. The Street bet is worth 11 to 1 and is a bet on three numbers, while a Split bet is on two numbers. The Split bet pays 17 to 1 but will only hit an average of 5.26% of the time. The big payout on the roulette table is the ‘any single number’ bet that’s worth 35 to 1 on your money, but it only hits an average of 2.63% of the time.
It’s worth a player’s time to seek out a European version of roulette. The house edge is lowered in this version of the game down to 2.70%. The reason for this is that European roulette has only one green 0 spot on the wheel compared to the two in American roulette. Always seek out the European variant if possible, most online casinos offer both versions.
Bankroll management is important when playing roulette. Some players like to make larger outside bets early in a session before betting longshots like single numbers. Set specific limits for winnings and losses and stick to them in order to maintain your bankroll for the next session.
One can get up in a hurry playing roulette, so know when to walk away with winnings. The game will take it back if you continue to play long enough, so get out if you find yourself up five times your buy-in or more. If you want to continue to play after a hot streak at least set aside your buy-in amount and some profit, then play with the rest. This approach won’t change the odds, but it can help with having more profitable sessions.
Some roulette games offer a surrender or en prison rule which will increase your chances of winning. This rule allows the player to recover half of their bet on even money bets like black/red, odd/even, or high/low if the ball lands on either the 0 or 00 spots. This will lower the house edge over you on these bets down to 2.63% in an American roulette version.
Strategy myths abound around the game of roulette. Many will claim that betting strategies like the Martingale System can produce a winning session at will. Most of these systems may sound good in theory, but table betting limits prevent them from being effective unless the player wins within a couple of spins.
Other roulette players think that they can beat the game by keeping track of the winning numbers over time. After keeping track of the numbers they bet on numbers that haven’t hit for a while, expecting them to come next because they’re due. This system has no value because each spin of the wheel is independent of any other.
Many forms of the game have surfaced over the last few years that offer even worse odds to the player. These games short pay on some bets. If a player hits a single number bet it may only pay 34 to 1 or worse. These roulette games give the house a much larger edge and should be avoided.
History of Roulette
Roulette history is as colorful as the game’s betting layout, filled with gambling-obsessed royals, cagey Frenchmen, and at least one deal with Satan. While our overview of its origin and development won’t increase your odds once the wheel starts spinning, I hope it manages to entertain and provide an interesting look at the game.
There are several games that are credited with helping to inspire roulette. These include the following:
Unnamed Tibetan Game – The object was to take 37 small animal statues and arrange them into a specific configuration, which some claim was the mystical number 666.
Hoka – An Italian game where a ball was rolled into one of 40 numbered holes. The player won if he could pick the correct hole.
Even/Odd – A wheel game with spaces marked “even” and “odd.” Certain spots were also designated for the house. While there’s no mention of the game prior to the appearance of roulette, several gaming scholars have wondered if it went by a different name.
Early Years of Roulette
Most experts attribute the games invention to Blaise Pascal, a 17th century scientist who invented the core technology for the roulette wheel while conducting experiments on perpetual motion. Others argue that French monks were responsible, creating the simple game as a way to pass the tedium of monastic life.
Legal documents in 1745 (England) and 1758 (Canada) mention the game as being outlawed, and it was almost certainly popular among French royalty by this time. At the start of the 1800’s, the game seemed lose favor in certain parts of Europe to Even/Odd. This trend would change over time, however, and the published rules of Hoyle no longer mentioned the competing game after 1875.
The Blanc Brothers
Luis and Francois Blanc were enterprising siblings who made millions in various business ventures throughout Europe. They also played the largest historical role is helping roulette achieve its status as a popular casino option.
After amassing a fortune through various investments that sometimes got them into legal jeopardy, the pair transitioned into the casino business within their homeland. While successful, they were eventually forced to leave thanks to increasingly restrictive government regulations.
During their travels across Europe, a rumor began to circulate that Francois had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the secrets to roulette. This was supposedly verified by the fact that the numbers on a roulette wheel add up to 666. The French entrepreneur likely started the stories himself, and it managed to create an air of mystery and danger around the game.
The brothers arrived in Germany in 1843 and opened a series of gambling establishments. They once again met with success, and Francois earned the nickname of “The Magician of Homburg.” Gambling was banned in the nation later in the century, and this prompted another series of moves.
As they moved throughout Europe, they spread the popularity of roulette. Each time, however, they were forced to relocate as local laws changed to prohibit gambling. Eventually, they moved to one of the last remaining sites for legal European gaming, the struggling resort city of Monte Carlo.
The pair once again worked their magic, transforming the area into a mecca of high-class tourism. The gaming industry thrived, with the single zero roulette wheel becoming one of the main attractions. Thanks to his efforts, Francois earned another nickname: “The Magician of Monte Carlo.”
While it’s unlikely that Francois ever sold his immortal soul, he certainly knew what he was doing when it came to financial management and business promotion. When he died in Switzerland in 1877, he left behind a fortune that was estimated to be worth 450,000,000 euros (or $478,091,250).
Roulette in America
The double-zero wheel was brought to America by French immigrants in the 19th century. From there, it spread up the Mississippi River and across the rest of the country. The betting layout was eventually simplified for players, and the wheel was moved on top of the table to counter cheating by both the house and clever players.
For much of the 20th century, Las Vegs and Monte Carlo were the only major casino destinations. This began to change in the 1970s, as an increasing number of gaming establishments opened around the globe. The double-zero table maintained its popularity in the United States, Canada, and throughout South America, while the single-zero table continued its reign in France and other parts of Europe.
Roulette history took another surprising turn in the last decade of the 20th century. That’s when the Internet became available to the public, and online casinos started offering customers virtual versions of popular land-based games. You’d be hard-pressed to find casino software that doesn’t offer the game of roulette, and some have even upped the ante by including a live option that allows customers to watch a real person spin the wheel and accept wagers.