For those who feel outmatched by the complex strategies of card games or who just feel like a game of pure odds will spice up their evening, roulette is the game of choice at casinos around the world. This does not mean that it lacks strategy, however. Roulette is a subtle game with its own rules and secrets for winning.
This is an intro guide to the game of roulette, including its history, mechanics, and bets. For those who want to be introduced to this riveting game, this introduction to roulette is an ideal starting point.
The History of Roulette
The name “roulette” comes from the French term for “little wheel” and was invented in France in the 18th century by combining an Italian game of numerical chance with a gaming wheel. Some have speculated that the physicist Blaise Pascal should be credited with the game since his attempt to create what he called a “perpetual motion machine” was the model on which the roulette wheel was based.
Pascal, however, never managed to invent such a machine and almost certainly never intended it to be used for gambling.
For a couple of centuries, the roulette wheel didn’t have a zero on it. It wasn’t until the 1800s that this was added by Francois and Louis Blanc to compete with other casinos by making the wheel subtly less favorable to their patrons. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it makes a huge difference in your understanding of the game since the addition of a zero pocket means that the house has a bigger edge (more on that later).
When the roulette wheel came to America, the house got an even bigger edge. As the wheel made its way west and into the casinos of the old towns, a double zero and an eagle were added, both of which gave the house an even greater edge.
Of course, the American eagle was eventually dropped from the wheel — the modern roulette wheel’s pockets contain only numbers within the border of the table and specialty squares on the outside (see our guide to these squares below).
As the game became more popular in its double zero form, the wheel was moved to the top of the table rather than within it to dissuade cheating by both the house (by way of hidden mechanisms that changed the odds) and gamblers.
Today, there are hundreds of roulette wheels in casinos around the world. The double zero wheels invented by the French are still used in the United States, South America, Canada, and the Caribbean. If you visit a roulette wheel anywhere else, it will probably be a single zero wheel.
How To Play Roulette
To begin, the croupier opens the betting session. Before the session closes, you have to place your bet on the grid of the table, which contains the numbers of the roulette wheel on the inside and the specialty squares on the outside. Before we go over the basic rules of the game, there are a few principles of etiquette that you need to know before playing roulette.
Don’t try to bet after the croupier has closed the betting session.
Never touch the marker or the wheel at any time during any game of roulette.
Never pay the winner with your chips or touch the chips of the losing player. Only the croupier can touch the chips.
Let’s assume we’re playing American roulette to make things easier — just remember that in other versions, as mentioned, there may not be a double zero on the wheel.
The wheel features alternating black and red pockets with numbers 1 through 36 printed on them. There are also two green zero pockets: single zero and double zero. The table on which you place your bets has not only a place for all of these numbers individually but additional zones for you to place bets that determine different winnings (more on this below).
The basic order of the game is always the same even though the odds and strategy behind the complexity of your bets will change. The steps of a basic game of roulette are as follows:
The croupier opens the betting session.
The players choose which number, number group, or color they wish to bet on.
Players place their chips on the table in the corresponding sectors.
The croupier closes the session and spins the wheel.
The croupier announces the winning number and distributes the winnings (the probability odds of the ball landing on your bet determine the size of your payout).
After payouts occur, a new session begins.
Now that you know the order of the game, we can discuss what distinguishes between the different bets and the strategies associated with each one. Each bet carries different odds that determine how much you pay or get paid when the ball lands in its pocket.
In general, there are three types of bets that we’ll go over here: inside, outside, and announced bets. Each has its own odds and strategies, depending on how advanced you are at the game.
Types of Roulette Bets
Now you know how the game works on a basic mechanical level. However, you can’t begin learning to master the game of roulette until you understand how each type of bet works and how you should be playing depending on your experience level.
In reality, there are many more than three types of roulette bets. Depending on how you separate them, once you include all the different kinds of call bets, casino-specific betting types, and those that are only valid in European casinos, there are as many as 20 different kinds of bets.
This guide will not go into all of them. Instead, this is an in-depth examination of the three most common (and most advantageous) bets, as well as descriptions of their subtypes so you can get a general grasp of all your possibilities when you go to place your bet.
Inside bets are what most people mean when they think of betting in roulette. It means that you’re betting inside the rectangle on the table that has all the numbers in it. Inside bets cover a few different kinds of sub-categories of bets depending on how you want your odds to go.
Straight Up: Straight up bets are the most blatant you can make: You simply put your chips on a single number and hope the ball falls into the single pocket of that number. If it doesn’t, you lose.
The odds for this kind of bet are 35:1, and that’s what they pay out, too. They’re simple but not very reliable.
Split: This means that you put your money down on a line between two numbers — for instance, between 27 and 30. This means that if the ball lands on either of these numbers that sit next to each other on the wheel, you get a payout.
Since you win with two numbers instead of just one, your odds are doubled, which means your payout is halved. A split bet pays back 17:1.
Trio: A trio bet is exactly what it sounds like: You place a bet on a string of three numbers like 34, 35, 36. This further increases your odds of getting a payout, which for a trio bet is 11:1.
These are also called street or steam bets in some casinos.
Line, Corner, Snake, Five-Number: For the sake of space, we’re putting these all together because the rest of the inside bets follow the same basic pattern: Place money on a number or set of numbers inside the rectangle and you get paid in an amount determined by the probability of winning.
A line bet is a bet on a whole row on the table. A corner bet includes four numbers, and a five-number bet includes five specific numbers: 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3. Snake bets are on a line of 12 numbers.
Important to note is that the five-number bet is just about the worst in the game since you have a 13% chance of winning but only get paid at odds of 6:1. The snake bet is, by contrast, one of the safer bets since it covers half the wheel and pays out at 2:1.
Outside of the square that contains all the numbers, you can make an outside bet on different sectors that mean different things and come with their own sets of odds.
Red/Black: This bet is exactly what it sounds like. You place your money on one of these two colors; if the ball lands on that color, you win. This sounds like a 50/50 shot for you, right?
Remember why the casinos back in the early days added those green zero and double zero pockets: to give themselves the upper hand. Those green numbers reduce your chances of landing on red or black by two. This is still one of the safer bets you can make, however, and most beginners like to stick to outside bets like this at first.
Odd/Even: This bet is on whether the number comes up odd or even, regardless of color. Same as before, the odds are about even except for the zero and double zero pockets, which reduce your chances to below 50%.
High/Low: The last bet that covers approximately half the wheel, a high/low bet is simply a bet on a number from 1-18 or 19-36, with the sectors for that bet marked with these numbers on the table. Once again, the house has a slight advantage.
Column or Dozen: There are three columns of numbers on the table, as well. Betting on a column includes any of those numbers and pays out 2:1.
This goes the same for a dozens bet, which splits the numbers on the table consecutively into three dozens. Again, this bet pays 2:1.
This is the third main type of bet, but it’s honestly not one that a beginning roulette player needs to worry too much about. Since these bets are typically only used in European casinos, you probably won’t come into contact with them unless you play in an online casino.
What separates these bets is the fact that they are called out rather than placed on the table as physical money. This is why they’re illegal in some places: You could be betting with money that doesn’t exist, in effect, gambling on credit, which most houses don’t allow.
Zero Game: A zero game bet means you’re betting on the numbers around 0, which are 15, 32, 0, 26, 3, 35, and 12. The bet requires several simultaneous split bets and straight up bets.
Neighbors of Zero: This bet is on the 17 numbers that surround 0 on the French single-0 wheel, which requires at least 9 chips. They are placed on several splits, straight up numbers, trios, and corners.
Final Bet: This is a bet on what the last digit of the number will be. In other words, a final 8 bet is a bet on 8, 18, and 28.
There are still more variations of call bets that get more and more specific with the numbers you place your chips on. They all follow the same premise: a combination of the main types of bets that make up a new set of numbers with their own probability of a payout.
Roulette is a game that is simple to play and complex to master. Hopefully, this guide will get you started on learning the principles behind the bets, how you should play as a beginner, and how you can evolve your strategies as you get more experienced.
The bets follow the same principles of probability but are simply arranged in different orders to give the game variety and the players a chance to stagger their odds with a variety of bets. Knowing how they are categorized is the first step to going further and learning even the subtlest bets, which could even be casino-specific.
Regardless, no player should bet outside of the means of their bank account, especially on a call bet. If you play responsibly, however, roulette could become your new game of choice.
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