Ultimate Roulette Guide
Roulette Guide | The Ultimate Guide to Roulette
When we see a roulette wheel, we immediately know we’re in a casino. They’ve been a part of the casino landscape for such a long time that we automatically associate one with the other. And really, is a casino even a casino if it doesn’t have a roulette wheel?
Maybe you’re a new player and you’re entranced by the romantic history of roulette, or maybe you’ve been playing for a while and are looking for some more background on your best betting options. This guide will help old and new roulette players by covering everything there is to know about the game, including:
- Roulette Basics
- The Roulette Wheel
- Roulette Chips
- Roulette Bets
- Roulette Rules
- House Edge in Roulette
- Roulette Betting Systems
- History of Roulette
- Online Roulette
We hope you enjoy this deep dive into one of the oldest casino games out there.
The Basics of Roulette
Roulette is a simple game based truly on chance, which brings its own thrill to those who play it.
Players place their bets with their own specially colored chips. Players can place their chips on individual numbers or on propositions like “red” or “even” on the table, in a design called the “layout.”
Then, the croupier (that’s what they call the dealer in roulette) throws a ball into a spinning wheel. Players can still be wrapping up their bets during this time.
Eventually, the croupier will announce, “no more bets.” Then, the table watches as the ball bounces around the wheel and eventually settles into a pocket that marks a specific number. If you made a bet on that number, you’ve won!
The Structure of a Roulette Wheel
Although the layout on the roulette table goes in numerical order, the wheel itself has the numbers randomized all the way around. These numbers alternate between red and black colors, as well as between even and odd numbers. The wheel can spin either clockwise or counter-clockwise, and the ball spins in the opposite direction of the wheel.
The wheel itself consists of two basic parts: a static bowl and a wheelhead that rotates in the bowl. The bowl, which is made from solid wood, includes the ball track and the spindle that supports the rotating wheelhead. The wheelhead settles inside the bowl. The outer edge contains the colored numbers and pockets for the roulette ball to land in.
To ensure that the wheel won’t have any malfunctions during play, each one is carefully checked and tested before being used inside a casino.
American Roulette Wheel
The American wheel has 36 numbers in red and black, plus a 0 and a 00, both marked in green to make them easy for everyone to see. The house’s advantage comes from having both zero pockets on the wheel.
French Roulette Wheel
The French wheel, used mostly in European casinos, also has 36 numbers in red and black. Instead of having two zero pockets, it just has a single green 0 pocket. The house’s advantage comes from that one extra number.
Types of Pockets on a Roulette Wheel
Roulette wheels can come with a wide variety of pocket styles. There are so many different manufacturers, each with their own way of designing those pockets. The variety of fret styles between numbers translates to different gaming experiences.
Some wheels have even frets, which have the same height at both ends. If the frets are tall and deep, this tends to mean that once the ball falls into a pocket, it’s less likely to slide or bounce over to the next number.
Shorter, even frets make the game more intense. They allow for the ball to jump around a lot more before finally landing in a pocket, giving players a nice adrenaline boost.
There are others where the fret drops toward the center of the wheel. This makes it harder to anticipate where the ball will finally land, as it can easily jump that narrow gap to the neighboring number.
Another type of wheel doesn’t make the ball bounce around a lot but still creates a lot of scatter: scalloped or curved pockets. The ball can easily slide from one number to the next on this type of wheel, rarely sinking into the pocket it first landed in. This is less visually dramatic but still intense to watch.
How Roulette Chips Work
You won’t be able to use your regular casino chips at a roulette table. Instead, you place your money on the layout and ask the croupier for your chips. They’ll give you special roulette chips that are a different color than anyone else’s at the table. This makes it easier for the croupier to keep track of which chips belong to which player. And so, this means that people playing together cannot share chips and have to get their own sets.
The croupier will ask you what denomination you want your chips to be. For example, if you’re at a $5 minimum table, you can designate each chip to be worth $1, but you can choose to make them $5, $10, etc. Once you’ve made your designation, the croupier will place a chip of your color on top of a rail near the wheel and then place a marker on top of it to show what value that color chip has.
If you want to add more chips later on, you can put more money on the layout when the game is between decisions.
Because each player determines their own denomination for their chips, roulette chips have no value once they’re away from the roulette table — even the cashier’s cage won’t accept them. When you’re ready to leave the table, place all of your remaining chips on the layout and tell your croupier that you’d like to cash out. The dealer will then exchange them for the corresponding amount of regular casino chips.
Types of Roulette Bets
You can make two main types of bets in roulette, though there are some special bets you can make, depending on the house rules. Your odds and payouts change depending on the type of bet you make, with some bets being riskier than others.
Inside bets are when you place your chips on a specific number (or multiple numbers). You can place all of your chips on one particular number if you’re feeling really lucky, or you can spread out your chips across several numbers in a variety of ways to help your odds. Inside bets tend to have higher payouts if you win.
- The Straight Up: Also known as en plein in French. You bet on one or more numbers by placing your chip(s) on individual numbers, fully inside their numbered box. You can bet on any number, including 0 and 00. If one of your numbers wins, you get paid 35-1.
- Split Bet: Also known as a cheval in French. You place your chip(s) to straddle the line between two numbers on the layout. If either number wins, the payout is 17-1.
- The Street Bet/Three Number Bet/Side Bet/The Trio: Also known as transversal in French. While this type of bet has a lot of different names, it’s simply placing a bet on a whole row of three consecutive numbers. You make this bet by placing your chip(s) on the outside border of the row. If you win this way, the payout is 11-1.
- The Corner/The Square/The Four Number Bet: Also known as carre in French. Here, you’re betting on four numbers by placing your chip(s) on the intersection where four numbers meet. This bet pays 8-1.
- The Five Number Bet: Also dubbed “The Monster” or “The Beast.” You can make this type of bet only on an American-style roulette wheel that has a 00. This is also the worst bet you can make in roulette, honestly. Here, you place your chip(s) as a Line Bet on the first five numbers: 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. If you win, the payout is only 6-1. And, while the house edge on an American-style wheel is typically 5.26%, for a Five Number Bet the house edge jumps to 7.89%. Basically, it’s not worth the effort.
- The Line Bet/Six Number Bet/Sixline Bet: Also known as sixain in French. Just like with the Street Bet, you place your chip(s) on the outside border, but instead, the chip(s) will straddle the horizontal line between two rows. That gives you two sets of three consecutive numbers. The payout here is 5-1.
With outside bets, you’re placing your chips on a category of numbers (called propositions) rather than on any specific ones. These types of bets are better for those who are new to roulette because they’re more conservative plays, though they do offer a lower payout if you win.
- Red or Black Bet: Also known as rouge et noir in French. This is a nice, easy bet for newcomers to the game. You’re betting that the winning number will be either red or black. This is an even-money bet, meaning that the payout is 1-1 (in other words, that you keep your original bet and get an equal amount in winnings).
- The Column Bet: Also known as colonne in French.This is when you bet that one of the columns of numbers on the layout will have a winning number. The 0 and 00 aren’t part of any column, so if the ball lands on one of the zeroes, you lose. If you win, the payout is 2-1.
- The Dozens Bet: Also known as douzaine in French. You place your bet on the winning number being in the first 12 numbers on the layout, the second dozen, or the third dozen. You can bet on two of the dozens, but not all three. The payout here is 2-1.
- The Odd or Even Bet: Also known as impair et pair in French. Here, you’re wagering that the winning number is either one of the 18 odd numbers or one the 18 even numbers. Neither the 0 or 00 count for either bet, and if one of the zeroes comes up, the house wins. This is another bet that offers even money, or a payout of 1-1.
- High or Low Bet: Also known as passe et manque in French. You’re wagering that the ball will land on any of the first 18 numbers on the layout (1-18) or any of the last 18 numbers (19-36). If the 0 or 00 comes up, you lose. This is another even-money bet, with a payout of 1-1.
In American-style roulette, the house gets its edge from having a 0 and 00 on the wheel. These numbers aren’t red or black (they’re actually green), nor are they even or odd or part of the first or last 18. If the ball lands on 0 or 00, all outside bets lose.
However, a French-style wheel has only the single green 0, which means there is a lower house edge and the potential for special rules on even-money propositions. These give you the opportunity to win some or even all of your money back if the ball has landed on 0. They also end up giving you a better edge against the house.
- La Partage: This rule is often offered automatically at French roulette tables, but you should always double-check. With this special rule, if the ball lands on 0, any even-money bets are split in half, and half of your original bet gets returned to you. This drops the house edge down to 1.35%.
- En Prison: With this special rule, you don’t automatically lose an even-money bet when the ball lands on 0. Instead, the bet remains “in prison,” where you don’t lose the wager but it instead remains in play for the next spin. If your bet wins on the next spin, you get your original bet back. If the ball lands on 0 a second time, you still lose. Here, the house edge is also only 1.35%.
The essence of roulette is simple: Pick a number or proposition, bet on it, and hope you win. The actual process involves some important rules, though.
When You Can Bet
Once you’ve cashed in and gotten your chips, you may notice a puck or other small marker sitting on the table — this indicates which number won in the last decision. Once the croupier removes it, you can begin betting.
You can make your bets on the table layout before the croupier spins the wheel and even while the wheel is spinning. At a certain point, the croupier will wave a hand over the layout and say, “no more bets.” If anyone tries to make bets after this, the dealer can disqualify those bets.
Roulette Table Etiquette
Multiple people can place their bets on the same number or proposition. If someone has already placed their bet on the number you want, you can simply put your chip(s) right on top of theirs.
If you can’t reach the number or proposition you want to bet on, you can hand your bet to the croupier and let them know which bet you want to make.
Try not to knock over your own chips or someone else’s, and don’t touch the croupier’s marker on the table.
When the ball settles into a pocket, that’s the decision. The croupier will call out the number (and maybe also the color or whether it’s odd or even). They’ll put their marker on the winning number and sweep the board of all losing bets. They will then pay all the winning bets according to their payouts.
When To Start Betting Again
While the marker is still in place on the winning number, no one can place any bets. Once the winners get paid, the croupier will remove the marker and say something to the effect of “You may now place your bets.” Then you can start all over again.
The House Edge in Roulette
Because the American-style wheels and French-style wheels have different amounts of numbers, that translates to wildly different house edges.
Remember that the American-style wheel has 38 total numbers (1-36, plus 0 and 00).
In a “fair” game, where the casino doesn’t have any edge, the payout for a winning bet would be 37-1 — you bet 1 and you win 37. This means that if you lose 37 times and win once, the game is even — there would be no edge for either the player or the casino.
This won’t work for a casino, as it is a business that would like to make money to keep its doors open. To be able to make a profit, the casino pays back less than what the bet is worth: 35 instead of 37 (so, the payout is 35-1).
Because the casino is keeping two units out of 38, the math to calculate the house edge is:
(2 ÷ 38) x 100 = 5.26% of all bets
Going up against a 5.26% edge means that winning big at American-style roulette is pretty challenging.
Now, how does this translate into actual money? Basically, for every $100 you wager on average, the house will end up taking $5.26.
Now, the French-style wheel has 37 numbers (1-36, plus 0).
Again, a “fair” game would pay out 36-1 — if you lose 36 times and win once, the game would even out with no edge to the casino or to you. The casino instead pays back 35-1, just like in American roulette. However, now the odds are more in your favor.
Because the casino is keeping one unit out of 37, the math to calculate the house edge is:
(1 ÷ 37) x 100 = 2.7% of all bets
This lower house edge means that plenty of people try to seek out French-style wheels where they can.
And how does this translate into real money? On average, for every $100 you wager, the house will end up taking $2.70.
The beauty (and frustration) of roulette is that it is a game of pure chance. You can get superstitious and bet on your birthday or your favorite number, but it makes no real difference. Generally speaking, roulette requires no specialized skills to play, so that means anyone has an equal shot at winning.
Even though it’s pretty mathematically impossible to beat roulette with a betting system, people still try anyway, specifically on even-money bets. Here are some of the more popular betting systems people will try with roulette.
The Martingale system is the most popular roulette betting strategy. You start at the minimum bet, and after every loss, you double your bet. This way, when you eventually win, you get your lost money back and make a little extra. If you do win, you restart the process and bet the minimum amount on the next spin.
Yes, you can make some small profits this way, but it’s still rather risky. If you lose several times in a row, you could quickly bump up against the table’s maximum bet threshold. You’re really just betting big to win small.
This is similar to the Martingale in that you double your bet if you lose, but you’ll also be adding one more chip to your wager. The stakes increase more quickly for you this way, and if you get a bad run, you’ll be out of a lot of money soon.
Also called the Cancellation system or the Split Martingale, this is less dangerous than the previous two Martingales, but it’s still a dicey maneuver.
First, you calculate how much you’d like to win. Let’s say you’re starting off small and your goal is $10 profit. You’d break this down into betting units and settle for winning 10 units. On a piece of paper, you’d write out those 10 units:
On your first bet, you’ll add together the two numbers at either end of the line. So here, your first bet would be worth two units. If your bet wins, you’ll cross off both those first and last numbers, so your list now looks like this:
If you lose that bet, you have to add a number at the end of the list equal to the size of your last bet. So, since you’d just bet two units, your list will look like this:
You keep going, crossing out numbers at either end if your bet wins and adding a number to the end if your bet loses. Your goal is to clear all the numbers. When this happens, you’ll have won your goal amount from the beginning.
If you try Labouchère, you won’t be running up as big of potential losses as you would with a Martingale. But you can end up making bets considerably larger than your starting point and racking up losses. In the end, you’re still trading a few large losses for a lot of small wins.
This betting system is based on the Fibonacci sequence, in which you start with 0 and 1 and always add the sum of the previous two numbers. It looks like this:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…
You start with your initial bet of one chip. If you win right then and there, you walk away with one chip as your profit. But every time a bet loses, you bet the number of chips that’s next in the Fibonacci sequence. Your first bet is 1, then your second bet is 1, then your third bet is 2, then 3, etc. Every time you win a bet, you move back two numbers in the sequence. So if you won with a bet of 21, you next bet will be 8.
While you have a fairly good probability of winning a little something if you have a large enough bankroll, you can still hit unlucky streaks. And if you’re on your ninth bet and ready to wager 34 chips, you’re already down by 54. It’s easy to fall into a hole while trying Fibonacci because of its exponential increases in betting amounts.
This betting system is similar to the Martingale, but the progression is much flatter. You start by setting your wager on your even-money bet. If you win, then you’ve made one net profit, and you’re successful — you walk away with a profit.
Obviously, you won’t necessarily win on your first bet, and you’ll suffer some losses. So you’ll follow these steps:
- Every time you lose a bet, increase your wager by one unit.
- Every time you win a bit, decrease your wager by one unit.
- Once you’ve officially made a profit, the system is complete.
The D’Alembert is probably the safest betting strategy, as you’ll most likely never get even close to hitting the table’s maximum bet threshold. It’s also easy to learn and master because you don’t need to write anything down or do crazy calculations.
However, since it’s a low-risk system in which you’re betting small amounts, you won’t be winning big. Plus, if you do hit a losing streak, it’s still hard to recover from.
History of Roulette
Various stories abound about how roulette actually got its start. Some say that it originated with an ancient Chinese board game, while others say it came from Roman soldiers killing time between battles.
But the most popular story and the one that people share the most is that 17th century physicist Blaise Pascal is the man responsible for creating roulette. Apparently, while trying to build a perpetual-motion machine and playing around with mathematical probabilities, he invented the game that would eventually sweep through European casinos about two centuries later.
In the late 1700s, the game was already prevalent enough to be mentioned in popular novels. Interestingly, these original roulette wheels had the double-zero layout that we’ve come to associate with American-style roulette.
In fact, the single-zero layout premiered in the German spa casino town of Bad Homburg in the mid-1800s. Brothers François and Louis Blanc ran a successful casino there, where they removed the double-zero pocket from the wheel. Because this dropped the house edge drastically, gamblers flocked to their casino to try their luck.
Prince Charles of Monaco heard of their wild success, and he eventually convinced the Blanc brothers to bring their single-zero roulette wheel to his new gambling and entertainment complex, the Monte Carlo Casino. This helped boost the casino’s popularity, and Monte Carlo has been considered a major gambling destination ever since.
European settlers brought the double-zero version of the game to America in the early 19th century, where its popularity spread. And now, several hundred casinos worldwide offer the game — with the double-zero layout being more popular in North and South America and the single-zero layout being more popular in Europe and Asia.
The online version of roulette came to the internet in the 1990s. It was preceded by some online slot machines and blackjack, but once people saw the potential to try roulette in the comfort of their own homes, it exploded in popularity. Now, top internet casinos like those in New Jersey offer different varieties of roulette, and people can play on their computers, tablets, or phones to try to strike it rich.
A Brief History of Online Roulette
While physical roulette has quite the convoluted history, online roulette has had a much more straightforward trajectory. By the late 1990s, home computers had become more ubiquitous and dial-up internet was starting to be replaced with fiber-optic internet access.
Very quickly, online gaming became a top activity for internet users, and a number of new software companies jumped at the chance to meet the growing demand for online games. Online casinos were established, incorporating random number generator technology to mimic the random chance of spinning a wheel.
In the beginning, online gambling sites based out of Antigua and Barbuda quickly established themselves as the best resources to try gambling over the internet. In 1994, this small Caribbean nation passed the Free Trade & Processing Act, which granted licenses to businesses that were applying to open online casinos. This essentially spawned the online casino industry.
Also during the 1990s, the software company Microgaming got started and quickly became a pioneer of internet gaming. The company has become known as one of the leading software providers for the internet gambling industry, even today. When they got started, no countries had any specific laws about online gambling, so the company flourished quickly with a global reach.
The Legalities of Online Roulette
However, the United States Congress ended up passing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. The UIGEA made it illegal to deposit and withdraw funds to and from an online gambling site. But, the UIGEA didn’t actually make gambling online illegal — the law made it illegal for American sites to process payments for online gambling activities for anyone living in the U.S.
This was admittedly a pretty confusing determination for a lot of companies, and people weren’t sure if this meant that online gambling was now illegal in the U.S. As a result, many of the major online gambling sites stopped doing business with U.S. customers for a long while.
Nevertheless, gambling itself isn’t illegal in the U.S. — there’s no federal law banning gambling. There is the Federal Wire Act of 1961, though, that prohibits gambling that takes place across state lines. You could place a bet within the state you reside, but placing a bet with a bookie in another state would be illegal.
And the UIGEA doesn’t actually make the act of online gambling illegal, either. Instead, it’s illegal to operate an online gambling website in the U.S. This means that Americans can use overseas gambling websites based in areas like Australia, the Caribbean, and Latin America with no legal issues.
In the end, Americans don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re breaking the law by playing roulette online. You’re safe to enjoy your favorite casino game at home.
Advantages of Online Roulette
A major advantage to playing roulette online is that you can concentrate on your betting strategy better without being distracted by all of the sights and activities inside a physical casino.
Another advantage comes to your actual bets. If you’re playing roulette in a physical casino, you’ll most likely have to make larger bets and have to deal with the slower pace of other players at your table. With online roulette, you can play at your own pace, and a number of online casinos allow minimum bets of under $1.
Brick-and-mortar casinos also have specific rules and etiquette to follow; you don’t even have to think about that in a game of online roulette. While you might feel that you’re missing out on the energy of a “real” casino, you can get other perks like bonuses to make it worth your while.
Online Roulette Bonuses
The big innovation in the online casino industry is bonuses. Instead of being offered a free hotel suite or getting comped drinks for being a high-roller, you’ll have bonus funds credited to your balance. These bonuses let you explore the rest of the online casino’s offerings without additional monetary risk.
These optional bonuses can include:
- Free play bonuses: This means you can get free extra spins, sometimes as soon as you sign up with their website.
- Deposit bonuses: These deposit extra credits into your casino account.
Can Players Cheat at Online Roulette?
Online casinos still use a random number generator for their games. This means that all of the games are randomized and fair to everyone, making it nearly impossible for players to cheat while playing online roulette.
Plus, online casinos often offer players information about odds and payouts, keeping transparency at the forefront while you play.
Live Dealer Roulette
There’s a special type of semi-interactive online roulette you can try that actually has a live dealer. You can stream images of a live roulette game as it happens in a physical casino. You can see the roulette layout and wheel, and you can watch the croupier as they run the game.
This gives online roulette fans the chance to feel a more “real” casino roulette experience, even when they’re playing at home in their favorite sweatpants.
Ready to Try Roulette?
With its long history and wide variety of playing styles, roulette is a great casino game for new and seasoned gamblers alike. And, thanks to the rise and accessibility of technology, it’s more accessible than ever through online casinos. You can enjoy the thrill of a truly randomized game, try out your favorite betting system, and go at your own pace while trying to win big.