How to Play Roulette

playing rouletteRoulette can justifiably claim to be one of the most iconic games in the world of gambling. Even non-gamblers know what roulette is, and they probably have at least a basic understanding of how it is played as well so and could comfortably make a bet without too much help.

Found in casinos all around the world, it is also widely available online via thousands of casino websites, and continues to attract new interest on a yearly basis either from those trying new gambling products or those trying gambling for the first time.

It is only by chance that the game exists at all as you will find out if you read our history section, but now it is not only firmly established but also has bucket loads of variations and wacky takes on the classic setup.

As for how to play, the different bets and the various game types, we’ve got you covered and will explain everything you need to know in the sections that follow.

Rules of Roulette

roulette table

One of the keys to this games’ success is its simplicity. Therefore, the rules, such as they are, couldn’t be easier to understand.

The very short explanation is that a ball is spun on a wheel containing 37 numbered pockets, half of which are black, and half of which are red. There is also a green zero but don’t worry about that for the moment.

Before the wheel is spun, the player has to guess where they think the ball will land, and if they are right, they win some money. The payout is a multiple of their stake, so the more money that is wagered the more gets returned if the bet is successful.

The player can bet on the outcome in a number of different ways, some are more specific and therefore riskier than others, and the payouts for each bet type reflect this.

For example, if the player bets the ball will land on a red number the payout is 1:1, but the chances of this happening are almost 50/50. The player could also bet on the ball landing on a specific number and the payout for that is a huge 35:1, but then the chances of that happening are much slimmer.

The green zero provides the house (the casino) with their edge of 2.70%. It is possible to bet on the zero as well, but all of the 50/50 type bets will lose if the ball lands on a zero. The only way a zero result returns money is if the player has a bet on that specific number.

We said there are a number of different ways to bet on roulette, so let’s have a look at them now.

Different Roulette Bets

When looking at the betting options on a roulette table, you can split the bet types into two categories, the inside bets and the outside bets.

The inside bets have higher payouts and are less likely to be successful, while the opposite is true of the outside bets.

Many players attempt to spread their risk by using a combination of both types of bet to cover a decent percentage of the table while still leaving room to profit.

Outside Bets

roulette outside bets

The bets highlighted yellow are outside bets.

These can pay out either 1:1 or 2:1 depending on the bet you choose, because you are making bets that either cover either half of the numbers on the board, or one third of the umbers on the board – excluding the zero of course.

They are sometimes collectively called even money bets as well, despite the fact they don’t all pay out even money.

This is how they work:

  • Black or Red – Bet on the colour of the winning number. The actual number the ball lands on doesn’t matter, only the colour of the pocket. Payout is 1:1
  • Odd or Even – Half of the numbers are odd and the other half are even, so this bet also pays out at 1:1. Again, the number itself doesn’t matter, only whether it is divisible by two or not.
  • High or Low – Numbers 1-18 are considered low, and numbers 19-36 are considered high. This splits the board in half so as you might expect, the payout is 1:1.
  • Dozen Bets – With a higher payout of 2:1, the dozen bet splits the board into 3: the first 12 (1-12), second 12 (13-24), and third 12 (25-36). As long as the ball lands on a number inside the dozen you have bet on you are a winner.
  • Column Bets – The same idea as the Dozen bets but the board is split 3 ways horizontally instead. You can think of it as top row, middle row, and bottom row. This also pays out at 2:1.

The outside bets are good if you are new to roulette and a little nervous, because your chances of winning a few games is higher.

If you want to get bigger payouts though, you are going to have to use inside bets.

Inside Bets

roulette inside bets

You can bet on inside bets as randomly as you like, use your partners birthday to pick the numbers if you want to, but a lot of players have specific patterns they like or they use the racetrack which we will cover shortly.

Essentially though, inside bets are just a way to cover a smaller selection of numbers with a single chip, and the smaller the group of number covered, the bigger the payout will be.

This is also the only way to cover the zero.

We explain how they work below, running from left to right in our image above.

  • Trio – Only possible because of the zero, the trio covers three numbers, either 0, 3, 2 as in our image, or 0, 1, 2. If one of these numbers comes up the payout is 11:1.
  • Straight Up – A bet on a single number. You will only win if you bet on a specific number and the ball lands on that specific number, The payout for this is 35:1 because it is improbable.
  • Split – This bet covers two numbers and is placed by positioning your betting chip on the line that joins both numbers. The payout is 17:1.
  • Street – This is another bet that covers 3 numbers and it runs vertically up the board, so you can place 12 different street bets. The payout is 11:1.
  • Square or Corner – Both names are used. The bet can cover any 4 numbers by placing the chip at the point at which all numbers join on the board. It pays out at 8:1.
  • Line – So named because the chip is placed on the line running up the middle of the numbers on either side. It is essentially the same as placing 2 street bets but you only need one chip to do it. It covers six numbers and pays out 5:1.

The inside bets are the ones that will be used if you ever use any of the ‘call bets’, and that brings us nicely on to the racetrack.

The Racetrack

racetrack roulette

You can often find a racetrack shaped interpretation of the wheel when playing European or French roulette, and this offers a quick way to place a number of inside bets.

These all have French names because of the game’s origin, and are often referred to as the ‘call bets’ because in a real life casino the player can simply call out to the dealer that they want to place them.

This was only allowed because the bets can be difficult to place on a busy table so it was easier for the dealer to do it on the player’s behalf.

The bets are known as Voisins du Zero (Neighbours of Zero), Les Orphelins (The Orphans), and Tiers do Cylindre (Third of the Wheel).

The numbers and percentage of the wheel covered are detailed below, along with the cost and bet types used:

Bet# CoveredBet TypesChips Used% Covered
Voisins du Zero 22, 18, 29, 7, 28, 12, 35, 3, 26, 0, 32, 15, 19, 4, 21, 2, 25 4x Splits, 1x Trio, 1x Corner 9 45%
Les Orphelins 9, 31, 14, 20, 1, 17, 34, 6 6x Splits 6 21%
Tiers du Cylindre 33, 16, 24, 5, 10, 23, 8, 30, 11, 36, 13, 27 4x Splits, 1x Straight 5 32%

There is also a further bet type sometimes included called Jeu Zero, also known as ‘zero game’ which is essentially just a mini version of Voisins. It covers the zero and the six neighbouring numbers and costs 4 chips.

Neighbour Bets

roulette neighbours

Neighbours is another bet type associated with the race track, and it simply covers the two numbers either side of the number chosen.

On some online versions of the game you can adjust the neighbours bet to cover anything from 1 neighbouring number either side to 9, but the principle remains the same.

The bet costs 5 chips traditionally, but obviously if you adjust the number of neighbours you want to include the cost of the bet will increase accordingly.

What’s more, these are all straight up bets, so you would need to be prepared to accept high levels of risk vs reward when placing neighbour bets.

Different Versions of Roulette

Although there are many different versions of the game online, they are all based on one of the following three game types.

The bets you can place are always the same as are the payouts (unless it is a novelty game with an additional pocket or a jackpot attached or something), but you might not always have a racetrack available.

You can still place all of the racetrack bets, but you will have to do it manually.

Other than that, the differences are explained below.

French Roulette

french roulette

French roulette tables will look a little different to what you might be used to if you are a UK based player. In the country of the game’s origin, there used to be 2 dealers and a game caller in the early days, and obviously everything on the table was written in French.

There are also two important additional rules: la partage and en prison.

  • La Partage – If the ball lands on zero, all true even money bets are split, with the casino taking one half and the player getting the other. This halves losses on even money bets. Inside bets are lost as normal.
  • En Prison – If the ball lands on zero, even money bets are left on the table and carry over to the next game. If they win on this second spin of the wheel the player gets the money back but no winnings. If they lose again then the casino takes them as normal. This effectively gives losing even money bets an extra life. You can still place new bets on the second spin if you have bets ‘en prison’.

You won’t usually find both of these available on the same table, but it has been known for a casino to let the player choose the option they prefer.

The racetrack bets are also more often associated with the French game.

The key thing here is that the extra rules can cut the house edge on even money bets in half, from 2.70% to 1.35%.

European Roulette

european roulette

This is the version that most non-Americans will be familiar with.

It is essentially French roulette but without the en prison or la partage rules, and the table layout looks quite different too, being almost identical to American roulette.

European roulette comes from French roulette really, but these days the two have become so intertwined that even developers wrongly call their games which use the French rules ‘European La Partage Roulette’, for example.

Many versions of European roulette include the racetrack too.

It doesn’t really matter though, the gameplay is what is important and what you get here is a wheel with a single zero and no extra rules, so a house edge of 2.70%.

American Roulette

american roulette

This is one to avoid if at all possible.

The American game has audaciously added an extra zero to the wheel, which means that instead of 37 potential outcomes there are 38, and two of them are not good for the player; the 0, and the 00.

As we explained, the zero gives the casino its’ house edge in roulette, so having two zeros means double the house edge – instead of the usual 2.70% the player has to suffer a 5.26% house edge.

The table looks a little different because of this as there is obviously the extra number, and this creates a further bet type too, known as the sucker bet. It’s a line bet that includes the zeros, and it is a sucker bet because it covers just 5 numbers instead of the 6 a line bet usually includes. The house edge for this one bet is atrocious at 7.89%!

Historical Background of Roulette

Blaise Pascal Roulette InventorPopularly believed to have been created by French inventor, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal in 1655, the game of roulette is one of the oldest gambling games that is still played today. However, this was a happy accident; Pascal did not mean to invent it.

Originally, he was working on what he called a ‘Perpetual Motion Machine’; essentially a machine that he theorised would be able to run without having to draw any energy from an outside source. This was, quite simply, impossible as it defied the laws of physics, but Pascal displayed great tenacity and subsequently went on to develop one of the greatest casino games of all time. His endeavour to build what would have been a feat of engineering, led him to creating a device which propelled the world of gambling at the time further forward than it had ever been.

Pascal was a prominent figure in the world of science and mathematics, indeed a luminary of his time, producing some ground-breaking research. He was the earliest recorded mathematician to introduce the theory of probability to gambling, and while researching cycloids he authored a famous treatise called “L’Histoire de la Roulette”. The title was so given as a quest to find the formula that would calculate cycloids, and involved the rolling of wheels.

It is widely thought that the first primitive roulette wheel was the basis of his mission to invent the Perpetual Motion Machine.

Roulette Takes America by Storm

american makeshift roulette game

The original roulette wheel didn’t actually have a zero, this was added for King Charles III of France. He had money troubles and built a casino to ease some of the burden, and the zero was added to give the game a house edge.

Some time after this the game landed on American shores, where a second zero was added to increase the house edge, and there was also another little remembered extra slot called the Eagle – the American symbol for liberty.

These Eagle tables didn’t last long, the house edge was too big and it put people off, but if you were to get hold of one of the 6 eagle tables thought to still be in existence today then you would be able to get tens of thousands of dollars for it at auction.

The game spread through America thanks to the paddle boats that frequently journeyed up and down the Mississippi from New Orleans, before word travelled inland where more and more people began playing.

The style of play in America differed greatly with how it was played on the other side of the Atlantic where it had become an activity of the affluent and more of a lifestyle choice. The glamorous casinos which straddled the streets of Monte Carlo were a far cry from the illicit gambling dens where roulette was so popular in the United States. This has changed over the years of course, and now roulette is an extremely accessible game no matter your background.

Roulette in the Modern Day

mobile rouletteAs the 20th century progressed, the game of roulette became even more widespread and was soon one of the most prominent gambling activities in Las Vegas, attracting millions of players every year.

With the dawn of the new Millennium came infinitely more possibilities for the game and those that loved it, when the internet exploded and a whole new industry was created – online gambling.

It meant that there were websites where players could play any version of roulette without even having to leave their house, with the added benefit of the incentives such as attractive sign up bonuses that many online casinos were offering.

When advancements in mobile technology occurred, it meant that players could even enjoy playing roulette via their smartphones at their own convenience and even on the move. Roulette is now instantly available for those who want to play it.

From a failed experiment to a worldwide gambling phenomenon - not even a visionary like Pascal could have foreseen that.

Roulette Trivia

The game of roulette has also been the beneficiary of some interesting, novelty stories and fun facts over the years.

In 2004, for example, UK resident, Ashley Revell staked his entire life savings (£93,000) on a single bet, gambling on red at the Plaza Hotel and Casino resort in Las Vegas. Having sold everything that he owned this was a huge spin of the wheel for him, but he won and walked away with £186,000.

“It all happened so fast,” Revell said at the time. “It was over before I knew it.” He was asked if he wanted another go, though Revell replied: ‘No that’s it for me…I don’t want to ride my luck.” We do not recommend doing this yourself.

Roulette is occasionally known as the “Devil’s Game” due to the fact that all of the numbers on a table add up to the number 666. There are also stories that Louis Blanc who built the Monte Carlo Casino made a deal with the devil in order to learn and understand the table’s winning secrets.

There have been some unthinkable runs in the game’s history too. In Las Vegas at the Rio Casino, the same number was once the outcome seven times in a row, with the odds of this occurring being one in three billion. It was number 19 if you want to make it your new lucky number.

That is nothing though compared to the event in Monte Carlo in 1913, where the ball landed on black 23 times in a row. This was huge news at the time and explains why you may sometimes see gamblers fallacy described as Monte Carlo fallacy – those who were there apparently kept betting on red assuming that black surely couldn’t come up again – falsely believing that what had come before could affect what came next.

Online Roulette vs Real World Roulette

roulette online computerWhile online casino has become increasingly popular around the world, the game of roulette is iconic and still retains much of the glamour that was associated with it during the early days of Monte Carlo, so it still draws a crowd in real life.

In a physical casino it is probably a less intimidating game for anyone who hasn’t bet in person before, because it’s all blind luck so there’s nothing to feel self-conscious about when placing your bets. Although you will need to follow the house rules and listen to the dealer, who can also answer any questions you may have.

The other difference of course is the fact that there will be other people betting so etiquette is important, and this also creates a more exciting atmosphere than you will find betting online.

There are many advantages to playing online too though, the first being that you do not have to make an effort and can play in your PJ’s if you want to. You can also play at your own pace and get through many more spins than would be possible in real life.

Furthermore, players can also greatly benefit from many instant perks online, such as generous welcome offers and bonuses that web based casinos use to attract customers, not to mention a much broader variety of roulette games – there are scores of weird and wonderful versions of roulette out there on the web.

Roulette FAQs

What are the Chances of Winning Money on Roulette?

The game of roulette is based on pure luck, which means your chances of winning are as good as anyone else’s as there is no skill involved. No one has a clue where the ball is going to land.

You can calculate your theoretical chances of winning on a game by game basis by comparing the payout with the probability of the specific bet or bets that you have made on that game, but it’s still blind luck.

Is Online Roulette Fair?

Due to the fact that the outcome of the bet is determined by the spin of a wheel, this is one of the fairest gambling games that you can play. The fact that it is online doesn’t change anything because the game runs on an RNG that is designed to be 100% random.

The games at licensed casinos are also independently tested and signed of by the UKGC, so they are as fair as it is possible to make them. Obviously the game has a house edge built in, so the odds are against you, but that is true of all gambling.

Is There a Good Roulette Strategy?

While card counting is considered by many to be a good blackjack strategy, in roulette there is no equivalent. Again, the results are random, so no strategy can be applied.

Some people bet in patterns or let the last result dictate their next bet, but even if it seems like this is working for them for a while it is purely coincidental and will stop working eventually.

Which Version of Roulette Should I Play?

On a purely mathematical basis you should stick to French roulette if you can find it, because the single zero coupled with the en prison or la partage rule give the casino a much smaller advantage.

Generic European roulette is your next best bet, while American roulette has an extra zero which doubles the house edge, so this should be avoided. Obviously though, you can play whichever version of the game you like, and there are lots of variations around online.

If you are playing the game online, many websites offer a free demo version of their games, so this is a great way to figure out which one you might prefer.

What are the Best Roulette Bets?

This all depends on what you want from your roulette experience. Outside bets will see you winning small amounts more often so your bank roll will fluctuate more gently and maybe last longer too.

Inside bets won’t win as often but will pay out much more when they do, so you might see your bank roll get eaten away before rocketing back up – if you don’t run out of cash first.

The house edge is the same on all roulette bets at 2.70%, so in that sense all bets are equal.