Roulette is one of the most popular games of chance that you will find in a casino. But does winning at roulette require just luck or is there a way to win serious money playing it? Read our guide to roulette to find out all you need to know.
History of roulette
Roulette is a French name and it translates literally as ‘little wheel’. The first roulette wheel was used in France in the early 18th century after Blaise Pascal inadvertently created a primitive version whilst attempting to create a perpetual motion machine.
Roulette wheels as we know them today began being used in 1796 in Paris. Players came from far and wide to play the game in the French capital’s gambling houses and the game spread throughout Europe as popularity increased.
In the 19th century, many Europeans emigrated to America and the game of roulette went with them. It was soon a popular game with gamblers on Mississippi riverboats and in the casinos of Las Vegas.
The rules of roulette
Roulette is simply about correctly guessing where the ball which the dealer drops into the wheel will end up when the wheel stops. A roulette wheel contains the numbers 1-36. Each number is either red or black and the wheel has a red-black-red-black pattern of numbers within it. The exception to this is the zero (or double zero) which is green. The numbers on a roulette wheel or not in numerical order.
A player chooses the outcome they wish to bet on and places their chips on the table accordingly. There are several potential outcomes which players can bet on, many of them with different odds. All bet types are clearly marked on the table and it is quite easy to see where chips should be placed.
You can place a bet before the wheel starts to spin and even once it is spinning, up until the point that the dealer says, “no more bets” and releases the ball into the wheel.
The main bets in roulette are:
Single number bet
This is a bet placed on just one number on the wheel. Place your chips on that number.
Combination of numbers bet
You can bet on any combination of two or more numbers. This is done by placing your chips on several numbers, or if the numbers are next to each other on the table, placing your chips so that they are half on each number in the case of betting on two numbers, or a quarter on each when betting on four numbers.
The numbers are arranged in three columns on the table. Place your chips in the box below the column you wish to bet on.
Here you choose to bet that the winning number will be either 1-12, 13-24 or 25-36.
Outside bets are very popular among heavy-hitters. The odds are lower, but the chance of winning is much higher. The available outside bets are red or black; 1-18 or 19-36 (also known as high or low); and odd or even.
Roulette variants and pay-outs
There are three main types of roulette which can be found at most online and offline casinos.
This is the most popular and widely-played version of roulette. The numbers are 1-36 and there is a green 0 on the wheel as well. The zero is there primarily to give the house an edge, although it is possible to bet on this number if you wish.
An American roulette wheel is identical to the European wheel, but with one exception. This is the green double zero (00). This is positioned exactly opposite the single zero (0) on the roulette wheel. As with European roulette, the purpose of both zeros is to give the house advantage and you can bet on either or both if you want to.
French roulette is for all intents and purposes the same game as European roulette. There is, however, one fundamental difference which players can take advantage of. French roulette has a unique rule known as ‘la partage’. If you bet on one of the outside bets and the ball then lands on zero, la partage dictates that you get half your stake returned to you (‘la partage’ means ‘the divide’). Some French roulette games offer an additional rule known as ‘en prison’. This also applies to the even money outside bets. Again, it comes into play if the ball lands on zero when you have backed one of these outcomes. Your stake is then frozen for the next round (‘en prison’ literally means ‘in prison’). If the outcome you originally bet on happens in the next round, your full stake is returned to you.
Here are the standard odds on each possible bet which can be placed in the game of roulette, from lowest odds to highest:
|Red or black||1/1|
|Odd or even||1/1|
|1-18 or 19-36||1/1|
|1-12, 13-24 or 25-36||2/1|
|Column of 12 numbers||2/1|
|6 number combination||5/1|
|5 number combination||6/1|
|4 number combination||8/1|
|3 number combination||11/1|
|2 number combination||17/1|
Because roulette is effectively a game of chance, there is no recognised way of playing which guarantees a win. There are, however, several tactics you can adopt in order to improve your chances.
Play the outside bets
The odds on these bets is significantly lower than betting on single numbers, but there is a much greater chance of winning. The chance of winning on an outside bet is slightly below 50/50 due to the presence of the zero (or double zero) and theoretically, you should win around 50% of the time.
A roulette table always displays the result of the most recent spins, sometimes showing the last 10 or 20 results. Sometimes you might notice a pattern of numbers from a similar part of the wheel winning more often than others. This can be be=cause of a dealer signature – a kind of muscle memory on the dealer’s part whereby he or she releases the ball in the same way and at the same time for each spin, resulting in similar winning numbers being returned.
A dealer signature can only occur at a real casino table, so it might be observed if you played roulette in a casino’s live games section. You will not notice a dealer signature if you play a video game version of roulette.
Double up your stake
This is a way of playing that works best on the even money outside bets (red or black; high or low; odd or even). The idea is that you place your desired bet with the desired stake (called base stake). If you win, you continue to play with the base stake, but if you lose you double your stake for the next spin of the wheel. The stake can increase dramatically after several losses (eg. $1, $2, $4, $8, $16 after just five spins), but you always drop down to the base stake again following a win (in this case $10 is the vase stake). This is known as the Martingale system.
Another mathematical system for betting on outside bets in roulette is the Fibonacci system. This works in a slightly different way to the Martingale and employs what mathematicians refer to as the Fibonacci Sequence.
This sequence of numbers is:
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144
It is less risky than doubling after a loss and it takes longer before the stakes get ridiculously high. The difference here is that after a win, you don’t drop back down to the beginning of the sequence again. Instead, you move back two places to the left after a win (if you were still on 1, then you would continue on 1).
Both these systems are dependent on casino table limits. Not every table will allow you to keep doubling up indefinitely following multiple losses. Always check the limit at a table before employing one of these mathematical roulette systems.
Roulette in popular cultural
The first reference to roulette in literature came in the French novel, La Roulette, ou le Jour by Jacques Lablee in the late 18th century. Since then it is a game which has been played by Ian Flaming’s James Bond – although he was more of a baccarat man, generally speaking – and there is even a DC Comics superhero called Roulette who is a mathematical genius.
As for film, roulette makes an appearance in the 1942 Humphrey Bogart classic, Casablanca. It also features in 1993’s Indecent Proposal where Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore lose their savings on the game before Robert Redford offers them a slightly ‘interesting’ way to recoup their losses.
Advantages of playing roulette online
Playing roulette at an online casino means you can play the game any time of day from the comfort of your own home. This can be good for night owls or those who don’t live within travelling distance of a casino. Also, thanks to the development of mobile technology, it is possible to play roulette anywhere on your smartphone or tablet if you have a strong enough internet connection.
Staking limits are another advantage of online roulette. Some online casinos allow players to stake as little as $0.10 on a single number bet, whereas in many bricks and mortar casinos you might struggle to find a table that lets you stake as little as $1 on the same bet. The same can be said for outside bets. Most online casinos will allow an outside bet of $1, whereas many offline casinos may have a $10 minimum for such a bet. For players who prefer to gamble with smaller amounts of money, online casinos are perfect.
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