Bets are down, the ball is released, and players wait with bated breath, mesmerised by the spinning sound and all the possibility it holds: Come on little wheel, show me the magic! Guide the ball to my number!
The excitement of a casino is incomplete without the roulette table – an iconic symbol of gambling across the globe. In this guide to roulette, we including some rules, types and variations, as well as suggestions for play strategies.
Roulette is one of the oldest casino games played today. As with some of the greatest inventions, it was kind of an accident: In 1655, French inventor Blaise Pascal was trying to invent a perpetual motion machine (a machine that can go on without an external source of energy). His experiment was not a success, but it resulted in the beginning of roulette, which means ‘little wheel’ in French.
Roulette has been around in its current form since the late eighteenth century, and its popularity hasn’t waned one bit. The thrill and excitement of playing roulette has endured, and it can be enjoyed in several variations in a live setting, or online.
Purpose of the game
Roulette is played on a game table that includes a betting surface and a spinning wheel. The dealer initiates play by spinning the wheel and then releasing a small ball that bounces around until it finds a place to settle.
Your aim is to guess where the ball will land and bet on that, in one of a few ways. It is a game of chance, especially nowadays, with many casinos giving up the physical wheel in favour of an electronic, algorithm-driven wheel. Using this method eliminates any potential table or wheel bias from creeping in.
Roulette is one of the easiest games to play: all you need to do is choose how to place your bet. Once all bets are placed, the croupier, or dealer, spins the wheel and releases the ball. When the ball lands in one of the spaces on the wheel, anyone who has placed a correct bet, wins.
The table is laid out in a grid of three columns of 12 numbers, from 1 to 36, in alternating red and black squares. Around this grid, there are various blocks, known as outside bets, for number groupings like odd/even, red/black, columns, and other ranges. Topping off the whole grid is the number 0 – in American roulette, there’s also a 00.
The main part of game play is in deciding how to bet. You can select from single numbers, small groupings of individual numbers, or any of the outside bet options. If your chosen bet wins, you get paid out according to the type of bet you placed.
Roulette scores, or payouts, vary according to the type of bet. There is a significant difference between the multipliers on inside and outside bets. This is because the risk is considerably higher when playing just one number. Wins are paid out as follows:
Straight up (single number)
35 to 1
Split (two numbers)
17 to 1
Street (three numbers)
11 to 1
Corner (four numbers)
8 to 1
Columns (both 12 numbers)
2 to 1
Red (all 18 numbers)
1 to 1
As you can see, it’s possible to play multiple different bets and still win on a single spin of the wheel. For example, if you place a bet on each of the number 5, odds, and red, if the ball lands on 5, you win all three bets. If it lands on a different, odd red number, you will win those two bets.
0 and 00 are the house numbers. You may bet on them, and you will win at 35 to 1 if it lands here, but the house wins and all other bets lose if the ball lands here.
The only major variation in roulette is around the house numbers. The traditional French game has only the single 0 as a house number, while the American version includes the second house number, 00. As a result, the wheels’ layout differs slightly.
In addition to the bets we listed in the scoring section, individual casinos may have additional betting options.
Today, there are two primary versions of the game, namely the American and French versions. These can be played in a bricks-and-mortar casino, or online, with a live dealer and other players, or you can play video roulette against the system-driven game.
In a live game setting, the dealer can use either a traditional table with a physical wheel and ball, or a table with an electronic wheel. For live dealer online games, it is primarily the electronic version. Video roulette is purely electronic.
As roulette is a game of chance, there’s nothing you can do to affect the outcome. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t betting strategies that can help you maximise your winnings.
Lower-risk bets may pay out much lower but there is an increased chance of winning. High-risk bets have low odds, but their payout is far higher. How you play will vary according to your risk appetite.
Play complementary bets. For example, if you choose a single number, try betting on its colour and grouping as well. This way, even if your chosen number doesn’t come up, you still have two chances to win.
Don’t play contradictory bets. For example, it is counter-productive to place a bet on both red and black during a single spin. While one is guaranteed to win, the other is guaranteed to lose and, as this bet only pays out 1 to 1, you will come out even with no win or loss.
Straight up: a single number between 1 and 36
Split: two adjacent numbers
Street: any row of three numbers
Corner: four adjacent numbers that form a square
Dozens: numbers 1 to 12, 13 to 24, and 25 to 36
Columns: the left, centre and right columns, each including 12 non-sequential numbers
High: numbers 1 to 18
Low: numbers 19 to 36
Odd: all odd numbers
Even: all even numbers
Black: all numbers on a black square
Red: all numbers on a red square
Roulette is a simple but exciting and fun game to play. If you’ve never played before, it may take some time to develop your own playing style. Thankfully, most online casinos have free-to-try versions of video roulette games that can help you get used to the game and how it works. Most importantly, remember that roulette is a game of chance, and just enjoy it for the thrill!