A thoroughly glamorous gambling pursuit, no other casino game has more glitz or sparkle than the one with the spinning wheel.
Like most casino games, modern Roulette was first developed in pre-revolution France, really took off thanks to its exportation to the American gambling mecca of Las Vegas, and has experienced a rebirth and newfound global popularity thanks to the inception of the online and mobile gaming eras.
Roulette's exact origins are believed to be from Roman times, when people would should arrows into gaps in a wheel and place bets on which of the gaps they would land. The ancient Greeks and ancient Chinese are said to have played similar games - in the Chinese version, the wheel game was actually a method of torture!
Like today, two versions of roulette were popular around the turn of the 17th century. The Italians played a game named Hoka, in which players rolled a ball into one of 40 holes or cups. Players won if the ball landed in their hole, but the house won if it fell in any of the three cups numbered "zero". The English version of the game produces the first evidence of odds and evens that are still used in modern roulette. There were 42 holes on a circular table - 20 odds, 20 evens, and two for the house.
In the 17th century, a French mathematician and philosopher named Blaise Pascal invented the roulette wheel and gave it its name - which means "little wheel" in French. The game spread throughout Europe and gained rapid popularity when it appeared in gambling dens throughout Germany and later Monaco in the late 19th century. Like Baccarat and a number of other popular gambling games of the time, it was particularly popular with the royalty and nobility. In fact, the single "0" Roulette Wheel was introduced when brothers Francois and Lois Blanc built a special table for King Charles III of Monaco. They figured out that adding the 0 gave the house the advantage.
European Roulette became a major source of income for Monaco and remains so this day, but the second popular version - American Roulette - appeared later in the century during the time of the gold rush. Europeans obviously exported the game to the new world, and it was in the USA that newly rich gold miners added the double zero to the table, changing roulette strategy forever.
Unlike card games like poker and blackjack, the flagship casino table game of Roulette remains more popular in Europe than in the US. Perhaps this is because Americans are more predisposed to playing cards while Europeans prefer table games, or perhaps this is because the European version of roulette gives the house a smaller advantage than its American counterpart.
Whatever the reasons, both European Roulette and American Roulette have experienced rebirths thanks to the growth of online casinos. Today every leading online casino offers both versions, along with new developments like Live Roulette, 3D Roulette and the slightly different "French Roulette".
As roulette was born in France, it goes without saying that many French words are used in the game. The terminology below is applicable to European and/or American roulette.
American Wheel: Roulette wheel with 38 numbers, as opposed to the European version which has 37. The American wheel has a 00 in addition to a 0, which increases the house's advantage.
Ball: The small white ball that spins around the roulette wheel before landing on a number.
Column Bet: A bet placed on a vertical column of 12 possible numbers (1-12, 13-24, 25-36). Winning bets are paid out at odds of 2:1. Also known as a "dozen bet", the French have a word for a bet on the last dozen numbers ("derniere") and first dozen numbers ("premiere 12").
Corner Bet: A bet placed on four possible numbers, which pays out at 8:1. Known as a "carré" in French.
Croupier: French name for the dealer who runs the roulette table. This name is also commonly used at online casinos and in land-based casinos in Vegas and other non-French speaking regions.
Double Zero: Alternative name for American Roulette table.
European Roulette: A table that has 36 numbers plus a single zero.
Even Bet: A wager placed on all the even numbers on the table. Known as "pair" in French.
Even Money Bet: Any wager that pays out at odds of 1:1. This could be any of red or black, odd or even, high or low.
Five Number Bet: A bet on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3 (on American Roulette tables only)
French Roulette: See European Roulette.
High/Low Bet: A high bet is a wager placed on numbers 19-36, while a low bet is on numbers 1-18. Known as "passé" and "manqué" in French.
Inside Bet: A bet on the inside area of the table, meaning a bet on the numbers.
Line Bet: A bet on a line of six numbers
Odd Bet: A bet on all odd numbers on the wheel, excluding 0. Known as "impair" in French.
Outside Bet: As opposed to an inside bet, a bet anywhere outside of the numbered area (such as red/black, odds/evens)
Split Bet: An inside bet covering two numbers ("Cheval").
Straight Up Bet: A bet placed on one number ("en plein" in French).
Street Bet: Outside bet covering a row of three numbers ("Transversale").
Wheel: The wheel used for roulette games.
Roulette is a casino table game in which players compete against the house. The aim of the game is to predict which slot the ball will fall into - it is that simple, there is no catch.
The average roulette table at a land-based casino will have space for up to eight players, although these distinctions don't matter at online casinos. The croupier (or dealer) accepts wagers, spins the roulette wheel and then organizes payouts depending on where the ball landed. This is true for both European Roulette, where there are 37 slots (36 numbers and zero) and American Roulette, where there are 38 slots (with an extra one for double zero).
Prior to each spin, players may place bets on any one number or group of numbers (such as lines, columns or corners), or on other options such as red or black (representing half the numbers each but not zero), odd or even (again, representing half the numbers each but not zero) and high or low (representing 1-18 or 19-36). Just before the ball drops, the croupier or online casino will inform you that they are not taking any more bets.
On a European Roulette table, the House advantage is 2.7%. On an American Roulette table, where there are two zeros (single and double), the advantage almost doubles to 5.26%.
Bets are paid out according to the following formulas:
A straight-up bet on one number only is paid out at 36:1 (or 37:1 or 38:1 if there is no house advantage).
A split bet on two numbers pays out at 17:1.
A street bet on three numbers pays 11:1.
A corner bet on four numbers pays 8:1.
A six-number bet pays 5:1.
A bet on a column or the outside dozen (12 numbers) pays 2:1
A bet on "outside" even money bets such as red/black, odds/evens or high/low pays 1:1.
Because Roulette is completely random and the House has a small advantage, there is no mathematical strategy for winning as there is in other games like poker or blackjack. Some people go with their lucky numbers, some rely on their intuition, while others follow simple strategies such as the Martingale, D'Alembert or James Bond - all of which are based around the even bet wagers such as red/black, odd/eve or high/low.
The Martingale is probably the most-used roulette strategy, as it relies on doubling bets after a loss to recoup previous losses. The strategy works on the philosophy that roulette is a 50/50 game of chance - if you only bet on a single color (red or black) and keep doubling your bets until you win, then once you win you are sure to recover all your losses. While this strategy has sound mathematic reasoning behind it, there are risks involved - if you choose black, red could keep coming up, and everyone has a limit to what they are willing to spend in pursuit of that black.
The D'Alembert is a little safer than the Martingale in that it requires the player to increase their bet by one after each loss and decrease it by one after each win. The key is to walk away once your amount of wins matches your amount of losses. If you are on a losing streak, wait until you start winning and get back to 50/50. If you are on a winning streak, don't wait until your losses match your wins to walk away and collect your cash.
The James Bond strategy is named so because it was invented by 007 creator Ian Fleming, who claimed the system was "Foolproof". This strategy is only for the bigger spenders, as it requires a minimum of $200. As opposed to the other systems, it goes for the column bets rather than the even-money bets. The idea is to place 70% of your money on high numbers, 25% on low numbers and 10% on the 0 (works only in European Roulette) for insurance. There is no guarantee of winning, but the odds seem to be in your favour - if you hit high or 0, you've won, but if you hit low then you've lost and should turn to another strategy.
- Roulette is a fun game for casino novices, but is important to know that it is purely a game of luck (not skill) and gives the House an advantage. If you're looking for some fun and the chance to win a bit of money, then roulette could be your thing, but if you're looking to make a career out of it then you're probably better of playing poker or blackjack (you never hear about professional roulette players!).
- As you can see from the strategies above, the best bets on the roulette tables are the "even money bets", those which pay out 1:1. The reward for other bets, such as a straight up bet on one number, are big, but the risks are larger too and you could be playing for a long time before you get lucky.
- If you're playing online and don't want to get stuck on one type of game, then try out American Roulette, European Roulette and its slight variation, French Roulette. They are based on the same principles, but with a few small differences.
- If you're in a land-based casino or an online casino which allows you to socialize with your fellow players, don't take any note of what they are doing. Unlike poker, the decisions of your fellow roulette players have no impact on your own results.
- As with other card or table games, we suggest practicing in free-money mode before playing the real thing. Most online casinos will allow you to play roulette for free, giving you some useful practice before you deposit real cash on the game.
- Relax and remember to have fun. This is a classic casino game that has entertained hundreds of millions of people through the ages, and we hope you get the same enjoyment out of it as well.