How to play roulette
If there’s one game that’s proved its staying power in the gambling world, it’s roulette. Those mesmerizing wheels have been a casino mainstay since their development in early-1700s France, and the game has remained fundamentally unchanged in three centuries since. Somewhat ironically, historians believe that the pioneering mathematician/scientist Blaise Pascal himself invented an early form of the roulette wheel when he was trying to create a perpetual motion machine. Though he didn’t succeed in achieving perpetual motion, he might be surprised that the contraption he was tinkering with has, in a sense, been spinning for more than 300 years and is showing no signs of slowing down.
For a quick overview of the game, have a look at Real Dealer’s video explainer, ‘Vinnie Jones: Roulette in 60 Seconds’. If you prefer a more detailed tutorial, read on.
As casino games go, roulette is fairly straightforward and easy to learn. There’s a spinning wheel, a ball that’s rolled around the wheel’s rim and 37 places where that ball can land. That’s numbers 1 to 36 in red and black, and a green zero.
Your only job as the player is to make bets at the beginning of the round by placing your chips on the betting board. You do this before hitting the ‘spin’ button or, if you’re in a land-based casino, before the croupier calls out ‘No more bets’.
After that, it’s all about waiting in wide-eyed anticipation until the ball falls into one of the pockets and you get your result.
What makes this game interesting is the betting. There’s a wide range of bets to choose from, each with its own degree of risk and payout.
How the betting works
You can make multiple bets in any combination, and each bet is resolved independently. So you could, for example, bet on just Red. Or bet on Red and on 27. Or bet on Even and on 35 and on 36 with a corner bet on 11, 12, 14 and 15. Or place single-number bets on half the board. Several of your bets could be winners and several could be losers. Bear in mind that different types of bets often have different bet limits – the maximum allowed to bet on that position.
And that green zero? That’s the house edge. Any bet made on the round, unless it specifically covers the zero, loses.
American roulette, it’s important to point out, uses a different wheel. In addition to the 0 it also has a 00 that increases the house edge at the expense of the player.
This tutorial is based on standard European roulette, which is the most prevalent around the world. In addition to American roulette, there are other variations depending on locality and on game mechanics, so please keep these differences in mind when reading here.
Outside bets are the ones outside the numbers area on the betting board. These have lower payouts, but also lower risk.
These are made by placing chips on the labelled boxes at the base of the betting board. The payout is 1:1.
Red/Black – Just like the name says, it’s all about the colour. Pick the right one and you double your money.
Odd/Even – The same as Red/Black, but depending on whether the result is odd or even. If you look closely at the betting board, you’ll see it’s set up so that the odd and even numbers don’t match the colours. Before you ask, zero is not considered an even number.
Low/High – Another (almost) half-half division. Low means 1-18. High means 19-36.
Dozen bets are another way to divide the field of numbers, this time into three big groups: 1 – 12, 13-24 and 25-36. Place chips on the boxes labelled ‘1st 12’, ‘2nd 12’, or ‘3rd 12’. Winning bets pay out 2:1.
Column bets are much like the dozens, but you place your chips at the right end of the betting board to bet on your column of choice. These are indeed columns if you’re looking at the roulette table from the right side.
Inside bets are bets on smaller groups of numbers inside the numbers area of the betting board. These have higher payouts, but they’re riskier than the outside bets.
Line Bet (Double Street)
This six-number bet covers two adjacent horizontal rows (again, from the perspective of the right side of the betting board). For instance, it can cover 1,2,3, 4, 5 and 6, or 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21. Place the chip halfway into the numbers area where the two rows meet. The payout is 5:1.
The Square Bet, also known as a Corner Bet, is a bet on any four adjacent numbers, like 1, 2, 4 and 5. As the name implies, you make this bet by placing your chips on the corner where all the numbers meet. The payout is 8:1.
A variation of the square bet that includes 0, 1, 2 and 3 is called a Top Line or a Basket. For this one, your chip goes between 0 and 3 and across the edge of the numbers area.
Rows of three numbers like 1, 2, 3 or 4, 5, 6 are referred to as ‘streets’ in roulette, and winning street bets pay out 11:1. To make the bet, place the chip across the bottom of the row.
This is essentially a street bet that includes 0. There are only two options: 0, 1, 2 and 0, 2, 3. The bet is made by putting a chip where the three numbers join up.
With a payout of 17:1, the split bet is the second-highest paying bet possible. It’s essentially a Straight Up bet (see next) that’s been divided between two numbers, splitting the risk and the potential reward. The chip goes on the line between the two numbers.
Straight Up (Single)
Just like you’ve seen in the movies, where someone walks up to the roulette table with a pile of chips and says, ‘put it all on 31 black.’ The Straight Up bet is the most classic bet of the game and pays out 35:1.
Tried all the standard bets and looking for something more? This is where special bets come in. There’s no real mystery to them – special bets are just set combinations of the standard bets, usually Straight Ups or Splits, that players find fun and interesting. In Real Dealer games, special bets are accessed by opening the drawer on the user interface and clicking the star icon.
Sometimes called a Red Snake, this slithering combo is made of 12 Straight Up bets laid out like – you guessed it – a snake. That’s 1, 5, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 23, 27, 30, 32 and 34, all of which are red.
The bet of choice for those who prefer their martinis shaken, not stirred, this 21-chip combo covers most of the board with Straight Ups and Splits in a way that would make Ian Flemming proud.
Zero Game, aka Zero Spiel or Jeu Zero, is type of neighbours bet (see Racetrack bets, below) that covers 0, the four numbers to its left on the wheel, and the two numbers on its right. It does this with Splits on 0-3, 12-15 and 32-35 along with a Straight Up on 26.
Finals are bets on numbers with the same final digit. These come in three varieties:
Finale Plein – Straight Up bets on all the numbers with the same final digit. For example, a Finale Plein bet on 4 also covers 14, 24 and 34.
Finale Cheval – Sometimes called Finales a Cheval, this variation involves pairs of final numbers and places Split bets on them wherever they appear next to one another on the board. So a Finale Cheval on 1/4 will be Split bets on 1-4, 11-14, 21-24 and 31-34.
Finale Cheval/Plein – A mix of the above two bet types. As with the Finale Cheval, a pair of final numbers is chosen. Split bets are placed on them wherever they appear next to one another on the board and Straight Up bets are placed on them where they don’t. Here’s an example with 4/5.
Racetrack bets, sometimes called ‘French bets’, are a class of special bets designed to cover specific sections of the wheel or groups of numbers next to each other on the wheel. These bets are made by switching to the racetrack betting board, an alternative betting board with an oval (racetrack) shape that mirrors the wheel’s layout.
Note that bets made with the racetrack board still end up as bets or combinations of bets on the main board, so they must conform to what’s possible there.
Les Voisins du Zero
Meaning ‘Neighbours of Zero’, this 9-chip bet covers nearly half the wheel, specifically the 17 numbers stretching from 22 to 25, with 0 roughly in the middle. It does this by placing two chips on the 0, 2, 3 Trio bet, two chips on the 25, 26, 28, 29 Square (Corner) bet, and one each on the following Splits: 4-7, 12-15, 18-21, 19-22 and 32-35.
Tiers du Cylindre
True to its name (almost), the Third of the Wheel bet covers the 12-number section of the wheel from 27 to 33. It does this with six Split bets, in this case on 5-8, 10-11, 13-16, 23-24, 27-30 and 33-36.
Les Orphelins, or the orphans, are the eight numbers not covered by Les Voisins du Zero or Tiers du Cylindre. These are the two small sections of the wheel from 17 to 6 and from 1 to 9. It consists of five bets: A Straight Up bet on 1 and the following Splits: 6-9, 14-17, 17-20 and 31-34.
If you want to place a Straight Up bet on a particular number on the racetrack plus its neighbours on both the right and left, this is the bet for you. The traditional Neighbours bet is five chips – your chosen number plus the next two on each side. In Real Dealer’s games, you can choose how far you want to extend your bets on either side of your number, from 1 (3 Straight Up bets) to 9 (19 Straight Up bets).
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