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Imagine this: While visiting in New Jersey, some players head Atlantic City for a night of fun. Thinking themselves well versed in gambling, they head straight for the blackjack tables. Using a betting strategy one had developed specifically for use in Atlantic City games, there soon was nothing but two $5 chips left! Undaunted, the visitors went to the roulette wheel and laid them down on number 36. Amazingly, the tourist won, beating 1 in 38 odds. We’ll look a little closer at the game, the odds, and a few ways that might help you snag a similar prize.

Where Roulette Began

Roulette is one of the few games of chance that many find romantic. It conjures images of elaborate casinos in faraway places, and the chance to wager small fortunes on the spin of a wheel. That strategy might be more lucrative in a game of European roulette. American roulette is a bit more difficult.

A spinning wheel and a ball provides the element of chance in roulette. The wheels are marked with numbers from 1 to 36. On a European wheel, there is an additional marking for a 0. This gives the players 1 chance in 37 to bet on a winning number. Though the American wheel includes the 0 mark, it also has a 00 mark, raising the odds of the game to 1 in 38. Because of this increased difficulty, a European wheel might be your best bet.

Roulette is a public game. You have the opportunity to test your mettle with groups of other gamblers, rather than remain alone at a slot machine.

How To Play Roulette

In roulette, each player exchanges his or her gaming chips or cash for colored roulette chips. The individualized colors allow both the croupiers and other players to identify the bets on the table.

A simple game of chance, the object of roulette is to predict where the ball will land on the wheel. You select a number between 1 and 37 for a European game, 38 for an American game, and place the corresponding bet on the roulette table. The layout of the table offers both specific number bets, and also wagers on other possible outcomes at lower odds. The table is usually situated right next to wheel, though sometimes two tables may be separated by a single wheel.

Roulette wheels never stop spinning. The only time they’ll speed up is when the game is about to begin. A small ball is released along the outer edge of the wheel after the speed up, traveling in the opposite direction. You have until the wheel slows down and the ball drops onto the wheel to place your bets. The ball will drop randomly into one of the 37 or 38 slots on the wheel. The resulting number is the winner.

While the Wheel Spins

The tiniest imperfection can skew an entire roulette wheel, upsetting the entire balance of the game. The numbers coming up would be slightly less random. For this reason, the precise instrument of this game, the wheel, is maintained meticulously. Some are even kept in plastic cases to prevent potential damage. If a wheel is unbalanced, players will pick up on numbers that begin to win frequently. This would cost the casino money, so they protect their roulette wheels with much care.

An American roulette wheel is divided into 38 numbered slots: 1-36, 0 and 00. The 36 numbered slots are split between two colors, half red and half black. The 0 and 00 are placed on opposite sides of the wheel, and are always colored green. The numbered slots are situated around the wheel in pairs of even and odd numbers. This pattern doesn’t seem to have any logical sequence at first glance. However, the numbers are actually arranged in a way that balances all aspects of them—odd, even, high, low—are mathematically balanced.

Table the Bets

A roulette table offers spots for a maximum of six players. The layout of the betting table covers every possible outcome for a spin of the wheel, allowing players to bet on every aspect of the game at various odds of winning. The numbers 1 through 36 are arranged into 3 columns, each with 12 rows in numerical order. The color of each number on the table corresponds with the number’s color on the wheel.

The Business of Betting

Casinos often set betting limits for their table games. This limit indicates the minimum and maximum allowed for each bet. These limits vary from game to game, and sometimes even table to table.

Roulette offers nine different types of bets. There are six kinds of bets known as inside bets, and three known as outside bets. The betting limits for outside and inside bets are usually different, set separately by the casino. The croupier will tell you the betting limit of the table, if it’s not listed on a card near the wheel.

Specific rules exist concerning how bets are placed in a game of roulette. Payouts also vary with each type of bet, since each bet offers different odds. As long as you keep your bets within the minimum and maximum for the table, you’re allowed to place as many as you like. Bets can placed at any point during play, until the ball drops onto the wheel. This might seem like the perfect game for betting on every possible number, but that’s just not true. You can assure of getting at least some money pushed your way, but ultimately that form of betting will eat away at your bankroll.

Placing Inside Bets

Inside bets refer to all the bets you can make on the inside of the table layout, covering the number 1 through 36, 0, 00, and any combination thereof. A straight bet on a single number is the simplest, and also yields the highest odds. Single number bets are paid out 35 to 1, meaning a $1 dollar winning bet will pay out $35. Not only is the prize huge, but you keep the money you bet. That $1 just became $36!

A two-number bet is called a split bet. This bet covers two numbers and pays out at 17 to 1, just under half a single number bet. A split bet can only be placed on two adjacent numbers on the layout. Place your chip on the line separating the two numbers to indicate a split bet. You can compensate for the lower payout by betting more. A $2 split bet on 7 and 8 will pay out $36, just like a $1 bet on 7 and 8 separately would.

A three-number bet is known as a street bet, allowing you to cover three numbers across a row. With a payout of 11 to 1, it’s not a bad option; a $3 bet would yield you the same $36. That’s $33 in winnings, plus your original $3. Place your chip on the outside line at the start of the row if you want to try a street bet. A four-number bet has many names, sometimes called a quarter, square or corner bet, and allows you to cover four numbers on the wheel. The numbers converge on the table layout and pays 8 to 1. A winning $4 square bet will let you keep the bet, and pay out an additional $32.

There’s only a single five-number bet in roulette, which covers 00, 0, 1, 2, and 3. It pays 6 to 1, and you can indicate this bet by placing your chip on the line dividing 0 and 1, although you may want to place it elsewhere. This just happens to be the worst bet in the entire game. We’ll discuss why later.

The final inside bet is the six-number line bet. Allowing 11 possible variations, you make this bet by placing your chip on the line between the two rows you want to cover, at the start of the rows. Paying out 5 to 1, it’s not a bad option for covering six possible outcomes.

Outside Bets

Bets available along the outside of the layout are known as the outside bets. These bets exclude the 0, 00, and numbered bets in the center of the playing area, though they do offer even-money, dozen, and column wagers.

Even-money bets come in three varieties, all paying out 1 to 1:

  • High outside bets cover numbers 19 through 36, and are made by placing a chip on the 19 to 36. To cover number 1 through 18, place a chip on the 1 to 18 spot for a low bet.
  • The red and black spots allow bets on the color outcome of the spin, rather than the numbers.
  • Though 0 and 00 are not included in this bet, you may also bet on whether the winning number will be even or odd.

Even-money bets aren’t sure things. Because these bets don’t cover the zeros, the odds on this type of wager are actually 18 in 20, rather than a straight 50-50.

Column bets cover all the numbers in a single column and pay 2 to 1. To make this bet, place your chip on the 2 to 1 spot at the bottom of your selected column.

If 12-number bets appeal to you, but you don’t want to make a column bet, try a dozen bet. For these wagers the 36 numbers are divided into three groups, 1-12, 13-24, and 25-36. Like columns, these bets also pay 2 to 1. Placing this bet is easy; simply drop a chip on one of the spots labeled 1st 12, 2nd 12, or 3rd 12.

Winning Odds for Roulette

We’ve covered how to place the various bets in a game of roulette, now let’s examine the odds. American wheels have 38 spots, allowing for a 1/38 chance at winning a straight number bet. Since each spin is independent, that doesn’t mean every number comes up every 38 spins, either. The drop of the ball is entirely random, so that the same can come up twice in a row, or not show up the entire time you play.

The odds of hitting your specific number bet stand at 1 in 37, or 1/38. All things being equal, the payout should be 37 to 1, suggesting a $1 should get you $37. We know, however, that this isn’t the case.

Roulette single number wins only pay out 35 to 1. The house doesn’t pay out the true odds, instead of keeping $2 of a winning straight bet. Known as the house edge, that $2 in 38 spins amount to 5.26 percent of every dollar the wagered in the game. This holds true for any game of roulette using an American wheel. The only change is on the five-number bet, which amounts to 7.29 percent, making it the worst bet available on the table. Don’t let the edge scare you off, though. Just remember that the house edge is how the casino makes money, and limit your time accordingly. Too much with a 5.26 percent loss rate could leave you high and dry.

It Pays to Play the European Wheel

The European roulette might seem more adventurous to some roulette players. Lacking the 00 slot of the American wheel, the European wheel offers true odds at 1in 37, making things more enticing. Though it still pays only 35 to 1 for a winning straight bet, the odds are a little more in your favor. Because of the lower odds, the house edge on a European wheel is only 2.63 percent, versus the American wheel’s 5.26. Also, without the 00 spot, there’s no way to be tempted by the five-number bet, the worst wager you could make!


European roulette games have influenced their American counterparts by introducing an option called Surrender. Available only on even-money bets, surrendering amounts to basically losing only half their bet if a 0 or 00 comes up. Always ask the croupier if Surrender is available at the table before you start playing.

Let’s say you make an Odd bet, but the ball drops into the 0. Without the option to Surrender, that money is completely gone. With Surrender as an option, the player’s bet stays on the Odd bet for the next spin if it doesn’t win. If the next spin yields an odd number, the player takes back their original bet rather receiving a payout. But if the number is a zero, or even, the bet is lost.

This option gives a little more edge to the player, since the house edge drops to 2.63 on an American wheel and 1.65 on a European.

Time to Play

Now you’ve learned the facts for playing roulette. Remember, ask the croupier if you ever have any questions about placing bets and pay outs.

And remember…

  • Always choose the European single-zero wheel over the American wheel if given the choice.
  • Never place a five-number bet. The odds just aren’t worth it.
  • Maximize excitement by placing a straight-up single number bet, rather than scatter bets across the entire table.
  • Stick to your limit. If you’ve had enough roulette fun or your bankroll runs out, walk away.
  • Save up and head for Europe if roulette really interests you.


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