Roulette is undoubtedly one of the most popular casino games around. Any respectable land-based casino will have at least a few roulette tables, and online casino sites can offer both virtual and live dealer versions. The thrill of the spinning wheel and many betting options intrigue a lot of players who are interested in testing the game for free or playing it with real money.
If you are new to the game or want to learn more about it, you've come to the right place. Here we will give a brief introduction to the history, gameplay, and different versions of roulette so that you can feel confident hitting the tables.
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History of roulette
The game of roulette has a long history that dates all the way back to the 17th century. It is believed that a mathematician named Blaise Pascal invented a primitive form of the roulette wheel in his search for a perpetual motion machine. The wheel mechanism was combined with an Italian game named Biribi to create the first versions of roulette. The French name roulette means "little wheel", displaying the importance of the wheel in the game.
The first versions of roulette were introduced in Paris in the 18th century. From there, the wheel and gameplay were improved before being introduced to other European countries and beyond. In the 19th century, the game spread all over Europe and the US as one of the most popular casino games offered. New versions were introduced and the game became a staple at any casino opening around the world. And with the introduction of online casinos, roulette made its way online – first as a virtual, video-generated game and later as a live casino game streamed in real-time too.
How roulette works
While roulette has evolved a lot over the years, the basic setup and aim of the game have remained the same. First of all, it is important to know that roulette is a game of chance. This means that no matter what previous outcomes have been or what any strategies might imply, the result will always be 100% random.
Looking at the setup of the game, there are a few components to know about:
- The roulette wheel. This is the spinning wheel which has 37 or 38 pockets that are all colored and numbered. A small ball will drop into one of the pockets to reveal the winning number and color of the round.
- The pill (ball). This is a small ball that is normally white or ivory. The ball is dropped into the spinning wheel and spins around until it loses its momentum and drops into a pocket on the wheel.
- The layout. The cloth-covered betting area, often in green, is known as the layout. This is where different bets can be placed by putting down chips.
- The croupier. The person (dealer) who takes bets, spins the wheel, announces winners etc.
How to play roulette
There are a few components to keep track of, but the gameplay itself is quite simple. The aim of the game is to correctly guess the outcome of the spin. This means that you are meant to guess in which pocket the ball lands once it loses its momentum. But players do not have to guess a specific number, as there are a lot of different bets to choose from.
In roulette, the bets are sorted into what is known as "inside bets" and "outside bets". As a beginner, it can be a good idea to start with outside bets. These bets typically come with better odds of winning, though the payout will consequently be smaller. Some outside bets to check out include:
- High or low: Betting that the ball will either land in one of the high numbers (19-36) or low numbers (1-18).
- Red or black: Betting whether the pocket where the ball lands will be colored red or black.
- Odd or even: Betting whether the pocket where the ball lands will be an odd number (for example 1) or an even number (for example 2).
There are also more outside bets as well as a lot of inside bets that can be placed. Once you know what you would like to bet on, simply place your chips on the layout and wait for the croupier to spin the wheel. If your bet wins, you will get a payout correlating to the odds of the bet.
Types of roulette
The overall design, layout and wheel can differ slightly depending on which version of the game you are playing. The wheel will normally have 37 or 38 pockets, numbered from 1–36, and with one or two zero-pockets. The version will also determine the bets available and the odds and payout for each bet, as can be seen below.
European roulette can be seen as the traditional form of roulette. In this version, the wheel has a total of 37 pockets. This includes one green pocket of 0, 18 red pockets and 18 black pockets. The house edge is lower in this version than in American roulette, giving the following odds and payouts on some example bets:
|Bet||Odds of winning||Payout|
|0 (inside)||2.70%||35 to 1|
|Straight (inside, a single number)||2.70%||35 to 1|
|Split (inside)||5.40%||17 to 1|
|Street (inside)||8.10%||11 to 1|
|Corner (inside)||10.80%||8 to 1|
|Odd (outside)||48.60%||1 to 1|
|Even (outside)||48.60%||1 to 1|
|Red (outside)||48.60%||1 to 1|
|Black (outside)||48.60%||1 to 1|
|1-18 (outside)||48.60%||1 to 1|
|19-36 (outside)||48.60%||1 to 1|
American roulette is based on European roulette but the wheel is slightly different. Here, there are a total of 38 pockets, due to an additional green 00 pocket. This additional pocket raises the house edge and therefore the odds are more in favor of the casino:
|Bet||Odds of winning||Payout|
|0 (inside)||2.60%||35 to 1|
|00 (inside)||2.60%||35 to 1|
|Straight (inside, a single number)||2.60%||35 to 1|
|Split (inside)||5.30%||17 to 1|
|Street (inside)||7.90%||11 to 1|
|Corner (inside)||10.50%||8 to 1|
|Odd (outside)||47.40%||1 to 1|
|Even (outside)||47.40%||1 to 1|
|Red (outside)||47.40%||1 to 1|
|Black (outside)||47.40%||1 to 1|
|1-18 (outside)||47.40%||1 to 1|
|19-36 (outside)||47.40%||1 to 1|
A final version of roulette worth noting is so-called French roulette. This is a version based on European roulette (one 0 pocket) that comes with some additional rules called La Partage and En Prison. The "La Partage" rule gives half the bet back to players who place even-chance bets if the ball lands on zero. With the "En Prison" rule, even-chance bets are placed "in prison" (staying on the layout) until the next spin if the ball lands on zero. This gives players a second chance to win their bet.
While these three versions are the most known variants, the rise of online casinos has also introduced lots of new variants of virtual and live roulette. This can include quick games, games with several balls in play, games with unique bonuses and so on. It is therefore best to first master one of the traditional types and understand the rules before diving into the world of creative and fun variants available.