How to Play Roulette - All You Need to Know to Start Playing and Winning

How to Play Roulette

Roulette is one of the most popular casino games in the world. That applies not only in the world of traditional land-based casinos but also online. Having an understanding of the game is therefore essential for any self-respecting casino enthusiast, and in this How to Play Roulette guide we’ll tell you all you need to know.

After explaining where the game of roulette came from, we’ll discuss the format of the modern game and the type of bets that can be placed. We’ll then take you step-by-step through how to play, from placing your bets to receiving your winnings. With those essentials covered, you’ll go on to learn about some of the main roulette variations and how they differ.

As if all of the above wasn’t enough, we’ll also discuss Live Roulette, Mobile Roulette, and the important subject of the house edge in roulette. And if you just want to know how to win at roulette, we’ll share plenty of common strategies that many people use to try and do just that!

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A Brief History of Roulette

Learning how to play roulette is relatively easy. But being precise about the history of any casino game that has been around for more than a few decades is more difficult. That’s certainly the case with this game. Some say that a rudimentary version of roulette was invented by French physicist Blaise Pascal in the 17th century as he was exploring the idea of perpetual motion. 

Nobody can verify that rather charming story. However, we do know that the game was being played in France in the 18th century. It arrived in American in the 19th century and continued to grow in popularity in the 20th century. The game is currently enjoying something of a 21st-century renaissance thanks to its ubiquitous presence at online casinos.

How to Play Roulette - The Format

Roulette is a game that appeals to a broad range of players. It has a fairly simple format, and that makes it very accessible for beginners. At the same time, it also boasts a wide variety of betting possibilities. That means it never gets dull even for those who have been playing for years. In this part of our guide, we will discuss the three main elements of a roulette game. These are the wheel, the betting layout, and the croupier.

The Roulette Wheel

The roulette wheel is at the heart of the game. This is a wheel that spins horizontally, and it has a number of indented sections called wells. Each well has a number and a color. In a game of American Roulette, there are 38 wells. Two of them are colored green and are numbered 0 and 00. The remaining wells contain the numbers 1 to 36, although they do not appear on the wheel in consecutive order. The wells numbered 1 to 36 are colored either red or black, in equal quantities.

The Betting Layout

When you play roulette in a land-based casino, you place bets on a felt-covered table. This table covering shows all of the numbers featured on the wheel and has several other areas. Bets are made by placing a casino chip on the area of the layout that represents the outcome you want to bet on. We will discuss that a little later in the section on Bet Types.

The Croupier

At land-based casinos, the game of roulette is operated by a person who is called the croupier or dealer. This croupier oversees the placing of bets, spins the wheel, announces the winning number, and settles bets accordingly. 

The Online Format

When you play roulette at an online casino, the format is almost identical. The action will focus on a virtual roulette wheel and bets are placed on a graphical table layout. However, instead of the game being operated by a croupier, it is driven by sophisticated software which is designed to replicate the completely random nature of the game. That said, the game of Live Roulette at online casinos continues to use a human croupier, as we will explain later.

How to Play Roulette - Bet Types

We have already explained how bets are made by positioning chips on different areas of the table layout. Each area represents a different kind of bet offering different odds that reflect the chances of that bet succeeding. The main bets that can be placed, and the odds paid for success, are as follows:

Roulette Outside Bets

BETODDSDETAILS
1-181:1This is a bet that the next winning number will be within the range of 1 to 18.
EVEN1:1A bet that the next winning number will be an even one.
RED1:1Here you are betting that the color of the next winning number will be red.
BLACK1:1Similarly, this is a bet that the color of the new winning number will be black.
ODD1:1A bet that the next winning number will be an odd one.
19-361:1This is a bet that the next winning number will be within the range 19 to 36.
1st 122:1Here you are betting that the next winning number will be among the first 12 shown on the top four rows of the table layout.
2nd 122:1This is a bet that the next winning number will be among the second 12 shown on the middle four rows of the table layout.
3rd 122:1A bet that the next winning number will be among the third 12 shown on the bottom four rows of the table layout.
Columns2:1There are three vertical columns on the table layout, each containing 12 numbers. You can bet that the next winning number will be among those shown on a particular column.
Roulette Outside Bet Types

Roulette Inside Bets

BETODDSDETAILS
Line5:1This is a bet that the next winning number will be one of six covered by the line.
Corner8:1A bet on the spot where the corners of four numbers meet covers all of those numbers for the next spin.
Street11:1This bet covers three numbers in the same row for the next spin.
Straight Up35:1Place a chip on a single number and you are betting on that specific number for the next spin.
Roulette Inside Bet Types

How to Play Roulette - Procedure

Having discussed the format and bets, we can now turn our attention to how to play roulette from a procedural perspective. The game begins with players positioning their chips on the table layout to make their bets. When betting has ended, the croupier will spin the wheel. He will then introduce a small metal ball into the wheel from the opposing direction. 

The wheel is allowed to come to rest on its own. As it does so, the ball will eventually settle into a single well. The well which is occupied by the ball when the wheel comes to rest is then declared the winner. 

NOTE: If a green 0 or 00 is declared the winner, all bets not on those numbers will lose. This includes all bets on red, black, odd, even, the dozens, the columns, and so on. The green numbers can therefore be viewed as primarily working for the casino rather than for players.

At this point, the croupier will settle all winning bets and remove losing chips from the table. This clears the table layout in readiness for the next round.

Roulette Variations

For most of its history, roulette has been a fairly standard game with only a handful of variations, such as American, European and French. However, the advent of online casino gambling has given roulette a brand new lease of life, and there are now quite a few non-standard variations that can be played. Some of the most common variations that you will come across at both land-based and online casinos are detailed below.

American Roulette

This is considered the ‘standard’ roulette game in the US. For that reason, it’s the one that we have described in all previous sections of this guide. The main thing that sets it apart from other traditional versions of the game is that it has two green numbers on the wheel - 0 and 00.

European Roulette

The game of European Roulette is identical to American Roulette, except for the fact that it only has one green number on the wheel, which is 0. This means that there are only 37 wells on the wheel in total, with just one of them working on the casino’s behalf. It is this single zero which gives the casino a lower house edge than American Roulette.

French Roulette

French Roulette uses the same single-zero wheel as European Roulette, but it has two rules which make it distinctive. The first is the La Partage rule, which returns half of the stake on even money bets (such as red or black) when the green 0 is declared the winner. The second is the En Prison rule, which allows an even money bet to stand for the next spin when the green 0 is declared the winner.

Speed Roulette 

The game of Speed Roulette is a Live Roulette variation that is designed to give players more action per hour than they would enjoy in a regular game. Betting periods are kept much shorter - less than half a minute in most cases - so that the wheel is spun more often. This variation is best suited to experienced roulette players who fancy playing at a more exciting pace.

Multi-Wheel Roulette

This online casino variation uses a single betting layout. However, any bet that you make on that layout is then applied to the outcome of multiple wheels. In some Multi-Wheel Roulette games, your bet can apply to as many as eight wheels at once. This would obviously cost you multiple times the usual amount, but it also gives you multiple chances to win.

Lightning Roulette

This Live Roulette game from Evolution Gambling only pays 30:1 for a Straight Up bet. On a much more positive note, it selects anything from 1 to 5 Lucky numbers after all bets have been placed but before the wheel is spun. A multiplier value for each of those Lucky Numbers is also generated randomly, which increases winning bets on them by at least 50x and as much as 500x.

Other Variations

There are many other variations to explore at online casinos. Most of them retain the standard roulette game at their core, but then add an additional element, such as a side betting opportunity, to make things even more exciting.

How to Play Roulette - Live Roulette Online

It used to be the case that the only place where you could play roulette with a real-life croupier was at a land-based casino. When online casinos came along, the croupier was largely replaced by the software driving the games, and a virtual wheel was shown spinning instead of a real one. Today, however, you can also play Live Roulette games online. These are games that are designed to give you the closest thing possible to a land-based experience from the comfort of your own home.

To accomplish this feat, Live Roulette games are run by human croupiers and use real roulette wheels. The croupier runs the game from a special studio which is live-streamed directly to your online casino screen. This allows you to place bets on screen as when playing regular online roulette, but you’ll get to see and hear a real wheel generate the winning number rather than a simple simulation.

Although Live Roulette hasn’t been around for as long as regular online roulette, it is already hugely popular, and becoming more so all the time. For that reason, if you like the idea of playing roulette online but you want the most realistic experience possible, Live Roulette games are a great way to go. 

Mobile Roulette

Another fairly recent development in the world of online roulette is the ability to play the game on tablets and other mobile devices.

Playing roulette on a mobile device is just as easy as playing on a desktop or laptop computer. The main difference is that the game will probably be presented in a slightly different way in order to make the most of the smaller screen size. For example, the betting layout may disappear whenever you aren’t actually using it to place bets.

The vast majority of online casinos now allow players to enjoy their games on their tablets and smartphones, so if you have a modern device you should be able to enjoy all the online roulette action you want, wherever you are.

How to Play Roulette - Strategies

The outcome of any spin of a roulette wheel is determined solely by chance. All roulette wheels at land-based casinos are very carefully balanced so that they don’t display any bias towards any particular section. At online casinos, the software which drives the game employs just as carefully monitored Random Number Generator technology to produce as random an outcome as is currently possible. 

What we’re getting at here is that roulette is a game of chance, so there is no way in which a player can accurately predict what number or type of number will come up next. This is good news because it means that the complete beginner has just as much chance of winning as someone who has been playing for years.

Of course, none of this prevents anyone from trying to increase their chances by watching out for apparent patterns or adjusting the size of their bets from spin to spin. Such strategies are unscientific and ineffective from a rational perspective, but they can still be fun to use from time to time. That being the case, here are some of the common strategies that many roulette players like to use.

Predictive Strategies

You can’t predict the outcome of a roulette spin, but players who like to think that they can tend to do so by looking at number occurrences and streaks.

Hot and Cold

Hot and Cold strategies involve keeping track of the numbers that appear in any given session. The numbers that appear most often are referred to as Hot, and the numbers that appear less often are referred to as being Cold. Players can either choose to side with Hot numbers in the hope that they come up again, or bet on Cold numbers in the hope that they come out of isolation.

Streaks

Streaks are runs of similar outcomes, such as a run of red, black, odd or even numbers. Some players like to bet with the streak and hope that it continues. Others like to bet contrary to the streak in the hope that it will soon end.

Staking Strategies

One thing that all roulette players can completely determine is how much they choose to bet. This makes staking strategies quite popular with players who want to try and secure a known profit if a certain outcome is experienced within a certain number of spins. Two of the most common staking strategies are the Martingale and the Paroli.

The Martingale

The Martingale staking strategy involves selecting any even-money shot (such as red or black) and betting on that outcome with a stake of 1 point. If the bet wins, the strategy has succeeded. If the bet loses, the stake is doubled for the same outcome on the next spin. This doubling continues until the bet eventually wins, at which point the bettor will have an overall profit of 1 point.

Although this sounds like a system that can’t lose, it has a big downside. That's the rate at which stakes increase. Start with a 1 point bet and if you have five losing bets in a row you’d need to bet 32 bets on the sixth, 64 on the seventh, and so on. For this reason, most Martingale fans wisely choose to stop using the strategy after three or four losing bets in a row.

The Paroli

The Paroli strategy is really an inverse Martingale. Instead of doubling your stake after a losing bet, you double up after a winning bet. If that also wins, you double again for the next spin. If you win three bets in a row, or you lose at any point, you end the sequence and start over.

This is a much gentler strategy, and if you are unfortunate enough to hit a long losing streak, your bets will always be level. A losing run is therefore a lot less costly with the Paroli strategy than it is with the Martingale.

Roulette - The House Edge

In our earlier section on American Roulette, we said that its main distinction is that it has two green numbers - 0 and 00 - while European and French versions have just one. The addition zero in American Roulette gives the casino a bigger house edge than it enjoys in games where just one zero is in play. 

In short, the house edge in a game of American Roulette is 5.26%. This means that the casino will keep around $5.26 for every $100 that is wagered on the game. That’s a long-term expectation, of course, but it’s reliable enough to have kept casinos in business for a long, long time.

The game of European Roulette, by comparison, has a house edge of 2.7%. That means the casino can only expect to keep around $2.70 for every $100 that is wagered on the game. This makes it almost twice as beneficial to the player than its American Roulette cousin.

Should anyone be in doubt, the lesson is clear: Always choose to play European Roulette over American Roulette if you can possibly do so!

Roulette FAQ

How many numbers are on a roulette wheel?
+

An American Roulette wheel has 38 numbers. Those are 0, 00 and the numbers 1 to 36. A European Roulette wheel has 37 numbers. Those are 0 and the numbers 1 to 36.

How to win at roulette?
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Roulette is a game of pure chance, so the only way to win is to place a bet and get lucky! Beware of anyone who says otherwise, because they are probably out to con you.

What’s the best version of roulette for players?
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European Roulette is the best version to play. That’s because it has a house edge of just 2.7%, whereas American Roulette has a house edge of 5.26%.

What’s the best roulette bet for beginners?
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The best roulette bet for beginners is any even-money bet. That means a bet on red, black, odd, even, 1-18 or 19-36. These give you the best chance of winning, and pay odds of 1:1.

What’s the highest number on a roulette wheel?
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The highest number on a standard roulette wheel is 36.

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