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Roulette Casino Game Tutorial

March 04, 2012 11:51 AM by GT Staff

GamingToday Casino Games Roulette TutorialRules of play against a casino

Roulette players have a variety of betting options. Placing inside bets is either selecting the exact number of the pocket the ball will land in, or a small range of pockets based on their proximity on the layout. Players wishing to bet on the ‘outside’ will select bets on larger positional groupings of pockets, the pocket color, or whether the winning number is odd or even. The payout odds for each type of bet are based on its probability.

The roulette table usually imposes minimum and maximum bets, and these rules usually apply separately for all of a player’s inside and outside bets for each spin. For inside bets at roulette tables, some casinos may use separate roulette table chips of various colors to distinguish players at the table. Players can continue to place bets as the ball spins around the wheel until the dealer announces no more bets or rien ne va plus.

When a winning number and color is determined by the roulette wheel, the dealer will place a marker, also known as a dolly, on that winning number on the roulette table layout. When the dolly is on the table, no players may place bets, collect bets, or remove any bets from the table. The dealer will then sweep away all other losing bets either by hand or rake, and determine all of the payouts to the remaining inside and outside winning bets. When the dealer is finished making payouts, the marker is removed from the board where players collect their winnings and make new bets. The winning chips remain on the board.

California Roulette

In 2004, California legalized a form of roulette known as California Roulette. By law, the game must use cards and not slots on the roulette wheel to pick the winning number. There are at least two variations. In some casinos, the dealer spins a wheel containing 38 cards from 1 to 36, plus 0 and 00, and after betting is closed, stops the wheel; a pointer identifies the winning card, which the dealer removes and shows to the players. In the Cache Creek casino in northern California, a wheel resembling a traditional roulette wheel is used, but it has only alternating red and black slots with no numbers. As the ball is spinning, the dealer takes cards from a shoe and places two of them face down on the table in red and black rectangles. When the ball lands in a red or black slot, the card in the corresponding rectangle is turned over to reveal the winning number.

Roulette wheel number sequence

The pockets of the roulette wheel are numbered from 1 to 36.

In number ranges from 1 to 10 and 19 to 28, odd numbers are red and even are black. In ranges from 11 to 18 and 29 to 36, odd numbers are black and even are red.

There is a green pocket numbered 0 (zero). In American roulette, there is a second green pocket marked 00. Pocket number order on the roulette wheel adheres to the following clockwise sequence in most casinos:

Single-zero wheel


Double-zero wheel


Roulette table layout

The cloth covered betting area on a roulette table is known as the layout. The layout is either single zero or double zero. The European style layout has a single zero, and the American style layout is usually a double zero. The American style roulette table with a wheel at one end is now used in most casinos. The French style table with a wheel in the centre and a layout on either side is rarely found outside of Monte Carlo.

Types of bets

Inside bets

Straight (or Single): a single number bet. The chip is placed entirely on the middle of a number square.

Split: a bet on two adjoining numbers, either on the vertical or horizontal (as in 14-17 or 8-9). The chip is placed on the line between these numbers.

Street: a bet on three numbers on a single horizontal line. The chip is placed on the edge of the line of a number at the end of the line (either the left or the right, depending on the layout).

Corner (or Square): a bet on four numbers in a square layout (as in 11-12-14-15). The chip is placed at the horizontal and vertical intersection of the lines between the four numbers.

Six line (or Double Street): a bet on two adjoining streets, with the chip placed at the corresponding intersection, as if in between where two street bets would be placed.

Trio: a bet on the intersecting point between 0, 1 and 2, or 0, 2 and 3 (single-zero layout only).

Basket (or the first four): (non-square corner) a bet on 0, 1, 2, and 3 (single-zero layout only). 

Basket: a bet on 0, 1, and 2; 0, 00, and 2; or 00, 2, and 3 (double-zero layout only). The chip is placed at the intersection of the three desired numbers.

Top line: a bet on 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3 (double-zero layout only). The chip is placed either at the corner of 0 and 1, or the corner of 00 and 3.

Outside bets

Outside bets typically have smaller payouts with better odds at winning.

1 to 18: a bet on one of the first low eighteen numbers coming up.

19 to 36: a bet on one of the latter high eighteen numbers coming up.

Red or black: a bet on which color the roulette wheel will show.

Even or odd: a bet on an even or odd nonzero number.

Dozen bets: a bet on the first (1-12, Premiere douzaine (P12)), second (13-24, Moyenne douzaine (M12)), or third group (25-36, Dernière douzaine (D12)) of twelve numbers.

Column bets: a bet on all 12 numbers on any of the three vertical lines (such as 1-4-7-10 on down to 34). The chip is placed on the space below the final number in this string.

Snake Bet: Essentially a special dozen bet consisting of a bet of the following numbers: 1, 5, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 23, 27, 30, 32, and 34. Some gambling “experts” consider it a so-called sucker bet as they claim that the player has to bet a unit on each of those numbers, yet this theory (as with many gambling theories) is not true as any bet on the table has exactly the same house edge. However, some casinos which allow the snake bet (not all casinos do) allow the table minimum to be bet on the snake by placing the bet on the lower corner of the 34 spot which touches the 19-36 even money bet.

House edge

The house average or house edge (also called the expected value) is the amount the player loses relative for any bet made, on average. If a player bets on a single number in the American game there is a probability of 1/38 that the player wins 35 times the bet, and a 37/38 chance that the player loses his bet. 

The presence of the green squares on the roulette wheel and on the table is technically the only house edge. Outside bets will always lose when a single or double zero comes up. However, the house also has an edge on inside bets because the pay outs are always set at 35 to 1 when you mathematically have a 1 out of 38 (1 out of 37 for French/European roulette) chance at winning a straight bet on a single number. [To demonstrate the house edge on inside bets, imagine placing straight $1 wagers on all inside numbers (including 0 and 00) to assure a win: you would only get back 36 times your original bet, having spent $38.] The only exceptions are the five numbers bet where the house edge is considerably higher (7.89% on an American wheel), and the ‘even money’ bets in some European games where the house edge is halved because only half the stake is lost when a zero comes up.

The house edge should not be confused with the ‘hold’. The hold is the average percentage of the money originally brought to the table that the player loses before he leaves - the actual “win” amount for the casino. The Casino Control Commission in Atlantic City releases a monthly report showing the win/hold amounts for each casino. The average win/hold for double zero wheels is between 21-30%, significantly more than the 5.26% house edge. This reflects the fact that the player is churning the same money over and over again. A 23.6% hold, for example, would imply that on average, the player bets the total he brought to the table five times, as 23.6% is approximately equal to 100% - (100% - 5.26%)^5. For example, a player with $100 making $10 bets on red (which has a near 50/50 chance of winning) is highly unlikely to lose all his money after only 10 bets, and will most likely continue to bet until he has lost all of his money or decides to leave. A player making $10 bets on a single number (with only 1/38 chance of success) with a $100 bankroll is far more likely to lose all of his money after only 10 bets.

In the early frontier gambling saloons, the house would set the odds on roulette tables at 27 for 1. This meant that on a $1 bet you would get $27 and the house would keep your initial dollar. Today most casino odds are set by law, and they have to be either 34 to 1 or 35 to 1. This means that the house pays you $34 or $35 and you get to keep your original $1 bet.

Betting strategies and tactics

Over the years, many people have tried to beat the casino, and turn roulette - a game designed to turn a profit for the house - into one on which the player expects to win. Most of the time this comes down to the use of betting systems, strategies which say that the house edge can be beaten by simply employing a special pattern of bets, often relying on the “Gambler’s fallacy”, the idea that past results are any guide to the future (for example, if a roulette wheel has come up 10 times in a row on red, that red on the next spin is any more or less likely than if the last spin was black).

All betting systems that rely on patterns, when employed on casino edge games will result, on average, in the player losing money. In practice, players employing betting systems may win, and may indeed win very large sums of money, but the losses (which, depending on the design of the betting system, may occur quite rarely) will outweigh the wins. Certain systems, such as the Martingale, described below, are extremely risky, because the worst case scenario (which is mathematically certain to happen, at some point) may see the player chasing losses with ever bigger bets until he runs out of money.

The American mathematician Patrick Billingsley said that no betting system can convert a subfair game into a profitable enterprise. At least in the 1930s, some professional gamblers were able to consistently gain an edge in roulette by seeking out rigged wheels (not difficult to find at that time) and betting opposite the largest bets.

Biased wheels

Whereas betting systems are essentially an attempt to beat the fact that a geometric series with initial value of 0.95 (American roulette) or 0.97 (European roulette) will inevitably over time tend to zero, engineers instead attempt to overcome the house edge through predicting the mechanical performance of the wheel, most notably by Joseph Jagger at Monte Carlo in 1873. These schemes work by determining that the ball is more likely to fall at certain numbers, and if sufficiently good will raise the return of the game above 100%, defeating the betting system problem.

Specific betting systems

The numerous even-money bets in roulette have inspired many players over the years to attempt to beat the game by using one or more variations of a martingale betting strategy, wherein the gamer doubles the bet after every loss, so that the first win would recover all previous losses, plus win a profit equal to the original bet. The problem with this strategy is that, remembering that past results do not affect the future, it is possible for the player to lose so many times in a row, that the player, doubling and redoubling his bets, either runs out of money or hits the table limit. A large financial loss is certain in the long term if the player continued to employ this strategy. Another strategy is the Fibonacci system, where bets are calculated according to the Fibonacci sequence. Regardless of the specific progression, no such strategy can statistically overcome the casino’s advantage, since the expected value of each allowed bet is negative.

While not a strategy to win money, former Los Angeles Times editor Andrés Martinez described a betting method in his book on Las Vegas titled “24/7”. He called it the “dopey experiment”. The idea is to divide one’s roulette session bankroll into 35 units. This unit is bet on a particular number for 35 consecutive spins. Thus, if the number hits in that time, the gambler wins back the original bankroll and can play subsequent spins with house money. However, there is only a 1 - (37/38)^{35} = 60.68% probability of winning within 35 spins (assuming a double-zero wheel with 38 pockets).

Using the dozen bet

There are two versions to this system, single-dozen bets and double-dozen bets. In the single-dozen-bet version, the player uses a progressively incrementing stake list starting from the casino table minimum, to the table maximum. The aim here is to use a single-dozen bet to win before the stake list ends. Many techniques are employed such as: betting on the same dozen to appear after two consecutive appearances, betting on the dozen that has appeared most in the last 15, 9, or 5 spins, betting on the dozen that, after a long absence of 7 or more spins, appears for the first time. The double-dozen bet version uses two dozen bets and half the stake list size of the single-dozen-bet version.

The various roulette bets and their payoffs are listed below:


Red or black

1 to 1

Odd or even

1 to 1

Numbers 1-18 or 19-36

1 to 1

Any one number

35 to 1

Groups of 12 numbers

2 to 1

Groups of 6 numbers

5 to 1

Groups of 4 numbers

8 to 1

Groups of 3 numbers

11 to 1

Groups of 2 numbers

17 to 1

Group of 0, 00, 1, 2, 3

6 to 1

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