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Roulette is considered a table game in most casinos. It uses a board of numbers and combinations for betting on the wheel, which spins in the opposite direction of a ball until the ball drops into one numbered slot. American roulette tables have 38 slots, and French or European roulette offers 37 slots.

The house edge is 2.7% for European tables with only a single zero slot, but the house edge increases to 5.26 on American tables due to the single-zero and double-zero slots.

The game has long been a favorite because of the variety of different ways to bet and the many ways to distribute chips on the table.

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Historical Perspective

Roulette is widely believed to date back to France in the 1700s with the invention of a mechanic gaming wheel. The current form of roulette was in Paris by the end of that century and detailed in a novel by Jaques Lablee set in 1796. The green zeros were added in the 1800s, and roulette spread to Germany in the mid-1800s.

By the late 1800s, roulette was popular throughout Europe and the United States, the latter being where the double-zero wheels became prevalent. In Europe, with Monte Carlo as the standard bearer, the single-zero tables prevailed.

Roulette traveled across American on riverboats and in saloons, as it was not a very portable game to play without an elaborate setup. And when Nevada legalized gambling and casinos began to offer roulette, the double-zero wheels were the industry standard. The game has changed little through the last century, as the numbers and betting practices have little room for variance. The primary adjustments are seen in the electronic numbers boards and the all-electronic versions of the roulette tables.

The legend of roulette that survived the centuries is that the numbers on the roulette wheel add up to 666, which is said to be the number of the devil. Francois Blanc, who developed the system of a zero slot on the wheel in the 1800s, was thought to have a connection to the devil.

Game Basics

Players choose positions for their chips on the table, as each player receives chips of different colors. They can choose from inside or outside bets.

The croupier, or roulette wheel attendant, then spins the wheel in one direction and the ball on an inside track in the opposite direction. At some point, the croupier announces that no more bets can be placed. When the ball slows down, it falls into a slot that is designated by one number and color. The croupier then places the market (dolly) on that winning number and begins to pay winning bets and collecting chips from all other parts of the table.

There are a number of possible bets. The outside bets have smaller odds, which means a better chance of winning but lower payouts.

  • Red or black
  • Even or odd
  • High (19-36) or low (1-18)
  • First dozen (1-12), second dozen (13-24), or third (25-36)
  • Columns (one of three columns of 12 numbers each)

And the inside bets can pay more depending upon how the bets are placed and the fewer numbers chosen by the player:

  • Straight (any number, zeros through 36)
  • Split (on the line separating any two numbers next to each other)
  • Street (on the line of three consecutive numbers)
  • Corner (on the corner joining four numbers)
  • Six-line (on the corner joining two lines of six consecutive numbers)
  • Trio (on the corner shared by three numbers, one of which is a zero)

Beyond Basics

The first thing to learn about roulette is to avoid the gambler’s fallacy. It is easy with roulette, as seeing patterns of numbers on the board can lead a player to believe that a certain number or color is due to hit soon. For example, if the last five winning numbers were red, players may put money on black assuming it is due to hit. However, the odds do not change from one spin to the next, which means it is not a strategy but a fallacy.

The most common betting strategy for roulette is the Martingale, and it uses a bit of the gambler’s fallacy but is set up to recoup losses by doubling bets until the player wins. It is best to try this first at a table with a small minimum bet.

Bet the minimum on the outside, whether black or red, even or odd, or high or low.

  • If the player wins, set the winnings aside and bet the same amount again.
  • If the player loses, double the same bet and try again.
  • If the player wins again, keep setting aside the winnings and betting the same until a loss.
  • If the player loses again, keep doubling the bet until a win or money is gone.

Strategy Considerations

Once comfortable with a strategy like the Martingale, there are other options, most obviously the reverse Martingale. In this case, the player doubles up on each win but reduces the bet with each loss.

The D’Alembert system for roulette involves playing outside bets. After each losing spin, add only one unit to the next bet; deduct one after each winning spin.

The Labouchere system involves more complex number calculations, such as using a series of numbers to determine the betting amount after a win or loss. This is more complicated but reduces the amount of money a player can lose by a style such as Martingale. The Fibonacci strategy uses a particular sequence of numbers and continues by adding the last two of them together. This is best for short roulette sessions.

There are in-depth strategies for roulette, but it is best to work with basic betting first and the most common systems second. Once those are mastered, try others. Keep in mind, however, that most are based on the gambler’s fallacy and not the simple mathematical odds.