How to Play Roulette

The rules and strategy of roulette

Learn the Rules and Strategies Behind Successful Play

Table of Contents

While roulette is an easy game to learn, there are some important procedures to understand with regards to buying in and betting. Before you throw your hard-earned dollars on the table at the casino, take a few minutes and read up on the rules and regulations so you know how to play roulette like a seasoned pro.

What is Roulette?

Roulette is one of the oldest and most well-known casino games played primarily in Europe and the United States, with origins dating back to 18th century France. It’s one of the simplest games in the casino and the payouts can be enormous. But bettors, beware– unlike other table games like blackjack or poker, the roulette wheel behaves randomly and you don’t have any influence over the results of any given spin no matter what the superstitious old-timer with deep pockets might tell you.

We’ll be covering the bets primarily associated with American roulette tables, but we’ll be sure to include details on European roulette where appropriate. European roulette wheels do not have a double zero space, and so American roulette is a little bit more involved (and less advantageous).

Key Terms

We’ll explain different betting terms in more detail below, but the following list covers words or phrases you may hear around the table during play.

Croupier: Similar to a dealer in card games, the croupier is the individual who runs the roulette table for the casino. The croupier may be personally responsible for collecting and paying out chips, or he may have an assistant to manage chips while he watches the roulette wheel.

En Prison or La Partage: A special rule that applies to even-money bets when the ball lands on 0. This rule is uncommon in American casinos outside of Las Vegas.

Even-money: A roulette bet that pays out 1:1 (red/black, even/odd, high/low)

Marker: A heavy glass apparatus used to mark the winning number on the roulette table. The marker serves as an indicator that the current game has not yet been settled, and no new bets are accepted for the next spin until the marker is removed.

No Action: A call made by the croupier in the rare event that there is an error in procedure or a mis-spin on the wheel. In the event of a no-action call, all bets are canceled, and players may remove their existing bets from the table if they do not wish to repeat them.

Parlay: A betting strategy that refers to doubling your existing bet after winning on a spin.

Types of Bets

There are numerous ways to bet on the roulette wheel, and while they’re all pretty simple, there are special terms for each bet. We’ll cover the common names as well as the French equivalents since you’ll occasionally hear them used interchangeably during play. There are two primary types of bets at the roulette table in every casino: inside and outside bets.

Inside Bets

Inside bets refer to wagers placed inside the rectangular number grid displayed on the table. These bets have more attractive payouts, but they also have far less advantageous odds.

Straight Up (En Plein)

This is the most well-known roulette wager in which you place your chips on a single number on the table. If the ball rests on your single number, you win your bet. If it lands anywhere else, you lose! These bets pay 35 to 1 making them the highest-paying wagers in the game.

Split (A Cheval)

Split bets are exactly what they sound like– a bet placed on two numbers instead of a straight-up single number. If the ball lands on either of your two numbers in your bet, you win a payout of 17:1. Note that this is slightly less than half the payout of a straight-up bet, meaning the casino pays a little bit less than they would for “en plein” bets.

Street Bet (Transversal)

Also referred to as the “side bet” or a trio, street bets are placed on three numbers at once, which you indicate by positioning your chips on the long edge of the grid in the row of three numbers you want to bet. These bets payout 11:1 if the ball lands on one of your numbers.

Corner/Square Bet (Carre)

The “carre” is a bet of four numbers which you indicate by positioning your chips on the cross-section of the grid that intersects any four numbers. You may only place a corner bet on numbers that adjoin on the grid in this formation, hence the name of the “square bet.” If you win your square bet, the casino pays you out 8:1.

Five-Number Bet

You’ll occasionally hear this referred to as betting “the monster” or “the beast,” but there’s no French term for these bets since they only exist on American roulette wheels. Betting the monster in roulette means putting your money on a spin of single zero, double zero, or numbers 1, 2, or 3.

You submit this bet by placing your roulette chips on the corner of the board in a similar fashion to the street bet on numbers 1, 2, and 3, but splitting the top line separating the street from the single zero and double zero. Beware that the monster has a highly unfavorable house edge of 7.89% making it one of the worst bets in roulette. Combined with a 6:1 payout, it’s generally recommended that you avoid monster bets unless you’re feeling particularly lucky.

Line Bet (Sixain)

The “sixain,” as the name suggests, is a six-number wager where you bet two “streets” (rows of three numbers) at once. Like the monster bet, you represent this wager by placing your chips on the long edge of the grid on the intersection of the two streets.

Outside Bets

If inside bets are wagers placed in and around the number grid, it makes sense that outside bets are placed in the spaces outside of the number grid!

Column Bet (Colonne)

At the far end of the grid, you’ll find three spaces aligned with the long columns of numbers. These are column bets, which result in a payout if the ball lands on any bet in the corresponding column. The single zero and double zero spaces are separate and do not belong to any column. If you win, the casino pays you out 2:1 on your wager.

Dozens Bet (Douzaine)

Along the side of the grid are three spaces marked “1st 12,” “2nd 12,” and “3rd 12.” As you may have guessed, this means you’re betting on numbers 1 through 12, 13 through 24, or 25 through 36. The zeroes are not included in the “douzaine” bets, which payout 2:1.

Even Money Bets

The final three types of outside bets split the roulette board in half, and as a result, the casino pays out 1:1 on these bets. In all three cases, the zeroes are losing numbers and the house wins (no, zero is not considered an even number in roulette).

Odd/Even Bet (Impair/Pair)

Indicated simply by the word “odd” or “even,” this bet covers either all odd or all even numbers on the wheel.

High/Low Bet (Passe/Manque)

Typically marked “1 – 18” and “19 – 36,” high/low bets cover the range of the lower half or higher half of the wheel.

Red or Black Bet (Rouge et Noir)

Most commonly, the red and black bets are marked on the roulette table by a diamond in the corresponding color. Occasionally, you may see markings that explicitly read “Red” or “Black.”

Buying Roulette Chips

Unlike most table games, roulette bets are played individually and independent of the other gamblers at the wheel. They’re also placed into a common space shared by all roulette players. For this reason, American casinos reserve unique roulette chips for play only at these tables in order to avoid confusion amongst players and casino staff.

Each player will be assigned their own color pattern of chips. Players in a group may not combine or share chips; they must all play with a unique color pattern. Additionally, roulette chip values are not pre-assigned. Instead, you indicate to the croupier the value you’d like your chips to be worth. The croupier will then place a chip in your color on a rail next to the wheel and mark the designated value you’ve chosen in order to keep track.

When you’re ready to move along, you must ask the croupier or attendant to cash out. Roulette chips will not be accepted by the cashier, so you must exchange them for standard casino chips before you leave the table. Typically, the croupier will stop you from trying to leave with his special roulette chips so you can’t make this mistake.

The Rules of Play

The actual procedures of roulette are very simple, as all you have to do is place your bet within the allotted time in order to take your chance on the wheel. The croupier will call for players to “place your bets” and allow time for all players at the table to put their chips on the table. There is no set time limit for this, but typically you’ll have 30 seconds or so to make a decision and count out the roulette chips you need for your wager.

The croupier will throw the ball into play during which time you will still be permitted to add chips to the field of play. After the ball has completed several revolutions around the wheel, the croupier will call, “No more bets!” at which time all betting is closed and wagers are final. Once the ball settles in place on the wheel, the croupier or assistant will collect losing bets and payout roulette chips to winning bettors.

Important Note About Winnings: In many cases, dealers will push your winnings across the table to you, but they will leave the original bet in place. If you don’t want to repeat your bet, it’s up to you to remove your chips from the table before the next “no more bets” call is made. Remember not to touch the chips in play while the marker is still on the table.

En Prison and La Partage

The European roulette table only has one zero rather than two, and European casinos offer a better house edge as a result. In addition to a fairer field of play, European casinos further cut their own chances by offering two unique rules not used in the United States.

One of these two rules will be assigned to the table and you’ll know in advance which one to expect. You don’t get to select which rule you’d rather use.

La Partage

Under La Partage rules, if a zero turns up, you get half of your bet back. Note that this doesn’t mean you win half of the standard payout, but you only lose half of your original wager.

En Prison

En Prison rules are a variation on La Partage. It’s less advantageous than La Partage since your bet remains all-or-nothing, offering no returned wager if you ultimately lose. Instead, you get a second chance at your original wager.

If you place an even-money bet and the ball lands on zero, the croupier will mark your bet on the table, and it will be considered “in prison.” (Get it?) You may place a new bet as you like on the next spin, but the en prison wager is frozen. You then win or lose the en prison bet as normal on the following spin. Note that if the second spin also turns up a zero, the rule does not continue to apply and the originally imprisoned wager is finally lost.

How to Pick Your Roulette Wager

Let’s be clear here– there is no dependable strategy for enhancing your odds at the roulette table. Each spin of the wheel is completely independent of the last, and unlike betting on sports or counting cards in blackjack, there’s no mathematical way to predict the upcoming result based on prior trends.

Still, many casinos will try to persuade you to bet according to the wheel’s history. Oftentimes, you’ll see a monitor displaying the results of the last 10-20 spins and the percentage of the last hundred spins which hit red, black, high, low, even, or odd. You’ll see superstitious gamblers trying to bet the “hot streak,” but trends are meaningless in roulette.

That being said, since you know that your bet is complete guesswork and is entirely dependent on the luck of the wheel, feel free to bet according to what your gut says. If you’re feeling red, bet red! If you want to bet your birthday, put your chips on your special day of the month (though we’d recommend avoiding 32-26 in this case). Roulette is a game of sheer chance, and it’s not for the analytically-minded gambler who wants to exercise some control over his betting strategy.

If you want to know how to play roulette the “safe” way, it’s recommended that new players or gamblers with limited funds stick to outside bets. While the payouts are less attractive than those offered on inside bets, the results are more consistent as you’re playing to a 50/50 chance on each spin.

A Note on Roulette Strategies

Beware of roulette “strategies” with complicated procedures and elegant-sounding names that claim to hedge your losses. As you learned above, each and every spin of the roulette wheel is independent of the last and isn’t influenced by any apparent trends in the results.

You’ll likely hear of the “Martingale System” in which you’re told to double your next bet after each loss. The theory is that by doing so, you’ll recoup all of your previous losses plus make a profit once you finally win a game. However, without having to go into the math behind this strategy, you can probably tell that this system assumes a gambler with infinitely-deep pockets. It also assumes that you’ll walk away after a win, which is when most players tend to stay at the wheel and keep betting to increase their winnings.

Avoid the Martingale system and other superstitious schemes like the so-called “Fibonacci System” or “D’Alembert System.” These false roulette strategies assume forces at work such as the law of averages or predictable trends that simply don’t exist anywhere outside the mind of an ambitious gambler.

Odds for Roulette

The odds on any given bet depend on where you play roulette. European games and American games have different odds thanks to the insidious double zero added to the board in North America. Here are the odds for each bet type in each region.

Get Out There and Win!

Now that you know how to play roulette like a champ, it’s time to hit the tables. Remember to buy your roulette-specific chips and cash them out before leaving the table. And always keep in mind that roulette has no reliable trends or strategies you can play to.

If you’re feeling lucky and card games just aren’t your thing, a trip to the roulette table can send you home with a fatter wallet and refreshed excitement for your next trip to the casino.