If you’ve never set foot in a casino Halo69 or played roulette, and you want to learn how to play, you’ve come to the right place. This page is designed to turn you from a rank amateur to an old hand over the course of a few thousand words. This page contains an FAQ, notes on the game’s history, thoughts on odds and bets, a step-by-step guide to playing the game, and plenty more inside information, all compiled in such a way as to turn you into a seasoned roulette player in half an hour.
Roulette is one of those classic casino games that most people are familiar with even if they’ve never gambled. You probably know about roulette’s big spinning wheel, even though you’re not exactly a casino person. Roulette is fun. It can be loud. It’s a social game that allows big wagers and some long odds. But roulette is also a deeply-misunderstood game that comes in a lot of varieties and (if played right) offers some of the best odds on the casino floor.
Let’s start with a useful introduction to the game in the form of a short FAQ:
An FAQ for Roulette Beginners
What is roulette?
Roulette is a French word meaning “little wheel.” The name is a reference to the game’s main prop – a spinning wheel marked with red and black numbers. A dealer launches a silver ball into this spinning wheel. Wherever the ball lands is the winning number for that round. Roulette is something like a lottery game with a single number drawing, or a game of bingo in which every number called represents a possible win.
Roulette players can gamble on the outcome of each round with a surprising variety of wager types. Some bets ask you only to guess some small aspect of the winning number, such as its number, for a payout of 1:1. Other roulette bets pay larger prizes in exchange for longer odds. The game’s largest payout comes from a single-number wager. Guess the specific winning number correctly and you’ll win a payout of 35:1.
Roulette requires more than just a spinning wheel and silver ball. The game requires a specific betting surface, marked with a dozen specific types of bets as well as the full field of available numbers, for single-number wagers. Roulette is also a genteel game, slow-paced, operated by a single dealer. If you find yourself at a roulette table in a Vegas casino, you’ll probably see 40-60 spins per hour, depending on how many players are at the table. How slow is that? It’s about 1/10th the pace of a slot machine, and one of the slowest games on the casino floor.
Why is roulette so popular?
It’s hard to imagine a casino without a roulette wheel. The game’s trademark table, with its spinning wheel and complex betting surface, is as closely identified with gambling as the lever of a slot machine or the tumbling of craps dice. We dig deep into the history of the game towards the end of the page, but for now, just know that roulette’s roots lie in the 18th century in France. How is it that an obscure gambling wheel game took hold in America to the point that we can’t imagine a casino without it?
A Crash Course in Roulette Rules
Let’s start with a general note about European and American roulette.
Two basic types of roulette game exist. One version comes from the European tradition; the other is a purely-American game. Most European casinos host Euro-style games, and most American casinos host American-style games. There is some overlap, but for the most part, if you gamble in the US, you’re going to play with American rules, and vice versa.
Some cosmetic differences exist, but the main difference between the two styles is that the American game has 38 possible spaces for the ball to land in while the European game has just 37. The American game adds a single space (a green space marked “00”) to the European game’s compliment of the numbers 1 – 36 and a single green space marked “0”. The American game, by adding a single green space, gives the house a much larger edge against the player compared to the European game. Standard European roulette games give the house an edge of 2.7%. The addition of the “00” space on the American wheel nearly doubles that edge to 5.26%.
In live casinos in America, you’ll occasionally find a European-rules game. We discuss why you should always choose this version of the game if it is available later, in the strategy section. For now, just know playing roulette on either American or European tables is pretty much identical, and is very simple. Each game has three basic phases that it passes through. First, players place their bets. Second, the wheel is spun and the ball is tossed in. In the final phase, a marker is placed on the betting surface indicating the winning number, and all bets are settled.
We think roulette’s popularity is due to the fact that the game is so adaptable. Bettors can gamble on longshot odds or place safer wagers that are more likely to maintain a steady bankroll. A bet on a single number gives you about a 1 in 38 chance of winning, while a wager on red or black gives you about an 18 in 38 chance of winning. That means bettors of all stripes can step up and play, those who like to take risks, and those who like short odds wagers.
Another big reason for the game’s popularity – its unique gameplay. No other game uses a spinning wheel and bouncing ball. The game’s props have a magnetic appeal. It’s tough to not get excited watching the ball bounce around, hoping for your bet to pay off. So, to put it another way, roulette is popular because it’s fun.
Players place their bets on a trademark grid of betting spaces. We explain the various bets available in a section below. Bets are placed on the board in the space provided, ranging from single-number wagers to bets on various collections of numbers and number features.
When the dealer is ready, he’ll spin the wheel, then toss a ball bearing in the opposite direction of the wheel’s spin. He’ll announce “No more bets!” as the ball begins its spin. Once the ball has settled into a colored slot, the dealer places a marker on that space’s corresponding spot on the betting layout. All losing bets are cleared away, into the table’s coffer, and winners are paid out based on their winning bet and bet amount. A single dealer controls the entire table, the wheel, the ball, and payouts. That contributes to the game’s slow pace. A full table may see as few as 40 decisions per hour.
Isn’t roulette a huge waste of money?
We get this question about every gambling game in existence. The answer is easy – if you don’t enjoy roulette, or if you don’t enjoy gambling, then it probably is a waste of money. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind paying for a little entertainment, just like we do for everything else in our lives, then roulette isn’t a waste of money at all.
First of all, there’s always the possibility of a big win. If you walk up to a roulette table, put $5 on number 14, and then that number comes up, you’ll be $175 richer. You’ve just “wasted” a minute of your time in exchange for $175. Not such a waste anymore, is it? The odds of a single number bet paying off are long – so let’s say you walk up and bet that same $5 on black. If black comes up, you’ve now got $10 in your hand. Is $10 a minute really a waste of money?
There’s no way to convince people who hate gambling that roulette isn’t a waste of time. But for gamblers, or people who play the lottery, roulette is easy to explain. The fun is in the tense moments waiting for the ball to finally stop on a number. Payouts, rare as they can be, are just the icing on the cake.
Let’s say you’re playing roulette for $10 a bet in Las Vegas. You’re a conservative player, so you’re sticking to even-money bets, like red/black or odd/even. By standard Vegas rules, you’re playing against a house edge of 5.26%. At 50 hands per hour, your expected losses are just $26.30 each hour. It’s cheaper than taking your family to dinner and a movie. If $27 an hour is a waste of money to you, gambling is probably never going to be appealing.
The first thing you need to learn to become a roulette player is what types of bets are available. The section below will bring you up to speed on the various roulette bets available, their probability, and their payout.