p How to Play Roulette

How to Play Roulette

Excerpt from

The Intelligent Guide to Casino Gaming

by Sylvester Suzuki

Like baccarat, roulette is a game that was imported from the casinos of Europe. The American version of the game centers around a huge rotating wheel with thirty-eight slots that is set up beside an elaborate betting table. The slots are numbered 0, 00, and 1 through 36. The odd numbered slots are red, the even numbered slots are black, and the 0 and 00 are green. Although at first glance, the numbers might appear to be randomly placed, there is order. The 0 and 00 slots are directly opposite each other, each odd numbered slot is between two even numbers and is directly opposite its subsequent even number. Also, the small numbers and the large numbers are evenly dispersed around the wheel. With one exception, which is noted below, all bets at an American-style roulette table come with a rather high 5.26% house advantage. However, the mesmerizing effect of the colorful spinning wheel with the steel ball bouncing around inside and the high 35 to 1 payoff on the basic single number bet contributes to the continuing popularity of the roulette table in American casinos.

The roulette wheel is kept spinning at a moderate rate until the next game is about to begin. It then picks up speed and a small steel ball is released into the wheel in the opposite direction of the spin. As the wheel slows down, the betting is closed, and the ball drops into one of the thirty-eight slots, thereby designating the winning number.

In order to avoid confusion, each player at a roulette table is issued distinctly colored chips. The player determines the value of each chip at the time of purchase from one of the attendants. However, the value is subject to some common sense limitations. For example, you will not be allowed to establish a value of $1 on a chip if the minimum bet at the table is $5. Chips from a roulette table cannot be used elsewhere in the casino and may not be taken from the table. There are two basic types of bets that may be made at a roulette table—inside bets and outside bets.

Roulette Table Layout

Roulette Table Layout


Inside Bets

A “Straight Bet,” which is also known as a one-number bet, is made by placing a chip on the desired number. If the ball drops into the slot for the number that you have selected, the house will pay 35 to 1 on true odds of 37 to 1. You will therefore receive $36 back on a $1 bet.

A “Split Bet” is made by placing your chip on the line that separates two numbers (position A in the figure). If the ball settles in either numbered slot, the house will pay 17 to 1 ($18 back on each $1 that was bet).

A “Corner Bet” is made by placing your chip at the intersection of four numbered boxes (position B in the figure). If the ball settles in one of the four numbered slots, you will be paid at 8 to 1 ($9 back).

A “Street Bet” is made by placing a chip at the end of a three number row (position C in the figure). If the ball settles in one of the three slots, the house will pay off at 11 to 1.

A “Double Street Bet” is made by placing your bet on the line between two streets (position D in the figure) if the ball settles into one of the six slots, the house will pay at 5 to 1.

A “Five Number Bet” is made by placing your chip in the upper left corner of the box for the number one (position E in the figure). This is a bet that the ball will settle in the slot for 0, 00, 1, 2, or 3. If it does, the house will pay 6 to 1 ($7 back on a $1 bet). Since the house will have a 7.89% house advantage on this bet, this is the worst bet that you can make at a roulette table.

Outside Bets

Outside bets are bets that are made outside the numbered portion of the betting table. The following outside bets pay even money on odds of 20 to 18 (10 to 9).

“Red Bets” and “Black Bets” are made by placing chips in the box that indicates the color that was selected.

“Even Bets” and “Odd Bets” are made by placing chips in the box that indicates “even” or “odd.”
“1 to 18 Bets” and “19 to 36 Bets” are made by placing chips in the appropriately marked boxes on the table.

The following outside bets pay 2 to 1 on odds of 26 to 12 (13 to 6).

A “Dozens Bet” is a bet on either the first, the second, or the third dozen numbers in the one through thirty-six sequentially numbered boxes on the betting table. These bets are made by placing chips in the boxes marked “1st 12,” “2nd 12,” or “3rd 12,” as appropriate.

A “Column Bet” is a bet that the ball will fall into one of the three long, horizontal columns on the betting table. This bet is made by placing chips in the appropriate box that is marked “2 to 1” to the right of each column. Note that “0” and “00” are not included in any of the three columns. In fact, these two slots are included only in the somewhat artificially contrived five-number bet, which gives the house the largest house advantage at the table. The reason that these two slots are not included in any of the other combination bets is that they are the basis for the 5.26% house advantage.

With a thirty-eight slot wheel, American-style roulette is a relentlessly negative expectation game. Assuming that you never make a five-number bet, in the long run, you can expect to lose 5.26% of the total amount that you bet at the table. Therefore, if you make one hundred $10 bets, on average, you should expect to lose $52.60. Regardless of how much money you take with you into the casino, the law of averages and the 5.26% house advantage will eventually grind you into the ground. So what to do? Unless you are an expert poker player who thinks that you might be good enough to have a chance against the big boys in the poker room, read the appropriate chapter in this book and go over to a baccarat, blackjack, or craps table in which the house advantage is much lower. If you play wisely, at one of these tables, you should have a realistic shot at having a winning session. Otherwise, unless you have set aside a substantial bankroll for this session, do not linger too long at a roulette table. However, if you should get lucky, roulette is one of those games where it is truly wise to quit while you are still ahead.
Another alternative is to find a casino that uses a European-style roulette wheel that has only thirty-seven slots. With the 00 slot eliminated, the house advantage declines from 5.26% to 2.63%. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few casinos in Atlantic City, where high-limit roulette is played, there are few American casinos that use the European-style wheel. There is one other advantage of playing roulette in Atlantic City. If you make an even-money outside bet and the ball settles in either of the 0 or 00 slots, state gaming regulations allow the casino to take only one half of the amount that you had wagered. Even with the American-style wheel, this reduces the house advantage on even money bets to 2.63%.

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