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Rules of Roulette - Full Instructions Guide

Last Updated: 08/02/2023

The main goal across all variations at both brick and mortar and online roulette sites is for the bettor playing roulette to predict the wheel’s outcome and bet on specific numbers and/or events. 

For example, you may choose to bet on red/black colours and odd/even numbers. You can also bet on specific numbers, or on different number groupings. Once bets are taken, the dealer (also known as croupier) spins the wheel. If the roulette ball lands on a number and/or event you had chosen, you win the bet.

While the basic rules of roulette are similar, there are some differences between the two main versions of the roulette game. These being European roulette which is the current version of the original game invented in the 17th century France. And American Roulette which is a bit of a faster-paced version of the game. As the name suggests, it was invented in America in the 19th century. Most notably, American Roulette has two zero-numbered pockets (marked with 0 and 00) compared European roulette’s single zero pocket (marked with 0).

Beside the wheel differences, there are also a few specific rules that differ between the two variations of roulette. In European roulette players can call bets (announce bets to the dealer) as opposed to laying chips down on the table. There is also the En Prison rule which allows you to bet on the next spin, in case you placed an even bet and the ball landed in the zero pocket. At an American roulette table, a losing bet (a.k.a. outside bets) is if the roulette ball lands in a zero pocket. Also in the American variation of the game, you can place a five-number bet (a.k.a. line bet) on numbers 1, 2, 3, 0 and 00.

Roulette Terms

You had probably noticed by now that although roulette seems to be a simple game, there are a lot of professional terms you will need to know in order to master the game and enjoy it to the fullest. Some terms come from the French origins of the game, while others intuitively follow positions on the roulette grid. Our casino experts have put together a list of the main roulette terms, so you can ease your way into playing and follow what’s going on at the roulette table.

  • American Roulette: A later version of the game that was created in the 19th century in America. It features two zero-pockets and 38 bet pockets.
  • All-In: An event when a roulette player wagers all of his/her stake on one bet.
  • Action: The total sum of money a roulette player will wager over a period. Usually used by the casino for tracking player compensation and loyalty bonuses.
  • Black Bet: An even-money bet on the colour black.
  • Bottom Track: The sloped, inner part of the roulette wheel that remains static during spins.
  • Back Track: The outer edge of the roulette wheel where the ball is spun. Also knowns as ball-track.
  • Block Bet: A bet on a block of numbers on the roulette table grid.
  • En Prison: A rule in French Roulette, and some European roulette variations. In case a player bets on an even number, they are allowed to bet again if the ball landed in the zero pocket.
  • Croupier: The French formal term for a roulette dealer.
  • Call Bets: Bets that are placed by notifying the dealer verbally, without placing chips on the roulette grid.
  • Corner Bet: A single bet connecting the corner of 4 adjoining numbers on the roulette betting grid.
  • Column Bet: A single bet placed on one of the three columns and covering almost a third of the roulette wheel.
  • Dozens Bet: A bet placed on one of three available 12-number sequences – 1-12, 13-24 or 25-36
  • Double Zero: An additional pocket on an American Roulette wheel marked ‘00’.
  • European roulette: The original version roulette, invented in France in the 17th century. It features 36 numbers, a single zero pocket and lower house edge than American Roulette.
  • Even Bet: A 1:1 bet that pays even money, such as red/black, odd/even, high/low, etc.
  • French Roulette: A variant of European roulette, with a few specific rules and a table layout that differs slightly (bets marked in French on the grid).
  • Five Number Bet: An American Roulette bet on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3.
  • Green Pockets: The 0 (and 00 in American Roulette) pockets that are coloured green.
  • High Bet: A bet on the higher numbers on the grid: 19-36
  • House Edge: The mathematical advantage built into the game, which the casino has over the player in the long term. The house edge for a European roulette, single-zero wheel is 2.70%. For an American Roulette double-zero wheel, the house edge is 5.26%
  • Inside Bet: A wager placed on a number, covering either a specific number or group of numbers. These are considered high-risk/high-reward bets as they have lower odds and higher payouts.
  • Line Bet: A wager covering one of six numbers in a row (i.e. line) on the roulette betting grid.
  • Low Bet: A bet on the lower numbers on the grid: 1-18
  • Outside Bet: A bet placed on a non-numbered event. These bets are considered low risk as they cover a large area of the roulette wheel and therefore have higher odds and lower payouts.
  • Pocket: The black, red and green numbered crevices on the roulette wheel where the ball lands after the wheel stops spinning.
  • Red Bet: An even-money bet on the red colour on the roulette wheel.
  • Six-Line Bet: An inside bet that covers two adjacent rows of numbers on the roulette grid (covering six numbers in total).
  • Split Bet: An inside bet that covers two adjacent numbers on the roulette grid.
  • Straight Up Bet: An inside bet made on a single number.
  • Street Bet: An inside bet placed on a row of three numbers on the roulette betting layout.
  • Square Bet: An inside bet made on one of four numbers (also known as a corner bet).

The roulette tables are where it all happens at the casino. The bets are placed, the wheel is spun and you can hear a pin dropping while all the players are waiting in suspense to see if they won or lost. Well perhaps it isn’t possible to actually hear a pin drop on a busy casino floor with thousands of gamblers, but you get the idea.

In upscale casinos you will find rectangular roulette tables made of leather and polished wood, whereas more casual gambling halls provide cheaper, synthetic upholstery tables. To this day, many tables still have drink and ashtray holders (reminder of the times smoking was still allowed in casinos). The roulette wheel itself will sit on a separate structure to prevent players from moving the table and trying to affect the outcome by moving the wheel (knowingly or not).

The tables look very similar at first, but European wheel and the American one have a different design and the bet grids of the two variations have a few differences as well. The first, most obvious clue that will let you tell the difference right away is the single zero pocket on a European roulette wheel vs two zero-pockets on the American version. Look more closely, and you will also notice that the numbers are also ordered very differently.

European roulette

The European roulette wheel has a total of 37 pockets. This includes a single zero pocket, which decreases the house edge significantly. The zero pocket is green (marked 0) and the other 36 numbers are divided by colour with half being red and the other half black. The clockwise sequence of the numbers is as follows: 26, 3, 35, 12, 28, 7, 29, 18, 22, 9, 31, 14, 20, 1, 33, 16, 24, 5, 10, 23, 8, 30, 11, 36, 13, 27, 6, 34, 17, 25, 2, 21, 4, 19, 15, and 32.

American Roulette

An American Roulette wheel has 38 pockets. It features two green zero pockets (marked at 0 and 00) which considerably increase the house edge, and reduce player’s chances to win in the long run. The American Roulette wheel has its numbers divided equally to black and red. The clockwise sequence of an American Roulette wheel is as follows: 0, 2, 14, 35, 23, 4, 16, 33, 21, 6, 18, 31, 19, 8, 12, 29, 25, 10, 27, 00, 1, 13, 36, 24, 3, 15, 34, 22, 5, 17, 32, 20, 7, 11, 30, 26, 9 and 28.

The Roulette Table

The roulette table is pretty similar across game variations, with the difference being again that the American version has one more field for the double zero pocket. All roulette table grids show clearly the inside bets and outside bets, and number colours on the grid correspond to their colours on the wheel.

Roulette Wheel Layout Logic

At first look, the number sequence on all roulette wheels looks very confusing and makes no sense. Although the number sequence on the wheel is different between roulette variations and appears random to the untrained eye, there is sound logic behind the position of numbers on the wheel. Following are a few reasons behind the sequence:

  • Confusing the player: The sequence is built in a way that makes it difficult for players to see the relation between numbers, follow patterns and make calculated bets. This is especially true for beginners.
  • Red and black alternate: Two adjacent pockets should always have different colours.
  • Low and high separation: Low (1-18) and high (19-36) numbers should alternate as much as possible and not be positioned next to each other.
  • Even and odd distribution: Even and odd numbers should be distributed across the wheel.

As you can see, there is a lot of clever thinking that went into the number sequence on the roulette wheel. So although confusing (on purpose), the number positions on a roulette wheel are all but random.

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Roulette House Edge, RTP and Odds

Roulette House Edge

Just like the player’s goal is to win, at the end of the day the casino’s aim is also to turn a profit. For this reason, casino games have a built-in mathematical advantage that gives the casino more chances to earn over the long run. This advantage is referred to as the house edge. It is practically the amount of money the casino keeps to itself out of the total money that players wager. The rest is returned to players as winnings over time.

To illustrate how the house edge works in roulette, let us use the European roulette wheel as an example. Although the wheel has 37 possible winning numbers, a player will only receive a payout of 35:1 on a winning number bet. The difference of these two units represents the built in house edge. If multiplying the house edge by the outcome probability and presenting the result in percentage terms, it will be 2.70% (1/37) in case of European roulette. Because the American roulette wheel has two zero-pockets, the probability of a successful outcome will reduce even further (1/38). Thus increasing the house edge to a whopping 5.26%.

Roulette RTP

The RTP (Return to Player) is the percentage of total bets that are paid back to players in winnings. Note, that this is a statistical measure of the amount paid back over time. As bet outcomes are random, it does not mean that any one specific player can win. Therefore the RTP should be seen as the overall amount paid to all players over the long run and not an individual player bankroll. RTP can be measured as the total wagers less the house edge. So in percentage terms, out of 100% wagers, European and American roulette RTP is 97.3% (100%-2.7%) and 97.74% (100%-5.26%) respectively.

Roulette Odds

The table below provides details on the type of roulette bets available, their payout and odds of winning:

Bet TypePayoutAmerican Roulette OddsEuropean Roulette Odds
Red/Black (colour)1:147.37%48.65%
Low/High (1-18/19-36)1:147.37%48.65%
6 Numbers (6 lines)5:115.79%16.22%
5 Numbers (top line)6:113.16%-
4 Numbers (square)8:110.53%10.81%
3 Numbers (street)11:17.89%8.11%
2 Numbers (split)17:15.26%5.41%
1 Number (straight)35:12.63%2.70%

The payout represents how much money you will receive on your winning bet as portion of your wager. For example a 1:1 is an even-money bet, where you will receive 1 unit (chip) for every unit you bet. 2:1 means that you will receive 2 units plus your original bet and so on. All the way to a winning bet on a single number (straight), which will give you 35 units plus your original bet on a winning bet of 1 unit.

Free Online Roulette

Imagine walking into a land-based casino, and play roulette for free with chances to win real money. For a brick and mortar casino that probably doesn’t sound true, because it isn’t. But in an online casino, free spins at the online roulette table happen quite often. Online casinos provide you with bonuses and ways to play online roulette games without spending your own money. It will give you a great chance to:

  • Learn the roulette rules
  • Try different roulette bets and odds
  • Test different roulette game variations.
  • Practice and prefect your own roulette strategy.
  • Win cash (subject to bonus wagering requirements).

Note however that due to regulations, free gameplay might not be available until you sign up to the online casino, verify your account and claim your casino bonus.

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