Everyone knows Roulette. It is one of the four most widely recognized casino games in existence. The tetrad is composed of Slot Machines, Blackjack, Craps, and Roulette. These are the symbols of casino games, and Roulette is among these four, the one most often seen in advertisements, movies, and the media. Maybe it is due to the fast paced interactive nature of the game, or maybe it is because the wheel itself is such an exemplary model of beauty and elegance. Whatever the reason, the game is immediately associated with wealth, sophistication, and high class society.
The word “Roulette” comes from French, and means, literally, “small wheel”. The game is quite simple to figure out. Players place wagers on specific numbers printed in an array on the table, and the croupier spins the wheel. Wherever the ball lands, that’s where the payout will be. It is a game of pure, dumb luck. And it is incredibly enjoyable.
Many casino games have very ancient pedigrees. Roulette, has perhaps the most refined history of them all. The game was invented by none other than Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, philosopher, and scientist, who is widely known as the father of probability theory, and for whom a programming language was named. He was working on the perpetual motion problem (which has never been solved) and invented the roulette wheel in one of his physics experiments. By the 1800s the wheel had been adopted into the game of chance we know today.
There were several iterations of the Roulette wheel throughout its history. Early wheels consisted of 36 numbers on the wheel plus the “0” and “00” slots. These are the ones that survived to this day, and are still in play at casinos worldwide. In the late 1800s, Hoyle gaming had a wheel that only had 28 numbers plus the “0” and “00” and one additional slot that depicted an eagle. Needless to say, the novelty Roulette wheels of the 1800s did not catch on, and only the more traditional versions survived. The double “0” wheel thrives In the US, while in Europe, the more favorable single “0” is the mainstay. Besides this one difference the games are identical.
Modern Roulette tables are laid out with the wheel at the head of the table, manned by the croupier and an array of red and black boxes down the length of the table, each bearing one particular number. These boxes are grouped in segments: 1 to 12, 13 to 24, and 25 to 36. There are also the green “0” and “00” boxes (depending on the version) at the top end of the boxes. Each of these groupings is divided into a variety of betting boxes. There are the 1st 12 bet, 2nd 12, and 3rd 12 boxes, which allows players to bet on an entire third of the table. A similar betting box is along the bottom, which takes a full third of the table down a row. Additional bets are 1 to 18 and 19 to 36, which cover half the table with the variations of even/odd and red/black bets.
Inside bets include: Straight Up Bets, which are wagers on specific numbers; Split Bets, which are when the chip is placed on two numbers, along their dividing line; Street Bets, which are wagers on three numbers in a row, horizontally—the chip is set along the edge; Corner Bet, which selects four numbers by placing the chip on a four-way intersection; Double Street Bet, which covers two horizontal lines; Trio Bet, selects the 0, 1, and 2 or 0, 2, and 3, depending on the version played; Basket Bet, which selects either the 0, 1,2, and 3 in European and the 0, 1, 2 or 00, 2, 3 in American; Top Line, which is only available in American Roulette, which selects the 0s and the top street
The betting options are defined as “inside” or “outside” bets. Inside bets are the ones placed on specific numbers on the table, or on a small grouping of numbers if chips are placed along the border lines or corner lines. Inside bets have the highest payouts because of the low likelihood of randomly picking the winning number. Outside bets are those along the perimeter of the numbered boxes. Outside bets allow players to pick large groupings that cover either one third or one half of the table. Many people think that covering two thirds of the table is a good strategy, but due to the lower payout on these wagers, this is not always the case. The payouts are usually not large enough to cover losses, so in the long run, the two thirds strategy loses. This is compounded by the fact of the “0” and “00” slots, which skew the odds in the casino’s favor. As with most games, minimum and maximum bets are de rigeur at Roulette tables.
The game plays out rather simply. Players place their wagers in a mad rush of excitement until the croupier announces “no more bets”. The ball may already be spinning in the wheel by the time the announcement is made. When the ball finally lands in one particular pocket and stays in it, the croupier will place a dolly on the table to show the winning number and will collect all the losing bets and then pay out all the winners in turn. The chips on the winning squares remain untouched unless players want to move them for the next turn.
This is all there is to the game. It is extremely simple at its core. This is not to say that there isn’t a lot to know when playing. There are more exotic bets, named Call Bets, which don’t require a chip on the table. The player merely announces the bet to the croupier. These bets are usually unavailable or illegal based on the jurisdiction. Many online casinos don’t allow these bets due to logistical reasons.
A word of caution is due. I mentioned that the two thirds betting system is not a winning proposition. The truth is that there are no systems at all that work at the Roulette table. The game must be played at face value, allowing luck to determine whether one goes home significantly richer or poorer.
The first betting method people turn to is the Martingale System, which involves covering losses with each successive bet. The system is foolproof in theory, but in reality, there are two barriers: limited bankroll, and in the case of unlimited bankroll, betting limits. Combined, these two limitations destroy the Martingale System’s efficacy.
The second notion to dispel is the idea that the various bets have any significant difference. At face value, a two thirds bet seems a lot safer than an inside bet on one particular number. This is a bit of an illusion. In the long term, the odds even out on both wagering styles. The reason is that in two thirds bet, payout is 2:1, but the losses are always one. Wins come up almost two out of three times due to the “0” slot(s). If the wheel spins 40 times, to account for every square on the table, players can expect to win approximately 35 chips, and to lose approximately 3 chips. This actually works out to the same odds of placing a chip on one number and waiting for the wagered number to come up.
What this means for players is that trying to win at Roulette through a system is impossible. It is not a game of skill. The only way to play roulette is to leave everything up to chance. Waiting for a particular number to come up is a losing proposition. Players will always lose more than they win. However, walking up to a Roulette table and placing a few random wagers, and getting a large payout for them, is a very different way to approach the game, and one that is a lot more rewarding. Roulette is a game of pure hazard. There are no other casino games with results so purely left to chance. This is because each spin of the wheel has the same odds as the previous one and the one that follows. For long term wins, there are skill based games like Blackjack. For short term excitement, nothing can beat Roulette.