It takes seconds to learn how to play roulette, but the classic casino table game has hidden depths if you’re willing to look beyond the reds and blacks, croupier catchphrases and Hollywood theatre.
After 300 years, roulette is still the same game, an ode to the laws of physics that will always fascinate us. Wheel meets ball, meets number.
Did you guess right? You win a prize! That’s roulette in a nutshell.
To know how to play roulette, you only need the basic rules of the game and some knowledge of the most common roulette bet types.
Let’s start with the rules of the game.
Basic roulette rules
The aim of roulette is to pick the winning number by predicting where a roulette ball settles on a roulette wheel. Where blackjack uses playing cards which are shuffled to create randomness, roulette uses a rotating wheel full of numbers, and a ball which zooms down a track in the opposite direction, making it impossible to predict where it’ll land.
Here’s a 10 second roulette tutorial which explains how a game works.
#1 Place your bet
Use chips to pick numbers, sections or a colour before the betting round closes.
#2 Spin the roulette wheel
A winning number is randomly chosen by a ball spinning round a wheel.
#3 Win if the number matches your bet
Guess correctly and you’ll win between 1 and 35 times your bet depending on the bet type.
What you need to play roulette
To play roulette you need a wheel, a ball, a betting board and some chips. A casino employee called a croupier used to be essential too, but with the invention of automated wheels and online roulette, you can play just fine without one.
1st Element: The roulette wheel
Roulette is played on a gaming table which features a roulette wheel and a betting board. A European roulette wheel features the numbers 1 to 36, alternating in red and black, plus a single zero. To add extra unpredictability, the numbers were jumbled up, so 0 is followed clockwise by 32 Red and 15 Black. It can be hard to follow the numbers you’ve chosen as the wheel spins, but all roulette tables use the same layout and with a few spins under your belt, you’ll be able to spot your numbers as they whizz by.
2nd Element: The betting board
The roulette board is the perfect way to let players place their bets and see what everyone else is betting on. It’s also easy for a croupier to confirm the winning number, pay out winning bets and rake away the losers.
Unlike the wheel where numbers are seemingly random order, the betting board makes life easier for players by ordering them in rows from 0 to 36.
How to play roulette: the basics
A single game of roulette lasts less than a minute, from the start of the betting round to the settling of bets after the ball has stopped. In that time, you’ll need to get some chips, grab a spot at the table and place your bets. Then it’s for the gods to decide where the ball lands, and the croupier to do their work.
The following steps assume you want to learn how to play roulette in a land-based casino, but most of the advice in this guide works for online roulette too.
Step 1: Choosing a roulette table
In a typical UK casino, you’ll have several roulette tables to choose from. They’ll use the same rules, so the only way to choose between them is by minimum and maximum stakes, and if there’s a free spot at the table.
The most common table stake in roulette is a £1 minimum bet on single numbers, and usually £5 or more for outside bets like black or red. Casinos cater for up to 7 players at each roulette table by providing 7 coloured chip sets. But even if a table seems full, you may still be allowed to nip in and place a bet with a cash chip (e.g. £5 or £25). If you want to play roulette for longer than a few spins, it’s best to look for a table with a free set of chips and some space.
If there’s a big selection of tables (or casinos) to choose from and you want a game with the lowest house edge when playing roulette, look for a table with European or French rules.
Step 2: Getting chips
You can’t walk into a casino and make a roulette bet with a £10 note. Although it’s possible to bet a £5 casino chip (or ‘cash chip’) on a spin of the roulette wheel, players are encouraged to swop cash or cash chips for special roulette chips with a nominal value (usually the table minimum). Every player is assigned a specific colour, and each chip has the same value.
If everyone at the table could bet generic £1 cash chips, the croupier would find it impossible to know who had bet what. If Dave uses pink chips, Gerry has yellow and Martha plays green, settling bets becomes much easier.
You can only get roulette chips from the croupier at the table. Here’s the correct order for how to buy into a game:
- Decide how much you want to spend
- Wait for a pause between spins
- Tell the dealer you’d like to play
- Place cash casino chips (or cash notes, if allowed) on the table
- The croupier will move the corresponding stack of same-coloured chips to your corner of the table
Step 3: When to bet?
The window of opportunity to place your roulette bets starts as soon as the croupier has paid out any winners from the previous spin, and cleared the board of losing bets. Listen out for them to say “place your bets” too.
At a full table on a busy night, the betting action will be frantic as players jostle to get their chips in position. Once the croupier thinks everyone has had enough time to bet, they’ll give the wheel a spin one way, launch the ball the other way and announce “no more bets”. If you haven’t got all of your chips in place by then, you’re too late and you’ll have to wait for the next game.
Online roulette revolutionised the roulette experience, putting players in control. By offering your own private table and a spin button, casinos let you play at your own speed, so you need never miss a spin. It also made it easier to learn how to play roulette by making advanced features like special bets much more accessible.
Step 4: How to bet?
There are several ways to place your bets in roulette. In a land-based casino, most players will lean over the table and scatter their chips around board. You’ll need to be precise about the placement of your chip, especially as inside bets don’t leave much room for error, and there may be lots of other chips on the board already too.
If someone has already put a chip on a number you want to bet on, place yours on top of theirs. It won’t matter if your chip isn’t perfectly centered on a number or section of the board, but if there’s any doubt what bet you wanted to make, the dealer will ask you to confirm your bet.
If you can’t reach a particular section of the board, toss your chips to the dealer and announce the number and amount. Experienced players who use the racetrack betting zone will usually announce their bets. If you hear a player tell the dealer “Number 3 & the neighbours by 5”, they’re asking the dealer to place £5 chips on the number 3 plus 2 numbers either side of 3, for a total of 5 x £5 bets. On a European roulette wheel, that bet would include 12-35-3-26-0 and cost a total of £25.
Placing your online roulette bets is considerably easier, and you’ll never need to elbow anyone out of the way to get to the table. Simply choose your chip value and tap or click the roulette board to place your bets.
Step 5: Use popular roulette strategies
You can place as many different bets as you like, provided your total falls within the table’s maximum total bet. The amount of numbers and bet types you choose in a single spin depends on your preferred roulette strategy. Some players like to place a single straight up bet on every spin, ensuring their session bankroll goes further. Most roulette players spread 10 or more chips around the inside betting board, using a combination of straight up and split bets on a seemingly random art of numbers.
My own favourite roulette strategy is to bet on a combination of straight up, splits, streets and outside bets, all of which cover my lucky roulette number, 14 Red. This creates a huge range of possible outcomes, from a total loss to small returns or a huge win if 14 comes in.
Step 6: Learn the roulette result (How winning and losing works)
Once the croupier has released the ball, it usually takes around 10 seconds for the ball to drop into a pocket, although the speed of wheel and ball varies from croupier to croupier.
When the ball stops, the dealer will call the number, the colour and if it’s odd or even. They’ll place a glass marker called a dolly on top of the winning number on the betting board, clear away the losing bets and pay out each player’s winning in turn.
If you placed a winning inside bet with big payout odds, the dealer will move a stack of chips to your corner of the table, and leave your original bet in place. Unless you choose to take it off the table, it’ll be treated as a repeat bet.
If you won at roulette with an outside bet, the dealer will usually place your winning chips alongside your original bet, and it’s your responsibility to remove or rebet them.
Step 7: Cashing out
After you finish playing roulette, if you still have roulette chips that you bought from the croupier, you’ll need to exchange them back into cash chips before you leave the table. You can then take those cash chips to the cashier and convert them into money.
Roulette bet types
There are more bet types in roulette than any other casino game, and a much wider range of roulette odds too.
Roulette bets are grouped into inside, outside and special bets.
Inside bets are all contained within the main numbers grid, while outside bets such as Odd/Even outside the grid. You can find some special bets in the racetrack area, but many are simply verbal or ‘announced’ bets.
Inside bets in roulette are bets on specific numbers. You can bet on single numbers or groups of up to 6 numbers, and you get the biggest roulette odds of any bet types. Inside bets are the longer shots of roulette, but the roulette payouts are bigger.
|Straight Up||Numbers: 1||Odds: 35 to 1|
|Split||Numbers: 2||Odds: 17 to 1|
|Street||Numbers: 3||Odds: 11 to 1|
|Corner||Numbers: 4||Odds: 8 to 1|
|Line||Numbers: 6||Odds: 5 to 1|
Winning at roulette is easier if you play more numbers, although it won’t make you any richer as the house edge is the same for every bet.
If you want to cover a bigger proportion of the wheel, the outside bets below and at the end of the number grid are a good place to start. As you’re betting on many more numbers, you’ll win more often, but the odds are shorter too.
|Column||Numbers: 12||Odds: 2 to 1|
|Dozen||Numbers: 12||Odds: 2 to 1|
|Odd or Even||Numbers: 18||Odds: 2 to 1|
|High or Low||Numbers: 18||Odds: 2 to 1|
|Black or Red||Numbers: 18||Odds: 2 to 1|
As if 10 roulette bets wasn’t enough, the French forefathers of roulette came up with a range of special bets which allowed players to cover collections of numbers based on colours, digits or location on the wheel.
To cover a wide section of the wheel, look for any of the following bet types.
- Les Voisins du Zero (or Serie 0/2/3) – 8 split bets covering 17 numbers
- Orphelins – 8 single number bets
- Tiers du Cylinder (or Serie 5/8) – 6 split bets covering 12 numbers
- Jeu Zero – 3 splits and 1 straight-up, covering 7 numbers
If you want to cover just 5 numbers in a row on the wheel, bet on the middle number on the racetrack, or announce your number ‘and the neighbours’. The resulting bet is exactly the same as placing 5 straight-up bets on single numbers.
These specials involve groups that end in a particular number.
- Final Plein – Straight up bets on all numbers ending in a specific number (e.g. Final Plein 5 includes 5, 15, 25 & 35)
- Final Cheval – A combination of straight-up and split bets on any number ending in either of 2 numbers (e.g. Final Cheval 5/8 includes 5, 8, 15, 18, 25, 28, 35)
Bets on pairs of same-colour numbers that are next to each other on the betting board.
- Red Splits – 4 split bets on the pairs of adjacent red numbers on the board
- Black Splits – 7 split bets on the adjacent black numbers
The Different types of roulette
Roulette games around the world use different rules. The most obvious example is what the dealer has to do on a soft 17 (Ace and a 6). In some games, they continue to hit until they make a hard 17
European roulette is the most popular roulette game in the UK. With a single zero, it has a house edge of 2.70% and usually features the widest range of special bets. Like all roulette games, European roulette has its own sequence of numbers on the wheel too.
With the addition of a double zero, American roulette has more betting options, but a higher house edge at 5.26%. The 00 also enables a new inside bet called Top Line or Five Line which covers 0, 00, 1, 2 & 3, and is unique to American roulette.
Unfortunately with payout odds of 6 to 1, Top Line has a house edge of over 7%, and shouldn’t figure often in any sensible strategy for how to play roulette. American roulette also uses a different sequence of numbers on the wheel.
This version is identical to European roulette but can feature the La Partage or En Prison rules, which come into play if the ball lands in zero. With La Partage, anyone who made an even money bet will get half of their bet back.
En Prison is a modified version where if zero comes up, your even money bet is carried over to the next spin, and if it wins, you get your full bet back. Both of these French roulette bets slash the 2.70% house edge on even money bets to 1.35%.
Other roulette variations
Games developers are always looking for ways to innovate, and that’s led to the invention of new and exciting roulette games. In Lightning Roulette, some numbers are selected for bigger payout odds of up to 500x, but the remaining straight up bets pay 30 to 1.
In Double Ball Roulette, you have 2 chances to win and your odds are halved. You can also get 35 to 1 odds for both balls to land on together on any number, or 1,300 to 1 odds if both balls land on the same specific number
European roulette has a standard house edge of 2.70% or in online casino terms, a Return To Player of 97.30%. The casino’s advantage is created in 2 different ways, depending on the type of bet.
Giving worse payout odds than the actual probability of something happening is how bookmakers and casino operators create their margin. In European roulette there are 37 numbers, yet you get paid 35 to 1. We can calculate the Return To Player by imagining that on the same roulette spin, we bet £1 on all 37 numbers, and seeing what we get back from the winning number.
Total stake: 37 x £1 bets = £37
Total return: £1 @ 35 to 1 + original bet = £36
RTP = Return / Stake x 100 = 36/37 x 100 = 97.30%
Outside bets and zero
The casino’s advantage for outside bets is created by the presence of the zero. As it’s not included in red/black, odd/even or high/low categories, all outside bets lose when zero comes in.
When you make an even money bet, you will win around 48.6% of the time but you’ll only be paid 1 to 1 odds. Looking at it another way, if you bet on both red and black, you’ll break-even 36 times out of 37 but lose 1 in 37 times, and it’s that loss that creates a 2.70% edge.
What we’ve learned
With a dramatic way of choosing random numbers and a selection of bet types to suit any player, roulette is one of the most popular games of chance.
By now you will know:
- The basic rules of roulette including what happens on each spin
- What bets are available and how to place a bet
- Some interesting betting strategies
- How the house edge works
- Some roulette do’s and don’ts
Learning how to play roulette by reading a roulette guide is one thing, but nothing replaces the experience of playing the game. Go give it a spin!