Roulette is one of the most popular casino table games of all time. It combines a style of play that’s easy to learn with high potential payout rates and strategic options that give players some serious customization over the nature of the wagers they are placing. Here we look at playing online Roulette and list the best casino sites to play at.
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Introduction to Roulette
It’s very easy to spot a roulette wheel in a land-based or online casino because they stand out in a major way. There’s nothing quite like roulette tables because they are one of the non-slot games that do not use dice or cards for randomization. Instead, you’re spinning a wheel with numbers on it to determine a winner, and that’s one of the most basic ideas that you can find anywhere in all of games or gambling.
Despite the fact that it’s based on such a simple premise, there’s a lot of depth in this game because of all of the different options you have for how you wager. On top of that, there are a few different styles of the game available to players, and that adds another element of selection to the experience.
With all of that having been said, we do want to make one thing perfectly clear: If you are not familiar with any casino games at all, then roulette is probably the best place for you to start because it’s easy to learn and doesn’t have any “trap bets” that will really cost you like many other games do.
The History of Roulette
Blaise Pascal is credited for creating one of the earliest versions of the game, which actually happened while he was searching for a style of perpetual motion machines. This happened during the 17th century, and a number of variations on this same concept were tried here and there in the upcoming decades.
In the 1790s, roulette games in the current style were found in Paris, France, and they may have been available as early as the 1770s and 1780s. These games used a style of play with a zero and a double zero, in what’s now known as American roulette, but one of them were red with the other in black. This caused a lot of confusion from players losing on even money bets whenever one of those zeroes appeared, so they were switched to being green to differentiate them at some point in the 1800s.
A key change in how roulette was presented started in 1843 when the first single-zero roulette games were introduced in Germany. These were more competitive because they gave a lower house advantage. Around the same time in the United States, versions of roulette started off using three different zeroes with a more limited number set that went from 1 to 28, but these fell out of favor pretty quickly for the traditional styles found in Europe.
By the late 1800s, roulette was by far the most popular casino game in both North America and Europe, and it attracted a lot of cheaters on both sides of the game (the house and the players). As such, game redesigns occurred that placed the full mechanism for the wheel itself up above the top of the table. This prevented situations where it was tampered with or otherwise manipulated, and this informed the styles of tables that are seen today, even when represented at online roulette tables.
From that point on, the style of the game found in land-based casinos stayed pretty much the same between the single-zero and double-zero variations, and it spread online in the same form that we have the game today.
The Basic Roulette Rules
On a simplistic level, the process of playing any style of roulette is pretty straightforward. You place wagers on numbers or groups of numbers, and then a wheel is spun. If your number comes up, or if you bet on a group that includes the number that comes up, then you win. If not, then you lose.
While there is a lot more to it than that, you can still follow this through how basic roulette gameplay works:
- You choose a wager to place on the game board and place your chips on the location that corresponds to the number of group of numbers that you’ll be wagering on.
- The croupier will spin the wheel with a small, marble-sized ball on it, and the ball will land in position for one of the numbers on the wheel.
- Players are then given payouts if they win. Those prizes are proportionate to the risk involved in the bet so that the higher the risk, the higher the reward.
Even though these three steps are easy enough to understand, things get a bit more complicated when it comes to the individual bets, the styles of the game and other options. Along these lines, the rules for these styles of play and the payouts that you get for different types of bets are going to be discussed below.
The Five Popular Types of Roulette
While the basic gameplay remains the same no matter what version of the game you’re playing, some of the particulars can be a bit different. The payout rates can also vary quite a bit, so we’re going to show you which games to stick to and how to tell if you’re getting the short end of the stick.
There are two key characteristics to look out for when judging which style of the game you’re playing at any given table. The first is how many numbers are on the wheel, which includes the possibility of multiple green zero spaces. The second is if there are any special rules that operate outside of the normal pay table. If you know those two things, then you’ll be able to identify the game you’re playing right away.
The way you identify American Roulette tables is that they use the numbers 1-36 while also having a green 0 and a green 00. This style of the game is known for having a particularly high house edge of about 5.3 percent for most of the bets that are available, which is significantly higher than your other options. The main disadvantage of this type is that it has a high house advantage, and there is no plus side.
In short, it’s extremely rare for there to be a good reason to play this particular style of the game.
The most popular type of roulette table online uses the European rules. While the European tables have the numbers 1-36 and a green 0 like the American ones do, it’s missing the green 00. Because of this one small change, you’ll find that every single wager on the table has a house advantage of just 2.7 percent, which is much lower than what you see above.
It’s very easy to confuse the European tables and the French roulette tables because they have the same numbers with a single green 0 and the numbers 1-36. However, what makes the French style of this game different is that it has some additional rules that give the player a better payout rate than the European style.
Those two rules are called “En Prison” and “La Partage,” and you’ll find one of the two available at each French table, though they won’t both be available at the same time. There’s some variation here, so you’ll need to identify which of these rules is in effect before you start playing. They both pertain to what happens when you have an even money wager and the ball lands on the green 0:
- La Partage Rule – In this case, players are given back half of their wager if they have an active even money bet when the ball lands on the green zero.
- En Prison Rule – With this rule, if you have an even money wager when the ball lands on the zero, instead of losing your bet, it will stay on the game board for an additional spin, and you will not be able to pull the bet back in the meantime.
Each of these are improvements for the player on the traditional European rules, but this style of the game is not always available at all online or land-based casinos.
Mini roulette is a game that essentially tries to trick players who know just enough to get themselves into trouble. At first glance, it looks like a normal single-zero roulette game. However, it only has the numbers 1-12 available instead of 1-36. As such, the house advantage on this game would be like if it had three different green zeroes available with the numbers 1-36.
Along these lines, you’ll have a 7.7 percent house advantage on wagers for this game, which makes it the worst type of table to play from this list.
For players who want to have a chance at a much larger top prize, the various progressive roulette tables out there will be an interesting option. Depending on the software provider and the casino running the game itself, the rules on how you trigger the jackpot will vary. Usually, players will find that they need to place a small side bet that’s just for the progressive, and the jackpot will trigger if a certain number or set of numbers are achieved on the spins starting with the one on which the player placed their side bet.
For example, if the rule was that the table had to spin a 7 for three turns in a row, you’d place your bet on the first spin of that set of three to qualify for the progressive.
Roulette Betting, Wagers and Payouts
The most difficult thing to learn about roulette is what all of the different wagers are and how they pay out. These types of bets are broken up into two types: inside bets and outside bets. Each of these two terms relate to whether the bets are placed inside or outside of the actual grid of numbers on the table. While the outside bets are the easiest for learn for beginners because of how straightforward they are, it’s the inside bets that give the game its depth and level of available customization of play.
Outside Roulette Bets
Around the outside of the grid of numbers on the roulette table, you’ll see various boxes that list things like “red,” “black,” “odd” or “even.” These are the outside bets, and the words that you see on those table spots describe what you’re betting on.
The following are outside bets that pay even money, so they pay out at a rate of 1:1.
- Red or Black – These are wagers on numbers that appear with a red or black background, respectively. Players win by landing a number that has the corresponding color in the background.
- Even or Odd – Along similar lines as above, a wager on even or odd wins on a number from 1-36 that is even or odd, respectively. Note that neither of these bets win if the result is a green 0 or 00.
- 1-18 or 19-36 – This is another even money bet that’s really easy to understand. If your number is in one of these two ranges, then you win. If not, then you lose.
Along these lines, players have two types of wagers that pay at a rate of 2:1 instead.
- Dozen Bets – These are bets on the ranges 1-12, 13-24 or 25-36. They work similarly to the 1-18 and 19-36 even bet bets except that the Dozen Bets pay at a rate of 2:1 since they’re less likely to win.
- Column Bets – Column bets are found in squares at the short end of the grid of numbers. Their squares are usually marked with “2:1” on the table, and they pay out if the winning number is presented on the given vertical column, each of which holds 12 different numbers.
We want to make something perfectly clear about the outside bets: None of them ever win if the result is a green 0 or 00.
Inside Roulette Bets
The most complicated part of this game happens with inside bets. When you’re betting on the inside, you’re betting on the grid of numbers in a variety of ways. While this can be as easy as simply picking an individual number that you’d like to place a wager on, there are a variety of options for betting on different groups of numbers all at one time that add some serious complications.
We can further break down the inside roulette bets into two groups. This first group deals with betting on one to six numbers at the same time without including any zeroes.
- Straight-up – A straight-up wager is a bet on just one number on the grid. You place this bet by putting your chips in the center of that number’s place on the board.
- Split – You can bet on two numbers that have adjacent spots on the inside of the table, even if they aren’t consecutive numbers, and this is done with a split bet. To place a split wager, put your chips on the middle of the line separating the two adjacent numbers you’d like to bet on.
- Street (or Row) – A street bet, also sometimes called a row bet, is a wager on three consecutive numbers that appear in a row across the board. To place this bet, put your chips on the center of the outside line of that row of three numbers.
- Corner – If four numbers come together at the same point, creating a two-by-two grid of spots, then you can place a corner wager that’s a bet on all four numbers by placing your chips directly on the corner that the four spots share.
- Double Street – Also called a six line bet in some casinos, a double street wager bets on a collection of six numbers that make up two consecutive rows or “streets” (see the above street bet). To make this bet, place your chips on the outside edge on the corner where the two streets meet.
The following three bets are a part of the second group, which deals with inside wagers that bet on combinations that include those zeroes.
- Trio – A trio bet can include a combination of 0-00-1-2-3 so that only three numbers are used. You place this bet by putting your chips on the corner of the three numbers that you’d like to bet on.
- Basket – On single-zero games, you can place a basket bet, which is a wager on the green 0 along with the first street of 1-2-3. You place this bet by putting your chips on the outside corner where the 0 and 1 meet or the outside corner where the 0 and 3 meet.
- Top Line – On double-zero games, the same type of wager as the basket is called the top line. You put your chips in the same place on the outside corner of the 0 and 1 or the outside corner of the 00 and 3, and this is a bet on all five of 0-00-1-2-3.
How to Calculate Roulette Payouts
If you’re playing a standard European-style roulette table, then there’s an easy process that you can follow to calculate the payout of any individual bet on the fly while you play. All it requires is some simple mental division and subtraction. Here is the process:
- Count the number of spots that the wager covers.
- Divide 36 by the number found in Step 1.
- Subtract 1 from the number found in Step 2.
After that, you’re finished. That’s all it takes to get your payout rate of a wager. We’ll walk through an example of a corner bet that’s placed on the cluster 2-3-5-6.
- We start by counting the number of spots that the wager covers. There are 4 spots covered by this wager (2-3-5-6).
- Next, we divide 36 by the number found in Step 1, so we divide 36 by 4, and that gives us 9.
- Finally, we subtract 1 by the number we found in Step 2. We know that 9 – 1 is 8, so the payout is 8x.
What this means is that if we bet €1 on a corner bet and win, then we’ll profit 8x on that wager, which is €8. With a little bit of practice, you can calculate these odds on the fly as you play instead of having to refer to a chart or reference.
Basic Roulette Strategy
There are two key ideas that drive strategy for roulette. The first is the idea of lowering the house advantage as much as you reasonably can, and you do this through game selection and picking and choosing promotions as much as you can. The second idea is being able to manipulate volatility and creating tiers of potential wins, which doesn’t affect your payout rate but does affect how much fun you can have customizing your experience.
Lowering the House Edge in Roulette
Players have two ways to manipulate the effective house advantage at online roulette tables:
- Game Selection – Always stick with French roulette with La Partage or En Prison rules if they’re available. If not, then European roulette is an acceptable substitute. Always stay away from the American and mini versions of the game.
- Bonuses and Promotions – Some sites, but not all, will have promotions or bonuses that can be used with roulette play. Make sure to use them if they are available as this will drive down the effective house advantage of the games.
It’s easy to underestimate the effects that these two tips can have on the overall house advantage. To illustrate how important they are, note that you can cut down the house edge to less than a third or quarter of what it would be by picking French roulette over mini roulette while playing with appropriate promotions.
Customizing Your Volatility With Betting Tiers
Assuming you’re playing a European roulette game, there’s a cool feature with the mathematics of the game that means that every single bet that you could possibly make has the exact same house edge. That means that there’s no one wager that’s better or worse than any others in this game in terms of the advantage that the house has.
However, one big difference between the various bets is that their volatility levels can be drastically different.
Consider that a straight-up bet and an even money bet in European roulette have the same house advantage but that the former has a much, much higher volatility than the latter.
Once you realize this, you’ll realize that you can increase or decrease the volatility of your overall betting strategy while simultaneously creating tiers of different wagers that overlap each other.
For example, you could combine a red bet with an even bet to create three tiers of possible results: win both wagers, win only one (break even) or lose both. Mixing different inside and outside bets in this way is one of the most fun ways to approach the game since you can customize the available betting tiers to what is the most fun for you as an individual.
Live Dealer Roulette
Players who are looking for the most genuine experience when playing roulette online should pick the Live Dealer Roulette tables. The “live” means that there’s a real human dealer and a real roulette table that you see over a live video stream from a studio somewhere. Most online casinos have a specific section for live games, so you might have to visit that to find Live Roulette. Like regular Roulette you can find many different variants of Live Roulette, with different betting limits and other features.
There are live dealer roulette games made available at a lot of different online casinos, and while they offer play in what’s essentially the same as most other tables, the experience they offer is much different.
Live roulette tables online give players a chance to watch the game unfold in real-time with high-definition video and audio feeds. You’ll be able to make bets through your computer or mobile device, but instead of having a virtual table in front of you, you’ll be watching the wheel spin and the bets be reconciled on a real table with a real dealer.
A few key things that you should know about these live games are found in the following:
- Most live roulette casino games are single-zero with European rules, but there are some exceptions.
- The minimum bet sizes for live dealer tables are almost always higher than the minimums for traditional online games.
- Players can chat with others playing from all over the world, and that adds the social atmosphere that’s often missing from online roulette.
- You have the option to tip your dealer, but it’s completely optional and not an obligation at all.
The only other major difference in this style of play is that the game will generally run slower than if you’re playing by yourself on a traditional virtual table. You’ll see a timer for when the wheel will be spun on the live tables, and that’s to help keep the game moving along at a regular speed, but you can’t speed that timer up either.
Roulette is a game that offers beginners an easy way to get started playing in a casino without having to risk falling into the mistakes of trap bets with a high house edge. On top of that, the rules are pretty straightforward and easy to understand without a bunch of complicated betting rounds. With that having been said, there’s plenty of room for depth and customization thanks to betting tier strategies like those we mentioned above, and the house edge is pretty low overall for a game that does not have a substantial skill element to it like blackjack or video poker.