Rules & Strategy – Roulette



Fans of history know that all-too-often, discoveries come not by way of pure genius, but rather accidentally while searching for, well, something else. Electricity, X-rays, penicillin, dynamite; these and many, many more remarkable discoveries are nothing more than the product of persistence and timely happenstance.

Oddly as it may seem, roulette shares such auspicious company. As the story goes, the first form of the game was devised in the 17th century by famed French mathematician Blaise Pascal who inadvertently fathered it while attempting to create a perpetual motion machine. Although his original goal remains elusive to this day, his “small wheel” creation has been thrilling casino gamblers for centuries.

Roulette Basics: Playing the Game

Despite its intricate appearance, roulette is actually one of the easiest casino games to master, online or otherwise. In the game a croupier spins the wheel, which has 37 numbered slots (or 38, depending on which version you play) that correspond to the table layout as shown below.

As you can see, the main pockets are numbered from 1 to 36 and alternate between black and red. Notice also that there is a special green pocket numbered 0—and in the case of a U.S. roulette wheel, a 00— that falls outside the general betting field. The game begins when a player makes their selection and places a bet. These bets can be on individual numbers, combinations of numbers, ranges, odds, evens, and colors. Once a wager has been placed, the “croupier” spins the wheel, and then launches the ball into play. In short order the ball drops onto the wheel, with the outcome being determined by the final resting place of the ball—that is, which slot it lands in. The table below describes the various types of bets as well as their payouts.

Basic Roulette: Types of Bets

Bet Description Pays
Any single number Bet placed on number 0 to 36 35-1
Split bet Bet placed between two numbers that covers those numbers 17-1
Street bet Bet placed at the end of a row to cover three numbers 11-1
Square bet Bet placed on four adjacent numbers 8-1
Five-number bet Bet placed on 0, 00, 1, 2, 3 6-1
Line bet Bet placed at the end of a line between two rows. Covers those six numbers 5-1
Low number bet An 18-number bet covering numbers 1-18 1-1
High number bet An 18-number bet covering numbers 19-36 1-1
Dozen bet Bet placed on fields “1st 12” “2nd 12” and “3rd 12” covering 12 numbers 2-1
Column bet A 12-number bet covering the field at the end of a vertical column 2-1
Odd number bet Bet placed on odd numbers. Does not include zero 1-1
Even number bet Bet placed on even numbers. Does not include zero 1-1
Color bet Bet placed on “Red” or “Black” and covers 18 numbers. Zero is not covered. 1-1

Variations on a Theme

Considering the enduring international appeal of this game, it’s not surprising that there are several variations of roulette with rules based on some combination of traditional and regional preferences. While such variations often result in less favorable adaptations (at least for the player), in the case of roulette it’s more of a godsend, especially if you’re accustomed to playing in U.S. casinos where the double-zero grinds away the bankroll at a moderately high 5.26%. Thankfully, sites like Royal Vegas offer each of the most popular variations, affording patrons the opportunity to select their ideal version. Below is a breakdown of the rule differences for each version.

Common Roulette Version (Web) Adjusted Rules

American Roulette The most common roulette game found in U.S. casinos, American roulette features both the “0” and “00” slots. The house edge in this version of the game is the highest in the roulette family: 5.26%.

European Roulette One of the oldest and most popular forms of the game, European roulette uses a single zero wheel that offers a reduced house edge of 2.70%.

French Roulette French roulette uses a single zero wheel and offers the traditional European surrender rule where players only lose half of any money bet (red, black, odd, even, 1-18, 19-36) if the ball lands in zero. The house’s edge on even money bets is a low 1.35%, making it quite possibly the best roulette game on the Internet

For Better or Worse: Roulette Strategy

For years, gamblers have tried to calculate that perfect strategy to guarantee consistent returns in roulette. While always exciting and occasionally quite profitable, by its very nature roulette is immune to any form of “foolproof” system. Remember, roulette is a game of pure chance; it relies on random action to determine the result, and no legitimate mechanical skill or player interaction will affect the outcome of the game.

But that doesn’t keep players from trying.

A number of insidious little strategies for beating the game have been developed (and sold to unsuspecting players) over the years, none offering any real value. One recurring method that has been the demise of many a roulette player is called the Martingale system. This “strategy” calls for players to continuously double up on their even money bets with each successive loss until a win, thereby recovering all previous losses while earning a small profit—the value of the initial wager. On the surface this method sounds feasible but is flawed in practice (it doesn’t take too many consecutive losses before you exceed the table limit or have exhausted your bankroll) and inevitably results in crippling losses.

Another dubious strategy frequently cited by roulette players is the Fibonacci system. This method, based on the “Fibonacci Sequence” developed by Italian mathematician Leonard Pisan in 1170, involves a system that calculates a score and action based on the results of previous events. The sequence is as follows: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 and so on.

In the Fibonacci sequence, the next number in the series is the sum of the previous two numbers. When used in gambling, players begin by betting a single unit on an even-money game. For each loss, the player records the action and continues with the next number in the series, betting that number of units. So in the sequence, the second bet is also one unit, while the third is two, the forth three, and so on until a win. When that happens, the player crosses out the previous two numbers in the sequence and continues until all numbers in the sequence are eliminated and a profit is secured. It looks like this:

Bet/outcome Sequence Accumulated loss/win
Bet 1 unit and lose 1 -1 units
Bet 1 unit and lose 1-1 -2 units
Bet 2 units and lose 1-1-2 -4 units
Bet 3 units and lose 1-1-2-3 -7 units
Bet 5 units and win 1-1-x-x -2 units
Bet 2 units and lose 1-1-2 -4 units
Bet 3 units and win 1-x-x -1 unit
Bet 1 unit and win End of sequence +1 unit
Once the sequences has been won, players start over

Although not as aggressive as the Martingale system, the Fibonacci system is similar in that it does not alter the outcome and fails to guarantee a profit over time. Eventually, you’ll simply be too far down in the sequence to sustain any additional bets.

In the long run, no “system” will effectively allow a roulette player to overcome the house edge. The best strategy is simply to practice sound money management techniques and to pick the best possible version of the game—that is, the one with the lowest vigorish. And even though it’s a tough game to beat, by playing smartly, keeping a tight reign on your bankroll, and by taking advantage of the reduced vigorish games found online, you can often walk away a winner.

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About the Author: John Micheal

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