Being one of the oldest casino games still played to date, roulette has become an absolute symbol of gambling. Rarely is there a casino-related movie which does not feature dramatic close-up shots of the roulette table, with the spinning wheel surrounded by a crowd of players and onlookers eagerly awaiting the outcome of the next coup.

This is easily the most commonly played game across European casinos, so much so that often finding a vacant seat is quite a challenge. Roulette also enjoys a good deal of popularity on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, where it is the game of choice for many recreational players and professional gamblers alike.

In recent years, roulette has become one of the main drawing attractions at online casinos as well, with hundreds of licensed websites offering it in its numerous variations to players who seek thrills and easy winning opportunities. In fact, nowadays many would prefer to play this iconic casino staple in the comfort of their surroundings but few recreational gamblers have dedicated the necessary time needed for gaining a proper understanding of the fine points of this captivating game.

If your intentions are to learn to play roulette like a pro, either online or offline, you would do good to go through this 100bestcasinos’ guide. Here you can learn the subtleties of the game alongside some of the most common systems and then head to one of the online casinos we recommend to put your knowledge to the test at the virtual roulette tables.

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The Rules at the Roulette Table

Taking a seat at any casino table without understanding the respective game’s rules would be incredibly foolish, so let us first introduce you to roulette’s rules. One very important aspect of roulette that some gamblers fail to understand is that it is a game of chance, which means separate coups are independent of one another. The probability of all outcomes occurring on the next spin is exactly the same at all times. But more on this later.

Now, do not be fooled by the seemingly complex equipment used at the table. The game’s rules are, in fact, rather straightforward. Roulette is played on a wheel containing alternating red and black pockets with numbers from 1 to 36, plus one green pocket with a zero (or two zeros at some tables). All 37 (or 38) numbers are also present on the table’s layout where players position their chips.

The purpose here is rather simple – you bet on the number(s) you think would come up on the next coup by placing chips in the respective boxes or their intersections on the layout. Both online and offline casinos would set minimum and maximum limits for the table as well as for the different types of bets. No more wagers are accepted once the ball is tossed on the spinning wheel.

french roulette layout

In landbased casinos, the wheels have metal deflectors (also called diamonds in roulette jargon) at their rims whose purpose is to ensure randomness by disrupting the ball’s trajectory. The online variations of the games have wheels that are exact replicas of those in landbased venues. They also have deflectors at the rims but these are only added for cosmetic reasons since online randomness is guaranteed by a Random Number Generation (RNG) software.

The ball’s movement is governed by Newton’s laws of motion which is rather fitting considering it was the famed physicist who came up with the prototype of the roulette wheel while trying to invent a perpetual motion machine. Eventually, gravity would have its say causing the ball to slow down and eventually come to rest in one of the pockets.

The croupier (or the software) would then mark the winning number on the layout with a marker, called a dolly, and announce the result out loud. The chips from losing bets are removed from the layout while winners are paid out according to the probability attached to their wagers. Once all wagers are settled, the entire process is repeated as long as there are bettors at the table.

Single-Zero vs. Double-Zero Tables – Which Ones to Play

One very salient distinction can be made between roulette tables in European and American casinos. The wheels containing only 36 numbers alongside a single green zero tend to prevail across casinos in the Old Continent. Respectively, there is only one zero on the layouts. American casinos have adopted the double-zero format for their tables where there is a total of 38 numbers because of the extra zero pocket, marked as “00”. The variations also differ in the way the numbers are sequenced on the wheelheads. Distinctions can be made between the so-called French and American number sequences.

The double-zero is not added to the American sequence just so. It is placed there deliberately with the sole purpose of increasing the casino’s profitability from the roulette tables. You see, some of the most common bet types in this game involve wagering on the wheel numbers’ properties like red/black, odd/even, and high/low. However, the zero does not fall under any of these categories, first of all, because it is green and second of all, because in roulette, it is considered neither odd nor even. Respectively, when you bet on the above number properties and the ball lands on zero, you lose your wager.

european roulette layout

The zero causes a shift in the odds and let us tell you this shift is not in your favour. It ever so slightly diminishes the probability of winning with even-money bets like those we mentioned above. If there were no zeros on the wheels, the players’ chances of winning or losing with these bets would have been even with 18 red/odd/high and 18 black/even/low numbers. Instead of that, the single zero gives the casino an advantage over roulette players of 2.70% which is to say the house gets to collect $0.27 from every ten bucks wagered at its tables.

At tables where the La Partage rule applies for even-money bets, the above percentage is reduced in half to 1.35%. This rule helps players by enabling them to collect half of their losing stakes on even-chance bets in cases when they lose to the zero.

american roulette layout

You probably see what the problem with the American variation is. There are two zeros you can lose your even-chance bets to. Therefore, you are playing against a house advantage that is nearly twice as big at 5.26%. The house would collect even more money from you over the long term.

So which tables should you play? We think the answer is pretty much self-evident. You will lose more money to the house over the long run when playing at the double-zero tables but this is easy to prevent – all you have to do is stick to the single-zero variants like European and French roulette. If you ask us for advice, we would tell you to hunt for single-zero online variations where the La Partage rule is included since it gives the house the smallest advantage it can obtain in roulette.

Available Roulette Bets, True Odds and Payouts

It is no wonder roulette has turned into an absolute symbol of casino gambling, considering the vast choice of betting options it presents players with. There are plenty of ways you could win in this game but some bet types offer you better odds than others. A distinction is generally made between two bet types, inside and outside, but many tables would accept a third category of wagers that go under the name of call bets.

Roulette is one of the casino games where the odds do not fluctuate on the basis of the type of bets one makes. Here it is essential to distinguish between the true odds and the casino odds, i.e. the payouts the casino offers on winning wagers. The true odds are fair odds because they reflect the mathematical ratio between the winning and losing outcomes for a given wager. In the meantime, the house odds are meant to give the casino an advantage over players so that it turns a long-term profit no matter the outcomes of the spins.

This is achieved by paying you less on your winning wagers than the true odds. For example, if you bet on a single winning number, the true odds of it winning on a 37-pocket wheel would be 36 to 1. This, however, would not stop the dealer from paying you less at casino odds of 35 to 1. Such deviations from the true odds are how the casino turns a profit, causing you to eventually lose money the more you play.

The Fallacy of the Maturity of Chances

Of course, you can win a session or two when on a hot streak but the discrepancies between true odds and payouts would always have their say in the long run. In fact, streaks often lead to judgemental bias among players who believe they can beat the wheel – their sample of spins is indeed small enough for them to make one such assumption.

It is important to remember that anything can occur over a short period of time, including the same individual number being spun five, six, even ten times in a row because in roulette, one individual outcome has no effect on the probability of other outcomes occurring.

Just to prove a point, here is a real-life example. The date is August 8, 1913, the place – the lavish Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco. It was a night like any other until players at one of the roulette tables noticed black was getting spun way too many times in a row and started staking money on the opposite outcome, red, because it was “overdue”. To their disappointment black kept coming up. Indeed, red got spun eventually but not until the ball landed on black pockets 26 times in a row causing gamblers at Casino de Monte Carlo to part with eye-watering amounts of money that night. This judgemental bias became known as the Gambler’s Fallacy, also known as the Fallacy of the Maturity of Chances. The point is with small samples streaks do appear to occur but if the sample is large enough, the odds would eventually even out and not in your favour.

This is where the Law of Large Numbers kicks in. Provided that the ball is tossed on the wheel N number of times, the outcomes of the spins would eventually inch closer to the expected value which is negative in most casino games, roulette included. Thus, if you go through a million spins at a time, the house edge will catch up with you. This is mathematically unavoidable.

That is why it is important for you to make a distinction between true and casino odds. You can check the different bet types below for further clarifications. For your convenience, we have listed both the true odds and the payouts of each bet type on a single-zero wheel.

Outside Bets

All bets from this category lose when zero gets spun. This distorts the odds, causing them to sway ever so slightly in the casino’s favor.

Even-chance bets are a larger subgroup of wagers made on number properties, including colour (red/black) and parity (odd/even).

black/red roulette bet

odd/even roulette bet

In roulette, numbers can also be high (1-18) or low (19-36). Winning bets from this subgroup pay even money at casino odds of 1 to 1. Meanwhile, the true odds are 1.05 to 1. Small discrepancy but it adds up over time.

high/low roulette bet

Dozen bets cover three groups of numbers, namely 1 through 12, 13 through 24, and 25 through 36. You win as long as one of the numbers from your selected dozen is spun. The casino pays you 2 to 1 whereas the true odds for this bet call for a payout of 2.08 to 1.

dozen roulette bet

Column bets are similar to Dozens because they again cover three groups of twelve numbers each but the sequencing is different. The 1st column includes number 1 through 34 on the layout, the second column covers numbers 2 through 35, and the third – numbers 3 through 36. You win with any number belonging to your chosen column for a payout of 2 to 1. The “fair” odds would again be 2.08 to 1.

column roulette bet

Inside Bets

Inside bets are more difficult to win with for the simple reason they cover fewer numbers on the wheel. Respectively, the payout would grow proportionately to the reduced chances of winning. The bets belonging to this category include:

Straight bets are made on any individual number, including the zero. The casino crops the payout to 35 to 1 whereas the actual odds are 36 to 1 (37 to 1 in double-zero games).

straight up roulette bet

Split bets cover two numbers in adjacent positions on the layout, e.g. 26/29 and 22/23. If one of the two numbers hits, you win a payout of 17 to 1. The true odds for split bets are 17.5 to 1.

split roulette bet

Street bets involve three numbers positioned within the same vertical line on the layout, aka “a street”. You receive a payout of 11 to 1 should one of the three numbers from your street hit. The true odds call for a payout of 11.33 to 1.

street roulette bet

Corner bets include four numbers whose grids all share the same corner on the layout like 14/15/17/18. Wins are paid out at a ratio of 8 to 1 whereas the true odds are actually 8.25 to 1.

street roulette bet

Double Street bets are quite similar to Street bets, only they involve two streets on the layout for a total of six winning numbers. The casino pays you out at odds of 5 to 1 but the fair payout would be 5.17 to 1.

six line roulette bet

Basket bets resemble corner bets in that they too include four numbers but not just any four numbers. One such bet covers specifically 1, 2, and 3 along with the zero. The payout coincides with that of corner bets and is 8 to 1. The true odds are also the same, 8.25 to 1.

Call Bets

Call bets involve larger groups of numbers positioned next to each other on the wheel. These include:

Voisins du Zero covers 17 numbers positioned between numbers 22 and 25 on the wheelhead. The sequence for a single-zero wheel includes 22, 18,29, 7, 28, 12, 35, 3, 26, 0, 32, 15, 19, 4, 21, 2, and 25. To make this bet work, you need to wager two chips on the intersection of 0, 2, and 3, one chip on each of the splits of numbers 4/7, 12/15, 18/21, 19/22, and 32/35, and two chips on the corner of numbers 26/26/28/29. Your payout depends on which number hits. If one of the corner numbers hits, say 25, the payout coincides with that of Corner bets.

neighbours of zero roulette bet

Tiers du Cylindre refers to a series of 12 numbers located on the opposite side of the zero on the wheel. These are as follows – 27, 13, 36, 11, 30, 8, 23, 10, 5, 24, 16, and 33. This corresponds to 1/3 of all numbers, so you would need at least six chips to place on six splits because all pairs consist of numbers that are adjacent on the layout.

Orphelins are the “orphaned” numbers that fall neither in the Voisins nor in the Tiers group. There are 8 orphelins, divided into two groups on each side of the wheel. The first group covers numbers 17, 34 and 6 whereas the second consists of five numbers, namely 1, 20, 14, 31, and 9. You need at least five chips to make an Orphelins bet. Four chips are placed on the intersections of the 6/9, 14/17, 17/20, and 31/34 splits. You bet one chip straight up on the remaining number, which is 1.

orphans roulette bet

Live Dealer Roulette

Online gambling operators have rendered the visit to your local landbased casino quite unnecessary after the introduction of live dealer roulette. The gameplay is broadcast to players’ desktop and mobile screens in HD quality.

The key difference here is that the outcomes of the coups are not decided by any RNG software. Instead, gravity will work its magic, causing the ball to lose momentum and gradually come to a stop in a pocket. And yes, there is a live dealer who tosses the ball and announces the results, just like in a real casino. The player would use the layout to make bets while the rest of the game is governed by the dealer and… chance.

The great thing about live roulette is that it offers an exact replica of the experience players in landbased casinos get to enjoy. You can address the dealer and cheer for other players using the chat box. The dealer would also interact with you verbally and if you like the service, you can even give them a tip.

Mobile Roulette

Mobile roulette is all the rage among fans of this game of chance since it gives them the opportunity to make bets from any location and at any time they choose. Some of the most popular variations of online roulette have been optimised for play in the browsers of mobile devices but many casinos would also offer downloadable applications for iOS and Android that you can install on your smartphone to play popular variants like American, French and European roulette.

Online Progressive Roulette

When you hear the collocation “progressive jackpot” the first thing that comes to mind are naturally slots. However, this all changed when online casinos became a thing. Web-based gambling operators now give roulette fans the chance to win a progressive jackpot at some of the games. The jackpot is usually accumulated when players make side bets that are added to the growing pools.

The way the jackpot is won depends entirely on which variation of progressive roulette you play. For instance, in Playtech’s progressive Dragon Jackpot Roulette, the jackpot is four-tiered. One of the four prizes is won randomly on a side game that involves a wheel with ten slots with four different colours, corresponding to the four pots.

System Play in Roulette

One of the most essential things roulette players must remember is that if they happen to win a tasty sum in the short run, the reason for this would not be because they are using a given roulette system. You beat the house in the short term for the simplest reason there could be – Lady Fortune has graced your efforts with a stroke of good luck.

The systems we have listed below aim at helping you manage your money when at the roulette table but can never change your odds of winning, which is not to say they do not deserve to be given a chance, if only for the fun of it.

Martingale and Reverse Martingale

The Martingale is the most popular system among roulette players. It is based on a negative betting progression which requires you to double the amount you wager after every loss and decrease it to one bet unit when you win. This gradual increase when on a losing streak helps you win back what you have lost plus one bet unit in net profit after a single swiping win.

The Martingale System
Spin Bet (units) Outcome Total Profit
1 10 LOSS -10
2 20 LOSS -30
3 40 WIN 10
4 10 WIN 20
5 10 WIN 30
6 10 LOSS 20

The Reverse Martingale is exactly the opposite since it calls for doubling the bet after a win and dropping to your base bet unit after a loss. Neither can help you win in the long term.

The Reverse Martingale System
Spin Bet (units) Outcome Total Profit
1 10 LOSS -10
2 10 LOSS -20
3 10 WIN -10
4 20 WIN +10
5 40 WIN +50

The Fibonacci

The Fibonacci is another negative-progression system but this one utilises an incredibly steep betting ramp based on the famed Fibonacci sequence, where each subsequent number is equal to the total of the previous two numbers, e.g. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on. Each of these numbers corresponds to the number of base units you need to wager after a loss.

The Fibonacci System
Spin Sequence Bet (units) Outcome Total Profit
1 1 1 LOSS -1
2 1-1 1 LOSS -2
3 1-1-2 2 LOSS -4
3 1-1-2-3 3 LOSS -7
4 1-1-2-3-5 5 WIN -2
5 1-1-2 2 WIN 0
6 1 1 WIN +1

When you register a win, you go back two numbers in the sequence. Once you register a net profit, you return to the very beginning of the Fibonacci sequence. A longer losing streak results in you A) gambling away your entire bank for the session or B) reaching the table maximum limit where everything pretty much ends for you.

The D’Alembert

The D’Alembert system is yet another system that requires you to adjust the size of your stakes on the basis of previous results, which is ludicrous in a game of independent trials like roulette. Each loss you suffer calls for a stake increase of one base unit. When a win is registered, you decrease the next bet with one unit.

The D’Alembert System
Spin Bet (units) Outcome Total Profit
1 3 LOSS -3
2 6 LOSS -9
3 9 LOSS -18
4 12 WIN -6
5 9 WIN +3

The foundation of this system is based on the idea that players would win approximately the same number of bets as they would lose. We already explained that in line with the Law of Large Numbers, random independent occurrences tend to even out over the long run, where millions of wheel spins are involved, so the D’Alembert can work but in the short term only.

Labouchere and Reverse Labouchere

Invented by Englishman Henry Labouchere, this is another popular system applicable to even-chance bets in roulette. This one is a bit more complicated but this hardly makes it more effective. Bet size again grows following a loss but the progression would require you to use a pen and a piece of paper until you get the hang of it.

You choose a number sequence first, like this one, for instance, 1-2-3-4. Each subsequent bet is equal to the total of the first and the last numbers in the series. If you win, you scratch off the first and the last numbers, 1 and 4 in this case. When you lose, you add the amount you have previously staked to the sequence, or 5 in this example. If only one number remains uncrossed, you bet that amount. This system is based on the premises that your total profits for one cycle would always amount to the total of the numbers in the initial sequence.

The Labouchere System
Spin Sequence Bet (units) Outcome Total Profit
1 1-2-3-4 5 LOSS -5
2 1-2-3-4-5 6 LOSS -11
3 1-2-3-4-5-6 7 WIN -4
4 2-3-4-5 7 WIN +3
5 3-4 7 WIN +10

James Bond Roulette System

This one was invented by author Ian Fleming and first appeared in his 1953 novel Casino Royale which introduced readers to the Crown’s top agent, 007 aka James Bond. The novel became a huge success so the James Bond system quickly caught up with roulette players worldwide. Unlike many of the systems we have previously mentioned, this one is not based on a progression but uses flat betting instead.

This is a combination of bets that requires you to stake $14 on high numbers 19 through 36, $5 on the Double Street containing numbers 13/14/15/16/17/18, and $1 on the single zero. This way you cover 25 winning numbers as opposed to the 12 numbers that would result in a loss for you.

A winning high-number bet earns you $8, a winning bet on the Double Street results in a win of $10, and the ball landing on zero locks you a profit of $16. Of course, if the ball “chooses” any of the 12 numbers you have left out, you lose $20. Like all other systems, this one is at fault, too, because it does not ensure positive expectation for you. In the long term, you will still lose more money than you will win with this system.

Law of the Thirds System

This one rests on the premises that after 37 spins, approximately only 2/3 of all 37 numbers on a single-zero wheel (or 38 when double zeroes are in play) would hit. This leads us to the conclusion that some numbers would hit repeatedly while 1/3 of the wheel would go cold. i.e. some numbers would not appear at all in the course of 37 coups. Some players would try to exploit this by taking notes of the results of 37 spins to see which the hot numbers are. Then they would bet on them in hopes that they hit once more. We already explained why this line of reasoning is flawed.

Short Roulette Glossary

Here are a few terms you may come across while playing roulette:

  • Biased Wheel – a wheel which has suffered flaws resulting from overuse where some numbers would hit more often than others
  • Dolly – the marker dealers would place on winning numbers until bets are settled
  • Even Money – a payout that is equal in size to the amount you have staked
  • En Prison – A rule applicable at some of the French tables allowing players to potentially recover their initial stake on even-money bets after zero is spun
  • Five-Number Bet – a bet accepted at the American tables which covers pockets 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3 and the worst wager you can make in this game
  • Flat Betting – repeatedly wagering the same amount of money
  • John – a generous tipper at the roulette tables
  • No Action – dealers would sometimes announce this during a spin to indicate all bets at the table are cancelled for the current coup and need to be repeated
  • Parlay – doubling the size of the wager following a winning coup
  • Shill – a casino employee at the roulette table who pretends to be a customer in an attempt to attract more action