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Roulette is an exciting, fast-paced game, and the bets on offer mean that you can win a fortune on a single spin if your number comes up! There’s more to Roulette than just backing your favourite number, though: all the betting options you have make this a game of real strategy, and every Roulette fan will have their own system. Some people play by pre-determined tactics, some trust their gut, and others simply back their lucky numbers and let fate take its course – either way, every Roulette player will tell you that their approach is the way to win!
In Australia, Roulette is most often played according to the traditional, European rules of the game. The name roulette in fact comes from the French word for ‘little wheel’, and this is a game that has its roots in the suave European setting of Monte Carlo. There are dozens of different versions of Roulette available at online casinos, but it’s probably still the European form that is the most commonly-played version of online Roulette. You’ll see lots of versions of American Roulette, as well, especially at online casinos: the difference is that an American Roulette wheel features a ‘00’ pocket, which naturally increases the house edge. Other than that, you’ll find that almost all Roulette wheels feature the same pockets, numbered 0 to 36, and usually in the traditional arrangement around the edge of the wheel. It’s the shorter house edge that draws online casino goers to the European version of Roulette – and who can blame them?
Whatever version you choose – and you might what to try them all before you pick a favourite, plus you’ll want to keep it fresh by wringing the changes – the aim of the game is to predict which of the numbered pockets the ball will settle into, placing your bet on that number on the corresponding Roulette table. That table layout is very famous, and easily recognisable, and that’s where all your bets are placed – by simply laying your chips on the bet you like the look of. There are many more options for betting on Roulette than just plucking a number out of the air: you can bet on the colour pocket it will land in (red or black), on whether it will be an odd or even number, or you can place your bets over a variety of combinations of numbers which are traditionally grouped into named sets. All the extra bets stand to earn you extra winnings, of course, but your stake is higher, too – most players will use the broader bets to mitigate their risk.
Roulette is one of the most popular casino games around, and it has been since the 18th century, when it first appeared. It’s a game that has featured in any number of films, books and more over the years, and it’s fixed in the public consciousness as the definitive casino table game, and a symbol of sophistication and glamour, too. While there are several variations of Roulette that are popular at casino resorts and online casinos, there is no other game quite like it – you know what they say: often imitated, never equalled!
The first versions of the game that became Roulette were already in existence by the 18th century, and just about every country had its own version: in England it was called Roly-Poly, Reiner or Ace of Hearts; in Italy Hoca or Biribi, and in France, there was already a game called Roulette. The wheel itself owes it design to Blaise Pascal, who produced it as part of his attempts to develop a perpetual motion machine. Right from the start, the fundamental building blocks of the game of Roulette as we know it were in place, but the game was yet to reach international popularity and to stake its place in each and every casino around the world (and that includes your online casinos these days, too!).
It was two Frenchmen who really launched Roulette as the king of casino games. Francois and Louis Blanc were the brothers who made Roulette the most popular casino game around, ironically changing the format of the game from what is now called ‘American Roulette’ to the ‘French Roulette’ format that we know today. They did it by removing the second ‘0’ pocket from the wheel, thereby reducing the house edge, and so encouraging more punters to try their luck – and that made their version of Roulette the premier version of the game. The other thing they did was find a home for their game in Monte Carlo. With gambling banned in the 1860s in the spa towns of Germany, the Blanc brothers took their game to Monte Carlo, and helped to make it into the destination of choice for Europe’s elite, offering them chic, sophisticated gambling that included the new Roulette tables. Whether it was the new swish surroundings, or the innovation of the Roulette wheel with the single ‘zero’ pocket, Roulette became an astonishing success. And whether it was because of the game’s success, which made the Blanc brothers rich beyond their wildest dreams, or because the numbers on the wheel add up to 666, there is a rumour that the secrets of Roulette were whispered to the Blanc brothers by the devil himself...
We can’t be sure about that one way or the other, but we can be sure about the continuing success of Roulette in Europe’s casinos, and now at online casinos all around the world. Roulette accounts for about half of all the revenues at casinos in Europe, but there’s an interesting difference of opinion in the States: perhaps because of the extra ‘zero’ wheel or because American casino lovers feel like they get better returns from games like Blackjack and Craps, Roulette accounts for only 5% of revenues in American casinos. And what about at online casinos? We haven’t got any concrete statistics for you, but with so many different ways to play the game available, and so many players logging on from all around the world to do just that, it’s hard to argue that the popularity of online Roulette is falling – in fact you’d say that the online casinos have given the oldest casino game a new lease of life!
As we’ve already mentioned, the aim of Roulette is to correctly anticipate which pocket the ball will come to rest in. A number of betting options, each with various sub-bets, are available to players, and those are laid out on the iconic Roulette table. You can place Inside Bets, which are a selection of an exact number or combination of numbers, or Outside Bets, which are generally 50/50 bets (and include odd or even and red or black). The payout odds for each type of bet depend on the probability of it occurring, and they’ll usually be marked on the table.
Each casino will have its own policy regarding the bets that can be placed on Roulette, and often different tables will have different limits as to how much you can bet as a minimum, and as a maximum. In addition, these amounts can be different for Inside Bets and for Outside Bets. To establish this difference, some casinos use different coloured chips for the two types of bet. In Australian casinos, players often play with their own colour of chip, so there’s no confusion over who laid what bet, whereas in Europe and America, everyone will use the same chips, with the colour of the chips indicating their value. Betting takes place both before and during the spin of the Roulette wheel and the spin of the ball in it, right up until the dealer announces "no more bets". Once the ball has come to rest, the dealer places a marker on that number’s spot on the felt, pays out to any winning bets, and removes any losing bets, usually using a special rake. The winning chips remain on the board for the winners to collect.
In Australia, the number sequence around a Roulette wheel is typically the same as in European Roulette, so unless it’s clearly marked otherwise, you can expect that layout. The pockets are numbered from 0 to 36, starting on green zero and then alternating between red and black.
The pocket number order adheres to the following clockwise sequence: 0 - 32 - 15 - 19 - 4 - 21 - 2 - 25 - 17 - 34 - 6 - 27 - 13 - 36 - 11 - 30 - 8 - 23 - 10 - 5 - 24 - 16 - 33 - 1 - 20 - 14 - 31 - 9 - 22 - 18 - 29 - 7 - 28 - 12 - 35 - 3 - 26.
Aside from the Roulette wheel, the other key component of the table is the layout of the rest of the table. This is the iconic rectangular, felt table layout, where the 37 numbers are displayed in 12 rows of three, with the zero at one end. At the other, you can bet on one of the three rows, while at the sides are 50/50 bets such as odd/even and red/black. It’s difficult to describe, but you’ve almost certainly seen it before, and the table makes it very easy to see where your bets should go, as well as giving you a good idea of the bets you can make.
In Roulette, the wagers a player can make are divided into Inside Bets and Outside Bets, with the payouts varying between the bets – and dependent on the probability of that number coming up.
Inside Bets are those placed on numbers, or combinations of numbers, from 0-36, and they are clearly marked on the felt of the Roulette table. You can place a ‘Straight-Up’ bet on a single number, a ‘Split’ bet on two neighbouring numbers, a ‘Street’ bet on a row of three numbers, a ‘Square’ bet on a box of four numbers or a ‘Six-Line’ bet, which is two rows of three numbers. As we’ve said already, the table layout really helps you to see which combinations are available, and the croupier will guide you as to where to place your chips to indicate the bet you want. It’s dead easy to get the hang of it, and there are even more bets and combinations of bets available to you depending on the particular table and the house rules in operation. As you would expect, the payout on each of these gets bigger the fewer numbers you cover.
An Outside Bet is on one of the 12 betting options that fall outside the numbered area on the traditional Roulette table layout. You can bet on red or black, odd or even, numbers 1-18 or 19-36, as well on the ‘Column’ bets which cover the three columns on the table. A ‘Dozen’ bet is also available, covering the first, second or third 12 numbers in the sequence. The payout on Outside bets is likely to be either 1:1 or 2:1, and will be clearly marked.
Understandably, casinos don’t want to go out of business, and so every casino game will have a house edge, which reduces your chances of winning, leaning things in terms of probability towards the house and away from the punter so that, in the long run, the house makes money. The key thing to remember, though, is that the edge is calculated to benefit the house over the long term, and especially in Roulette the odds are only very slightly in their favour. In most casinos, the odds are set by law at either 34 to 1 or 35 to 1 on a single-number bet: this means that the house pays you AU$34 or AU$35 if your number comes up, and you get to keep your original $1 bet. As the actual mathematical probability of any one number coming up is 1/37, you can see how this gives the house a slight edge. Look at it this way: if you were to bet $1 on every number on the Roulette wheel, you would win $34/$35, but you would have spent $37...
In even-money bets (black/red, odd/even etc), it’s the presence of the zero (and double-zero in American Roulette) on the Roulette wheel that gives the casino their house edge, because outside bets will always lose when the ball nestles into one of the green holes. Again, it’s a small edge, but over time, it’s enough to keep the casino afloat...
Fans of Roulette will tell you that it’s one of the best games in which to develop a strategy, as you have time to consider your long-term plan without being rushed into betting by other punters or the croupier. Unlike in Blackjack, where you have to bet or leave the table, you have time to observe trends, decide how much you will bet and when you will stop. It’s a more relaxed experience than some casino table games, but there will often still be a number of people around the table enjoying what’s going on.
However, although implementing the strategies is easier, the best advice that we can give you is pretty much the same as for other casino games. The first thing to remember is that the only way you will really win at Roulette is by being lucky and knowing when to stop: there’s no way to really ‘beat’ the system. Despite this, you will hear and read a lot of talk about ‘fool-proof’ systems from fellow punters and online ‘experts’. Always be wary and take these with a generous helping of salt, especially if you have to pay good money to find out the ‘secret’. In truth, they are all just variations on an old theme and will be based on one of the ‘classic’ betting systems.
Take, for instance, a couple of strategies that are both based on the Martingale betting system – the Positive System and the Negative System. The Martingale itself dates back about 300 years and is simply a progression system for even-money bets. It’s a progression chain, and involves betting on one of two possible outcomes, such as red/black or odd/even, and continuing to bet on that outcome over the course of a large number of bets. In truth, as the nature of the game is random, it does not really matter which of any two outcomes you bet on (but that’s part of the beauty of Roulette!).
With the Positive Roulette System, you increase your bet by less than your initial bet after every win, and return to your initial bet after every losing bet. So, if you bet $10 and win, you bet $15, and if you win again, you bet $20. If and when you eventually lose a bet, you bet $10, and the cycle can start again, with the player increasing their bet after every win and returning to their original bet after a loss. By increasing your bet by less than your winnings, you can ensure that when you lose, you will still have some winnings. The theory here is that by only increasing your bet when you win, you are essentially playing with the casino's money and not putting your own hard earned cash at risk except as an initial stake. Instead, you only raise your bet when you have actually taken money from the Casino with a prior winning hand. With this system, at the end of a long winning streak you will have won a great deal of money. However, during periods where you are trading wins and losses with the dealer, you will lose more money than if you were flat betting each time, so be aware of that...
In the Negative Roulette System, the player doubles their bet each time they lose a hand. So, if you bet $10 and win, you bet $10 again. If you lose, you bet $20. If you lose again, you bet $40. If you win then, you bet $10 again. In this progression, the player doubles his bet after every loss and returns to his original bet after a win. The theory with this one is that after you have won a hand, no matter how long it takes, you will have recouped all your losses and will be up $10. The disadvantage of this system is that if you encounter a long losing streak, your bet will escalate to impossible levels!
Both of the above systems, of course, have their advantages and disadvantages. They are both intense ways to play Roulette, too, and so they’re really only recommended for serious gamblers. You might be better served by taking a more intuitive approach, trusting to your gut and to your luck, and find more enjoyment (and financial reward) scattering the bets across the table, and hopefully winning at least something on every spin of wheel. This approach would suggest that you bet $1 on each of the four corners, for example, instead of placing $5 on one number.
For the record, the worst bet (with the worst returns) is usually considered to be the four-number bet on the combination of 0, 1, 2, 3. In general, you have a better chance of winning (or rather, the house has less edge) when you’re playing Australian Roulette (European roulette by any other name...) rather than American Roulette, for the simple reason is that there is only one zero on a European Roulette wheel, rather than the two you’ll see in American Roulette. So, unless you are betting on zero or double zero, you have a slightly greater chance of winning in the European game. Of course, you should go with whatever your personal preference is!
In some casinos you may find a very relaxed atmosphere without any strict adherence to an etiquette, but in others (that typically consider themselves to be a better class of casino establishment) it is generally advisable to obey some basic codes of conduct. That will include employing all the basic manners that your parents taught you, but also a few things specific to Roulette. Place the chips onto the table rather than throwing them down, as tossed chips may knock off other bets or roll into the chipping machine (this is a practical thing as much as anything else – remember that chips represent cash, and you won’t want to throw them around!). If you find you cannot physically reach the spot where you want to place your bet, tell the dealer what you want to do and he will treat it as a Call Bet. Remember that a Call Bet is a courtesy bet, though, and only considered valid if both the dealer and inspector have repeated the bet back to you. Obviously, a bet of this kind will only be taken if the dealer has time to place it. If you want to change your chips, you should try to do this between spins so as not to distract the dealer from any bets which may be going on during the spin. On a related note, never argue with the dealer: it’s considered impolite and will usually result in a warning or expulsion from the casino. Don’t be that guy. If you have a complaint, speak to the casino management. You’ll find that casinos have their own policies for many of the practices around the table, but it’s likely that food and drink is not allowed at the table – in fact, most casinos will fine you for spillages. Finally, popular convention leans towards leaving a small tip for your dealer when you leave the table, but you should be aware that some casinos do not allow their employees to take tips.