At first glance, roulette is an incredibly simple game to play. All it takes is choosing a number, a group of numbers or a number property like odd, even, high, low, red or black. And indeed, this is the essence of this game of chance.
In reality, there is more to roulette than this. Players must acquaint themselves with the rules of conduct they are expected to adhere to while at the table. This includes the purchase of the chips you play with, understanding the timing of wagers, where to position the chips for the different types of available bets, tipping the dealer, and cashing out your wins. We cover all these aspects of the game in the following article.
Basic Premise of the Game
In most casinos around the world, roulette plays on a wheel with 37 pockets. These contain numbers 1 through 36 alternating in red and black color plus a green pocket for the single zero. American Roulette uses an extra double-zero pocket for a total of 38 wheel divisions. We only mention this in brief here but it is important. The house maintains a constant edge over roulette players through the introduction of the zero pocket(s).
The main premise of this game of chance is that players must predict what result an individual spin of the roulette wheel will produce. Before a betting round can commence, players must back their bets by posting chips on the corresponding positions of the table layout.
2The inner section
This is divided into two main sections, for outside and inside bets. The inner section of the layout is reserved for the inside bets, with the chips for these being placed on one or more numbers. Inside bets are more rewarding for the player in terms of payouts because they cover individual numbers or groups with fewer numbers (up to six). The probability of winning with them is smaller, hence the higher payouts.
3The outer section
The betting boxes for the outside bets are strategically positioned in the outer section of the layout, i.e. outside the main number grid. Outside bets are those made on number properties like red, black, even, odd, low (numbers 1 through 18), and high (numbers 19 through 36).
In this category, we also have dozen and column bets, which comprise larger groups of 12 numbers. Since the green zero does not share these properties and does not belong to any of the three dozens or columns, all outside bets lose to it when it hits.
Outside bets award smaller payouts. They stand better chances of winning because they cover larger groups of numbers. Check our detailed article A Game of Many Betting Opportunities for further clarification of the types of bets in roulette and their payouts.
Equipment at the Roulette Table
A roulette table consists of a layout where bets are placed and a spinning wheel which is typically positioned to the side. The design of the wheel itself ensures the randomization of results. The most obvious way in which this is achieved is through the alternation of the red and black pockets. The numbers on the wheel are not numerically ordered but are spread out randomly, with different number sequences for American and European wheels.
Components of the Wheel
A roulette wheel consists of two main components, a wheelhead and a bowl. The wooden bowl normally has a diameter of 32 inches and has a spindle to support the rotating wheelhead along with upper and lower ball tracks. There are metal deflectors on the ball track, which cause the ball to bounce off, further ensuring the randomness of the outcome.
The wheelhead is the rotating component of the wheel, with a diameter of 20 inches. It is placed inside the bowl in such a way so that it fits within the two ball tracks. The pockets with the numbers are positioned on the wheelhead’s outer part.
The inner part of the wheelhead has a conical shape and is called a cone. Its purpose is to navigate the ball so that it can settle into a pocket. In the very center of the wheel, we have a turret whose purpose is solely decorative. It is meant to hide the height adjuster.
The dealer spins the wheelhead in one direction while tossing the ball into the bowl in the opposite direction. When first tossed, the ball presses against the bowl’s vertical rim due to inertia but gradually loses momentum and falls into the slanted part of the wheel. It bounces for a while until it eventually lands in the winning pocket. Many casino operators insist the ball should make at least 4 revolutions around the track for the spin to be valid.
The majority of roulette wheels have even pocket separators whose height is the same at both ends. Some casinos use wheels with pocket separators that slant at the center. This makes it more difficult for skilled players to predict where the ball will settle. At some tables, the pocket separators have a curved shape to further increase the difficulty of prediction.
The Roulette Ball
Most of the larger landbased casinos use bigger wheels for their roulette tables with a bowl diameter of 32 inches. It makes sense that the size of the ball should be proportionate to the diameter of the wheel and the size of the pockets. Many roulette tables use balls with a diameter of either 18 or 21 millimeters.
Casino operators are very ingenious when it comes to hindering players from predicting where a roulette ball will land. Some establishments go as far as to switch from 18 to 21 millimeter balls throughout the day. The spare ball is placed on top of the turret until the dealer decides to make the switch.
Back in the day, gambling halls used roulette balls made of ivory, but this is no longer a practice for obvious reasons. The roulette balls of today are normally made of a synthetic material that replicates the look and feel of ivory. Other materials like ceramic and Teflon are used as well.
The material the ball is manufactured from impacts the way it behaves on the wheel. The lighter the material, the more revolutions the ball makes around the track. Lighter ceramic balls also tend to be bouncier, which further increases the unpredictability of the outcomes. The material is never magnetic to prevent cunning players from navigating the ball into specific pockets with the help of magnets.
The Betting Layout
The betting layout is quite similar across most roulette tables. The inner section contains numbers 0 through 36 in numerical order. The number boxes are also red and black according to the pockets on the wheel. The outer section contains the betting boxes for outside bets like red/black, odd/even, high/low, dozens and columns.
If the table allows for call bets on entire wheel segments, there is an oval-shaped section on the layout. This is called a racetrack and is usually located in front of the dealer. French roulette layouts list the names of the outside bets in French. Both European and French layouts have a single-zero while American tables feature one extra betting box for the double zero. Most casinos use baize material for their roulette layouts.
The Roulette Chips
Many roulette tables are equipped with a set of chips of different colors. The interesting thing here is that in such games, the chips are not assigned specific denominations. All chips, regardless of their color, have a value equal to the minimum bet accepted at a given table. Each player uses a different color so that the dealer knows which chips belong to whom.
The player determines the denomination of their chips upon purchase. The dealer would then mark the value the player has specified on the rail next to the roulette wheel. Some casinos prefer to use standard chips with fixed denominations at their roulette tables. However, colored chips are more convenient from the perspective of both players and dealers. Their use prevents misunderstandings during the settlement of the winning wagers.
The Dolly and the Rake
When the ball settles in a pocket at the end of a betting round, the dealer needs some time to settle the winning bets. They will mark the winning number on the layout with a translucent marker called a dolly. It kind of resembles a chess pawn.
This way the outcome of the spin is clearly visible to everyone at the table. Posting bets is disallowed while the dolly is on the layout. The dealer first scoops the losing chips off the felt with their rake and then pays out the winning outside and inside bets. The dolly is removed from the felt and a new round of betting can commence.
Rules of Proper Table Conduct
Roulette is a simple game with a straightforward objective and rules. However, if you want to fully enjoy your experience at the wheel-equipped tables without any drama, you should learn how to conduct yourself properly. Sometimes even a small breach of the table protocol can altogether spoil your experience.
Purchasing Your Chips
Buying in is logically the first thing you must do. Make sure you are joining a table with limits you are satisfied with. Roulette tables are often overcrowded with players during peak hours, which complicates the settlement of the bets. The table personnel will ask you to leave if you just observe the game without placing any bets.
Of course, you need to ensure there is an open seat before you buy in. You place the cash you want to purchase chips with in front of yourself on the felt. If a round is in progress, you will have to wait for the dealer to settle the bets before you purchase chips.
Remember you must specify what value each of your colored chips is worth. When the minimum table limit is $5, players usually can request each chip to be valued at $1. Of course, you can assign other values like $10 or $5 if you want to bet in bigger increments.
Placing Your Bets
Check whether the dolly still sits on the winning number before you post your first bet. If it does, do not place any chips on the layout just yet. Wait for the dealer to settle the bets from the previous round and take the dolly off the table so that betting can begin again. The dealer announces “Place your bets, please” at the start of each round.
There are betting boxes on the layout for all types of bets the game supports. If you are willing to take your chances with a straight up bet on an individual number, you must post your chips on the box that corresponds to your chosen number. When you want to back the same number as other participants in the game, you put your chips on top of theirs.
When betting on the outside, you place the chips into the outside boxes that read odd/even, red/black, and 1-18/19-36. The chips for dozen bets are posted into the boxes that read 1st 12, 2nd 12, and 3rd 12. Those for column bets belong to the boxes labeled 2 to 1 or 2-1.
We feature more detailed information about the chip placement for all available wagers in our article on roulette bet types.
When Not to Bet
Sometimes the dealer would spin the wheel even as players are making their bets. At a given point, they would wave over the table layout and pronounce “No more bets”. This is clear indicator wagers are no longer accepted for the duration of this round. The hand gesture is made shortly before the ball falls off the track.
In some casinos, the little ball can make up to three revolutions around the track before the dealer calls “No more bets”. If you violate the rules by making a wager after the dealer has verbally announced the end of betting, they will disqualify your bet.
Settlement of the Bets
Once the tiny ball lands in a pocket, the dealer will call out the winning number along with its color or parity. Next, they will put the dolly on the layout to mark the corresponding number. If someone won straight up with this number, the dolly is placed right on top of their chips.
The dealer will clear away the chips of the losing players with the rake and pay those who have wagered on the winning number or a group of numbers that includes it. If you win, be sure to wait for the dealer to pay out all winners before you collect your chips. Once everyone is paid, the dolly is removed from the table. You can now make your next bet.
Tipping the Roulette Dealer
Like all members of the casino staff that service the tables, roulette dealers are usually permitted to accept tokens of appreciation from the customers. So should you tip or how much? It depends mostly on a) where you play and b) whether you have registered any significant profits.
Tipping is a widespread practice at the roulette tables in US-based casinos. You are recommended to stick to this protocol when playing there. It is up to you to decide on the exact amount but it should be proportionate to your winnings.
If you are $500 ahead, you can give the dealer a larger tip of $25 or even $50, especially if they have helped you place a bet at the farther end of the layout. With that said, a small tip can be a nice gesture even when you end a session in the red. After all, it is not the dealer’s fault you have lost.
Forgetting to give a tip is not such a significant breach of etiquette in the UK. Some gambling establishments even disallow this practice. When allowed, there are two ways to go about it. You can either give the tip directly to the dealer or place a bet for them. Do not forget to verbally announce the chips you are posting on the layout are for the dealer.
Cashing Out Your Winnings
Due to their lack of denominations, colored chips only have value at a roulette table and are not accepted at the cashier cages in landbased casinos. When you are ready to quit playing, you must order all your chips in neat stacks and push them toward the dealer so that they can exchange them for standard chips with value. Of course, you can use the regular chips to play a different casino game if you wish.
The amount of money you wager at the roulette table over a certain period.
A type of wheel that features a double zero for a total of 38 pockets. It is widely used at the roulette tables in the United States.
The outer static rim of the wheel where the dealer spins the ball.
An amount of money a roulette player has designated specifically for gambling.
Also known as pinching, this is a practice that involves adding more chips to a wager you have already won. The opposite of this is when the player removes chips to minimize the damage from a losing bet. Both are forms of cheating and as such, are strictly prohibited.
Betting straight up
Betting on one of the 37 or 38 numbers on the roulette layout.
A wager that covers the numbers from a specific section of the roulette wheel.
This is how some dealers call the pockets on the roulette wheel.
The rate at which the casino pays the player for a winning bet.
Increasing the size of your wagers in an attempt to recoup previous losses. This is dangerous and ineffective approach toward gambling in general.
A roulette table that shows no discernible winning or losing streaks.
A wager that covers two or more numbers on the same spin.
A wheel with defects that cause specific outcomes to occur with a higher frequency than they normally would. Roulette wheels may show bias toward individual numbers or entire sections of numbers.
The word is of French origin and is often used in reference to the dealers who service the roulette tables.
This is the pawn-shaped marker the dealer puts on the layout to indicate the winning number.
The French term for straight up wagers on individual numbers.
A wheel that contains only a single zero for a total of 37 pockets. As the name suggests, it is used in gambling establishments throughout Europe.
Even money bet
A bet on number properties like color, parity, and range (high/low), which pays at casino odds of 1 to 1, i.e. even odds.
Five number bet
A bet made on the American roulette layout, which covers five specific numbers, namely 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3. It should be avoided due to its high house edge.
The practice of consistently betting the same amount of money on each spin of the wheel.
The mathematical advantage the casino has over players from a given game or bet. It is 2.70% in single-zero games and 5.26% at double-zero tables.
A wager made on the inner side of the table layout that contains the numbers.
A betting system which requires the player to double their wager after each loss. The first win that breaks the string of losses guarantees a net profit.
This means bets at the roulette table are canceled and the spin must be repeated because it was not valid the first time.
The even money bets on red/black, even/odd and high/low. Dozen and column bets also fall into this category.
The practice of placing a wager after the dealer has announced bets are no longer accepted for a given round or when the ball has already settled in a pocket. In the first scenario, the late bet gets disqualified. In the second case, past posting is considered cheating and may get you kicked out from the casino.
A betting system which requires the player to increase their wager after each winning round and decrease it after a loss.
The real mathematical ratio of losing to winning outcomes. For example, the odds of losing with a straight up bet on a double-zero wheel with 38 numbered compartments are 37 to 1 because only 1 out of 38 numbers can yield a win. The house pays you at casino odds of 35 to 1 for straight up bets. Needless to say, this reduction in the payouts works to the players’ detriment.
An advanced technique that allows skilled roulette players to determine which number the ball will land on by using their sight.
The colored chips used at roulette tables. They have no value at the cashier cage and cannot be used in any other game but roulette.