How to Play Roulette

by James Carter on April 25th 2019. Updated on April 19th, 2021.

Learning how to play roulette is one of the easiest tasks you’ll ever achieve. Roulette is one of the oldest and classiest real-money games in the casino. It’s also easy to play and requires no decision making.

It’s a leisurely-paced game with plenty of time for discussion with the gamblers surrounding you. If you choose the right tables at the right casinos, it even offers one of the better bets in the casino. Here’s a quick tutorial covering the ins and outs of the game.

The Basics of Real-Money Roulette

Playing roulette games for real money is easy and entertaining.Roulette is played with a spinning wheel with 38 pockets and a small steel ball. The wheel is spun in one direction, while the ball is spun around the edge of the wheel in the opposite direction. It eventually lands in one of the 38 pockets.

If you’ve bet correctly on which pocket the ball will land in, then you’ve won. To make things interesting, the inventors of roulette have created multiple ways for you to bet.

The pockets are all numbered, 1-36. The wheel also has a 0 and a 00. You can bet on any of these individual numbers, and if you win, you receive a 35 to 1 payout. Of course, the chances of winning are 37 to 1, so it’s easy to see why the house makes a profit in the long run.

Each number also has a color. 1-36 are colored black or red, 18 of each. The 0 and the 00 are colored green. You can bet on which color will come up. If you win, you get an even money pay out. Of course, the odds of winning are slightly less than even, because there are actually three colors on the wheel, not just two.

The rest of the bets are so simple that you’ll shake your head in wonder. You’re able to wager on whether or not the ball will land on the numbers 1-12, 13-24, or 25-36. Those bets pay out at 2 to 1 odds. You can also bet on whether the number will be odd or even. Those bets pay out at even odds.

You can also bet on multiple numbers at one time. You can bet on two numbers, three numbers, or four numbers. The payouts for those bet are 17 to 1, 11 to 1, or 8 to 1, respectively.

These bets all have interesting names. For example, a bet on a single number is called a “straight up” wager. If you bet on two numbers that are adjacent on the betting surface, then you’ve made a “split” wager. A “corner” bet is a bet on four numbers that share a single corner.

When you first approach the roulette table, you’ll want to make sure that you’re comfortable playing at the table limits. A sign on the table will indicate the minimum and maximum wagers. If the minimum bet makes you uncomfortable, look for another real-money roulette table at which to play. Never risk more money than you’re comfortable with on a single wager. It doesn’t matter what casino game you’re playing.

Roulette chips are different from the other chips in a casino. Each player has her own color chips. This is to make it easy for the croupier (the “dealer” for the table) to pay out winnings to the correct players.

Odds in Roulette Games

The game described above is the most common form of roulette in the USA. That’s why it’s called “American roulette”. The house edge in American roulette is 5.26%. This means that mathematically, you’re expected to lost 5.26% of every wager you make at roulette in the long term.

Any time someone discusses the house edge for a casino game, it’s a long term expectation. In the short run, anything can (and often will) happen. The short term is affected by statistical deviation, which is why players have occasional winning streaks.

In a sense, the game is rigged in favor of the casino, because the payout odds are not the same as the odds of winning. Remember the earlier example of a straight up bet on a single number? The odds of winning are 37 to 1. (You have 37 ways to lose and only a single way to win.)

The payout for that bet is 35 to 1. So if you played 38 spins, and if you saw mathematically perfect results, you would lose 37 units and win 35 units, for a net loss of 2 units.

Every bet on an American roulette wheel has the same house edge except for one, which is the five number bet. That’s a wager that the wheel will land on 0, 00, 1, 2, or 3. The house edge on that bet is 7.89%. You should never place that wager.

European roulette has different odds than American roulette because a European roulette wheel only has 37 numbers. They’ve removed one of the 0s. This reduces the house edge on all wagers to 2.7%. If you play long enough, you’ll still lose all your money. You just won’t lose it as quickly.

Tips for Playing Roulette

The best roulette tip we can offer is to be sure that this is the appropriate game for your demeanor. If you like fast-paced games, then you’d probably prefer craps. If you like games where you can be by yourself, you’ll prefer slots or video poker. If you like games where your decisions make a difference to your outcome, you’ll prefer blackjack or video poker.

Roulette is the perfect game for someone who wants to relax and socialize in the casino. It’s a great place to have a few of the free drinks that the house provides. If you stick with the even-money bets, your bankroll should last a long time, and you should have a lot of fun at the roulette table.

Best Roulette Strategies

No amount of strategy can overcome the house edge in roulette. This mathematical edge is a certainty, as powerful in its way as the law of gravity. Trying to overcome that mathematical edge using some kind of betting system or strategy is a foolish endeavor that’s bound to fail.

The most common roulette systems involve raising and/or lowering your wagers based on what happened on the previous spin of the wheel. The folly behind this kind of system is that it presupposes that the wheel has some kind of memory. For example, someone might think that if the color black has come up four times in a row, it’s less likely to come up on the next spin.

Someone thinking that would be wrong. The odds of a black result are exactly the same, because every spin of the roulette wheel is an independent event, unaffected by previous spins. The wheel still has 2 green pockets, 18 red pockets, and 18 black pockets, no matter what happened on the previous spin.

The most famous roulette system is called the Martingale System. It seems foolproof at first. After every losing wager, you double your next bet. This makes up for all of your previous losses and results in a net win of a single unit.

For example, suppose you bet $5 and lose. Your next bet will be $10. This time you win $10. When you subtract the $5 you lost on the previous bet, you’re ahead by $5.

Suppose you bet $5 and lose, then you bet $10 and lose. Your next wager is $20. If you win, then you’ve won back the $15 you lost on your previous two bets, and you’re ahead by $5.

The problem with this system is that eventually you’ll hit a losing streak that forces you to make a wager that’s either beyond your bankroll or above the betting limits at the table. At that point the system breaks, and you have a massive loss.

Here’s a typical progression: $5 – $10 – $20 – $40 – $80 – $160 – $320 – $640

Many roulette tables have a minimum bet of $5 and a maximum bet of $500. As you can see above, you don’t have to lose too many times in a row before you’re unable to continue your progression.

What the Martingale system does is guarantee you several small wins along with an eventual huge loss. Most players think that losing 8 bets in a row is just this side of impossible, but it actually happens often than you would think.

The probability of losing eight times in a row is 0.5%. This means that you’ll have a 99.5% chance of winning a single unit. But if you lose, you’ll lose 255 units. And that’s assuming you don’t run into problems with your bankroll or the maximum bet at the table.
Some players enjoy using systems like the Martingale. I have no quarrel with such players. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking that it’s a winning system, because if you play long enough, you will lose.

Online Roulette for Real Money

One great way to practice roulette before going to a land-based casino is to play the real money games online. Casinos like Bovada Casino and offer realistic looking video game versions of the game that you can use to familiarize yourself with how to place the bets. And you have the opportunity to get lucky and win actual cash.

The other perk to playing at an Internet casino is the bonus money that’s made available when you buy your casino chips. For example, at Bovada, you’re able to get $3000 in bonus money on your first several deposits. The casino matches your deposits 100% until you’ve received $3000 in bonus money. Being able to play with a bankroll of $6000 when you’ve only bought $3000 worth of chips is a good deal.