How To Play Roulette
Much like keno, roulette is simply a matter of choosing numbers and hoping for good luck. There's nothing to learn regarding strategy, but you can up your expected return over time by understanding how the different types of tables and bets work.
The Player's Guide to Roulette
This guide will explain the basics of playing roulette and how to get started at online tables. You'll also learn about the different types of tables, the bets you can place and common betting systems.
Roulette is simple to understand. In live casinos, spins are continuous from the time the table opens. At an online casino, the software takes the place of the croupier, and most virtual tables operate 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Players can walk up and place a bet at any time until the croupier (or software) announces “no more bets,” usually a few seconds before the ball finds its home. In addition to having infinitely more table space available, online players enjoy the advantage of not accidentally placing a bet or touching the table at the wrong time. It may seem comical, but it's an offense that can get you kicked out of a conventional casino! The gaming software will also make clear not only when you need to place your chips, but where you need to place them for each type of bet.
You can divide the bet types into two broad groups—outside and inside. Outside bets are either red or black, even or odd, or 1-18 / 19-36. By betting on red, for example, you will win if the ball lands on any red slot. The same goes for numbers between 1-18, 19-36, or even and odd numbers. These bets tend to have the best odds.
The inside bets are a bit more complicated. You place your chips directly on any single number you wish to wager. You are allowed to wager on up to five adjacent numbers, simultaneously, by placing your chips on corners or lines that they share. Online players have an advantage here in that most casino gaming software highlights the areas where each bet can be placed; at live tables, you just have to know the right place, or you can politely ask the croupier.
Getting Started With Online Roulette
Most online casinos are now packaging roulette with their main software or app. If you want to play on a Windows or Macintosh desktop or laptop, you'll want to look software designed for the appropriate operating system, as that's where you'll find the widest range of games.
You can play roulette on mobile devices too. Just about all of the major casinos also offer Android and Apple apps for smartphones and tablets. If you have a Windows mobile device that isn't able to run the desktop/laptop software, you may also be able to find an app for Windows 8, 10 or newer versions.
Though Android, Apple and Windows users have the widest range of casino gaming options, users of other operating systems can also get in on the action. Most casinos are also now offering a browser-based version of their software that allows you to play for real money. As long as you have a relatively modern web browser and an internet connection, you can find a roulette game online—even if you're running something like Linux or the BlackBerry operating system. The browser-based version of casino softwares usually has the most limited selection of table types, however.
Types of Roulette Tables
There are three basic types of traditional roulette tables, and then there are some newer and more esoteric versions that have just recently been introduced. In some cases, these variants are only available at online casinos.
The best type of table is one that allows “surrender,” “imprisonment” or “en partage” rules. These are three different terms for the same thing—the ability to either recover half of a losing wager or “imprison” the full lost wager in the hopes of recovering it with a winning spin on the next turn. At brick-and-mortar casinos, you see this type of table offered only in high limit rooms with very high minimum bets, and they are pretty hard to find. If you scout online casinos, however, you can sometimes find these types of tables offered with much more reasonable minimum bets.
The next best type of table is the European design, which features only one zero on the wheel. It is the most traditional form of roulette, and the format employed by any table outside of the United States.
The least favorable tables are known as “American rules,” or tables that have a 00 slot as well as a 0. The addition of this single slot doubles the house advantage. These tables are referred to as “American” because they were invented in Las Vegas, and are now the standard in United States casinos outside of Atlantic City.
Removing roulette tables from physical constraints has freed up game designers to get very creative with new variants. These online games sometimes do things that wouldn't be possible at real tables, such as having wheels with unusual shapes. Online is also the best place to find creative fusions of other casino games with roulette. Some examples are:
Spingo and Ringo, which combines bingo and roulette
Multiball, in which two or three balls are in play with every spin
Wild Viking and 3 Card Roulette, two unusual combinations of roulette and poker
Pin Ball, which combines pachinko and roulette
There is one last type of “too good to be true” roulette that you'll only see at online casinos. No Zero Roulette (by Betvoyager) does indeed remove the zeros from the wheel. However, this is not an even-money bet because you pay a “rake” of 10% on each winning spin. Over time, the odds of losing money at this game are greater than they are at any traditional roulette table.
Which Roulette Bets are Best?
When it comes to winning money over time, outside bets are always far better than inside bets. The inside bets pay out more when they hit, but the odds against them are significantly longer, and the maximum bet allowed on them is also much smaller (quite often ten times as small).
There is no even money bet in roulette—thanks to the presence of the 0 slots—but the closest bets are any of the “half and half” options. These are red or black, even or odd, or 1-18 / 19-36. Taking one of these options consistently at a European table with “surrender” rules lowers the house advantage to 2.7%, as low as it will ever get at any roulette table.
Roulette Betting Systems: Do Any Of Them Work?
To answer this question as quickly as possible: no.
Some roulette betting systems will appear to work in the short term, but that's only due to the player having a lucky run, rather than the system. Eventually, every system causes a catastrophic loss that usually wipes out everything won to that point and then some.
One of the most famous betting systems, the Martingale, actually works under two specific conditions: the player has an unlimited bankroll, and the house allows unlimited doubling of bets. While a fortunate few might have enough of a bankroll to make it work, there is not a table in the world that will allow you to double your bets forever. Hit a losing streak that takes you to the betting limit, and you lose a colossal amount of money.
No thoroughly tested betting system has ever shown a consistent positive expectation mathematically. If one were ever to be developed, casinos would immediately stop offering roulette tables, as they are not in the business of operating beatable games.
How to Play Roulette the Right Way
Getting the best possible odds at roulette is a matter of scouting around and knowing how to find the best possible table, and then placing the smartest possible bets at it. Beyond that, there's no real strategy—just enjoy the experience and conversation at the table, and hope for the best.