Everything You Need to Know About Online Roulette

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Roulette is one of the oldest casino games. Mathematician Blaise Pascal first invented it in 1645 as an offshoot of his attempt to create the perpetual motion machine. Roulette, as a gambling attraction, became popular in Paris casinos in the early 1800s, and very little about the game has changed since then.

Playing roulette online is not very different from playing at a live casino. The big advantage of online play is that there is always an open table. In live streaming casinos, you can even see a dealer spinning an actual wheel.

The Player's Guide to Online Roulette

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This guide will familiarize you with online roulette. It explains the different types of roulette tables that are available, the fundamental rules, wagering strategies and which bets offer the best odds.

The Basic Rules of Roulette

Think of roulette as a predecessor to slot machines, in the sense that there's no in-depth strategy. You simply pick the numbers or colors you hope will hit.

There are smarter bets than others, however, and ways to gain a slight advantage. But first, you need to know how to play the game. Though it is a simple game, the layout of the table and the wager names can be confusing at first.

Wagering on a single number may be called a “straight” bet in some games. You just place the wager amount directly on that number on the table.

You are also allowed to place a single bet on a combination of numbers. All of the following multi-number bet types are possible at most tables:

  • Split: Bet on two adjacent numbers by placing the wager on the line separating them.
  • Street: Bet on all three numbers in a horizontal line by placing the wager on the edge of the number on either end of the line.
  • Double Street: Like a street, but bet on two horizontal lines that are vertically adjacent. Place the wager on the outer edge where the numbers of the two lines connect.
  • Corner: Bet on four numbers connected in a box shape by placing the wager right on their shared corner.
  • Trio: A bet of 0-1-2 or 0-2-3, made by placing the wager on the shared corner.
  • Top Line: You can bet on however many zeros are present plus the 1-2-3 numbers by placing the wager where either the 0-1 or 0-3 meet.

So why wouldn't you always bet on the maximum amount of numbers? Well, the fewer numbers you play, the more money a winning wager will return.

In addition to the numbers on the table, there are boxes around them with words and symbols. These are collectively known as the “outside bets.” They are as follows:

  • Red and Black Symbols: You win if the number is of the chosen color.
  • Even: You win if the number is even.
  • Odd: You win if the number is odd.
  • High: You win if the number is from 19-36.
  • Low: You win if the number is from 1-18.
  • Dozen Bets: Smaller groupings of numbers, like 1-12 or “first 12”, may also be spelled out depending on the table.
  • Column Bet: These are the “2 to 1” and “3 to 1” fields underneath number columns. They pay what they indicate if a number in that column hits.

Generally speaking, outside bets pay back the least as they cover the largest amount of numbers.

Some games have added side bets, which we will discuss in a separate section below, but the above options are the types of wagers you'll find at just about any roulette table.

Different Types of Roulette

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There is only one fundamental difference between most roulette tables. They will have only one green “0” on the wheel, or an added “00.”

The configuration makes a big difference regarding odds. The presence of the “0” adds a house edge of 5.26% to almost every bet. Add a “00,” and the house edge doubles to 10.52%! That's why betting on a color or even/odd is never a genuinely fair bet, but the odds are much better if there is no “00” in play.

The “00” is an American invention. It first appeared in Las Vegas and is almost exclusively restricted to American casinos. If you're playing online, you're probably going to be at a casino based outside the United States, and they will likely not have a “00”. If it does appear, the wheel will be marked clearly as a separate game with “American” rules.

The only other roulette variant you might see is California Roulette. The game was created by Native American casinos in California to comply with the state's gambling regulations. It's similar to regular roulette, but the dealer spins a wheel with cards pasted to it instead of an actual roulette wheel. Some casinos may also use a wheel that only has red and black symbols, with the number value determined by a dealer turning over a card. It is unlikely you'll encounter this variant online, but you may see some live streaming casinos offer it.

Roulette Betting Systems

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Online roulette seems to attract betting systems more than any other casino game. The simplest way to address this issue is to note that no betting system ever tested by mathematical simulations has shown a positive expected return over time. Ignoring them all is wise.

So why do betting systems remain popular? There are two reasons.

1) The first is that some systems theoretically work, provided the player has an unlimited budget, and the casino doesn't cap bet sizes. While the first part of that might be true for the world's richest people, no casino (online or offline) will allow players to double their bets in size infinitely. There is a cutoff point, which is usually calculated specifically to defeat systems of this nature.

2) The second is that many systems work for a while, at least up to the point where the player has a catastrophic loss. In other words, players will try the system and enjoy some small wins, leading them to believe the system is infallible. When they lose seven or eight spins in a row and take a loss that wipes out all their previous winnings, and then some, they learn otherwise!

Advantage Play at Roulette

So if betting systems don't work, how do you get an advantage at roulette?

There are a few things you can do to turn the odds in your favor. We already discussed playing at European-style tables (those with no “00” on the wheel), where the house edge is halved. The other significant factor is finding the most favorable “pay table,” or the amount you win for each bet.

Each casino can set its own pay tables, but the industry standard is:

  • 35:1 for a single number
  • 17:1 for a split
  • 11:1 for a street
  • 8:1 for a square
  • 6:1 for a top line
  • 2:1 or 3:1 for a column
  • 2:1 for dozens
  • 1:1 for all other types of bets (meaning you get back double your bet)

Tables that pay out less than this are “short pay” tables because the house edge increases as the payout amount shrinks. For example, dropping the single-number payout from 35:1 to 34:1 increases the house edge by 2.63%.

Live Streaming Online Roulette Games

Some casinos now offer live games with streaming video. You won't see the other players, but you will see a live dealer who spins an actual wheel, and you'll see the results of each spin. Some people prefer this roulette experience as it adds ambiance and it is more like playing in a live casino. Others prefer it as they may question the legitimacy of casino software. This issue should not be a concern if the casino has a license from a reputable governmental control board.

Online Roulette Side Bets

There are some new side bets concocted for roulette in recent years, and most of them appear at online casinos.

The biggest one is the addition of a progressive jackpot to some tables. The most common formula is to offer an optional side bet of $1 to the jackpot with every spin. The progressive pays out when the same number hits three times or five times in a row, depending on the casino's rules.

Another formula is to add another compartment to the wheel which triggers a bonus game when the ball lands in it. Players who have opted for the side bet may get to spin a slot machine or guess a three-digit number. This side bet is also tied to a progressive that grows with each wager.

Finding the Best Online Roulette Tables

The rules of roulette are pretty basic, and it won't take long to understand how all the bets work. If you aren't sure, take advantage of the “free modes” that most online casinos offer to learn and practice the game without having to bet actual money. Finding a good table with the best possible odds and wisely placing your bets leads to more fun. It also makes your bankroll last longer!

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