Spinning Wheel Goes Round n’ Round: Roulette

Getting the Spin on Roulette Basics

You probably have a good sense of the basics of roulette — after all, you’ve seen enough movies to know that you place piles of colored chips on a long, rectangular table. After all the bets are made, the croupier spins a large, bowl-shaped wheel with corresponding slots marked by colors and numbers in a counterclockwise direction, and then she releases a small, white ball in a clockwise direction. Anticipation builds as the ball and wheel spin, whirr, and slow. You wait for the ball to drop into one of the numbered pockets (hopefully in one of the spots you bet on!). The goal of roulette is basically to guess where the ball will land when the wheel finishes spinning. But, of course, you need to know a little more than that. This section takes a look at the wheel and the table betting area, walks you through a step-by-step roulette play, and explains the role of the croupier.

Starting with the wheel

The first step toward understanding the game of roulette is to decipher the roulette wheel — the most recognizable casino gambling symbol in the world. Beautiful and flawless, the wheel is a finely crafted device weighing in at 100 pounds and costing thousands of dollars. A roulette wheel has the following distinguishing characteristics

  • The outside rim of the wheel is divided into numbers in alternating pockets of black and red.
  • The outside rim also has one or two pockets in green.
  • The numbers on the wheel are mixed up — they don’t run consecutively or in any discernible pattern, such as alternating odd and eve.

Betting with chips of a different color

You make bets by placing chips on the squares that correspond to the numbers or colors on the roulette wheel. Roulette doesn’t use normal casino chips, however. Instead, it features special color-coded chips unique to each player at the table and the particular roulette table you’re playing at. You can’t play the chips you use at one roulette table at a different game because the chips have no value marked on them.

Betting: The Inside (and Outside) Scoop

As I discuss in the previous section, the roulette table layout breaks betting down into two sections: the inside bets and the outside bets. Inside bets involve betting specific numbers on the wheel; a winning bet on a single number pays 35 to 1. The outside bets are outside of the numbers on the table layout. They pay either even money on red/black, high/low, or odd/even, or 2 to 1 on columns and dozens. (Check out “Making outside bets: Better odds but lower payouts” later in this section for more on columns and decks.)

Making inside bets: Long shots and big payouts

Snide bets (betting on single numbers or a combination of numbers) have just the right elements for drama, nail biting, and impressing others. After all, when you set your chips down on a single number on the inside of the table, you’re basically betting that, of all the slots on the roulette wheel, the ball will land in that particular number. But players typically bet on more than one number at a time to increase their chances of hitting a winner.

Making outside bets: Better odds but lower payouts

The outside bets involve the designated spots on the table that are not numbers — the ones on the rim of the table layout, nearest you and the other players. These bets are more likely to come up than the inside bets, but the payoffs are much less . However, if the ball lands on a green number (0 or 00), all of the following outside bets lose.

Reciting Roulette Etiquette

Roulette attracts a polite, dignified gambler who enjoys a laid-back, casual game, as opposed to the frenzied atmosphere of, say, a craps game. (For a sense of how crazy craps can be, check out Chapter 8.) And, as with any table game, understanding a few social niceties helps you fit right in with the suave roulette crowd. This short section provides key points you need to remember when playing roulette.


Again, roulette is a game of chance — and in such games, you’re at the mercy of the fates for the most part. Although you can follow some simple steps to stretch your money and improve your odds (for more, see the preceding section), no magic system can turn you into a consistent winner at roulette. Steer clear of falling into these traps.

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