How to Play Roulette and Win

By Ted Hann
Roulette is a game of chance.
roulette image by Orlando Florin Rosu from Fotolia.com

The most important thing to know about roulette is that there is no guaranteed method of winning. If there was such a system, casinos simply wouldn't offer it. The odds in roulette will always be stacked in favor of the casino (or "house"). Of the main casino games, roulette actually has the worst odds, with the house having a 5.26% edge. Therefore, the best chance that players have is to analyze the game, and understand the odds and payoff amounts, so that the smartest bets can be made. Always remember that roulette is a game of chance, and there are no guarantees.

Roulette Basics

The basic game of roulette consists of 38 numbers: 1 through 36, along with zero (0) and double zero (00). Playing the game is simply a matter of betting on any one of those numbers coming up. The winning number is chosen when a ball is bounced on a spinning roulette wheel until it lands in one of the slots which corresponds to that number.

Adjacent to the roulette wheel is a roulette layout -- a long felt-covered table which has squares for each of the numbers, with additional areas for side bets. The numbers are in rows of three, and make three columns of 12 numbers each (the first row is 1-2-3, the second is 4-5-6; the first column is 1-4-7-10-13, and so on). Each number is either red or black, but the colors do not alternate in any pattern (this assures that all even numbers won't be black, for example).

At the top of the three columns of numbers are boxes for the 0 and 00. At the bottom of each column is a space for betting on all numbers in that column. Along the side of the layout are areas for betting on the "halves" (numbers 1-18 or 19-36), and three areas for betting on the "thirds" (these are marked as "1st 12," "2nd 12" and "3rd 12" on the layout). The final betting areas are for even or odd numbers, and red or black numbers.

the dealer, each spin, players, their bets
roulette image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com

When the dealer opens the betting for each spin, players are allowed to place their bets with chips wherever they'd like on the layout. Bets can be placed directly on any single number (known as "straight up"), or can be split wherever numbers meet (combination bets). They can also be placed directly on any of the following areas: columns, halves, thirds, even/odd, or red/black. A bet in these areas will cover all the numbers which correspond (a bet on "even," for example, will win if any even number between 1 and 36 comes up).

As the players are placing their bets, the dealer will spin the ball in the opposite direction of the already-spinning roulette wheel. As the ball bounces and begins to slow down, the dealer will announce "no more bets," and any bets placed after that point are invalid. Once the ball lands on a specific number, the dealer announces that number and places the marker directly upon that number on the layout. The marker will remain there until all winning bets are paid, but first the dealer will sweep away the chips of all losing bets.

Once all bets have been paid, the dealer removes the marker, and the whole process begins anew.

While this all seems pretty simple, the twist of roulette lies in the casino's use of the 0 and 00. All payouts in roulette are based on the true odds of any single number coming up out of 36 options. This means that hitting a number straight up will pay 35-1 (the number had a 1-in-36 chance of coming up), or any "even" or "red" bet will pay 1-1 (the odds of an even or red number coming up are half, or 1-in-2).

The house edge comes from the fact that they are adding two numbers (0 and 00) to the mix, for a total of 38, while only paying out as though there were 36 numbers. This seemingly small difference will give the casino its 5.26% advantage on almost all roulette bets.

Following are the payouts on number bets:

One number (straight up): 35-1

Split (two numbers): 17-1

Row (three numbers): 11-1

Corner (four numbers): 8-1

First five (five numbers): 6-1

Sixline (six numbers, or two rows): 5-1

Following are the payouts on side bets:

Even or odd: 1-1

Red or black: 1-1

First half or second half: 1-1

Top, middle or bottom third: 2-1

Column: 2-1

Winning at Roulette

There are always going to be people who claim to have a "system" in order to beat roulette. But since roulette is the purest game of chance in the casino, the house has an automatic edge that a player can't overcome. The player actually has less control over his chances than in games such as craps or blackjack. Therefore, any system which guarantees a win at roulette is bogus. The Martingale system, for example, recommends doubling your bet after each losing spin--a system which is highly unrealistic and simply not feasible. When it comes to roulette, a system such as betting on your dog's birthday is as successful as any expert's method.

The only thing to keep in mind is to not bet against yourself, thereby canceling out or minimizing any winnings. Stay consistent between your number bets and side bets. For example, if you bet directly on 10 and 22 (because your dog was born on October 22) and you want to place side bets, make them on "even" and "black," which both 10 and 22 happen to be. Of course, if your dog's birthday is 5 (odd, red) and 22 (even, black), then you're on your own. But that's why it's called gambling, right?

Realize that roulette is meant to be played leisurely and for fun. Understanding the numerical odds won't guarantee you a win, but will give you the best chance. Stay within a predetermined budget. If the numbers happen to fall your way, and you make a slight profit, that's great. But if they don't fall your way, you'll only lose the amount you planned on spending. You've had fun doing so, and you'll be able to try again another day!

About the Author

Ted Hann has been writing since 1980. He is a television casting director based in Southern California. His work has appeared on eHow, and he specializes in entertainment- and arts-related topics. Hann holds bachelor's degrees in English and music, summa cum laude, from Arizona State University.