How to Play Roulette – A Guide to the Rules of the Game

Welcome to my beginner’s guide to roulette, a game that has been one of the most popular casino pastimes for centuries. The roulette rules are straight forward, but without a thorough understanding of them, you’ll never know how to play like a pro.

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Above, you can see the different sections of the page, which begins with the basic rules of roulette. The page then turns to the differences between American and European roulette rules. Afterwards, I’ll look at the advanced roulette rules. Once you know the rules, you can find the perfect game.

How Roulette Works – Aim of the Game

The roulette game rules are extremely straight-forward. Your goal is to place a bet on a number, or a combination of numbers. A ball is then spun around the edge of a spinning wheel that has numbered pockets. If the ball falls into the slot that corresponds to your bet, you win. If the ball doesn’t land on the correct number, you lose.

Place Your Bet(s)

The roulette chips being placed on the betting layout by a dealer.

Before the game begins, players place their chips onto the bets of their choosing. At a casino, it is better to let the dealer place the chips for you, so that you don’t interfere with other players.

Dealer Throws Ball

A dealer throws the ball onto the roulette wheel.

Once betting is closed, the dealer will spin the ball along the edge of the roulette wheel. Some offline versions of roulette will allow betting while the ball spins.

The Result

A roulette ball falls into red pocket number 23.

Once the ball loses momentum it will begin to fall. After a few bounces, the ball will come to rest in one of the numbered pockets. If you bet on that number,you win.

Spin Again, Change Bet, En Prison

The roulette betting table with chips placed on it.

You have the option to spin again, or choose a new betting strategy. If the game has the En Prison rule, you can continue to play with your bet from the last round. However, this bet is ‘in prison’.

Every game you’ll play will follow this basic premise. In this article, however, you will learn how minor rule differences can have a strong effect on your overall experience when playing. The following guide will introduce you to the roulette rules basics, which includes common game variants and betting options. Afterwards, I will look at the rules that are relevant to advanced roulette players. The advanced topics covered will include table limits, the La Partage/En Prison rules and a guide for advanced players on how to find the best roulette game to play.

How to Play Roulette: Easy Guide

Before you start playing roulette for real money, I would strongly recommend that you learn all of the game’s basic rules. Below I will take you through all of the basic rules of the game. Before that, however, you may find it useful to watch this video. My video will take you through the basic rules and steps of the game. Watching the video will help you understand all of the information on this page and ensure that everything you read is at least somewhat familiar.

A standard roulette wheel with only one green zero pocket and red and black numbers ranging from 1-36.

The Roulette Wheel

Roulette is named after the French word for little wheel. As you could imagine, the wheel is the most important aspect of the casino game. The roulette wheel comes in many shapes and sizes, but the typical one you’ll find has 37 pockets, that alternate between red and black. These coloured pockets are numbered 1-36. The wheel rotates, and the ball is spun in the opposite direction of the wheel’s rotation. This is to ensure the randomness of the game results. The wheel’s rotation is changed between ever spin or few spins.

On the wheel, the pockets are not arranged in numerical order. The 37th pocket is a green zero. During the game, the wheel is spun so that the dealer and players cannot predict where the ball will be thrown. In this casino game, everything is largely out of your control. The only thing within your power is how much money you bet, and where you place your chips.

The Zero Pocket – The House Edge

Every roulette variant has a green zero pocket. The American roulette rules differ from the standard version because the wheel has two zero pockets (0,00). The zero pocket is important because it represents the house edge. Without it, outside bets would be a 50/50 chance and casinos would constantly lose money if tables had multiple players. The house edge of a game with one zero is 2.70% and a game with two zeros has a house edge of around 5.30%.

The Table Layout

The common roulette betting layout on a green table. The cloth-covered area on the table is known as the layout. It is in this area that players make their bets by placing their chips on a number(s), colour, or section of choice. The inside of the betting area is filled with the numbers that appear on the roulette wheel. On the outside of the layout, you’ll find the aptly named ‘outside bets.’ These usually include red/black, even/odd and column bets. Players can place chips on as many betting options as they want, so long as the bet falls within the table limits of the game.

I will go into detail about the basic betting rules a little further down the page. Note that the positioning of the numbers on the wheel and the numbers on the betting layout are completely different. Thus, it is best to familiarise yourself with the wheel before spending real money.

Summary icon with bullet points.

Summary: Players place bets on the roulette table layout. Players can bet on number(s), or on the characteristics of the numbers. These are known as inside and outside bets, respectively. The numbers on the layout are not in the same order as on the wheel.

Basic Roulette Betting Rules and Payouts

When it comes to roulette, the one thing that players can control is how they decide to bet, and in this game they have a lot of options to choose from. Although the wide range of betting possibilities may seem overwhelming, they are in-fact pretty straightforward. There are two types of bets players can do. Outside bets, which are bets placed on any of the outside options on the betting layout, and inside bets, which as you may have guessed, are bets placed on inside positions of the betting layout. Roulette payouts range from a modest 1:1 to huge 35:1 wins.

A chart showing the table layouts for both European and American roulette. The chart also includes the common wager types for roulette.

Knowing the basic blackjack rules is essential to playing. In order to play well, and to know what to do in every situation, you also need to understand insurance, splitting and doubling down. You can download a PDF guide to all of these rules below.

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A simple rule to remember, is that the payouts correspond to the amount of the table you cover. The higher your chance of winning, the lower your payout, and vice versa. A single bet placed on one of the 37 numbers will pay 35:1. Splitting a bet between two numbers will lower the payout to 17:1 etc etc. A bet on red or black (which covers nearly half of the layout) will reward you with a 1:1 payout, meaning you’ll get a total of twice your bet back. Sticking to outside bets is probably the best way to win at roulette, due to the higher probability of winning because of table coverage.

For a full list of bets and their payouts, refer to the chart below. You’ll notice some of the bet names are in French, this is because they are from the French version of roulette. Although the names are different, the bets and payouts remain the same.

Inside Bets:
Strait-up/Plein 35:1

A bet where a chip(s) is placed on a single number(s). This bet has the lowest odds, but best payout.

Split/Cheval 17:1

A chip is placed on a line between two numbers, so that the bet is “split.” Thus the payout for a win is half the amount of a straight-up bet.

Street/Transversale pleine 11:1

Bet covers three numbers at once. Chip is placed at the end of a row of numbers.

Corner/Carre 8:1

Chip is placed on a corner between four numbers so that it covers all of them.

First Four/Les Quatre Premiers (EU) 8:1

The bet covers numbers 1,2,3 and 0.

Top Line (US) 6:1

The bet covers numbers 1,2,3 and both zeros.

Six Line/Transverale Simple 5:1

Similar to a split, but the bet it split between two rows of number, covering six in total.

Outside Bets:
Dozen/Douzaines 2:1

Chip placed on either 1st, 2nd or 3rd 12. and covers 12 numbers.

Column/Colonnes 2:1

Chip placed at one of the three edge spots of table. Covers an entire column of numbers.

Black and Red/Noir and Rouge 1:1

Chip placed on either Red or Black. The best odds in roulette.

Even and Odd/Pair and Impair 1:1

Chip placed on either Even or Odd. The best odds in Roulette.

Low Numbers/Manque 1:1

Chip placed on space marked for the lower half of inside numbers.

High Numbers/Passe 1:1

Chip placed on space marked for the higher number half of inside numbers.

A standard european roulette betting table layout.

The above betting options represent the basic wagers that a player can make when playing roulette. Of course, there are many more ways to get creative about your chip sequence. Many strategies, like the James Bond strategy, utilise unique chip placement.

Summary icon with bullet points.

Summary: There are two types of bets in roulette. Inside bets (bets on numbers) and outside bets (bets on characteristics). Outside bets are easy to understand and offer a higher chance of wins, and are thus, usually the best way to play roulette for beginners. Inside bets offer substantial payouts but are riskier.

European Roulette Rules

Understandably, many new players are often confused about the differences between European and French roulette. That is because there really aren’t many differences. The European roulette rules are the same as the rules of the French game and both variants have a single zero on the wheel. To put it simply, the differences are largely cosmetic as the names for simple chances (outside bets) are displayed differently across the two games. In the European version, you can place bets on red or black by placing your chips on the diamond of the corresponding colour. Whereas the French game often lists these options as noir and rouge (the French words for red and black). Bets on odd or even are presented as pair/impair, and for the high and low number bets 1 – 18/19-36, these are displayed as passe/manque.

European Roulette Betting Layout:

The European Roulette layout, which has betting names in English.

In European Roulette, the names of the bets on the table are in English. The colours red and black are shown as a diamond. The fields for the dozens are located next to the simple chances.

French Roulette Betting Layout:

The French Roulette betting layout, which has its betting names written in French.

Here, the names are written in French. Often, instead of the coloured diamonds, you will see the words Rouge and Noir. The dozens can be found at the end of the table, after the columns.

One additional difference is the location of the dozen bets. In the European game, these can be found between the numbers and the simple chances. They are listed as 1st 12, 2nd 12 and 3rd 12, corresponding to the first, second and third dozen. In French Roulette, the dozens can be found at the end of the table. These are listed as P12 (première douzaine, for 1 – 12), M12 (moyenne douzaine, for 13 – 24) and D12 (dernière douzaine, for 25 – 36).

Inside bets in the French variant also use the French terms for things like straight up, split, corner and column. Refer to the chart above if questions should arise. You can also use it for reference while learning the rules of the game.

Summary icon with bullet points.

Summary: There differences between European and French Roulette are largely cosmetic. The wheels are the same, and the bets available are essentially the same, but in the French version, the terms are written in French.

American Roulette – Double the Zeros, Double the Edge

The main difference between the American roulette rules and European roulette rules is that the former has an extra zero slot on the wheel, marked with a double zero. What this does is raise the house edge slightly, making the game’s theoretical return to player rate 94.7% instead of the standard 97.3% usually found in the French and European games. Because of this, I can honestly say that there is no reason to play the American version of the game if you care about winning. It is only worth playing if you like the thrill of risk, but people who want the best odds should avoid this game at all costs.

European Roulette

A European roulette wheel with one zero pocket.

American Roulette

An American roulette wheel with two green zero pockets.

The double zero can act similar to other pockets, and players can bet on the zero accordingly. A bet on zero and double zero (0, 00) equates to the Cheval or split bet in the French and European versions. Therefore, this bet has a payout of 17:1. The combination of three numbers with one chip (0,1,2/ 00,2,3/ 0,00,2) has the same payout as a street bet, of 11:1. The one exception is the bet on the first five numbers. This Top Line bet does not exist in French and European roulette and has a payout of 6:1. However, it should be noted that this type of bet has a higher than normal house edge, making it less favourable for players. So as a general rule of thumb, you should probably avoid this type of bet.

One final difference between European and American roulette is the placement of the numbers on the wheel. The American wheel still alternates red and black, yet the numbers are located in different positions. You can see these differences with a glance at the image above.

Summary icon with bullet points.

Summary: American Roulette, has an extra double-zero slot, that the European/French versions of the game do not. This extra zero slot raises the house edge from 2.6% to 5.46% and effects some betting payouts. The rest of the game’s rules are the same as the European Roulette rules. Avoid this game when possible. The house-odds make American roulette less player-friendly than the French or European game.

Advanced Roulette Rules

This next section of the page deals with the roulette game rules that more advanced players should learn about. Although the following rules are not particularly confusing compared to the basics, they can largely be ignored by those players, who are still trying to figure out how roulette works. The next sections dealing with betting limits, La Partage/En Prison and how to select a table, are for players looking to develop their own betting systems.

Table Limits

In each roulette game, you’ll see the minimum and maximum table limits displayed. However, these numbers only tell half of the story. It is extremely common that roulette games will place different limits on each individual bet. These limits exist so that a casino isn’t forced to payout 35:1 on a million-pound bet.

Although most online roulette games offer all types of players suitable betting options, ranging from little 10p bets to high stakes £10,000 bets, not all casino roulette betting rules are right for advanced players. Players who have long figured out how to play roulette, employ advanced roulette betting systems. Most of the best roulette systems utilise outside bets. Because of this, it is important for advanced players to find a table that has high table limits for outside bets, so that their roulette strategy functions correctly.

If you have a grasp of the roulette game rules, you can head over to my roulette strategy guide page to learn how to play roulette and win using betting strategies. On that page, you’ll find, clear and understandable graphics that explain roulette strategy options. After reading the guide, you can decide for yourself what is the best system for you.

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Summary: Every roulette game comes with its own unique set of table limits. Within the game, each bet has its own set of internal limits. Table limits, however, really only effect players who employ betting strategies, and high roller players who like to stake thousands on a single spin.

La Partage and En Prison Rules Explained

These rules are not found in all games. What’s more, they are not exclusively found in French Roulette, as you may expect from the names. Some American roulette rules have a ‘surrender’ feature, which is similar to La Partage. In order to determine if the rules apply to a particular game, you should check the game description or help section. Alternatively, in a land-based casino, you can ask the croupier.

These rules are about the zero and apply to simple outside bets. If the roulette ball lands on zero, everybody loses their outside bets. La Partage roughly translates as sharing. If the game has the La Partage rule, it means that half of your bet is returned to the player, if the ball lands on zero.

En Prison, or In Prison, means that your outside bet will be locked in place for the next game if a ball lands on zero. If you lose the next game, you lose the original bet.  However, if you win, your stake is unlocked and will remain on the same field for the next game. If the spin with your now unlocked bet results in a win, you get your money back. This is extremely favourable for the player and raises your chances of winning in a game that already has a pretty good RTP. The house edge on outside bets is reduced to 1.35% with the En Prison rule.

A flowchart explaining the La Partage and En Prison rules.
Summary icon with bullet points.

Summary:

La Partage: Outside bets are repaid to player at a rate of 50% if the ball lands on zero.

En Prison: If a ball lands on zero, a player’s outside bet is locked for the next spin of the wheel. If they win on the next spin, their original bet is unlocked. If this wager then wins the following round, it is repaid, however the player does not receive additional winnings.

Find a Game with the Best Roulette Rules

When it comes to picking the best roulette game, I think the strategy is obvious, find the game with rules that make for the best payout rate. The following steps show you the things that you should consider before deciding to spend real money playing roulette.

Step 1: Stay Eurocentric

The first thing you should look at when you stumble across a roulette game is the eponymous wheel. If you find a single zero, then you’ve come to the right place. You have found either a European or French variant. If the game has a single and double zero, I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole; my advice is to stay as far away as you can from the American version of roulette.

The extra zero does nothing but increase the house edge and does not reward the player accordingly. If you’ve found a game with a singular zero, you can proceed to the next step.

A colourful European roulette wheel and betting table.

Step 2: Limits Suitable for Strategies

The next thing advanced players should look at are the betting limits at the table. For those, who are looking to use progressive betting strategies, you’ll want a game that allows for small bets, but also has a very high limit for outside bets. Fans of the Martingale strategy know, all too well, how frustrating it can be to play a game with small outside bet limits. If you lose a few times in a row, you can quickly find yourself reaching the end of your betting options. That’s why it is best to have a game that allows for small bets but offers room for progression.

Game with Outside Betting Limits Ideal for Progressive Strategies.
A chart showing minimum and maximum bets for different roulette bet types.

Although many games place smaller limits on outside bets, you can see above that there are game rules that allow for £5,000 outside bets, and high roller tables with even larger limits (although they also have larger minimum bets). The above rules are an example of a game suitable for progressive betting strategies, because of the low minimum bet limit, but high max bet limit for outside wagers.

Step 3: Find Games that Share the Wealth

As previously stated, you should also find a game that offers the La Partage or En Prison rules, especially if you fancy outside, or even money, betting strategies. The reason is that these rules benefit the player by lowering the house edge. Although the terms are in French, not all French variants have these rules, and I have even seen them in the European variants of the game, although this isn’t common.

Tip: If you are a strategic player, it is better to have a game with suitable betting limits than have one with these rules. I have played La Partage roulette games, that have outside betting limits of £80, making it a terrible game for strategies. So, keep that in mind when looking for a game.

Step 4: Miscellaneous Rules

Although these are not the most important roulette game rules, it is nice to find games that offer players the option to save betting strategies, have a racetrack or allow for quick play. Quick play is nice for those who don’t need fancy animations but would rather play quickly. A racetrack is a handy way to place neighbour bets because the numbers on a racetrack are in the same order as they are on a wheel. The roulette racetrack doesn’t change the rules of the game, but it is handy, especially if you’re new to roulette and haven’t exactly memorised the position of the numbers. The option to save betting layouts is a welcomed addition to advanced players, who have developed their own roulette system for betting.

Step 5: Play with Proper Etiquette

Like all casino games, roulette has its own set of unspoken rules with regards to player behaviour. When playing online, most of these won’t matter, however you’ll want to know what is expected of you if you decide to play at a land-based or live game. Firstly, you’ll want to be polite to players and dealers around you. When playing live roulette, you should never utilise the chat feature to say inappropriate things to fellow players or dealers. If you do, there is a good chance that the casino removes you from the game that you are playing. An unspoken rule, specific to the land-based game is that you should never touch another player’s chips. If you’d like to bet on the same number as somebody else, it is recommended to simply ask the dealer to place the chips there for you. This rule also applies after the game concludes. If you win, players should wait until the dealer slides them their chips rather than grab them off the table. If you really like your dealer, it is appropriate to give them tips. Some live roulette games will allow you to give tips while playing online.

Roulette Variants and Their Rules

Online casinos have broadened the possibilities of casino games. Today, there are tonnes of companies producing titles for online casinos. This has resulted in a multitude of fun and interesting twists on the classic roulette game. Although many of these variants are really just cosmetically different, others actually change the rules of the game. Here are some of the more popular unique roulette games.

Roulette Myths Exposed
  • The Double Ball Roulette game with two balls on the wheel. 1/4 Double-Ball Roulette Double-Ball Roulette is different from the traditional game because it has more than one ball. The game reduces the typical roulette payouts by half, because you have double the chance of winning. You can also get creative with your coloured bets, by wagering that one ball lands on red and the other lands on black. Try the game for free here.
  • The six coloured wheels of Multi-wheel Roulette. 2/4 Multi-Wheel RouletteThis game tries to increase the fun by adding more chances to win and has six-wheels that all have independent results. What this means is that you can win one bet, and lose that same bet on a different wheel, resulting in strange payouts. Lucky players can find themselves winning 6x on a single bet. To find out more check out the Multi-Wheel Roulette game.
  • The 1000 Diamond Bet Roulette wheel has added multipliers around the edge. 3/4 1000 Diamond Bet Roulette This game has a huge 105 pockets on the wheel which changes the payout rules tremendously. The largest is 999:1, while the smallest is 1:1. Table limits are adjusted accordingly for large payouts, so really the game just increases your chances of losing, while keeping payouts around the same size. To see what it’s all about, read the 1000 Diamond Bet Roulette page.
  • The red and gold wheel of Dragon Jackpot Roulette. 4/4 Jackpot Roulette Games Perhaps the most exciting variant of roulette is the various jackpot versions. These games are perfect for fans of roulette and the large potential wins offered by jackpot slots in which players can win millions on a single spin. One of the most fun jackpot roulette games is the Dragon Jackpot Roulette game that comes complete with two jackpot bonuses.

Other Roulette Games

Online, you’ll find more roulette games than you can count, some games, like Mini-Roulette, make minor adjustments to the basic roulette rules while others make some pretty major changes. If you’re interested in some of these games, then feel free to check out my online roulette page for a comprehensive look at everything you need to know when playing roulette online. On the page, you’ll find links to fun and creative roulette game demos and variants.

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Key Takeaways on Variants: There are many fun and creative variants of roulette online. Although these games are rewarding, they often lower the chances players have to win. If you’re looking for the best way to win at roulette, I suggest sticking to European Roulette.

Roulette News

For all the latest news concerning roulette, including bigs wins, new games and betting strategies, check back to this page which I will make sure to keep updated.

News

Frequently Asked Questions

Roulette is a game that, at a distance, can seem complicated. I was intimidated the first time I saw players place chips in a seemingly random order. However, the roulette rules are not as complex as you’d think once you start playing. Nevertheless, new players often have questions regarding the casino game and its rules. Here is a list of some of the questions that readers ask us most often.

How do you play roulette?

Roulette is one of the easiest games to play at a casino. Players place a bet on a number, or numbers. A ball is rolled around a roulette wheel. If the ball lands on a number you bet on, you win.

How do the payouts on Roulette work?

Typically, payouts correspond to the amount of coverage (or risk), you have on the table. The payout will be larger if you cover less of the table with chips. The more chips you spread across the table, and the more coverage (less risk) there is, the smaller the payouts will be.

What is the best bet in roulette?

The best bets in roulette, are the even money bets located on the outside of the betting layout. These include even/odd, red/black and high/low numbers.

How do you win on roulette?

You win if you bet on the correct number. If the ball lands on the number(s) that you bet on, you win. If not, you lose.

What are the best odds at roulette?

The best odds in roulette can be found on outside bets. These are found along the outside edges of a roulette betting layout.

What is the best way to play roulette?

If you’re a beginner, the best way to play roulette is to stick to even money bets, which have little risk because the chances of a successful bet are so high. Just remember only to wager an amount you are comfortable potentially losing.

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Simon Rose, the author of the page and casino reviewer at casinoreviews.co.uk.
Written bySimon RoseFirst published: 15/12/2015Last update: 11/02/2019
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