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Roulette as we know it now dates back to late 18th century France, when it was first played in smoky gambling houses and began its rise to the iconic casino phenomenon it is today. In fact, 'roulette' itself is a French word that means 'little wheel'.
It's the rare casino that doesn't offer roulette as a gambling option these days, which is reflective of the relatively straightforward nature of the game (anybody can play it) and the fact some of gambling's biggest ever wins have come on the roulette wheel.
The roulette wheel
A roulette wheel, for the uninitiated, is a balanced spinning wheel with numbered sections, called 'pockets.' There are pockets numbered one through 36. The numbers do not run in sequence around the wheel, but are mixed up in order. Half of the numbers are red and half are black, to be determined as follows:
Numbers 1-10, odd numbers are red, even are black
Numbers 11-18, odd numbers are black, even are red
Numbers 19-28, odd numbers are red, even are black
Numbers 29-36, odd numbers are black, even are red
In addition, a European roulette wheel has one green zero, which pays back to the bank. The American roulette wheel has a zero and a double zero, which both pay back to the bank, and is thus statistically edged further in the direction of the casino than a European wheel.
The wheel is spun, a metal ball is sent circling on a downward path towards it and gamblers place bets based on where that small ball will end up when the wheel stops. When it comes to online roulette, the wheel is typically a virtual one, with each spin triggered electronically.
The roulette table
The roulette wheel is where your fate is played out, but it's on the roulette table that you place your bets. The roulette table is set out in numerical order, with three numbers on each line and, typically, outside sections to bet on the first 12 numbers, second 12 numbers and third 12 numbers.
There are also sections on the roulette table for bets on red, black, 1-18, 19-36, odd and even. You'll see three boxes marked 2-1 at the bottom of the roulette table, that represent the odds for betting on the ball landing in a pocket in that column.
Roulette betting options
Most casual observers will be familiar with the classic roulette move of betting on red or black, but there are far more nuanced bets available than that. These are some of the 'inside bets' you can place in roulette, being bets that relate to the numbered grid on the inside of the roulette table:
Straight bets are wagers placed on the ball landing on a single number. For example, you bet on the ball landing in the red number seven pocket. If you're right, you stand to collect to the tune of 35-1.
Split bets are where you're hedging you bet between two neighboring numbers on the roulette table (horizontal or vertical). You place you chip(s) to overlap the two numbers in question and stand to win at odds of 17-1.
Street (or row) bets are placed on three numbers on a single row on the roulette table, with odds of 11-1
Square (or corner) bets are where you're betting on four numbers next to each other in a block. You place your chip(s) in the middle of all four and stand to win at odds of 8-1.
Six-line (or double street) bets are where you're wagering on the ball dropping in one of six numbers, in two neighboring rows on the roulette table. These bets pay out at odds of 5-1.
And here are some of the 'outside bets' you can place playing roulette, applying to the boxes outside of the numbered grip on the roulette table:
A 1-18 bet is sometimes called a 'manqué' and pays out at 1-1 odds.
A 19-36 bet is sometimes called a 'passé' and also pays out at 1-1 odds.
Betting on red or black, as has been portrayed so famously as a go-to roulette wager, pays out at 1-1 if you win.
Betting on odd or even numbers also pays out at 1-1 odds.
Dozen bets are where you wager on 1-12, 13-24 or 25-36, and pay out at 2-1 odds.
Column bets, where again the numbers are split into three groups, also pay out at 2-1 odds
Placing your roulette bets
Whether you're playing real money roulette in a casino, or online, you'll need to come armed with chips to play with. Players get a chance to place bets on the roulette table before each spin, with the precise placement of the chip determining their bet and the amount of chips determining how much they are betting.
For example, if a player puts $1,000 in chips on red number one, the croupier knows exactly what to do after the spin. Should red number one come up, the player collects winnings of $36,000, being his initial stake plus a $35,000 payout at odds of 35-1. If anything else comes up, the croupier takes the $1,000 and it goes to the casino.
Why do so many people love roulette?
There are two key elements that have driven roulette's huge popularity. The first is its relative simplicity, which allows novice players to roll up in a casino or online and get playing straight away. The second is the ever-looming possibility of a really big win. Time and again we hear stories of people winning huge amounts on the roulette wheel and it keeps us coming back for more.
Online roulette is a great way to get playing these days, with a wide selection of first-class sites that provide the casino experience in the comfort of your living room. Best practice is to reference a credible online roulette portal for advice on where to get started.