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Roulette is a casino game named after a French diminutive for little wheel. In the game, players may choose to place bets on either a single number or a range of numbers, the colors red or black, or whether the number is odd or even.

To determine the winning number and color, a croupier spins a wheel in one direction, then spins a ball in the opposite direction around a tilted circular track running around the circumference of the wheel. The ball eventually loses momentum and falls on to the wheel and into one of 37 (in French/European roulette) or 38 (in American roulette) colored and numbered pockets on the wheel.

The first form of roulette was devised in 18th century France. A century earlier, Blaise Pascal introduced a primitive form of roulette in the 17th century in his search for a perpetual motion machine. The roulette wheel is believed to be a fusion of the English wheel games Roly-Poly, Reiner, Ace of Hearts, and E.O., the Italian board games of Hoca and Biribi, and “Roulette” from an already existing French board game of that name.

The game has been played in its present form since as early as 1796 in Paris. An early description of the roulette game in its current form is found in a French novel La Roulette, ou le Jour by Jaques Lablee, which describes a roulette wheel in the Palais Royal in Paris in 1796. The description included the house pockets, “There are exactly two slots reserved for the bank, whence it derives its sole mathematical advantage.” It then goes on to describe the layout with, “…two betting spaces containing the bank’s two numbers, zero and double zero.” The book was published in 1801. An even earlier reference to a game of this name was published in regulations for New France (Québec) in 1758, which banned the games of “dice, hoca, faro, and roulette.”

The roulette wheels used in the casinos of Paris in the late 1790s had red for the single zero and black for the double zero. To avoid confusion, the color green was selected for the zeros in roulette wheels starting in the 1800s.

In 1843, in the German spa casino town of Bad Homburg, fellow Frenchmen François and Louis Blanc introduced the single 0 style roulette wheel in order to compete against other casinos offering the traditional wheel with single and double zero house pockets.

In some forms of early American roulette wheels – as shown in the 1886 Hoyle gambling books, there were numbers 1 through 28, plus a single zero, a double zero, and an American Eagle. The Eagle slot, which was a symbol of American liberty, was a house slot that brought the casino extra edge. Soon, the tradition vanished and since then the wheel features only numbered slots. Existing wheels with Eagle symbols are exceedingly rare, with fewer than a half-dozen copies known to exist. Authentic Eagled wheels in excellent condition can fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction.

According to Hoyle “the single 0, the double 0, and eagle are never bars; but when the ball falls into either of them, the banker sweeps every thing upon the table, except what may happen to be bet on either one of them, when he pays twenty-seven for one, which is the amount paid for all sums bet upon any single figure.”

1800s engraving French Roulette

In the 19th century, roulette spread all over Europe and the U.S.A., becoming one of the most famous and most popular casino games. When the German government abolished gambling in the 1860s, the Blanc family moved to the last legal remaining casino operation in Europe at Monte Carlo, where they established a gambling mecca for the elite of Europe. It was here that the single zero roulette wheel became the premier game, and over the years was exported around the world, except in the United States where the double zero wheel had remained dominant. Some call roulette the “King of Casino Games”, probably because it was associated with the glamour of the casinos in Monte Carlo.

A legend says that François Blanc supposedly bargained with the devil to obtain the secrets of roulette. The legend is based on the fact that the sum of all the numbers on the roulette wheel (from 1 to 36) is 666, which is the “Number of the Beast”.

Early American West Makeshift Game

In the United States, the French double zero wheel made its way up the Mississippi from New Orleans, and then westward. It was here, because of rampant cheating by both operators and gamblers, that the wheel was eventually placed on top of the table to prevent devices being hidden in the table or wheel, and the betting layout was simplified. This eventually evolved into the American style roulette game as different from the traditional French game. The American game developed in the gambling dens across the new territories where makeshift games had been set up, whereas the French game evolved with style and leisure in Monte Carlo. However, it is the American style layout with its simplified betting and fast cash action, using either a single or double zero wheel, that now dominates in most casinos around the world.

During the first part of the 20th century, the only casino towns of note were Monte Carlo with the traditional single zero French wheel, and Las Vegas with the American double zero wheel. In the 1970s, casinos began to flourish around the world. By 2008 there were several hundred casinos world wide offering roulette games. The double zero wheel is found in the U.S., Canada, South America, and the Caribbean, while the single zero wheel is predominant elsewhere.

Rules of play against a casino

Roulette with red 12 as the winner

Roulette players have a variety of betting options. Placing inside bets is either selecting the exact number of the pocket the ball will land in, or a small range of pockets based on their proximity on the layout. Players wishing to bet on the ‘outside’ will select bets on larger positional groupings of pockets, the pocket color, or whether the winning number is odd or even. The payout odds for each type of bet are based on its probability.

The roulette table usually imposes minimum and maximum bets, and these rules usually apply separately for all of a player’s inside and outside bets for each spin. For inside bets at roulette tables, some casinos may use separate roulette table chips of various colors to distinguish players at the table. Players can continue to place bets as the ball spins around the wheel until the dealer announces no more bets or rien ne va plus.

When a winning number and color is determined by the roulette wheel, the dealer will place a marker, also known as a dolly, on that winning number on the roulette table layout. When the dolly is on the table, no players may place bets, collect bets, or remove any bets from the table. The dealer will then sweep away all other losing bets either by hand or rake, and determine all of the payouts to the remaining inside and outside winning bets. When the dealer is finished making payouts, the marker is removed from the board where players collect their winnings and make new bets. The winning chips remain on the board.

California Roulette

In 2004, California legalized a form of roulette known as California Roulette.[6] By law, the game must use cards and not slots on the roulette wheel to pick the winning number. There are at least two variations. In some casinos, the dealer spins a wheel containing 38 cards from 1 to 36, plus 0 and 00, and after betting is closed, stops the wheel; a pointer identifies the winning card, which the dealer removes and shows to the players. In the Cache Creek casino in northern California, a wheel resembling a traditional roulette wheel is used, but it has only alternating red and black slots with no numbers. As the ball is spinning, the dealer takes cards from a shoe and places two of them face down on the table in red and black rectangles. When the ball lands in a red or black slot, the card in the corresponding rectangle is turned over to reveal the winning number.
Roulette wheel number sequence

The pockets of the roulette wheel are numbered from 1 to 36.

In number ranges from 1 to 10 and 19 to 28, odd numbers are red and even are black. In ranges from 11 to 18 and 29 to 36, odd numbers are black and even are red.

There is a green pocket numbered 0 (zero). In American roulette, there is a second green pocket marked 00. Pocket number order on the roulette wheel adheres to the following clockwise sequence in most casinos:[citation needed]

Single-zero wheel
Double-zero wheel

Roulette table layout

The cloth covered betting area on a roulette table is known as the layout. The layout is either single zero or double zero. The European style layout has a single zero, and the American style layout is usually a double zero. The American style roulette table with a wheel at one end is now used in most casinos. The French style table with a wheel in the centre and a layout on either side is rarely found outside of Monte Carlo.[citation needed]

Types of bets

Inside bets

Straight (or Single)
a single number bet. The chip is placed entirely on the middle of a number square.
a bet on two adjoining numbers, either on the vertical or horizontal (as in 14-17 or 8-9). The chip is placed on the line between these numbers.
a bet on three numbers on a single horizontal line. The chip is placed on the edge of the line of a number at the end of the line (either the left or the right, depending on the layout).
Corner (or Square)
a bet on four numbers in a square layout (as in 11-12-14-15). The chip is placed at the horizontal and vertical intersection of the lines between the four numbers.
Six line (or Double Street)
a bet on two adjoining streets, with the chip placed at the corresponding intersection, as if in between where two street bets would be placed.
a bet on the intersecting point between 0, 1 and 2, or 0, 2 and 3 (single-zero layout only).
Basket (or the first four)
(non-square corner) a bet on 0, 1, 2, and 3 (single-zero layout only).
a bet on 0, 1, and 2; 0, 00, and 2; or 00, 2, and 3 (double-zero layout only). The chip is placed at the intersection of the three desired numbers.
Top line
a bet on 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3 (double-zero layout only). The chip is placed either at the corner of 0 and 1, or the corner of 00 and 3.

Outside bets

Outside bets typically have smaller payouts with better odds at winning.

1 to 18 (Manque)
a bet on one of the first low eighteen numbers coming up.
19 to 36 (Passe)
a bet on one of the latter high eighteen numbers coming up.
Red or black (Rouge ou Noir)
a bet on which color the roulette wheel will show.
Even or odd (Pair ou Impair)
a bet on an even or odd nonzero number.
Dozen bets
a bet on the first (1-12, Premiere douzaine (P12)), second (13-24, Moyenne douzaine (M12)), or third group (25-36, Dernière douzaine (D12)) of twelve numbers.
Column bets
a bet on all 12 numbers on any of the three vertical lines (such as 1-4-7-10 on down to 34). The chip is placed on the space below the final number in this string.
Snake Bet
Essentially a special dozen bet consisting of a bet of the following numbers: 1, 5, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 23, 27, 30, 32, and 34. Some gambling “experts”[who?] consider it a so-called sucker bet as they claim that the player has to bet a unit on each of those numbers, yet this theory (as with many gambling theories) is not true as any bet on the table has exactly the same house edge. However, some casinos which allow the snake bet (not all casinos do) allow the table minimum to be bet on the snake by placing the bet on the lower corner of the 34 spot which touches the 19-36 even money bet.

In the UK, all bets have the same play to payout ratio; for instance, putting one chip on each number 1-12 will yield the same outcome as 12 chips on the first dozen (assuming the original stake is removed). The exception is the very outside bets (red/black, odd/even, low numbers/high numbers) when zero is the result only half of the original stake is captured by the dealer.

Betting strategies and tactics

Over the years, many people have tried to beat the casino, and turn roulette – a game designed to turn a profit for the house – into one on which the player expects to win. Most of the time this comes down to the use of betting systems, strategies which say that the house edge can be beaten by simply employing a special pattern of bets, often relying on the “Gambler’s fallacy”, the idea that past results are any guide to the future (for example, if a roulette wheel has come up 10 times in a row on red, that red on the next spin is any more or less likely than if the last spin was black).

All betting systems that rely on patterns, when employed on casino edge games will result, on average, in the player losing money.[8] In practice, players employing betting systems may win, and may indeed win very large sums of money, but the losses (which, depending on the design of the betting system, may occur quite rarely) will outweigh the wins. Certain systems, such as the Martingale, described below, are extremely risky, because the worst case scenario (which is mathematically certain to happen, at some point) may see the player chasing losses with ever bigger bets until he runs out of money.

The American mathematician Patrick Billingsley said[9] that no betting system can convert a subfair game into a profitable enterprise. At least in the 1930s, some professional gamblers were able to consistently gain an edge in roulette by seeking out rigged wheels (not difficult to find at that time) and betting opposite the largest bets.

A popular betting strategy in the UK is for a player to note previous winning numbers. Most players feel that such a tactic will significantly increase their odds. Another popular tactic is to bet after the croupier has spun the ball, in a frantic rush. It is widely believed that the dealer or magnets used in the wheel will predict the players betting strategy thus fixing the game and ensuring the ball will land in a losing number. Another example of such behaviour is a player who regularly requests different colour chips. Many players believe that changing the colour of their chips will somehow fool the croupier or the magnets used.

Specific betting systems

The numerous even-money bets in roulette have inspired many players over the years to attempt to beat the game by using one or more variations of a martingale betting strategy, wherein the gamer doubles the bet after every loss, so that the first win would recover all previous losses, plus win a profit equal to the original bet. The problem with this strategy is that, remembering that past results do not affect the future, it is possible for the player to lose so many times in a row, that the player, doubling and redoubling his bets, either runs out of money or hits the table limit. A large financial loss is certain in the long term if the player continued to employ this strategy. Another strategy is the Fibonacci system, where bets are calculated according to the Fibonacci sequence. Regardless of the specific progression, no such strategy can statistically overcome the casino’s advantage, since the expected value of each allowed bet is negative.

While not a strategy to win money, former Los Angeles Times editor Andrés Martinez described a betting method in his book on Las Vegas titled “24/7″. He called it the “dopey experiment”. The idea is to divide one’s roulette session bankroll into 35 units. This unit is bet on a particular number for 35 consecutive spins. Thus, if the number hits in that time, the gambler wins back the original bankroll and can play subsequent spins with house money. However, there is only a 1 – (37/38)^{35} = 60.68% probability of winning within 35 spins (assuming a double-zero wheel with 38 pockets).

Labouchère system

The Labouchère System is a progression betting strategy like the martingale but does not require the gambler to risk his stake as quickly with dramatic double-ups. The Labouchere System involves using a series of numbers in a line to determine the bet amount, following a win or a loss. Typically, the player adds the numbers at the front and end of the line to determine the size of the next bet. When he wins, he crosses out numbers and continues working on the smaller line. If he loses, then he adds his previous bet to the end of the line and continues to work on the longer line. This is a much more flexible progression betting system and there is much room for the player to design his initial line to his own playing preference.

This system is one that is designed so that when the player has won over a third of his bets (less than the expected 18/38), he will win. Whereas the martingale will cause ruin in the event of a long sequence of successive losses, the Labouchère system will cause bet size to grow quickly even where a losing sequence is broken by wins. This occurs because as the player loses, the average bet size in the line increases.

As with all other betting systems, the average value of this system is negative.

D’Alembert system

The system, also called montant et demontant (from French, meaning upwards and downwards), is often called a pyramid system. It is based on a mathematical equilibrium theory devised by a French mathematician of the same name. Like the martingale, this system is mainly applied to the even-money outside bets, and is favored by players who want to keep the amount of their bets and losses to a minimum. The betting progression is very simple: After each loss, you double the previous bet to the next bet, and after each win, one unit is deducted from the next bet. Starting with an initial bet of, say, 1 units, a loss would raise the next bet to 2 units. If this is followed by a win, the next bet would be 1 units.

This betting system relies on the gambler’s fallacy – that the player is more likely to lose following a win, and more likely win following a loss.

Other systems

There are numerous other betting systems that rely on this fallacy, or that attempt to follow ‘streaks’ (looking for patterns in randomness), varying bet size accordingly.

Many betting systems are sold online, and may make outlandish promises that the player can ‘beat’ the system by following them. One such system was advertised by Jason Gillon of Rotherham, UK, who claimed you could ‘earn £200 daily’ by following his betting system, described as a ‘loophole’. As the system was advertised in the UK press, it was subject to Advertising Standards Authority regulation, and following a complaint, it was ruled by the ASA that Mr. Gillon had failed to support his claims you could earn £200 daily, and that he had failed to show that there was any loophole.

Using the dozen bet

There are two versions to this system, single-dozen bets and double-dozen bets. In the single-dozen-bet version, the player uses a progressively incrementing stake list starting from the casino table minimum, to the table maximum. The aim here is to use a single-dozen bet to win before the stake list ends. Many techniques are employed such as: betting on the same dozen to appear after two consecutive appearances, betting on the dozen that has appeared most in the last 15, 9, or 5 spins, betting on the dozen that, after a long absence of 7 or more spins, appears for the first time. The double-dozen bet version uses two dozen bets and half the stake list size of the single-dozen-bet version.