The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Roulette

If there’s one person that all casinos fear it’s James Bond.

Whether he’s throwing away government funds over a game of poker in Casino Royale or wooing the ladies over a game of baccarat in Dr No, James Bond gambles with such style and grace that he makes winning look, well, rather simple without getting shaken or stirred.

And whilst it may seem that you need to possess Daniel Craig’s nerves of steel; there are plenty of regular people that have been doing everything they can to bring down the house – some more successfully than others.

So, to prepare you for your roulette resurgence, we’ll be providing you with some expert training straight from MI6:

  • You’ll learn the basic rules of roulette;
  • Everything you need to know about odds and probability;
  • Everything you need to know about betting systems

Of course, you won’t turn into Dan Bilzerian overnight, but the sooner you start gambling smart, the sooner you’ll start profiting.

So, 007, let’s get on with it!

How To Play Roulette

The Basics

When you play roulette you’re playing against the House, represented by the croupier, also known as the dealer. It is the dealer’s responsibility to spin the roulette wheel and handle the bets (wagers) and the returns (payouts). In the French roulette and European roulette version, there are 37 slots, representing 36 numbers and one green zero. In America, nearly all roulette wheels contain two zeros and therefore have 38 slots.

Each player stakes his bet with a different coloured chip. This is so your bets don’t get mixed-up with others. Once the wheel has stopped spinning, the croupier will check if you’ve won, and if you have, the croupier will exchange your coloured chips with cash chips (or will instantly payout in credits if playing online).

If you’re playing in a casino you can take these special chips – which have the value amount printed on them – to the cashier, who will exchange them for cash.

There are a number of bets to can place when playing roulette:

  • Even/Odd
  • Black/Red
  • Column
  • Dozen
  • Six Line
  • Corner
  • Street
  • Split
  • Straight/Straight Up

The first two require no explanation – for the rest we shall use a diagram:


As you can see, each bet is named to represent its coverage; when a row is covered by one single bet it is called a ‘street’ bet; when you’re splitting a bet between two numbers it’s called a ‘split’. Once you understand the name, you’ll understand the bet and vice versa.

Depending on the casino, ‘no more bets’ is usually called when the ball is about drop over the slots in the wheel (unless you’re playing online, where ‘no more bets’ is called before the wheel is spun). From then on, nobody is allowed to place – or more importantly change – their bets. Only when the croupier drops the dolly on the winning number can betting continue.

The winners are those whose bets are on or around the number that the dealer calls out. You’ll also win if your number falls into one of the many categories found in the outside-bets section; 1st dozen, black/red, even/odd etc. Once you’ve collected your winnings you’re free to bet again.

That’s pretty much it when it comes to understanding roulette.

Odds and Probability: Everything You Need To Know

In simple terms, the probability is the chance of something occurring; the higher the probability – which can be expressed as a percentage or a ratio – the more likely it will occur. For example, the probability of winning a game of coin toss are 50:50 or 50%. We know this since there are two options – heads or tails – there are only two outcomes. Pretty simple to work out really.

That’s pretty much probability in a nutshell and now you’re a statistician – well done.

Now, let’s take a look the odds for European roulette:

Bet Type Fraction Ratio Percentage
Even (e.g. red/black) 1/2.06 1.06 to 1 48.6%
Column 1/3.08 2.08 to 1 32.4%
Dozen 1/3.08 2.08 to 1 32.4%
Six Line 1/6.17 5.17 to 1 16.2%
Corner 1/9.25 8.25 to 1 10.8%
Street 1/12.33 11.33 to 1 8.1%
Split 1/19.5 18.5 to 1 5.4%
Straight 1/37 36 to 1 2.7%

This may seem confusing initially, but if you take the logic from the coin toss, you can easily apply it to this chart:

  • Like adding numbers to a die; the more numbers there are the less likely you’ll chose the right one. It’s the same with roulette, where you’ve got an 8.1% of winning from a street bet (where you’ve picked 12 numbers) but you’ve only got a 2.7% chance of hitting a single number. The more numbers you choose, the more likely you’ll win.


  • Since there are 18 red numbers and 18 black numbers, it would be right to assume that the odds of correctly choosing the colour should be 50% or 1:1 – with the inclusion the green ‘0’ this, of course, changes the odds slightly, leaving you with a 48.6% chance of winning from this bet.

So, overall, the probability of winning a prize playing roulette depends on how well you cover the table. If you place a bet on every single number on the board you will have a 100% chance of winning, but your return will not be profitable – around 98 cents for every $1 you stake. If you stake $5 on red, you have a 48.6% chance of doubling your money – which is risky but has a higher chance of being profitable.

Roulette Betting Systems

Betting systems don’t just fail to beat casino games with a house edge, they can’t even scrape the surface. Roulette balls quite simply have no memory. Every spin is completely impartial to the last spin. You might think that in the short run you’re beating the system but this is just an illusion.

Ultimately, in the long run, there is no betting system that will keep on winning forever. As time goes on and you continue to play, the ratio of money bet to money lost will creep closer to the game’s expectations.

This is perfectly demonstrated by the so-called foolproof Martingale system. Of course, this system is far from foolproof.

The system works by you – the gambler – doubling your bet with every loss. The logic behind this is that once you eventually win, you’ll win your original stake(s) back plus one unit.

Let’s break it down:

  • First spin: stake $1 and lose – total stake: $1
  • Second spin: stake $2 and lose – total stake: $3
  • Third spin, stake $4 and lose – total stake: $7
  • Fourth spin, stake $8 and win – total stake $15, total win $16

Once you add the stakes they come to $15, and on the fourth spin you win $16. This seems like a guaranteed way to profit since you’ll eventually always win, right?


The belief that any given random variable will be eventually match a specific result (pulling a number six from a bag of thirty balls for example) is called gambler’s fallacy. Unfortunately, there are only two things in life that are guaranteed, death and taxes – choosing the right colour on the roulette table is not one of them.

One of two things can happen; you’ll run out of money or you’ll eventually fall into the pattern that every regular player does – win sometimes, lose sometimes and over time, like everyone else, you’ll lose a similar percentage to the house edge. There are plenty of studies that suggest this, so we’re definitely not making this up. Please, don’t bother with the Martingale system.

Other Strategies

Sure, there’s a few more strategies that you can adopt.

You’ve got the Paroli betting system which works like the Martingale System but in the opposite way, and is much less risky (basically, you double your bet after every win and return to your original stake when you lose – this sounds great but the little losses soon add up).

There’s also the masse égale system, which requires you to play the same bet over and over again until you eventually win – which sounds logical – but of course, you might not win (remember gambler’s fallacy).

There’s no feeling like your lucky number coming off though, is there?

Ultimately the best way to make money is by placing the majority of your bets on the outside section of the table and placing smaller, more concise bets on the inside section. This way you’re placing bets with a higher chance of winning (48.6% chance of hitting black) whilst spreading smaller bets across the inside which payout more.

That’s everything you really need to know with roulette. Once you’ve taken all this in why don’t you head over to the tables and put it all to practice.

If you’ve got any hints or tips for any of our roulette players, then share your secrets in the comments section below.

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