In this roulette guide from GoodLuckMate, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to play roulette and what the differences are between the different versions of the game. We’ll also explain the best roulette strategies and how they work so you can increase your chances of beating the house. 

American vs. European roulette wheels

Roulette is a French word that means “little wheel,” so it’s only natural that the wheel is the most important aspect of this casino game. Different versions of the game can have different types of wheels, but there are two kinds that you’ll see most often – the American and European roulette wheel. The wheels on these two games are almost the same, except for one small but very important detail.

In both the European and American roulette wheels, you’ll find red and black pockets marked with numbers from 1 to 36. In addition, you’ll also find one or two green pockets. The European wheel has one green pocket marked with 0, and the American wheel has two green pockets, one marked with 0 and the other marked with 00. This might seem like a minor detail, but since the green pockets represent what’s considered the house edge, this will make a big difference in your chances of winning. We’ll get back to this later in our roulette guide.

Another difference that has less of an impact on your game is that the numbers are placed in different locations on the wheel, depending on whether it’s a European or an American wheel that is being used. This only matters if you want to make bets on numbers based on their placement on the wheel, which are also known as Racetrack bets. This is not a type of bet all casinos allow, but some do. 

How to play roulette

The aim of the game in roulette is to guess where the little white ball that is spun around the wheel will land. The wheel itself will rotate counter-clockwise, and the ball will be spun clockwise. As the ball loses speed, it will land in one of the 37 or 38 pockets on the wheel, and the hope is that it lands in a pocket that you’ve placed a bet on. In theory, you could place a bet on every single number or pocket on the wheel, but this would naturally not pay off in the long run. However, you can choose to place bets on large parts of the wheel, on just a few numbers, or on only one.  

You place your bets on the table connected to the wheel, and on this table, it’s also easy to see which are outside bets and which are inside bets. The outside bets are placed outside the numbers, on the fields bordering the rows of numbers, while the inside bets are placed on the numbers you want to bet on. You use chips to place your bets, and these, of course, will have different values. If you play roulette online, you’ll see a virtual table popping up on the screen when the betting part of the game round is open. Usually, you’ll also see a timer indicating how long you have left to place your bets. When the dealer announces, “no more bets,” the betting time is up, and you can’t change your bets or place any more bets for this round.

On the table, the numbers are placed in numerical order, and they’re divided into three columns with 12 numbers per row. The 0 and 00 in American Roulette are positioned at the end of the columns. 

Outside bets

The outside bets are bets on big groups of numbers that never include 0 or 00. You place your bets on the fields surrounding the numbers but never directly on a number, column or row. 

The payout will either be 1:1 (meaning you’ll win the same amount as you bet, in addition to getting your bet back) or 2:1 (meaning you’ll win double the amount you bet, in addition to getting your bet back). These are the bets and payouts for outside bets in roulette:

Payout 1:1

  • All red or black pockets
  • Numbers 1 to 18 or 19 to 36 (hi or low numbers)
  • All odd numbers or all even numbers

Payout 2:1

  • 1st dozen – numbers 1 to 12
  • 2nd dozen – numbers 13 to 24
  • 3rd dozen – numbers 25 to 36
  • 1st column – numbers 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31 and 34
  • 2nd column – numbers 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29, 32 and 35
  • 3rd column – numbers 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33 and 36

Since outside bets can cover large parts of the wheel, placing outside bets will give you a greater probability of getting a win in every game round, but you won’t be able to win a lot in each round since the odds of a win are high. If you want a bigger win compared to your bet, you should go with an inside bet instead, even though your chances of winning are much lower per game round.

Racetrack bets

A type of bet you won’t find on all roulette tables is the racetrack bet. This is a bet on 12 numbers based on the placement of the numbers on the wheel. If this bet is available, you'll find it placed separately on the felt on the table, either as an oval-shaped graphic or with the names Tier, Orphelins, Voisins and Zero. The numbers that are represented in each segment depend on whether you’re playing on a roulette wheel with one or two zeros because this will also determine the placement of the numbers on the wheel. 

Inside bets

In roulette, you can bet on whatever you want and as many or few numbers as you’d like. If your bet is not an outside bet, it will be an inside bet. These bets are not placed outside of the columns of numbers but rather directly on the numbers or rows you want to bet on. These are the bets and payouts for inside bets in roulette:

  • Straight – if you place a bet directly on a number, it indicates that you want to bet only on that number.The payout for this bet is 35:1.
  • Split – if you place your bet on the line between two numbers, it indicates that you want to bet on both of the numbers the line is separating. The payout for this bet is 17:1.
  • Street – if you place a bet on the line at the end of a row, it indicates that you want to bet on all the numbers in that row. The payout for this bet is 11:1.
  • Square – if you place a bet on a cross, you’ll bet on all four of the numbers connected by this cross. The payout for this bet is 8:1.
  • Top Line – if you place your bet in the middle at the end of two rows, you’ll be betting on both of the rows (two streets). The payout for this is 6:1.

With an inside bet, you have a chance of winning many times your bet, but the chances of winning are lower than with an outside bet. However, it’s not like you have to choose only one inside bet since you can also choose to place several inside bets in the same game round, thereby increasing your chances of a win.

American Roulette

One version of roulette you’ll find at almost all online casinos is American Roulette. Not only is this one of the two major versions of the game, it’s also the one that casinos would prefer that you play. The reason for this is simple – this is the roulette game where the house has the biggest edge. In other words – your chances of winning are not as good as in other types of roulette.

Naturally, the wheel used is the American roulette wheel, meaning it has a total of 38 pockets. Since there are two green pockets, 0 and 00, the house has double the edge compared to European Roulette and other versions of roulette where there’s only one green pocket on the wheel. With one extra green pocket, the house edge in American Roulette is as high as 5.26%. The only bet that will give the house an even greater edge is betting on what are known as the Top Line 5: these are the numbers 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. This bet will give the house an edge as high as 7.89%. With a house edge this high, this bet is considered the worst roulette bet you can make.

If you play online, it’s unlikely that American Roulette is the only version of this game any casino you play at will have to offer, and if you have the choice – don’t play it. The payout for all of the bets is the same for American Roulette as it is for European Roulette, and the bets you can place are the same. The only difference is that the house edge is smaller in the European version.

European Roulette

In most places in the world, European Roulette is the version of the game that’s considered the standard. On the European roulette wheel, there’s only one green pocket, and it’s marked with 0. This means there’s a total number of 37 pockets on a European roulette wheel. The payouts for a winning bet are exactly the same as in American Roulette, but your chances of winning are higher since the house edge is only 2.7%. This is the edge for all of the bets you place, both inside and outside bets.

Since European Roulette is considered the standard in most parts of the world, you might find that these games are only marked as Roulette games at casinos online. However, it could also be that the only games some casinos call “roulette” are American versions of the game, so make sure you check this before you start playing. Simply have a look at the table and see how many green fields you can see. The reason this sometimes differs is because online casinos choose the names of their games based on what the standard is where the casino is located, or where the game developers are based. 

Another thing you should keep in mind is that the European wheel is also commonly used in other versions of Roulette, so just because the wheel and table look like “normal” European Roulette, it doesn’t guarantee that this is the game that’s being played. But, if it’s a different version, the game will be called something other than simply Roulette.

French Roulette

After American and European Roulette, French Roulette is the next most common game. In the French version, the European wheel is used. In addition to the normal roulette “rules,” there are two extra rules that can be used. This is what gives the casino a much lower house edge than in European Roulette. The house edge in French Roulette is as low as 1.35%. This is very low compared to European Roulette at 2.7% and American Roulette at 5.26%. In general, it’s even low compared to other casino games such as slots and card games.

The reason French Roulette gives the house such a low edge is because of its two rules: La Partage and En Prison. These two rules can be used when a player places an outside bet and the ball lands on 0. In most versions of the game, this will automatically end up as a loss for the player, which is why the 0 is considered the house edge to begin with. In French Roulette, however, this is not an automatic loss because you might just end up winning your bet back. 

En Prison

If you place an outside bet, and the ball lands in the green pocket, the En Prison rule can be used. This rule allows your bet to be held for one more round. However, you can’t change your bet, or add on another bet. It will remain exactly the same as in the previous round. If this were a slot machine, we would call it a re-spin because it’s basically a continuation of the last game round. In this new extra round, you can’t win, but you may avoid losing. If the ball lands in a pocket you’ve bet on, you’ll get your bet back. The winnings for the round won’t be paid out, but your bet will be returned to you. If you lose, you’ll also lose your bet. In theory, this should cut your losses almost in half when the result of an outside bet is green.

La Partage

The second option in terms of the extra rules in French Roulette is the La Partage rule. This is also a rule that can be used when the ball lands in the green pocket in a game round where you’ve placed an outside bet. There won’t be an extra spin of the roulette wheel, or a chance of winning or getting your entire bet back, but half of the bet you placed will be returned to you, cutting your losses in half compared to the same result in the European version of roulette.

Other versions of the game

There are many, many different versions of roulette. Some are found at land-based casinos while other versions are only found online. What is always true, though, is that most online casinos have a far greater selection of different types of roulette, simply because they have unlimited space for their games. Some of the less popular versions, however, may not be found as live table games in live casinos. Instead, they’ll be available as digital versions operated by a random number generator. Some of the digital versions of roulette are also more or less forms of video slots because the wheel can change according to the way the bonus rounds are triggered and other features the game providers have included. There are too many variations on roulette to list here, but we’ve taken a closer look at some of the most exciting versions:

Double Ball

Double Ball Roulette isn’t really a different form of roulette; it’s more like a different way to play the game. This game is played with one wheel, which can be either an American or a European wheel. The wheel itself isn’t what defines the game, even though the European version is, of course, the best game for the player. What sets this game apart from the normal version is that two balls will be spinning on the wheel simultaneously. To ensure that both balls have the same speed so that they don’t meet on the wheel, the balls are shot out of the wheel automatically, at exactly the same speed. So, even though the game is available with a live dealer, it won’t be a dealer that spins the balls.

In terms of rules and betting, there are some special rules since there will be two results, but you’ll only place one bet. If you choose an outside bet, both balls must successfully land in the pockets you’ve bet on for you to win, and the payout will be 3:1 or 8:1, depending on the bet you chose. This means you’ll win 3 times as much as you would in “normal” roulette. For an inside bet, it’s enough that one of the balls is successful for you to win, but you’ll win twice as much if both balls land in a pocket you’ve bet on. 

Multi-Wheel Roulette

Multi-Wheel Roulette is simply a game in which you play a lot of game rounds at the same time. It’s played on only one table, so you’ll place one bet that will count for all of the different wheels. The number of wheels you can play simultaneously will vary, and you can often choose this yourself. Some games offer as many as 8 wheels, but you can also play on only two or three if you want to. The wheels themselves can be either a single 0 wheel or a double 0 wheel, meaning either an European or an American wheel.

The benefit of this game is that you can get through a lot of game rounds quickly, but there are also downsides to this. Because you’ll get a lot of different results, you can win on some wheels but lose on others, so it's hard to play with a strategy. Using any of the popular progressive roulette strategies is next to impossible, which makes Multi-Wheel Roulette more a game of chance than a strategic game.

Lightning Roulette

Game developer Evolution Gaming has created a new and exciting live roulette game that’s a cross between a digitally controlled game and a live game. The basis of the game is normal European Roulette, and you play just as you normally would. The difference is that the digitally controlled part of the game also chooses one outcome, or a set of numbers, with a multiplier for each game round. If you’ve chosen to bet on the selected number, and you win, your winnings will be multiplied, which can give you a much bigger win than you’d normally be able to get from playing roulette. 

In addition, the numbers are, of course, chosen before the ball stops but after you’ve placed your bet. This multiplier is only valid for the numbers themselves, and you won’t be able to multiply a winning from an entire outside bet or a bet covering more than one number. Since the wheel is actually a physical wheel rather than a digital one, the chosen multiplier numbers won’t have any impact on the winning results.

California Roulette

A fairly unique variation on this game is California Roulette. The gambling regulations in the state of California prohibit a winning result being decided by a ball or a dice, which means real roulette is outlawed. Since roulette is such a popular game, they have therefore created their own version of it. To get around the legislation, California Roulette works pretty much like American Roulette, but it’s played with a deck of cards. Thirty-eight cards are used, and these are either red or black, and they also have numbers. Basically, all of the pockets on a double-zero roulette wheel are represented in the card deck. So, the bets are the same, and the dealer draws a card from an automatic shuffler to produce the winning result.

This game is, of course, mainly played in California, but you may also find it online. Some casinos choose to call it Card Roulette instead of California Roulette. 

How to win at roulette

The game roulette in itself is a game of chance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use strategies to increase your chances of winning. How to play roulette and how to win at it are things you can learn in 10 minutes or less, but mastering the game is another story. For this, you need to familiarize yourself with some different roulette strategies.

The chances of getting a win in each and every game round will be the same no matter what you do, but you may be able to influence your chances in the long run. When you use a roulette strategy that extends over many game rounds, you’ll be using what’s known as a progressive strategy.

There are also other strategies, or approaches players consider strategies, that are popular. Betting on the dealer is one of them. Many players think that a dealer who has spun the ball thousands and thousands of times will spin it with the same force every time, making it possible to predict where the ball will land, based on where on the wheel the dealer releases the ball. 

Other players analyze the wheels to look for imperfections. A millimeter difference, or even less, in the size of the pockets can make it more or less likely that the ball will end up in a particular place on the wheel. By finding these imperfections and betting accordingly, you could give yourself a small edge. At land-based casinos, you can physically look for these imperfections while at live online casinos you have to trust the stats and history of the game. On digital versions of roulette, looking for imperfections or betting on the dealer’s speed in spinning the ball are not strategies you can use. 

Progressive strategy

The most trustworthy strategy is always a progressive strategy. Since you can’t predict the outcome of a single spin, you have to trust the probability. Basically, you place a bet according to what happened in the last game round. These strategies are mostly used when you place an outside bet, and preferably one that pays 1:1. These bets are all red or black, numbers 1 to 18 or 19 to 36, or all odd numbers or even numbers. Not counting the green pockets, this gives you a 50/50 chance of winning. You then adjust your next bet according to whether you won or lost on the previous bet.

There are many versions of progressive roulette strategies, and some are more volatile than others. The most common one is called the Martingale Theory.

The Martingale Theory

Theoretically, playing 50/50 bets on roulette with the Martingale Theory will ensure that you always win in the long run. The way it works is that you place a bet on red, for instance. If you win – great! If you don’t – you double your bet on red again. By doubling your bet every time you lose and going back to your original bet whenever you win, you can make sure that you’ll always end up winning in the long run. Here’s an example:

Game round

Bet

Total bet

Winnings

Net winnings

1

€1

€1

€1

€1

2

€2

€3

€4

€1

3

€4

€7

€8

€1

4

€8

€15

€16

€1

5

€16

€31

€32

€1

6

€32

€63

€64

€1

7

€64

€127

€128

€1

8

€128

€255

€256

€1

9

€256

€511

€512

€1

10

€512

€1023

€1024

€1

The example shows how the strategy works if you bet on a 50/50 outside bet. Your original bet is €1, and the table shows what your bets will look like if you end up on a losing streak. If you win, you just go back to the bets you used in the first game round and start again. If you lose, you just double your bet. The reason for the doubling of your bet is that as soon as you win, you’ll also win back the previous bets.

Just be aware: your net win is based on your original bet, which in this case is €1. This will be the profit, even if you end up losing and doubling 10 times, as shown in this table. If you play using this system, you might end up betting more than €1000 for the chance to net a win of €1. And, you could lose more than 10 times as well…

History and strategy

Losing many times in a row can make the Martingale Theory and other roulette strategies very expensive in the long run. A small bet can easily end up costing you quite a lot, but if you also use the history that’s available in the game you can lower your costs. Many players keep an eye on the stats for the table and only bet when one result has been the outcome three times or more. 

An example to illustrate this: If the last three rounds were black, you bet on red. If the last three numbers were even numbers, you bet on odd numbers. If the last three numbers were low, you bet on high numbers. 

What is important, though, is that as soon as you’ve placed a bet, you need to follow through on the strategy. Breaking the pattern of the strategy will end up costing you a lot long run. Therefore, the goal of playing in this way is not necessarily to win on your first bet but to ensure your bankroll lasts longer by eliminating the first three losses.

The Reverse Martingale

Another popular strategy is the Reverse Martingale Theory. This strategy is based on winning streaks. As most casino players know, wins seldom arrive one at a time — or at least this is what players tend to think. Based on this, you can reverse the Martingale strategy and double your bet every time you win, and then lower the bet as soon as you lose. When you play like this, you might be able to win big from a lucky streak. The benefit of this way of playing roulette is, first and foremost, that you’ll never end up losing based on the two reasons that make the Martingale Theory just a theory.

How to lose with a progressive strategy

When you play roulette with a progressive strategy, you should, in theory, always be able to win in the end. You’ll bet a lot, but eventually, you’ll win back your bets, and in this way, steadily increase your bankroll. However, there are two ways of losing with these strategies.

The first way of losing might seem obvious – you run out of money and you’re not able to double your bet. This is why starting with a low bet, and perhaps also playing with the strategy for using the game round history to eliminate the first few loses, is smart. But even then the bets can quickly become so big that you aren’t able to keep doubling. Now you might think that losing 10 times in a row on what should be close to a 50/50 bet sounds highly unlikely, but it’s not. Believe it or not, on average, 8 losses or more in a row can happen several times over a 200-spin game round. So, running through their cash balance is what stops a lot of players from winning.

If you have enough money to keep doubling until you’re betting thousands of euros on a single spin (for the chance to win €1…), there’s another thing that will eventually stop you. The table limit. All roulette tables have a limit for both minimum and maximum bets, and sooner or later, you might hit this. As soon as you do, even if you have enough funds to cover the bet, the casino won’t let you place it. So, you’ll no longer be able to follow the strategy, and you’ll lose.

All of this being said, you can be lucky for quite a while with these strategies. Just remember to cash out while you’re still lucky and win!

How to play roulette online

There are many different ways to play roulette online. All online casinos have roulette games, but which versions of the game they have, and which options they have to actually play, will differ. The most popular way to play in 2020 is, of course, playing live. With a live dealer, you can play on an actual physical roulette wheel, and the game is exactly the same as when you play at a land-based casino. But, playing on a digital machine can be just as much fun. In addition, it can give you more options for the types of roulette games you can try. 

Live roulette tables

European Roulette, American Roulette and French Roulette are the most common live tables you’ll find in an online live casino. When you play, you play through a live stream, and you can get this in HD. The dealers sit in a studio with a roulette wheel, and actually spin the ball, just like they do at land-based casinos. You’ll see the table as a pop-up on your screen, which allows you to place your chips. The bets are handled digitally by the casino you play at, and your winnings are automatically paid out to your account balance. Since the dealer doesn’t handle bets or winnings, there’s no limit to the number of players that can participate on a table simultaneously, so you never have to wait for a spot to open up, unlike most of the card games you can play at live casinos.

A fairly new way to play roulette online is also live, but the dealer isn’t in a game studio. Some game providers have recently started cooperating with actual land-based casinos all over the world and have placed cameras above their roulette tables. This way, you can play roulette at real casinos, online. Since these are land-based casinos with players who are physically present, you’re usually unable to chat with the dealer. So even though you’re getting a genuine casino experience, it’s somewhat less social than when you play with a dealer in a studio.

Digital roulette games

A digital roulette game works more or less the same way as a slot machine. A random number generator decides the results of the game, which makes it completely random. Physical roulette games also work randomly, so your chances of winning are basically the same. The benefit of playing a digital game is that you can spend as much time as you like deciding how you want to bet since there’s no time limit. In the same way, you can start the game round as soon as you like since you’re playing alone, and you don’t have to wait for the other players to place their bets.

The greatest benefit, though, is that most casinos will let you play roulette for free in a digital game with demo money. This is great if you want to try out a new type of roulette with different rules than you’re used to, or if you want to try a new strategy. This is something we especially recommend for players who are new to roulette. Once you’re happy with your strategy, you can start playing for real money, either in the same digital game or in the live casino.