It is generally accepted that three base roulette types exist; American, European, and French.
American roulette is the dominant variation in the USA, surprisingly enough, and it is also the version that offers the least value to the player because of its’ higher house edge.
Assuming you are playing a version with no added side bets or anything, the only thing that sets American roulette apart from its European cousins is the extra space on the roulette wheel; the 00 or double zero.
This doesn’t change the rules of the game in any way, but it does create a unique 5 number bet type called the basket bet, as well as creating a 3 number trio bet type that you won’t find in other variations.
The payouts for all other bets are the same though, despite the odds of them winning being smaller thanks to that extra space on the wheel taken by the double zero. This is why American roulette has a higher house edge and offers less value to players.
Basic Rules for American Roulette
Whichever version of roulette you play, it is incredibly simple to pick up the basics, and American roulette is no exception.
The nuts and bolts of it are that players bet on where they think the ball will land on the roulette wheel. The dealer spins the wheel, releases the ball, and if the player bets correctly they win money, if they are wrong then their stake is lost.
There are different bet types to get to grips with which are covered below, but otherwise it really is just a case of joining a table (or loading an online game), placing your chips in the right place on the betting board and crossing your fingers.
Bets can be made and altered at any time before the dealer calls “No more bets”, which is usually just after the ball has been released onto the wheel, although they won’t wait for you so you have to get on with it. All bets are final after this point. That said, if you are playing online you have all the time in the world to place your bets as you can decide when to spin the wheel.
After the result has been decided, the dealer will take any losing chips and pay out any winning ones. You must not touch the chips at any point after “No more bets” has been called until you are paid out, and online players accounts will be automatically credited with any winnings.
You are free to come and go from the table as you please, and there is no obligation to play for more than a single spin or to leave the table if you have been there for a while. You do need to be making bets though, otherwise staff and other players might start getting annoyed with you.
Bets, Payouts and Probabilities
The bets on an American roulette table are probably easier to explain and understand by looking at the image below. The numbered circles demonstrate where you would place your chips if you wanted to make a bet of each type.
- Straight Up or Single – A bet on one single number.
- Split – A bet on two specific numbers.
- Zero Split – As above, but on both zeros.
- Trio – A bet on the zero or double zero, and the two adjacent numbers.
- Street – A bet on three numbers in a vertical line.
- Corner or Square – A bet on four numbers in a square.
- Basket – A bet on the first five numbers including the zero and double zero.
- Six Line or Double Street – A bet on six numbers in a vertical line.
- Dozen Bet – A bet on twelve numbers, covering one of three thirds of the board, not including the zero or double zero.
- Column Bet – A bet on 12 numbers in a horizontal line across the board.
- Red/Black – A bet on all numbers that are either red or black, not including the zero or double zero.
- Odd/Even – A bet on all numbers that are either odd or even, not including the zero or double zero.
- High/Low or 1-18/19-36 – A bet on either the first 18 numbers or the second 18 numbers, not including the zero or double zero.
Bet types 1 to 8 are known as inside bets, as they are more specific, placed on the numbers themselves, and have higher payouts; bet numbers 9-13 are known as outside bets as they are on the outside of the board, cover many numbers in a single bet, and therefore have smaller payouts.
Now some of these bets are more likely to win than others – for example, a bet on red has an 18 in 38 chance of winning whereas a bet on a single number only has a 1 in 38 chance of winning – the payouts are different for each bet type to reflect these probabilities.
The payouts are all worked out based on probability and will not change, although the amount you win will be based on your stake size. So a £2 stake on red will win you £2 and a £5 stake will win you £5, but in both cases this is still a 1:1 payout.
American Roulette Wheel Diagram
You will notice that the numbers on an American roulette wheel are not in any obvious kind of order.
However, there is a method to the apparent madness, and it’s all to do with keeping things as fair and random as possible when it comes to the outside bets.
Since the outside bets cover many different numbers, the wheel needs to be arranged in such a way that no particular area on it favours one bet type over another.
To this end, you will notice that the numbers are ordered in a red, black, red, black, order, other than the green zero and double zero which are directly opposite each other. That takes care of red or black bets.
When it comes to odd or even bets, you will also notice that, for the most part, two even numbers are followed by two odd numbers. This isn’t quite true around the zero and double zero, which are both flanked by even numbers and odd numbers respectively. This does mean that one half of the wheel has 10 odd numbers and 8 even numbers, while the opposite side has 10 even and 8 odd numbers, but it’s as evenly distributed as it is possible to be and since both odd and even numbers have a dominant side each it balances things out.
For high low bets, you can see that any half of the wheel will have 9 high numbers and 9 low numbers whichever angle you look at it from, so the numbers are fairly and evenly distributed from this bets’ point of view.
Dozen and column bets are also evenly distributed, with 6 of each of the 12 numbers included in each of the bets showing up on either side of the wheel.
This must have been a logistical nightmare for whoever first worked it out, but the result is a wheel which does not favour any particular bet type in any way, keeping the results random.
The numbers themselves can face inwards or outwards, and this makes absolutely no difference to the betting.
All casino games have a house edge, and this is the casino’s advantage over the player. It is the difference between the true odds of winning and the payout the casino gives you. Without it, casino’s would not make any money and would therefore not exist.
With American roulette, there is a 5.26% house edge worked in.
This is higher than for European roulette (2.7%) because American roulette uses both a zero and a double zero, giving the house twice the chance to win all money placed on outside bets since they do not include the zero or double zero.
There are 38 spaces on an American roulette wheel; 36 numbers, a zero, and a double zero. However, a straight up win pays out just 35:1, so it ignores the green zeros and is paying out as if there were only 36 spaces on the wheel. The casino can’t pay out true odds or it will not make money, so it pays out slightly below true odds.
You can look at the green zeroes as the casino’s numbers if you like, since it is effectively these that create the house edge. Even though you can bet on them.
You can also do the equation for yourself.
Let’s look at a straight up bet first:
- 1 (your bet) divided by 38 (spaces on the wheel) = 0.0263
- 0.0263 x 100 = 2.63%
- So each space has a 2.63% chance of the ball landing in it.
- The casino has two green zero spaces, so…
- 2.63% x 2 = 5.26%
With an even money outside bet like red or black you have a 46.37% chance of winning your bet, and this accounts for 18 numbers. Therefore if you double this figure you account for all 36 numbers and get 92.74%, however, this does not account for the zero and double zero. If you then take 92.74% away from 100% you are left with… 5.26%.
The house edge is the same for all bet types.
The only exception is the unique 5 number basket bet, also known as the ‘sucker bet’ since it is the worst bet in roulette. The payout is 6:1 on a 5 number bet, which leaves a house edge of 7.89% – so steer clear.