The game of roulette actually comes from France if most stories are to be believed, so you could say that French roulette is the original variation of the game.
The most obvious difference between this variation and the others (European and American roulette), is that the layout of the board is different, and all of the writing is in French.
Tables in English speaking countries will often have the English translation alongside the French, but even if they don’t, it’s not difficult to figure out what’s what if you have ever played before.
You will also probably find a racetrack and a few betting options you might not have heard of before, again all in French.
The less obvious difference is that French roulette will often be played with one of two extra rules in operation; la partage, or en prison. These will be covered fully later in the article, but for now just know that they are of extra benefit to the player.
For UK players, French roulette is arguably the least common variation you are likely to see on your casino gaming travels.
Basic Rules for French Roulette
French roulette is played in the exact same way as any other regular version of the game. Bets are placed, the wheel is spun, the ball released, and the winning number is the one the ball eventually stops on.
The player must place their chips on the table during betting time, and cover the numbers they think the ball might land on. They can do this using a number of different bet types, some of which will cover just a single number and others will cover up to 18 different numbers with a single chip.
It is possible to change your mind and move your chips provided that betting time is still open, but don’t mess around too much or the dealer might tell you off.
After a short while, the dealer will spin the wheel and release the ball before calling “No more bets”. At this point, any bet still on the table is locked in and the players must not place any more chips or move those already placed.
Once the ball comes to rest in one of the pockets the result of the spin is decided and all winning bets are paid out, while all losing bets are collected by the dealer. The players must not touch any chips on the table unless the dealer has paid them out.
Once all of the chips have been removed, the dealer will call “Place your bets” and the next game begins.
Players can join at any stage in the process, so long as they are mindful of whether betting is open or not when they join. If it’s not, just wait until the current game is concluded.
You can play for as few or as many games as you like, and you can bet as much or as little as you like on the different bet types too, so long as you are aware of any table minimums and maximums. These must be adhered to.
This applies to playing in real life, but of course if you are playing online then there is no dealer and and you will control when the wheel is spun, so you can take as much time as you need to place your bets. Winnings are credited to your casino account automatically.
La Partage and En Prison
One slight difference with French roulette when compared to European or American roulette are the en prison and la partage rules.
You usually only find one or the other, although sometimes the player can request which way they want to go, and they relate to the even money bets; odd/even, high/low, red/black.
If a player has a bet on one of these areas and the ball lands on zero, instead of the bet losing like it normally would, either one of these rules come into effect, and this is how they work:
- La Partage – “The Divide”. With this rule, the dealer will return half of the bet and the house will keep the other half, so the player’s losses are reduced 50%.
- En Prison – “In Prison”. With this rule, the bet stays on the table ‘in prison’ for the next round. If the next spin wins then the player gets their stake back in full, but they do not get a payout. If it loses for a second time, the full amount is lost.
These rules do not apply to any other bets on the table, only even money bets, but for those who are playing even money bets the house edge is cut in half from 2.70% to just 1.35%.
At tables where the player gets to make the decision, it is essentially a choice between losing half of your stake for certain, or risking it all to reclaim it in its’ entirity.
Bets, Payouts and Probabilities
To get an idea of the different bet types in French roulette, and also where to place your chips on the board in order to make those bets, have a look at the image below:
- Straight Up or Single – A bet on one single number.
- Split – A bet on two specific numbers.
- Trio – A bet on the zero and two adjacent numbers.
- Street – A bet on three numbers in a vertical line.
- Corner or Square – A bet on four numbers in a square.
- 4 Number Bet – A bet on the zero, one, two, and three. Placed like a six line bet but with the same payout as a corner bet.
- 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.
- 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.
- Odd/Even – A bet on all numbers that are either odd or even, not including the 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.
Bet numbers 1 to 7 are called inside bets, while bet numbers 8-12 are called outside bets. Inside bets are made on the numbers themselves, and bets placed here can cover a maximum of six numbers per chip; outside bets are placed on special sections around the outside of the board which cover either 12 or 18 numbers per bet. Inside bets have a lower chance of winning but higher payouts than outside bets, for which the opposite is true.
Note that the Dozen bets are in a different place on the French roulette table, labelled as D12, M12, and P12. P12 stands for premiere douzaine (first dozen), covering numbers 1-12; M12 stands for moyenne douzaine (middle dozen) and covers number 13-24; and D12 stands for derniere douzaine (last dozen) and covers numbers 24-36.
You can see the payouts for each bet type below, as well as the probability of that bet winning, which just highlights what was explained above.
|4 Number Bet||8:1||10.81%|
This hopefully clearly demonstrates that the riskier your bet is, the higher the payout will be if you win. However, the amount you win in real money will be dependent on your stake, because while 2:1 on a £5 bet gives you a £10 profit (so £15 returned including the stake), the same 2:1 payout on a £10 stake will give you £20 profit (so £30 returned including the £10 stake).
Roulette is a great equaliser in this way, because the person playing and small stakes and the person playing a high stakes can be sat right next to each other wagering staggeringly different amounts but receiving the same proportional payout.
French Roulette Wheel Diagram
The numbers on the roulette betting table are all in a sort of numerical order travelling from the bottom of the board to the top then starting at the bottom of the next column again. In this way, it also helpfully splits the numbers in half and sorts them into dozens.
However, the roulette wheel has no such obvious order when you first look at the numbers and their layout.
Believe it or not though, the numbers on a French roulette wheel have been very cleverly arranged in order to keep the results as fair and random as possible by not letting any part of the wheel favour a specific bet type. For example, if the numbers 1-12 were all next to each other, a 1st Dozen bet would be guaranteed to win in that third of the wheel; as it is, the 1st Dozen numbers are scattered evenly around the wheel which keeps things fun and exciting.
It’s obvious to see that, apart from the green zero, all of the numbers have been placed in a pattern of red then black repeating. This means that the results of odd/even bets are as random as possible.
If you look at the wheel with the zero at the top, there are nine even numbers and nine odd numbers on each side of the wheel, and there are also nine high number and nine low numbers on each side. This means that the other even money bets, odd/even and high/low are also equally distributed and show no bias towards any particular area of the wheel.
The French wheel is arranged in exactly the same way as the European wheel, but the American wheel has a different order because of the extra space it uses, the double zero.
The numbers usually face inwards on the wheel although this isn’t necessarily going to be true all of the time and doesn’t effect the game in any way.
The Racetrack and Call Bets
One other extra feature with a lot of French roulette tables, although you do sometimes find it on European and American tables too, is the race track.
This is another way to place bets known as call bets, and each one has a specific betting layout that requires a specific number of chips.
Betting in this way is all about covering sections of the wheel, which you can see visually represented in the image above.
The different call bets are as follows:
- Voisins du Zero – “Neighbours of Zero”. This bet covers the zero and the sixteen numbers either side of it, so 17 numbers in total. It costs nine chips; splits on 4-7, 12-15, 18-21, 19-22, and 32-35, then two chips on a 0-2-3 trio, and two chips on a 25, 26, 28, 29 corner bet.
- Tiers du Cylindre – “Third of the Wheel”. This bet covers the twelve numbers opposite the zero. It costs six chips, and all bets are splits covering the numbers 5-8, 10-11, 13-16, 23-24, 27-30, and 33-36.
- Orphelins – “Orphans”. This bet basically covers the numbers that are left over, which is why it is called the Orphans bet. It’s a bet requiring 5 chips; a straight up bet on number 1, and splits on numbers 6-9, 14-17, 17-20, and 31-34.
- Jeu Zero – “Zero Game”. This bet isn’t always included as a call bet but is essentially a mini version of Voisins du Zero, covering the zero and the two numbers on its right, and the four numbers on its left. It costs 4 chips; a straight up on number 26, and splits on numbers 0-3, 12-15, and 32-35.
Although these bets have collective names, any wins will be paid out at the regular payout rates. So a win on number 26 in Voisins du Zero (the corner bet) would pay out at 8:1 as normal, with all other bets losing, leaving you even. On the other hand, a win on number 7 with Voisins (one of the splits) would pay out at the regular 17:1, with all other bets losing, leaving you 8 chips better off.
In order to turn a profit and run as a successful business, online and offline casinos all need to build a house edge into every game they offer. It usually doesn’t sound like a very large amount, but over time it mathematically guarantees that they will stay solvent and win more often than they lose.
This puts the player at an obvious disadvantage before they even begin, but without it, there would be no casino in the first place, so it can be seen as the casino’s fee for providing the service.
They build this edge in by paying out winning bets at lower than true odds. For example, there are 37 numbers on a French roulette wheel including the zero, but a winning bet on number 10 would only pay out 35:1, not the 36:1 that would represent the true odds of your bet winning.
Equally, a bet on red or black is paid out at 1:1, which would indicate 50/50 odds, but each even money bet only covers 18 numbers, which is not 50% of the 37 number wheel, it is actually only 48.64% of the wheel.
Therefore, French roulette has the same house edge as European roulette, at 2.70%. This is the case for every single bet on the table, regardless of how much money has been staked.
You can see how it works using a bet on black as an example in the following equation:
- 18 divided by 37 (your chances of winning are 18 in 37) x 2 divided by 1 (your payout and your stake) = 0.9729
- Now we need to turn that into a percentage so…
- 0.9729 x 100 (percent) = 97.29% rounded up to 97.30%. This is the RTP or return to player.
- 100% – 97.30% = 2.70% which is the house edge.
What we have done here is multiplied the probability of a win by the payout, then taken the result away from 100% to reveal the house edge.
If it all sounds too complicated don’t worry, all you need to know is that for every bet you make the casino is theoretically going to take 2.7% of your money.