How to Bet Roulette

Roulette offers several betting options for the player. The typical roulette layout consists of forty-nine boxes — one for each of the numbers on the roulette wheel, and colored red, black, or green to match the number's color on the wheel, plus eleven boxes around the perimeter for special bets such as red/black, odd/even, and high/low. Bets on specific numbers are called “inside bets.” Other bets are called “outside bets.”

Each bet has its own payout. Outside bets typically pay even money for even/odd, red/black, and high/low, and 2 to 1 for column or dozen bets. Inside payouts range from 5 to 1 on a six-number bet to 35 to 1 on a straight bet.

The most important thing to remember is that, no matter what you do, and with very few exceptions, the house has an advantage of at least 5.26 percent on every bet you make on a double-zero wheel. On a single-zero wheel, the house edge is about half that, or roughly 2.7 percent. So, unless you are clairvoyant or incredibly lucky, chances are you'll lose at roulette more than you'll win.

▲ A typical roulette table layout. The letters indicate where various types of bets are placed on the table.

The house edge in roulette comes from the difference between true odds and casino odds, or the amount of each bet the casino keeps. On a standard American roulette wheel (one with zero and double-zero pockets), the true odds of hitting any given number are 1 in 38, or 37 to 1. But virtually every casino pays only 35 to 1 on a straight, one-number bet. If you bet $1 on the number 10 and you win, the house will pay you $35 — not the $37 you would get if the house paid true odds. The house keeps the $2 difference, which works out to 5.26 percent.

At most roulette tables, you can split up your inside bets to meet the table minimum, but you can't split your outside bets. At a $5 table, you can place several $1, $2, or $3 inside bets, as long as all of these bets total $5 or more. If you opt for outside bets, each bet must be at least $5. If you want to bet red and odd, for example, you have to place $5 on red and another $5 on odd.

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