Roulette is a game that comes in a number of different shapes and sizes. For the most part there are two major variations of roulette: American roulette and European roulette. Each of these two roulette games are fairly standardized, with only minor rule variations within each. In addition, there are a number of variations on roulette that are usually found at online casinos, or (in rare cases) at casinos where local laws require some rule changes to make roulette legal.
Picking the right type of roulette game for you is very important, as some roulette games offer features that make them better or worse for players. The following guide should give you all the information you need to pick the right roulette game for you.
In addition to choosing the right game there is the issue of selecting the right wheel. Check out our guide that explains if you should opt for single or double zero roulette tables.
American roulette is the version of the game that is most often found in the Americas, particularly in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and South American casinos. In this version of roulette the wheel traditionally contains 38 numbers. It has the numbers 1-36, as well as both a zero (0) and double zero (00).
In American roulette, nearly all bets pay out at odds that would be fair if it were not for the presence of the two zeroes. For instance, a single number bet pays 35-1 with the house edge being added by the zero and double zero spaces. Thus, on almost all bets, the house edge is 5.26%.
In some casinos that spread American roulette, single-zero wheels are also available at higher limits. These games carry a house edge of 2.7%, similar to most European roulette bets.
In Atlantic City casinos American roulette rules are followed (including double-zero wheels), but players receive half of their money back if they have made an even money bet such as red/black and the ball lands on a zero. This changes the house edge on only those bets to 2.63%.
You can read more about American roulette here.
European roulette is the form of roulette most commonly encountered in casinos in Asia, Europe and Africa. Online casinos do tend to offer both American and European roulette; however players who have the choice should virtually always choose European roulette as it offers far better odds to the players.
All European roulette games feature a single zero wheel, without the double-zero (00) found on American wheels. This is immediately beneficial for the player, as it lowers the house edge on most bets to just 2.7%.
However, true European roulette games also feature what is known as the “en prison” rule. Under this rule, players will have a chance to recover their bets should they make a wager on any of the even money bets (such as odd/even or red/black) and see the ball land on the zero.
What exactly happens to bets in this case can vary depending on the rules at your casino. In some casinos, the player will immediately get half of their bet back, cutting the house edge to 1.35%. However, the player may also choose to keep the bet “imprisoned”, hoping to win on the next spin.
Should the next spin result in a win for that bet the player will receive their entire bet back, while a loss will result in the loss of the entire bet. If the ball should land on zero again, the bet may be lost, held over again for the next spin, or become “double-imprisoned” – depending on the rules at that casino. From the player’s perspective, however, simply surrendering half of their bet at the start is a slightly better bet than going through the imprisonment process.
European roulette games are also known for the “French bets” that are sometimes associated with them. On some European roulette tables you will see added betting areas that allow you to bet on specific regions of the wheel. These bets are particularly popular in high-stakes games.
We should also take a moment to talk about a special version of European roulette that is known as French roulette. In almost all ways related to the rules of the game, French roulette is identical to European roulette. However, there are a couple of visual differences you’ll find while playing.
On a true French roulette table the table layout will typically have all of the numbers labelled in red. The red/black bet still exists, as the wheel itself still has half of the pocket numbers colored in black. This gives the table itself a very striking and elegant design.
The layout of a French roulette table will also typically include the “French bets” – wagers that can be made in order to cover portions of the roulette wheel. These bets include the popular Voisins du Zero wager (Neighbors of Zero), which covers all of the numbers closest to the zero on the wheel.
French roulette will also use the standard en prison rule. In most French casinos (and many online French roulette games) the rule is referred to specifically as la partage, which refers to the version in which the player immediately receives half of their even money wagers back if a zero is spun.
Other Roulette Variants
There are numerous variations of roulette found around the world, but a couple stand out as being particularly notable.
The first is known as California Roulette. This game is played exclusively at casinos in California, where state laws do not allow the use of a wheel to directly determine the results of wagers. Instead, a combination of wheels and cards are used to pick numbers. This has absolutely no impact on the odds offered by the game, but it definitely gives the game a different feel.
One popular online roulette game is Mini-Roulette. In this simplified version of roulette, the wheel contains just 13 slots: the numbers 1-12 along with a single zero.
Much like in more traditional roulette games, the bets generally offer odds that would be fair if not for the zero. For example, a bet on a single number will normally pay out at 11-1. In addition, if the result of a spin is a zero, many Mini-Roulette games give players half of all losing bets back (except, of course, for bets on the zero itself).