Roulette is one of the most popular and oldest casino games played in the world. It is named after a French diminutive for “little wheel,” although there was already a French board game of the same name when it became popular. The first wheel is likely to have been designed after a small wheel invented by famed mathematcian and physicist Blaise Pascal, who was trying to produce a perpetual motion wheel.
The game itself was devised with a spinning wheel centered on a stationary hub where a small ivory ball could be spun in the opposite direction. As the ball slowed due to friction, gravity would eventually force the ball into one of 38 pockets of equal size. Each pocket was numbered, 1 to 36, with an additional 0 and 00.
The betting layout had a green background with all of the numbers labeled in red, but the numbers on the wheel alternated red and black. To avoid confusion, the zero and double zero were eventually colored green on the wheel. As the game became more popular outside of Paris and across Europe, the betting layout began to incorporate red and black colors to match the numbers on the wheel.
The game became so popular in some gaming locations that competition grew fierce for players, and Frenchman Francois Blanc is credited with introducing a single-zero wheel to draw more business to his casino in the German spa town of Homburg. Gaming was eventually outlawed in Germany and Blanc moved to Monte Carlo and helped turn the small municipality into a casino spot known around the globe.
Wagers on French Roulette Wheels
Roulette offers players a chance to make wagers on individual numbers with a payoff of 35 to 1, and to split their wagers between any group of numbers a single chip can reach. These inside bets are designed with a payoff that produces a standard house edge of 5.26%. However, when the single-zero wheels are played, the house edge is considerably lower at just 2.70%.
Other wagers can be made at roulette, called outside bets. These bets include column and section wagers that cover 12 numbers and pay 2 to 1, and even-money wagers, or bets that pay 1 to 1. Even money wagers include odd/even (Pair/Impair), black/red (Rouge/Noir), and 1st 18, 2nd 18 (Manque/Passe). These also have a 2.70% house edge on single-zero wheels.
However, the French game offers a rule referred to as La Partage (the divide). With La Partage, a player who has a wager on an even-money bet that would typically be lost when zero (or double zero) is spun, receives a refund of half their wager. This is done automatically and reduces the house edge of even-money bets to 1.35 %.
A typical French roulette table layout has a “P” “M” “D” at the player-end of the layout to wager on the first, second and third dozen numbers, unlike most layouts where the bets are on the front section of the layout. In addition, what are sometimes called “French bets,” are offered. These wagers can be made in order to cover portions of the roulette wheel and are placed into action by the dealer when the player announces them. The most popular bets include:
- Voisins du Zero (Neighbors of zero), which covers a wide swath of numbers – 22,18,29,7,28,12,35,3,26,0,32,15,19,4,21,2,25
- Le tiers du cylinder (Thirds of the wheel), which covers the numbers -27,13,36,11,30,8,23,10,5,24,16,33
- Orphelins (Orphans) the sections not covered by Tiers and Voisins – 17,34,6 and 1,20,14,31,9
Other announced bets include Neighbors – a number and the two numbers on either side (for instance, neighbors of 36 is a wager on three consecutive numbers on the wheel: 13, 36, 11); Final Bets – a wager on all numbers ending in your announced number (for instance, Final 5 is a 4-unit wager covering 5, 15, 25, 35); Full Complete – a pricey wager that covers every bet possible on a number including straight up, split, etc. and takes a total of 40 units.
Because of these announced bets, a typical French roulette game is slightly slower than American games that don’t offer them, and dealers must work at a very steady, accurate pace throughout their shift. However, many casinos don’t allow their dealers to accept tips, unlike American casinos where the dealers are paid a minimum wage and rely on tips to earn a better income.
Online French roulette wheels are likely to offer single-zero games and have individual buttons for announced bets as well as the standard inside and outside wagers offered at all roulette games. Be careful with Full complete or Maximum wagers, as these will be 40x your wager, so a $5 Full complete is a $200 wager.