A spinning wheel of roulette has been mesmerizing gamblers for years. It has always been a symbol of splendor, emotions, as well as ups and rare downs in casinos worldwide. Glyn Thomas describes statistics, strategies and history of roulette.

Regardless of whether a film director wants to portray a local con man or James Bond acting as a villain, whenever there is casino in the film – the roulette table is always in the spotlight. It is just necessary to add cigar smoke, a few beautiful but cold women as well as a sweaty old man in a tight collar, plus some dimmed light or gold candelabra emphasizing the class of the premises and… voila! This is the essence of gambling!

The roulette (in French „roulette” stands for wheel) is virtually a symbol of casino but it should not surprise aynyone. After all it has not changed since XVII century. The invention of gambling wheel is assigned to many people, starting from a mad Benedictine monk and ending up with the Chinese, but most sources point at Blaise Pascal. His work is also mist-covered, especially that he allegedly wanted to create perpetual motion. Although he did not manage to build an eternally operating machine, he created a continuous money-producing machine.

The simplest variant of roulette was referred to as boule. You can play it even today in French casinos, where it is called „small game”. The roulette, that is „big game” emerged in mid-XIX century as an invention of brothers – Louis and Francois Blanc – who managed the casino in Bad Homberg in Germany. Resourceful brothers introduced a wheel devoid of a field marked as double zero to reduce the casino’s advantage over players from 5.25% to 2.7%. Higher likelihood of winning attracted players and this is how roulette became one of the most popular table games in Europe. Thanks to patronage of prince Charles III, the roulette became one of the symbols of Monaco. One spin of the wheel led to emergence and death of big fortunes, which made the game even more fascinating. Eventually it reached distant places overseas, yet with a double zero field.   

As the player competes with the casino rather than other players, the roulette happens to be highly sociable and lively. Importantly, as opposed to other gambling games, it does not require you to stay focused. Alcohol in your blood does not decrease chances of winning so you can relax and approach the game with ease.


The roulette is highly popular around the world thanks to its unchanging form. Regardless of the development of technologies, the game with a small ball on a spinning wheel of 560 millimeters of diameter remains the same. Well, almost the same.

There are three basic variants of roulette: English, French and American. In English version (called European by Americans) the wheel is divided into 37 numbered fields, from 1 to 36, including one zero. The American roulette contains 38 fields, including two zeros. The French equivalent differs from the previous two, although it contains two zero fields, the arrangement of fields is utterly different and the game requires at least four croupiers.

The English roulette is a distant relative of its time-consuming French friend, adapted to fast entertainment with one croupier. Let’s focus on this variant.

Basic rules

At least one player is required for the game, yet the table can accommodate up to eight competitors. To make bets clear, every player is assigned chips in a different color. When the game is over, colored chips can be exchanged into real cash at the cashier’s window. You can bet on any numbers (also zero) and their combinations, on columns, on dozens, and the so-called chances grouping 18 numbers (e.g. odd and even numbers, black or red). The casino sets minimum and maximum bets. When betting time is up, the croupier signals end of betting, spins the wheel and tosses a ball against the direction of the wheel. The ball falls into the compartment to point the winning number. The croupier places the marker on the field with the number and then collects chips from losing fields, their combinations and lost chances. He also pays winners and betting starts again.

The game allows nine typical ways of betting: six „inside” bets and three „outside” bets. Every bet, both outside and inside, must exceed the required minimum assigned to the table. It may be a little difficult at first, so beginners should focus on this rule before they enter the game.


Every table has its own minimum and maximum rates. Before you change the place of gambling, it is advisable to check principles applicable at particular tables. You have to remember not to bet too late – if you make a bet after the croupier has announced the end of betting period, your step will be ignored.

It is also important that you place chips in relevant places. In real casino the croupier tries to arrange messy piles of chips into neat stacks. Yet he may happen to misinterpret your bet. If you wish to bet on more than one field, make sure your chips are placed exactly on the line and stay there after the croupier cleans the table up. If chips are scattered throughout the table, it is easy to make a mistake, and it may turn out that you have made a bet on a completely different number. Chips in a wrong place are the most common source of arguments. Fortunately virtual casinos do not need to deal with such issues.

You may encounter the term „French bets”. They are virtually unknown to majority of people and are used solely by posers; such terms as voisin de zero or orphelin stand for rare combinations of bets on particular sections of the wheel.


The roulette is sometimes referred to as a devil’s game because the sum of all numbers is 666 and the game itself has a devilish impact on some players. Reasonable gamblers sometimes believe they have acquired a secret knowledge of the „system” which helps them win… even though skills are not so important in roulette and even though it cannot be defeated. Enter the term „roulette strategy” in Google search engine to find a number of unique and highly effective strategies you can learn as long as you „deposit 25 dollars into the account number xxx today”. Do yourself and your wallet a favor and ignore such nonsense. In reality the essence of roulette is that it is a game of chance and is intended for entertainment only. The strategy you buy cannot raise likelihood of winning more than drawing random numbers from the pocket.

Patterns for unreasonable gamblers

Similar to slot machines, many people make a logic mistake as they believe that further numbers form some pattern. Get the right sequence and you will surely win. After all if the ball ends up in a red field seven times in a row, it is more likely that it will stay in the black one next time, right? Nonsense! Playing roulette is like tossing a coin. Prior games do not affect the future ones, it is all about luck.

Every casino is sometimes visited by gamblers who note down lucky numbers and try to find some pattern or „hot number” which is more frequent than others. It is a waste of time. If we set, say, 5000 roulette wheels and spin them around the clock, once per two minutes, how soon any of them will let all numbers from 1 to 36 win? You can believe us or not, even if you don’t wait for numbers in the order from 1 to 36, and it is enough if these numbers occur in any order, you will have to wait… 25 million years.

Let’s get more realistic. What are the odds on predicting just four subsequent numbers on the wheel of roulette? If you are lucky, it is like two million to one. In reality it gets even worse if you realize that such sequence may happen as frequently as any other – or when you do not look. Next time when you meet someone betting on the same field number 7, do not admire their skills, just laugh at their foolishness and naive optimism.

Winning at roulette may depend solely on your luck, conspiracy with the croupier or use of supercomputer hidden in your shoe. Since only the first way is not going to cause any trouble, try to stay positive and remember that probability of winning with your date of birth, shoe size and flat number are as high as with any other number. The advertisement of Camelot, the British lottery, organized by National Lottery clearly demonstrates that big wins arise from betting on random numbers. Nevertheless every week about 10 thousand people bet further numbers from 1 to 6 and most of them truly believe they are unique… The likelihood of winning with such numbers is as high as with any other. The only difference is that if they manage to win, they will have to share they wins with 9999 „lucky” men.

The lucky number in one round is purely random and unpredictable in any other game. Don’t be discouraged by the nature of this game. Remember that you can be lucky and win. If it was impossible, nobody would gamble! Fall in love with roulette for what it actually is: a charming and emotional way of spending a few pennies. If your bet is lucky, you will be able to spend a bit more of them.