By Mark Wadie

Basic Roulette Guide

In this article we explain the basic rules of roulette, the difference between American and European Roulette, and cover three simple strategies to help you to structure your betting and look after your bankroll when you start playing. If you want to try your luck you can join any of our recommended real money online casinos where roulette is available in both live table and RNG game formats.


Few casino games represent the glamour of casino life and get the heart pumping as much as roulette in its various formats. It’s simple, quick and relatively easy to understand once you have played a few times. Simply, you place your bets, then wait for the dealer to spin the roulette wheel and the white ball to fall into one of the pockets. Then, is the pocket your selected number or in your group of selected numbers, and if so, how much have you won?

What is attractive about Roulette is that the action can be fast, but you can also choose to be as active or slow in betting as you like thanks to the many different angles from which to approach the game. This way it appeals to both new gamblers and experienced casino VIPs alike.

You can find further information about where to play Roulette on our Roulette Casinos page.


Let’s start with the basics.

Whilst even the simplest casino games can seem a little overwhelming at first, whether playing online or at a brick-and-mortar casino, don’t let the betting options here un-nerve you. In truth, it’s very straight forward.

In all Roulette games you will see 36 numbers – one for each pocket on the wheel – spread out across 12 rows of three, plus a single zero segment, and various betting options around this main layout. You can bet on single numbers or groups of numbers, or one of the two colors, by placing your chips in the appropriate position on the felt.

In terms of choosing your bet, the key thing to understand here is that different areas of the table come with varying degrees of risk so that your payouts change accordingly.

The main bet types are divided into Inside Bets and Outside Bets. The names refer to the position on the table where the betting segments appear.

Roulette Betting

Classic Betting Options on Roulette


Straight Up or Single number

If you bet on a single number and it comes up, you win a 35/1 payout. So, if you bet $1 on 19 and the white ball settles in the 19 pocket of the wheel, then you will get $36 back (your stake plus your win).


You can also spread your bet between two numbers (e.g. 8 and 9) for a 17/1 payout.


Or you can bet on a number from a particular row (there are 3 numbers in each row) coming in for an 11/1 payout.


Place a chip in the crosshairs of four numbers (e.g. 2, 3, 5, 6) and get an 8/1 payout if one of them comes in.


A line is similar to the Street, but the chip covers two neighbouring rows and comes with a 5/1 payout if one of the 6 numbers comes in.


The five is available only in American Roulette where you bet on the Zero, Double Zero, One, Two and Three.


Red or Black

One of the simplest bets! Wager on your preference of red or black, and if the winning number matches your selection, you win 1/1. The casino has the edge here because if the ball lands on the green zero (or also double zero if you play America Roulette), you lose on both red and black. This classic 50/50 bet is a favourite of many who play roulette for the first time as it’s fun and easy to follow.

Odd or Even

Another 50/50 bet is the odds of evens. Predict the winning number is odd or even for a 1/1 win.

High or Low

Place bets in the 1-18 (low) or 19-36 (high) segments for a 1/1 payout.


The three tall columns of numbers each come with a 2/1 win. There are 12 numbers in each column.


The final main betting option is where the numbers are split into three dozens, labelled as 1st 12, 2nd 12 or 3rd 12. Select one of the groups of 12 for a 2/1 payout.


You will see different styles of betting at the roulette table. One of the fun parts of playing this game is that you can cover off a range of bets from the list above so if one option doesn’t come in, there is another one or more to fall back on. In fact, there is no limit to the number of bets you might place on any spin of the wheel.

For example, those feeling confident might place a line bet, select three single numbers, place a bet on black and make a column bet. That’s all well and good, and you will cover a decent selection of numbers this way, but remember that if you lose, you will hand over a significant number of chips. So consider your balance before going all in like this. And if you do bet in this way, you should consider placing smaller bets in each case to limit your losses and extend your session time.

More conservative players prefer to only make one or two bets on each spin. For example, some might only bet on red or black. Using this technique, and assuming you do not bet too much of your stack each turn, means you will be very unlucky to bust quickly.


We mentioned different versions of the game – European and American roulette. The differences between the two are small, but have a significant impact on the house edge. The former has only a single green zero on the wheel, whereas the American game has a single zero and a double zero segment.

Why does this matter?

Because the American double zero segment will also negate all your bets. Think of it this way, in European roulette, when you place a single bet on 9, you get a 35/1 payout when the chances of winning are actually 36/1 (factoring in the zero pocket). In American roulette, you get the same 35/1 payout, but those odds of winning are now 37/1 as there is a double zero pocket, too.

This seemingly small adjustment makes a very significant difference to the house edge:

  • American roulette 5.26%
  • European roulette 2.6%

To put this in monetary terms, you are expected to lose $5.26 for every $100 you spend on American roulette but only $2.60 on European roulette.

So, if you have a choice, our recommendation is that you choose the European Roulette over the American format because the Return to Player (RTP) is clearly higher giving you a greater chance of walking away with a net win balance.

NetEnt's American Roulette Online

NetEnt’s Version of American Roulette

La Partage Rules

There is one further variation on the traditional roulette game format that players should look out for. When a casino advertises ‘La Partage’ rules then you should play there! In this version if the ball drops into the Zero pocket then you get 50% of your stake back. That reduces the house edge down further to just 1.35%!


Before we get into the strategies for Roulette, it’s important to understand that this is a fixed-odds game of chance. That means that unlike other casino games, for example Blackjack, you cannot affect the odds of winning with the decisions you make. And as such, there are no strategies that genuinely improve your chances of winning.

That’s right – winning or losing in roulette comes down to luck!

However, that hasn’t stopped some players from adopting strategies that are designed to make a visit to the table more enjoyable and give a structure to their bets and at least the feeling of control! The unfortunate truth is that no betting system is guaranteed to make you a winner. If it did, we would soon all be using it, and the casino would go bust before we’d had a chance to finish off our cocktails!

But here anyway, for good or ill, are three popular betting strategies for roulette.

Martingale Strategy

Perhaps the best-known roulette betting system is the Martingale Strategy. The logic behind it is simple – but it’s easy to see where it can go wrong. Basically, you bet a small amount on one of the 50/50 options, like red or black, or odd or even. If you win, you pocket the profit and repeat. But if you lose, you select the same bet next time but double your stake. Lose and double again – and keep doing so until you win, then return to your original starting stake once more.

The danger is, of course, that while you will eventually get a winner, freak losing streaks can and do happen, and with the stakes doubling every spin, you might quickly find yourself busting your entire bank roll!

James Bond Strategy

Another interesting system is the James Bond Strategy, named after the suave British movie spy who was more a fan of Baccarat than Roulette, but hey, who are we to argue! Here, you need $20 for each spin (or adjust the numbers accordingly), placing bets as follows every time. The theory is that by strategically spreading your bets across a range of outside and shorter-odds bets you can make your bankroll last longer and increase your chances of profit.

In the following way, ALL numbers are covered for each betting round, except those from 1 to 12. So, take your $20 and bet like this:

  • $14 on 19-36 (a 1:1 payout if it comes in)
  • $5 on the line bet 13-18 (pays 5:1 if it comes in)
  • $1 on zero (pays 35:1 on European Roulette if it comes in)

You now cover most of the possible results and can expect the following PROFITS if successful:

  • $8 on 19-36
  • $10 on the line bet
  • $16 on zero
  • Of course, the kicker is that you lose ALL $20 if the ball lands 1-12

This system is certainly fun but take note of the payouts. One losing round eclipses two successive 9-36 bets, or a line bet followed by a 19-36 bet.

The James Bond strategy is sometimes used in conjunction with the Martingale, requiring the player to double up on their bets each time the ball lands between 1 and 12.

Like all roulette strategies, when held up to the light the James Bond one will end in losses over time too. If you were to place your bets on 37 spins of the wheel and each number came up once then you would end up £20 down!  It’s a simplistic way of looking at things, but it shows nonetheless that whilst this strategy gives a good structure to your betting, ultimately it can’t do anything to shift that house edge!

D’Alembert System

The d’Alembert system (named after a French mathematician named Jean Baptiste le Rond d’Alembert) is another one for fans of the Martingale to try. In this instance we also place bets only on the 1:1 options like Evens, Black and Red or High or Low. For d’Alembert, instead of doubling your bet whenever you lose, now you just add 1 unit to the wager. So if you start with a wager of $1, then you add another $1 to your bets after a losing spin. Crucially, if you win, then you take 1 unit OFF the wager amount each time rather than dropping back to the original stake.

The advantage of the d’Alembert over the Martingale is that you are less vulnerable to a big losing streak as you are increasing your bets by smaller amounts after a loss. Both the Martingale and the d’Alembert are fine when a relatively even number of wins and losses are recorded, but tend to fall apart when a bad losing streak is experienced.

There is also a reverse d’Alembert strategy in which the player increases their bet by 1 unit for each winning spin, or decreases by 1 unit for each losing spin.


This is a good time to discuss the concept of the Gamblers Fallacy, an idea that strategy-lovers would do well to keep in mind when playing roulette. The gamblers fallacy, otherwise known as the Monte Carlo fallacy, describes a believe held by a gambler that they can predict the outcome of a future event, such as the spin of a roulette wheel or turn of a card, based on what has come before.

The belief is incorrect of course because as we know Roulette is a fixed-odds game in which each event you bet on is completely independent of any that come before it.

The Gambler’s Fallacy often occurs when a player notices an unusual pattern of results and can be best illustrated when referring to evens bets like red and black. If you observe 10 spins in roulette ALL of which result in a RED returned, it may feel logical to think that the outcome of the next spin is more likely to be BLACK. Of course, in reality it is no more llikely to be a black than the previous 10 were.

Keep this in mind when you next play roulette! The odds are the same on EVERY spin!


Before we conclude let’s look at the two prevailing online formats in Roulette: Random Number Generator (RNG) games and Live Dealer Games.

RNG Roulette

Live Dealer Roulette has been growing in popularity for a decade or more now but before technology advanced enough to allow live streaming to exist RNG roulette was the only way to play online. RNG refers to the method by which the result of any wheel spin, card turn or dice roll is decided. Expensive and highly sophisticated technologies are used to ensure that the outcome in each case is completely random to make online casino games fair. And to prove it, all licensed casinos have had their games fully tested and audited by a third party to confirm this is the case.

These Random Number Generators are working behind the scenes whilst the result of every spin is presented on your screen via a graphical interface produced previously using Adobe Flash technologies but now HTML 5 to make them mobile compatible.

Whilst live dealer roulette is now more popular than ever, RNG roulette is still available at all online casinos in Canada.

Live Dealer Roulette

Live casino has fast become one of the most popular ways to enjoy gambling online and roulette is one of the leading formats in this area. Live is better because sceptics can view the real action taking place before their very eyes as dealers spin the wheels and all players watch the ball jump and land in a random pocket. The best exponents of the live experience are Evolution Gaming who have developed a whole range of live classic and bespoke formats including Lightning Roulette, Immersive Roulette and Ultimate Roulette.

Live dealer roulette has several advantages over the traditional RNG versions:

  • Totally transparent game outcomes as you watch the action live
  • A social experience in which you can chat with the dealer and other players
  • Accessible to all player levels, including exclusive VIP rooms for high spenders
Live Roulette

A Live Roulette Game in Action


The best advice to anyone new to roulette is to bet well within your bankroll and to place your chips in only a few betting options. Cover a good range of mid-level bets and don’t litter the singles bets with too many choices because any return will be more or less wiped out by the number of bets you place.

And of course, be sure never to chase your losses.

Start with a budget in mind and don’t spend more than you can afford. If you use the strategies described on this page don’t use them as an excuse to deposit more and go beyond your means. If you are losing overall, don’t deposit more in the hope of winning it all back since you may end up losing much more. It’s better to quit and take a break. Come back another day, and maybe then you will hit that winning streak!


  • Do roulette betting systems actually work?
    Each roulette strategy offers a different approach to the game but none can change the fact that the house always wins! The house edge is built into the game so that over time a player will always lose. And as a fixed-odds game, roulette offers no opportunities for the player to bend the odds in their favour by intelligent gameplay. Having said that, there are strategies that can be used to try to make your bankroll go further. Perhaps the most popular is the Martingale strategy explained on this page. Make sure you understand the potential pitfalls before you try it!
  • What is the house edge in Roulette?
    The house edge refers to the amount of money a casino will retain as a percentage of all that wagered over time based on the odds of a game. For roulette the house edge will vary depending on the format. American Roulette has a house edge of 5.26%. European Roulette has a house edge of 2.6%.
  • Can I play roulette for free?
    Yes, you can play for free, but generally this is only the case with RNG versions of the game. Live dealer tables will not allow free play. You will still usually be required to open an account and verify your ID before you can play, even with free chips.