Roulette Basics

The object of roulette is a simple one:

Guess which numbered divit a small ball will land on once the croupier has spun the wheel. If you guess it right, you win!

While roulette is a fairly basic concept, there is a lot to know, and newcomers to the game may be alarmed by all of the options they see on the board.

Let’s go over some of the basic aspects if you are learning to play roulette for the first time.

The Roulette Wheel

On American roulette wheels, there are 38 numbers: 1 through 36, 0 and 00. The numbers are either red or black, and the 0 and 00 slots are green. Each round, the horizontal wheel is spun by the croupiers, and a small ball is released onto it. The ball bounces around inside the wheel as it spins, ultimately landing on one of the numbers, which is then declared the winner.

The Board

Next to the wheel you’ll find the board. At first glance, it looks like a long, green table with a red and black numbered checkerboard and some other boxes on the side. While it may seem like a lot to take in, once you get used to it, you’ll understand your options.

Here is the basic layout of the board:

  • If you are standing at the bottom of the board, the top choices are 0 and 00, which are green.
  • Next comes the numbers. The red and black square boxes are lined up three across and nine down, and arranged numerically across (the top row is 1,2,3, then the next row is 4,5,6 and so forth). The color of the boxes corresponds with the colors of the numbers on the wheel.

All of the aforementioned boxes are what is known as inside bets, while the rest of the options are outside bets, but more on that later.

  • At the very bottom, there are three additional green boxes that each read “2 to 1.”
  • Now to the side options. If we round the corner to the left, you’ll see more green boxes. The top row, the one closest to the red and black grid, has three long boxes that correspond with four of the numbered boxes. The far left one reads “1st 12,” the center box reads “2nd 12” and the far right reads “3rd 12.”
  • Beneath that are six more green boxes. Starting from the left, they read “1-18,” “Even,” “Red,” “Black,” “Odd” and “19-36.”

Roulette play uses a ball, table, wheel, and chips.

Entering the Game

If you want to play roulette, you have to trade in for special chips that are a single color. They will each be worth a single denomination of money, and are good only at the roulette table. At a brick and mortar casino, each player will get chips that have a color unique to him or her, which prevents bets from getting mixed up once they are on the board.

You’ll want to make sure to note the denomination of the chips and a sign designating the minimum bet at the table. If, for example, the minimum is $5, you need to bet at least $5 each round either inside, outside or both, meaning you can’t bet $2 inside and $3 outside.


Each roulette player bets with different colored chips.

Types of Bets

So now that we have a general idea of the layout of the board, we come to the most important part of playing roulette: betting.

As we briefly touched on, there are inside and outside bets to be made. In general, an inside bet has longer odds, but a better payout. Outside bets offer a better chance of winning, but you’ll win less.

Inside bets can be as simple as placing your entire stack of chips on a single number and, if that number hits, you get a 35-1 payout. Betting on a number that wins is the best payout you can get in roulette, but it is also has the steepest odds. When it comes to inside betting, there are also other options as well.

For example, you can straddle the line between any two adjacent numbers, like 1 and 2, or 1 and 4. You can also place your chips on a corner where four boxes meet, like 1, 2, 4 and 5. While both of these options increase your chances of winning over betting on a single number, you will win less if one of the numbers does hit.


An inside street bet.

Outside bets are made in the green boxes that surround the red and black numbers. For the most part, the boxes will be clearly marked. A bet on “Even” means you win if any even number comes up. Same goes for a bet on “Black,” or “1-18.”

Moving closer to the board, we have the 1st, 2nd and 3rd 12 boxes. A bet on any of these simply means that you are betting that a number in one of the thirds – 1 through 12, for example – will win. Similarly, the three boxes on the bottom – the ones that read “2 to 1” will place bets on any given row of numbers. So, a bet on the far left box will win if either 1, 4, 10, 13 on down to 34 hits. The “2 to 1” label means you double your bet if you win.

It’s important to keep in mind that 0 and 00 are neither red, black, even, odd, or fall into any of the thirds, so you’ll always lose if you place an outside bet and either 0 or 00 hits.

Placing your Bet

There is a designated period of time that players are permitted to place their bets. If a player has already bet on the number or place you want to play, it’s okay to stack the chips – the different colors will help keep track of who has bet on any given number.

The croupier will spin the wheel and, shortly thereafter, will wave his hand over the board and say “No more bets!” At that time, all bets are final.

When a number hits, the croupier will put a marker on the winning number and clear all losing bets. If you get lucky, your winnings will be stacked on the board next to your bet. Wait until all of the winnings are placed before you take yours, and wait until the dealer pulls the marker to place your bets for the next round.

When you’re done, make sure you switch out your colored chips to standard casino chips before you leave the table.