How to Play Online Roulette
Roulette is one of the best-known casino games and is often used as a parable for life: take a chance and spin the wheel. Well, we're here to tell you that roulette is not simply a way to bet on a random number generator: there's actually quite a bit to the game, including quite a few ways to give yourself an edge. We've got a breakdown of online roulette betting, how to play roulette on your favorite online casino, and more right here.
TYPES OF ROULETTE BETS
When you're betting roulette online or in-person, there are some different types of bets to be aware of: outside bets and inside bets. Essentially, outside bets don't have to do with specific numbers on the wheel, while inside bets are number-specific. It gets more complex, though:
Red/Black and Odd/Even: Think of it this way: "odd" has three letters, "red" has three letters. Odd numbers on the roulette wheel are red, and when you're betting red or black, you're throwing your money on what is essentially a 50/50 chance of hitting.
Column Bets: Looking down at the felt of a roulette table, you'll find three columns of 12 numbers for a total of 36 possible hits. You can bet on just one of those columns for a 33% chance of a 2 to 1 payout.
Dozen or Douzaine: The columns are not consecutive, so you can also place a bet for the pill (the roulette ball) to land on a number in the first, second, or third dozen (1-12, 13-24, 25-36).
High / Low or 1-18, 19-36: Another 50/50 bet, this bet chooses not by red/black but by number. Hit any of the 18 numbers in your high or low bet, you get a payout.
Basket: On American wheels with a 00 (more on that later), you can place a bet on the pill to stop at 00, 0, 1, 2 or 3. Also called a five-number bet, The Monster, or The Beast, this bet pays out really well if you can hit it, but your edge against the house is slim to none.
Outside bets let you make calls without picking specific numbers on the roulette wheel. Inside bets are specific to numbers on the wheel.
Straight up: Bet on any number to win from 1-35. As you'll learn later, zeroes get you nothing. This is one of the best payouts in the game, though, so it can be a fun way to risk a small amount on a potentially big win!
Split: Split your bet between two numbers. Naturally, this means your payout will be 17 to 1, or half of 35 (rounded down).
Quad: Same as a split, but between four numbers. For example, if you pick 1, 3, 5, 7 and all of them hit, you get an 8 to 1 payout (35 divided by 4 is 8.75, rounded down).
Street bet: Remember the column bets from before? You can bet on the three numbers adjacent to each other in the column and call a "street bet". For example, a street bet on 34, 35, and 36 would pay out 11 to 1.
Double street bet: Cover two numbers and make six picks for a payout of 5 to 1.
BEST ROULETTE BETTING SITES
AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN ROULETTE: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
You'll find American and European roulette variants on the majority of iGaming/online casino sites worth a damn. Here are some of the differences:
ZERO/DOUBLE ZERO? WHAT HAPPENS IF THE PILL LANDS THERE?
American roulette offers players one more chance to lose it all in the form of the 00. If the pill lands on a zero or a double zero, your bet is a total loss, and the house keeps your chips. The presence of a double zero reduces your edge against the house but makes for a better payout if you do hit, so it's kind of up to you which one you choose. However, we recommends that beginner roulette players start with European and then try their hand at American.
WHEEL DISTRIBUTION IN EUROPEAN/AMERICAN ROULETTE
In the two dominant variants of roulette, there is also a difference in how the numbers are distributed on the wheel. There are 37 (18 red/18 black, 0-36) numbers on the European wheel while there are 38 on the American wheel (00, 0, and 1-36), meaning that the math of probability will be different for each roulette variant. Make sure to account that into your mental math when you're trying to get a quick idea of the probability of a win.
Example: A straight-up bet on 7 to hit will be a 1/38 (2.6%) chance on the American wheel and 1/36 (2.8%) on the European.
SURRENDER, PRISON, AND MORE!
No, we're not talking about a period drama on Netflix; there are two options in roulette for bettors to get out of their obligation and save on a potential loss: surrender or prison.
Surrender is offered by some online casinos, giving bettors the option to take back half their stake if the wheel hits 0 or 00. The dealer takes the other half, of course, but it's a better option than losing your whole chipload.
If you're placing even-money bets like red/black and the pill hits 0 in European roulette, some online casinos will "lock up" that money in "prison". You basically get a do-over, and if your next even money bet hits, you'll get back those imprisoned funds. Sharps will tell you that this is perhaps the best way to reduce the house's edge over you: if your preferred online casino has a European variant with the option to lock up your bets en prison, that's a good place to drop an even-money wager. (No guarantees, of course: there's no such thing as a perfect betting strategy!)
HOW TO MAKE SMART BETS IN ROULETTE
We'll hammer in this point quite a few times, but there's no such thing as a guaranteed way to win. It's the job of sites like VegasInsider to give you ways to protect your bankroll and keep playing, because putting some risk on a game is fun. That's the smartest way to bet: bet for fun.
Of course, there are also some ways to give yourself more chances at the roulette wheel, protect your chips, and build a solid bankroll:
- Straight bets aren't for the faint of heart. If you want to lose all your money in one go, do what they do in the movies and put all your money on a single number. If you want to enjoy the game for a while, make small bets on even money calls like red or black, odd or even, high or low.
- Kelly betting is key. With any gambling, the best strategy is always to not bet all your chips at once. This keeps you in the game for longer, improving the odds that you hit some luck. There's actually a bit of math behind this described by a scientist named Kelly in the 1950's, and you can easily find the formula online to calculate the best bet size for your total bankroll.
- Surrender or go to jail! If your online casino offers "surrender" or "prison" options, use them. They're described above, but the basic idea is that you can prevent yourself from losing your whole stake if you either surrender half your chips to the dealer or you let your funds stay locked up en prison for a round.
House edge is, in a few words, how likely you are to actually win a bet. The math can vary from platform to platform, which is part of the fun of choosing an online casino, but for the most part you can expect a house edge of 2 to 7 percent for the average bet.
What does that mean? It means that for every dollar bet on that particular market (a straight bet, a double street bet, etc.), the house keeps 2 to 7 cents. Of course, the more complicated your bet becomes and the longer you bet, the house's edge only increases.
This also absolutely does not mean that you're going to win 93-98% of your roulette bets! It means that over a long period of time and with thousands of bets happening every day, the house typically pays out 93-98% of what they take in.
However, the majority of bets aren't high rollers winning hundreds or thousands of dollars from the casino; they're everyday folks putting a $50 on black for the heck of it. The house will make their money; don't be fooled into thinking your strategy is a guaranteed win.
HOW TO COMPETE WITH HOUSE EDGE WHEN BETTING ROULETTE?
There's no easy way to compete with house edge, and bettors have made and ruined careers (both their own and others') by promising an easy return or a perfect system. Casinos wouldn't exist if gambling wasn't mostly a losing venture for the bettor, and what you're really doing is entertaining yourself with a thrill when you're betting. It's entertainment, like roller coasters and horror movies: risk can be fun!
That's why reducing risk and protecting your bankroll is the best and perhaps the only real way to compete with house edge. How do you reduce risk and protect your bankroll?
- Use our bonus codes for free bet credit. We've got exclusive sign-up links and bonus codes for the best online casinos. Use them! This is your best way to get started, because you'll have extra chips that you can bet on real-money games with!
- Make smart choices to protect and refill your bankroll. Don't bet all your chips in one go; the best strategy is to bet small amounts and walk away with more than you came with. We've all seen the movie scene: high roller with the attention of the room throws all their money on a straight bet only to lose it all. The room groans with disappointment, and the momentarily famous high-roller is now alone, out of chips, and sad. Don't be that person.
- If you're too buzzed to drive, you're too buzzed to bet. Drinking and gambling do not mix; casinos know this, which is why your drinks are free when you've got money on the table. Online gambling takes away the temptation: you'll make a lot smarter choices if you've got a bag of popcorn in your hand rather than a bottle of Peroni.
HOW TO PLAY ONLINE ROULETTE: FAQ
HOW DO YOU PLACE A ROULETTE BET?
Placing a roulette bet with an online casino is simple. Just create an account (using our links and bonus codes for bonus funds!), choose the roulette variant you prefer, and then select a bet type and amount. Use the above guide to roulette bet types to choose the best bet for you.
HOW MANY NUMBERS ARE THERE IN ROULETTE?
There are 36 numbers in European roulette (0-35) and 38 numbers in American roulette (00, 0-36).
WHAT IS THE BEST ROULETTE SITE?
That's a matter of opinion, but the sites we recommend include Golden Nugget Online Casino and BetMGM Casino. Use our links to sign up and get extra betting credit, free spins and more!
CAN YOU PLAY ROULETTE ONLINE FOR REAL MONEY?
Yes! Make sure you're only betting on a legal, regulated online casino, and that you're betting within state lines to keep everything above board.
WHAT ARE THE BEST BETS IN ROULETTE?
That's a matter of opinion, but calling even bets like red/black or high/low can be the most reliable bet if you don't want to lose your money. These bets also allow you to "surrender" or reclaim your funds "en prison", increasing your edge against the house. Remember, though, there's no such thing as a guaranteed winning strategy- roulette is for fun!
WHAT IS THE BEST STRATEGY FOR ROULETTE?
The best strategy for roulette is to choose conservative bet types (even money bets are solid) and to only bet small portions of your bankroll. Staying in the game without losing all your money is the true strategy to win at gambling; there's no strategy for winning every spin. Read our above guide for more pointers on protecting your money and your place at the table (including online).