Roulette has had an illustrious and at times diabolical history: one of its creators, François Blanc, allegedly sold his soul to the devil for the secrets of the game. The "proof" of this story is that the sum of every number on a European roulette wheel is 666, otherwise known as the "number of the Beast".
Legends aside, it was invented in Europe in the late 17th or early 18th century, and became a hugely popular draw to Monaco’s first casino. This guide will take you through the features of this thrilling game, as well as basic strategy and benefits.
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Unlike American Roulette, which has both a zero and an double zero slot on each wheel, the European game only has a single zero. This means it has 37 numbers on the wheel, compared to 38, improving the odds of landing on the number you've bet on.
It’s also played on a single wheel, and has an "imprisonment" rule. This means that if the wheel lands on zero after you’ve made an even money bet (where you stand to win or lose the same amount of money), you either get half the money you’ve bet back, or the bet is imprisoned. If it's imprisoned and your number comes up on the next spin, you get the whole amount back.
There are quite a few variations on the imprisonment rule, but three common ones are:
Berlin | Players can ask to move the imprisoned money from one number to another between spins.
Holland | If two zeros in a row come up, the bet is double imprisoned, and it takes two winning bets in a row to release the money again.
France | The bet may be put on something called an even chances line. This just means that if your original bet was red and the next spin lands on red, you get your money back, but if it’s black it all goes to the house. The opposite applies if your original bet was black.
Sometimes, a rule called "la partage" is played, which only gives you half the bet back, without imprisonment. Mini roulette is a simplified version, with only 12 numbers and the European game’s distinctive single zero. You’ll mostly find it at roulette sites, and it can be a good way to learn the basics.
There are some tips and tricks that will help your roulette game wherever you’re playing. Make sure you’re clear on the rules, particularly the slightly more complicated variations of the imprisonment rule, as this one really lowers house edge (the casino’s advantage), provided you know what you’re doing.
Set your limits beforehand, so you know what you’re willing to bet, and as with any game, don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. Decide your risk level. Higher risk inside bets also come with higher rewards, and betting on which number the wheel will land on has the biggest potential payoff. However, if you prefer playing safe, make an outside bet on odds, evens, black or red winning.
There are lots of betting strategies you can try with roulette, like the popular Paroli System, where you double the stake after each win, and these tactics can certainly improve focus and your enjoyment of the game. However, the outcome of the European roulette will mostly depend on your luck on the day.
Compared to American Roulette, the European version gives the player a better chance of winning. The house has a 2.7% advantage, compared to the American roulette house edge of 5.26%. Some online games also include extra opportunities to win, like progressive jackpots. However, there are other rules that affect house edge, so it’s worth checking the individual game.
A big advantage of roulette, and what makes it so gripping, is the number of different bets you can make. Special bets include "column", where you bet on the ball landing on one of a whole column of numbers, and the similar "dozen", which is a bet on a set of twelve numbers. Specific to European roulette is "trio", betting on the combination of zero, one and two, or zero, two and three.