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Roulette is one of the most iconic gambling games there is. So much so that even somebody who has never set foot in a casino in their life would recognize the distinctive wheel and table layout. The wheel itself is divided into numbered pockets, coloured black or red alternately, and the table is marked out in a grid that represents the numbers and bet types. The croupier sets the wheel spinning in one direction and then spins the ball in the other direction on the inside rim. All the player does is bet on where the ball will come to rest.
Its true origins have never been fully established. But historians believe that the roulette game developed from efforts by Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, physicist and inventor, to create a perpetual motion machine. He may not have succeeded, but thanks to the game's popularity, you can be sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of roulette balls spinning in casinos around the world at every hour of the day or night.
Like most other casino games, roulette is classified as a game of chance. This means the result is entirely dependent on luck. There is nothing the player, or for that matter, the croupier, can do to affect the outcome of the spin. But with a little strategic betting, the player can minimize the house edge and maximize their chances of walking away from the table with a win.
To make a bet in roulette, the player places his chips on the appropriate space on the roulette table. There are two types of bets that can be made:
European roulette is the probably the most popular version of the game, for good reason. It offers better odds than American roulette, and the betting rules are more straightforward than the French version.
In European roulette, the wheel is divided into 37 pockets, numbered from 0 to 36. The 0 pocket is green, and the others are red or black.
This version of the game differs from the European one because the wheel has an extra pocket, marked double 0, which significantly increases the house edge. For example, on a simple Red/Black bet where you are betting on which colour the ball will land, the house has an edge of 2.7% in European roulette. Thanks to the extra double 0 pocket on American roulette wheels, that edge increases to 5.26%. Not great for the player.
Funnily enough, although the game originated in France, the American version is closer to the one played in the 18th century. The single 0 pocket roulette wheel was not introduced until 1843. It was first used in the German resort town of Bad Homburg in the casino of two French brothers, François and Louis Blanc, to give the player better odds and undercut competing casinos.
At first glance, European and French roulette appears to be the same. The wheels have the same number of pockets, and the betting options are also similar, although the layout of the tables is slightly different.
There are, however, two extra rules that make this version the most player-friendly, “la partage” and “en prison”.
(from the French, partager, meaning to share) means that if you lose an outside bet because the ball lands on zero, you get half your stake back.
if you make an outside bet and lose on zero, but you're feeling lucky, you can let the bet ride rather than accepting "la partage". The croupier will then place a marker on your chips to show the bet is locked, hence the name "en prison".