Roulette is a popular game of chance that people will often think of at the very mention of the word “casino”. It is perhaps the most played and well-understood of all games that can be played in gambling establishments. Roulette owes this to its relatively simple game set up and mechanics as well as its high winning odds – characteristics that have kept roulette in the hearts of many despite the passage of time.
Roulette Table and Wheel Explained
The casino game is played on a table with a board and a wheel. The board is where players place their bets, represented by chips that are colored differently for identification purposes. This part of the roulette table is composed of colored spaces for two types of betting areas: the inside and outside bets. For those new to the game, inside bets are stakes placed on one or more specific number, i. e. single zero (0), double zero (00) and 1-36. Meanwhile, outside bets are bets placed on either colors (black and red), number types (odd and even) and certain number ranges on the board, namely 1-18, 19-36, dozens and columns.
The second main component of the roulette table is the wheel. Now the roulette wheel is the centrepiece of every roulette table. It is the core of every roulette game, and is the game’s very namesake – roulette is a French word that literally means “little wheel”. The wheel’s primary design features include 37 or 38 colored numbers that represent the bets on the roulette board; pockets next to the numbers the ball is meant to stop on; and a track near the rim on which the ball is rolled.
2 Main Variants of the Casino Game’s Wheel
Several variations of the wheel have sprung up over the years, the most well-known of which are the European and American versions. We will discuss in the following paragraphs these two main varieties.
Single Zero Wheel in European Roulette
The wheel used in European roulette is perhaps the most commonly used version worldwide, and can be considered the “default” design. This version of the roulette wheel has 37 numbers: one green single zero (0), and sixteen red and sixteen black numbers, arranged in alternating colors and randomly numbered 1-36. It is worth noting that the presence of only one zero ensures a house edge of 2.7%, which is much lower than its American counterpart.
The single zero wheel is considered the original version, though early descriptions of the wheel mentions two zero slots instead of one, a configuration popular to casinos for its higher house edge which is directly proportional to the gambling establishment’s profit. It was not until the latter half of the 19th century that the single zero wheel gained tremendous popularity and became the norm in casinos all over the world except those in the United States.
Double Zero Wheel in American Roulette
As every gambler probably knows, American roulette is notorious for its high house advantage of 5.26%. This is reflected in its roulette wheel, where double zero (00) slot still exists when it was already scratched off the roulette wheels outside the New World. That being said, the American roulette wheel, unlike its European version, has 38 numbers: two green slots for 0 and 00, and the same count of red and black numbers as in its Old World counterpart. The numbers are arranged in alternating colors and in an orderly fashion, that is, a number is arranged opposite of the next number in the sequence, and is followed by the number after its pair.
The double zero wheel that’s used in American roulette was once the standard of all casinos. In the 19th century, while the single zero wheel is favoured in European casinos and elsewhere, the double zero design remained in American gambling establishments, where it has been kept alive up to this day.
As if its high house edge is not enough, early American roulette added the American Eagle slot into the double zero wheel, thus increasing the house advantage to 7.69%. This so-called Eagle wheel’s popularity soon vanished and only a few remain today, with well-maintained antique ones netting five figures of cash in auctions.
It is the wheel that makes roulette. Indeed, it is this humble device that made the game enjoyable for many generations of casino players. The roulette wheel therefore deserves no less than becoming not only the ultimate representation of roulette, but also among the universal symbols of casinos and the gambling industry itself.