The very basics of roulette

Misleading minimums

Often you'll find a roulette table with a sign noting it as something like $1/$5 or $1 inside/$5 outside. This means that bettors are free to pick individual numbers -- say, betting the 17 -- for a buck, so long as they make enough other single-number bets to total $5. The minimum for the outside bets -- say, betting on black -- is $5. You can't wager only a dollar there.

Roulette table etiquette

There's so much time between rolls of the ball in roulette that you should never be caught unaware with your betting, but some people do like to wait until the last split-second. They like to watch the ball roll -- thinking maybe they can get an idea of which part of the wheel it'll settle on -- then put their chips on the table. This is perfectly OK, but at some point the dealer will wave their arm gently over the table -- sort of like Obi-Wan Kenobi when he psyched out the stormtroopers -- and that gesture means "no more bets allowed."

Once the ball has settled into a slot on the wheel the dealer will place a marker on top of the winning number. They'll then remove all losing bets. You should wait until the dealer picks up the marker again before reaching out to collect your winnings.

For most new gamblers the first game they try is a slot machine. After that it's often roulette, and for good reason. Roulette tables are usually crowded only at the very peak times of day, the pace is very slow and the game is easy to understand. The table itself spells out almost all of the common bets -- black/red, even/odd, etc.

The downside to roulette is that the odds are weighted pretty heavily in the house's favor, about 5.25 percent on a standard American wheel that has two zeros. (Some casinos have wheels with a single zero, and the odds are about 2.7 percent in the house's favor on those tables). This means it's unlikely you'll turn a profit from a roulette session, but the pace is so slow you're also not likely to lose your bankroll in a hurry. By making simple bets you can make your money last a good, long while.

But while it's often a gambler's first foray into casino table games. few gamblers stay roulette fans for long. It's just not nearly as exciting as craps or blackjack.

Enough beating around the bush. Roulette is boring. There, it's been said. It's just a slow, dull game. Betting takes only a few seconds, then long periods of time are spent waiting for the ball to spin, for the ball to settle and for the dealer to clear away all losing bets before giving you the signal to take your winnings and/or bet again.

Boring, boring, boring.

We recommend you try roulette on your visit -- to get the gambling jitters out of your system, if nothing else -- but you'll be ready for other games very soon. About the only thing roulette remains good for is as a place for groups of friends to sit down to together, where conversations and cocktails are the main sources of enjoyment. At times like that, stick to making the simple bets on the outside. Pick red or black, for example, and make a minimum bet on that color every time. After an hour or so you should be down very little money and have several drinks in you. Almost a break-even proposition.

Now go get your gamble on at a blackjack table or be really bold and head to the dice.

Payout on most-common roulette bets

Black / Red 1:1
Even / Odd 1:1
1 to 18 1:1
19 to 36 1:1
1 to 12 2:1
13 to 24 2:1
25 to 36 2:1
Left column 2:1
Center column 2:1
Right column 2:1
Single number
(including 0 and 00)
Las Vegas!