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Understanding the Wheel

Roulette is played with a wheel, and the wheel is divided into numbered slots, including not only the numbers 1-36 but, in addition, the numbers 0 and sometimes 00. These extra zeros give the house its advantage.

The advantage comes because there are actually 37 numbers altogether with a single zero and 38 with a double zero, but the house pays off as if only 36 numbers were present. For example, on a single number bet, it pays off at 35-1, though the correct odds should be either 36-1 or 37-1, depending on whether or not there is a single or double zero.

With a single zero, on basic play, the house edge is 2.70%. With a double zero, it climbs to 5.26%.

The casino allows you to bet on all the numbers on the layout, including the 0 and 00, as if they were ordinary numbers. If you bet on 0, for example, and it comes up, you will be paid off at 35-1, the same as if you had bet on any ordinary number. No matter what you bet on and no matter how many numbers you bet on (excluding the 5 number bet), the house will retain its edge of 5.26% in a 00 game.

Besides the wheel, there is a layout showing all the possible bets open to the gamblers. The odds aren't difficult to figure out, and a short while's play will easily etch them in the player's mind.

We will now discuss the American wheel and the American layout with a 00 game. In the American game, usually one dealer, or croupier, runs the game. This dealer spins the wheel, puts the ball into play, and makes all payoffs.

He can do this alone for two reasons. First, the American game is rarely crowded with players, and it is an easy task to handle the game. Secondly, each player is given special roulette chips of different colors so that, at a glance, the dealer can tell who made the bet and who is entitled to a payoff.

Generally, the chips have a standard value. At some casinos the standard chip is worth 25 cents, at others 50 cents. Other casinos may have standard chips either worth less or more. Where a chip is worth 25 cents, a stack of 20 chips will be valued at $5. Where they are worth 50 cents each, the stack of 20 chips will total $10.

A player is not bound by those values. He may request dollar chips and, in that case, his color will have a value of $20 for each stack. And so on. When the standard chip is deviated from, that colored chips is placed on the rim of the wheel with a disc over it, showing its enhanced value.

Since the chips have no value other than at a roulette table in that particular casino, they are not permitted to be removed from the table when the bettor is finished with his play. This is a strict rule at American casinos, and the dealer is very careful to restack the chips so that none are missing after a player cashes them in.

Of course, a player may wager with regular casino checks, but this is done when he is betting at least $5. Or, he may play with cash or with $1 coins. But if he wants to play with chips, he simply determines the value he wants to place on them, gives the cash to the dealer, and gets his special color.

The game starts when the dealer turns the wheel in one direction, giving it a spin, and then rolls the ball along the topmost inner edge of the wheel in a counter direction. As the ball slows down, it will lose force and fall into a numbered slot. What number it falls into determines the payoffs at the table. Each number is not only a single number, but contains a color, red or black, is odd or even, high or low, in the first, second or third dozen, or in the first, second or third columns. Or is a 0 or 00.