Types of Roulette Wheels


Roulette may be a game of chance, but it’s nonetheless governed by a series of well-documented rules. These differ depending upon the type of wheel being used, with three distinct variants existing: European, French, and American.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the various types of roulette, the rules that lay out how they’re played, and the differences between them. By the time we’re done, this should ensure you have an in-depth understanding of the three roulette variations and can decide which would be the best option for you.

What is European roulette and how does it work?

Although there are three different types of roulette and three sets of rules to learn, the game remains one of the easiest to play and understand. Essentially, you’re looking to guess where on the wheel the ball will land, and this applies no matter which roulette variant you’re playing. The European roulette wheel differs from its counterparts in one key way: it features only 37 numbers. Unlike other transatlantic variants, it has a single zero pocket, meaning the house edge is lower. As a result, the player has a one in 37 chance of choosing the right number (or 2.7 percent) if they bet on a specific number. This can make the game more appealing to players than its American counterpart.

It is also worth noting that the so-called “La Partage” rule (see below) is not commonly available in European roulette and can typically only be found in French roulette.

Note here that its name – European roulette – is misleading. This version of the game is found worldwide and is the standard variant in almost all countries outside of the United States. Even in the US, many casinos make it available to customers, especially in high-limit rooms where they want to entice players in with more attractive odds.

What is French roulette and how does it differ?

french roulette wheel visual

Like its European counterpart, a French roulette wheel also has 37 numbers. However, the rules of the game are slightly different. That’s because this version has two unique features built into it, known as “en prison” and “la partage”.

Also referred to as the half-back rule, the latter means that if the player makes an even-money bet and the ball lands on zero, they have 50 percent of their stake returned to them. As a result, they face a reduced risk of losing the entirety of their bet.

Players can also choose to imprison their stake if they don’t want to sacrifice the remaining half. If an imprisoned bet wins on the following spin, the player has their money returned to them minus their winnings.

Again, the French variant of the game is available in casinos across the globe.

Why does American roulette use a different wheel?

american roulette wheels visual

There is a third version of the game too. This differs in that an American roulette wheel has 38 options. While it features numbers one through to 36, the same as other roulette wheels, it has not only a single zero but a double zero pocket also. This gives the house a marginally higher edge.

As well as betting on individual numbers, players can place “outside” bets on combinations of numbers. These roulette rules apply in all American casinos except those located in Atlantic City, which have slightly different rules.

For the purposes of covering all of the roulette types, it’s worth briefly touching on how this version differs. Atlantic City casinos tend to follow their own variation of the half-back rule, with players losing only 50 percent of their stake on any even money bet if the ball lands on either zero or double zero.

What this does is lower the house edge to 2.63 percent. However, for those playing at roulette tables with a single zero wheel, the same rule does not apply, irrespective of where the game is played.

How do I choose the right version for me?

how to choose right version of roulette wheels visual

Onto the final and most important question: how do you choose the version of the game that’s best for you? That largely depends on personal preference and what you as a player prize, which is why we suggest trying each of the three before you reach any firm and final conclusion.

Of course, there are some concrete differences that each variation can offer that can substantially change how you play the game. One of the most important distinctions is the house edge, which is determined by the number of “zero” pockets on the roulette wheel. In American roulette, the house edge is considerably higher, owing to the fact that there is one extra “zero” pocket on the wheel (“0” and “00”).

This puts the house edge in American roulette at 5.26%, compared to just 2.7% for European and French roulette. Meanwhile, there are different bets and gameplay rules in each game that change your outcomes. One of these is the La Partage rule, which is exclusively available in French roulette.

With La Partage, if you place an even-money bet and the ball lands on the zero, you can instantly get half of your stake back, instead of losing it outright. Some European and French roulette tables also abide by the “En Prison” rule.

With this, when your ball lands in the zero, it is automatically “in prison”. It is then up to you to decide whether you want to take back half of your original stake or if you want to spin the wheel again for free and try and win. It is for these reasons why European and French roulette tends to be more popular among many casino gamers.


Did you know?

Did you know that roulette wheels didn’t always have zeros? The original wheel from Blaise Pascal remained without a zero until 1842 when Francois and Lois Blanc added one. They did it for King Charles III of Monaco and it literally changed the game because it shifted the house edge.

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