How Does a Roulette Tournament Work?

A Gold Trophy in Front of a Roulette Wheel and Confetti

Casino tournaments exist across a variety of games. Blackjack, poker, and slots are by far the most popular games when it comes to tourneys.

Roulette? Not so much. Although it’s a beloved casino game, roulette isn’t really that popular in the tournament arena. But as you’ll find out here, roulette tournaments can be quite enjoyable. You just need to know how they work to experience this excitement.

That said, I’ll cover roulette tourney rules, where you can play these events, and if they’re ultimately worth the effort.

Standard Roulette Tournament Rules

The basic components of a roulette tourney are as follows:

  • You pay a buy-in (e.g. $10).
  • You’re given a set amount of chips (e.g. $1,000 in chips).
  • You play for a specific amount of time (e.g. 1 hour).
  • You keep playing until the time limit or your chips run out.
  • The goal is to accumulate more chips than the other players.
  • The top players share the prize money.

Starting with the first point, you normally have to pay an entry fee to compete. Some roulette tournaments are free to enter (a.k.a. freerolls). By and large, though, you must front a buy-in. Luckily, these entry fees don’t cost too much money.

Once you buy into an event, you’ll be given a chip stack. You can bet these chips in a variety of ways, but you may want to play conservatively in the beginning.

Many roulette tourneys impose minimum and maximum bets. You must ensure that your wagers are within these limits.

Roulette Wheel With Stacks of Chips in Front

Most events are split up into different rounds. Players are gradually eliminated after each round until one table is left.

The leaderboard tracks the chip leaders. Some tourneys feature a winner takes all format, while others see a number of players receive payouts.

Those who qualify for prize money are paid accordingly. Here’s an example of a roulette tournament prize pool:

  • $10,000 prize pool
  • 1st place = $4,000
  • 2nd place = $2,500
  • 3rd place = $1,500
  • 4th place = $500
  • 5th through 10th place = $250

Play in Land-Based or Online Roulette Tournaments

Roulette tourneys are available in both brick and mortar and online casinos. The latter makes for a convenient setting to enjoy these events.

Some of the best US casinos can easily manage roulette tournaments through their software. They offer a leaderboard that provides updated results every second.

You can use these leaderboards to dictate your strategy. For example, you may start off playing conservatively with outside bets. If you fall behind, though, you can switch to inside wagers or increase the size of your outside bets to catch up.

Online roulette tournaments also offer the advantage of quickly delivering payments after an event. You don’t have to wait for organizers to count chips and make payouts accordingly once the tourney concludes.

Land-based tournaments may not offer the same convenience as online tourneys. However, they do boast an exciting atmosphere.

You can look forward to handling your chips, seeing your bets play out in person, and reveling in the boisterous atmosphere.

Brick and mortar tournaments also feature a fun social setting. You and your friends can experience the excitement of roulette tourneys together.

Roulette Freerolls and Buy-In Tourneys

Both online and land-based casinos offer free roulette tournaments. Commonly dubbed “roulette freerolls,” these events don’t charge a buy-in and offer real money prize pools.

You can check an online casino’s tournament schedule to see if they stage roulette freerolls. Some gaming sites hold these events on a weekly basis.

Land-based casinos often send out tourney invites to players. They may offer a roulette freeroll tournament in order to draw gamblers to their casino.

The prize pools for these events aren’t typically huge. After all, most casinos can’t afford to give away $100,000 or more in free money. But freerolls are still worth considering if you’re trying to build a bankroll.

You can find plenty of buy-in tournaments throughout the industry. You don’t normally have to spend much to compete in these events.

For example, a tournament might charge a $5 buy-in and offer a $1,000 prize pool. This structure creates excitement by affording you the chance to go after payouts that are much larger than your entry fee.

Pros of Roulette Tournaments

Roulette tourneys offer a number of advantages over traditional casino gambling. You can see the biggest perks of these tournaments below.

No House Edge

Regular casino gaming sees you compete against the house. The casino has a built-in advantage in these situations.

Here are the different house edges for each variation:

  • French Roulette = 1.35% house edge
  • European Roulette = 2.70% house edge
  • American Roulette = 5.26% house edge

French and European Roulette aren’t bad deals in the grand scheme of things. However, they still give the casino a slight advantage.

The great thing about roulette tournaments is that you don’t have to worry about a house edge. Instead, you’re competing against other players.

You and everybody else are on equal footing when an event begins. Assuming you’re skillful with your betting strategy, you can earn long-term profits in these tourneys.

Try Something New

Roulette is one of the most exciting games in the casino. Nevertheless, you may be tired of playing the house-banked version.

The tournament format gives you something new to look forward to. You can play against other gamblers, use different strategies, and advance through the rounds.

The nice thing about all of this is that you’re still playing the same great game. You just get to enjoy roulette in a different capacity.

Make a Large Variety of Bets

One distinct advantage that roulette has over every other type of casino tournament (except maybe craps) is its betting variety. You can place a number of inside and outside wagers.

The latter category is great for a conservative strategy to open a tournament. Bets like red/black, high/low, and odd/even carry low odds and pay at 1:1.

Wagers on single numbers, splits, and streets offer 35:1, 17:1, and 11:1 payouts, respectively. These bets are all good for catching up in a hurry if you fall behind.

Win Big With a Small Entry

As mentioned before, you don’t usually have to spend much to play in a roulette tournament. You can enter many of these events for between $1 and $10.

Meanwhile, you get to compete for a prize pool that’s much larger than your original buy-in. For instance, you might spend $5 to play for $5,000.

You can also win big with standard roulette games just by placing inside wagers. However, tourneys give you a chance to use strategy en route to playing for large prizes.

Get a Lot of Play out of Your Buy-In

Under normal circumstances, $1 to $5 doesn’t go very far in roulette. These amounts are often the size of a typical wager.

But the same amounts can stretch much further in a tournament. You’ll pay a small entry fee and receive a large chip stack for use in tourneys.

Assuming you advance really far, then you’ll get a lot of play out of your entry. Even if you don’t go very far, you’ll still be able to enjoy yourself for a decent amount of time in these events.

Cons of Roulette Tournaments

So far, I’ve only covered the positive aspects of roulette tourneys. But as you’ll see below, these tournaments feature some downsides to consider as well.

You Must Understand and Follow the Rules

If you’re perfectly satisfied with standard roulette, then you may not want to play tourneys. After all, you’ll need to learn how these events work beforehand.

For the most part, roulette tournaments don’t feature very complicated rules. However, they do require some knowledge before you’re truly ready to take flight.

You need to know the minimum and maximum bets, length of rounds, cut-off for each round, and more. If you’re not in the mood to learn something new, then you don’t want to attempt a roulette tourney.

Roulette Tournaments Are Volatile

You can control your volatility to some degree with roulette. Outside bets allow you to lower volatility, and inside wagers let you chase larger payouts.

Roulette tourneys allow you to place the same type of wagers. However, you can’t control the volatility associated with earning prize money.

Most events only pay the top 10% to 20% of the field. More times than not, you won’t win any money.

Of course, you can improve your chances with a superior roulette betting strategy to the average opponent. But you still won’t win cash on a consistent basis.

Entries Can Be Costly

I’ve mentioned multiple times that buy-ins are normally low in relation to the prize pool. However, some roulette tournament entry fees can be fairly high.

This is especially true if you compete in a marquee event with a six-figure prize pool. For example, a $50,000 guaranteed tourney might require a $500 buy-in.

You’re still spending a small amount to compete for a huge prize pool in this case. Odds are, though, that you don’t have $500 to throw at a single, volatile roulette tournament.

Conclusion

Should you play in roulette tourneys?

Whether you do or don’t think roulette tournaments are worth your time is obviously a personal decision. However, I strongly believe they are worthwhile after weighing the pros and cons.

First off, roulette tourneys don’t feature a house edge. Instead, you’re facing other players without a built-in house advantage involved.

Roulette tournaments also give you an opportunity to try something new. Assuming you’re bored of standard roulette, then you can spice up the action with a tourney or two.

Roulette Table With Stacks of Chips on Top

You also get to make a variety of bets under the same buy-in. If you’ve ever wanted to risk $500 on a single-number bet, then you can do so in a tourney without actually having to put up $500.

You have the chance to win lots of money for a small entry fee, too. You may be able to risk as little as $1 to play for $1,000 or more. Of course, you should keep the drawbacks to roulette tournaments in mind as well. These events often come with rules that are slightly different from the house-banked version.

You shouldn’t have too much difficulty understanding the rules. However, you might also see them as an inconvenience if you’re just looking to kick back and make some bets.

Roulette tournaments can also be quite volatile. With 20% or less of the field getting paid, you’re going to lose far more than you’ll win, regardless of your skill level.

Finally, you may need to pay much more to compete for the biggest prize pools. Special events might even require up to a $1,000 buy-in.

Again, I see the pros of roulette tourneys outweighing the cons. Even if you’re on the fence, you might give an online roulette tournament a try just to see if they’re for you.