How Roulette Works and Other Questions Answered

Roulette Table Wheel and Dice Mixed Into One Image

If you haven’t studied roulette or if you only know roulette from movies and TV shows, you’ve probably heard or seen a lot of strange, unrealistic things.

Roulette is considered to be one of the better casino games in the world. Even so people wonder if it’s possible to cheat the game or for the casino to cheat the players.

After cheating people want to know how to beat the game.

There is no guaranteed way to beat any casino game because the casinos won’t offer games that can be beaten consistently. You’ll always need a bit of luck and a good bankroll. But here are some of the interesting questions about roulette that I’ve come across.

1 – Can Roulette Be Rigged?

Of course roulette can be rigged. Any game can be rigged. A better question is how can you tell if the roulette game is rigged.

I doubt many casinos will allow you to inspect their roulette tables. As long as a land-based casino is operating under a government license it must comply with all local gambling laws.

Gaming commissions inspect the casinos and the games and they have the authority to shut down any game that may be faulty.

Casinos take responsibility for maintaining their games very seriously because they lose money if the government stops their play for any reason.

Online casinos are a different story. Unless you’re playing at an online casino with live roulette, you’re watching a software-based game.

Any licensed online casino is using a regulated gaming platform. These platforms are kept in secure data centers and the games are tested and certified by independent authorities. That may include inspection of the code.

Unlicensed online casinos may use their own software or they may steal software from the gaming platforms and modify it. You have no way to verify whether an unlicensed casino has rigged its roulette games.

Just because you cannot verify the honesty of a game doesn’t mean it’s dishonest but you’re piling risk on top of risk in playing that game.

2 – Can Roulette Be Predicted?

Older roulette tables did have physical flaws. There are a few incidents where players managed to predict where the ball would land on old, old roulette wheels. All of that is in the past.

Roulette wheels are now manufactured to very precise standards. They are subjected to testing and regular maintenance. And if there is any doubt about the randomness of a roulette wheel it is removed from service and either repaired or replaced.

Online roulette uses a random number generator to simulate all aspects of the game.

The wheel must spin with a certain amount of force. Friction causes it to eventually slow down.

The ball must be cast with a certain amount of force. Friction and the transfer of its kinetic energy to the wheel every time it connects eventually causes the ball to find a slot on the wheel and stop.

An Active Roulette Game

In computer-based roulette these factors are replaced by the random number generator. To resemble a roulette table in a land-based casino the game runs an animation that may or may not mirror a simulated spinning wheel.

Whether the simulation employs calculations of force, mass, friction, and the transfer of energy doesn’t matter. The outcome of the game is determined by the random number generator.

It is theoretically possible to predict how a game is decided by a random number generator but the only known case where this happened relied on a super-computer and hacked slot machine games. It’s unlikely online roulette game results can be predicted.

3 – Can the Roulette Dealer Control the Ball?

Yes for land-based casinos and yes for online casinos. But it’s far from likely to happen in a regulated gaming environment.

The idea that “section shooting” or “dealer stealing” – where the dealer carefully spins and aims the ball at the right moment – is possible has been debunked repeatedly. But in theory a roulette dealer could use a rigged table to cheat.

Section shooting was popularized by Laurance Scott in a 1991 article in Blackjack Forum magazine. Players try to guess where the ball will land and place bets as late as possible. This is a myth.

Online roulette dealers are computer programs. They could be programmed to rig the games but licensed, regulated gaming platforms must comply with anti-cheating laws.

Don’t make any bar bets on this idea.

4 – Are Roulette Wheels all the Same?

There are two ways roulette wheels vary in basic design.

First is the number of green or “zero” slots on the wheel. European or single-zero roulette has only 1 green slot. American or double-zero roulette has 2 green slots.

Sands roulette is a triple-zero game but it’s not yet played in many venues.

The other way roulette wheels may differ is in manufacturing materials. There are lighter plastic roulette wheels and heavier wooden wheels. If you buy a cheap roulette wheel from an online store don’t expect it to play the same way as the wheels in land-based casinos.

5 – Are Roulette Odds Good?

This question assumes that roulette odds are all the same. The payout odds work out to the house’s advantage. But the odds – or probability – of the ball landing on any 1 number are far less likely than that it will land on 1 of the 3 colors (black, green, and red).

You have a better chance of picking the right color than picking the right number, and your best bets are black and red.

On the other hand, if you only bet a single number every time in roulette on a single-zero wheel the expected probability is about 97.3%. This isn’t a bad theoretical return to player but you can find a few slot games that offer slightly better RTP of about 98%.

Both baccarat and blackjack have better theoretical RTPs as well.

The bottom line here is that roulette generally provides a better theoretical RTP than most slot games, than all keno games, and than many other unusual casino games like Chuck-a-Luck.

6 – What Roulette Number is Most Frequent?

A well-managed roulette table’s “hot” numbers will change over time. It doesn’t matter if the table is a physical contraption in a land-based casino or software in an online casino.

Because random chance involves certain statistical volatility every roulette table will have runs of “hot” and “cold” numbers. A number is “hot” if it comes up frequently within an arbitrary number of games and “cold” if it doesn’t come up at all.

Its very rare for a number to come up more than a few times per 100 or 1000 games and you don’t want to bet on lucky numbers unless you have a large bankroll and a lot of patience.

7 – Which Roulette System is the Best?

There are many more roulette systems than I can name. And I’ve only played a few myself.

I don’t like the Martingale system at all, and it’s really not a roulette system.

A roulette system designs bets around the roulette table’s possible outcomes. Only placing outside bets is a system. Only making street bets is a system.

European roulette uses a secondary layout of number groups depicted in an oval shape. Players call out these bets rather than place chips on the table.

Closeup of a Hand Spinning a Roulette Wheel

The call bets – as they are named – are Voisins du Zero, Jeu Zero, Tiers du Cylindre, Orphelins, and Neighbors. Some casinos may change up the call bets for their tables.

If you’re looking for the safest roulette betting system, placing large wagers on the outside bets tends to be the favorite among experts. Roulette is designed to gradually siphon money away from players and if you can win big early in the night you’re better off quitting at that point.


It’s good to have a healthy curiosity about any gambling game. And I think if you can afford to lose some money it’s worth trying many of these games just to see how playing them feels.

It’s better – in my opinion – not to argue with people about how realistic and scientific some of the outlandish claims are. If you assume for the sake of discussion that someone really has found a vulnerability in a roulette game, you should also assume the vulnerability will be discovered by the casino and mended.

The easiest way for a casino to close a loop is to change the rules of the game. They’ve done this many times over the years.

Play the games for fun and enjoy hearing about the myths. But bring a health dose of skepticism to any discussion about how to beat roulette.