The table layout featured in Roulette was based upon an 18th century lottery-type game called biribi that was popular in Genoa, Italy. French gamblers merged its 36-number game board with a new Red & Black betting game that was becoming all the rage in Paris—“roelete” or the “small wheel.”
To this day, all Roulette table layouts still show 36 numbers. They appear sequentially in a grid that is made up of three columns and 12 rows. On the “outside” of this grid, betting areas are provided for wagering on the columns, sequential dozens, black, red, low (1~18), high (19~36), even and odd. On the “inside” of the field of numbers, bets may be placed on individual numbers straight up or in groups of 2, 3, 4, or 6 numbers together.
Inside bets are made by positioning chips directly on the table layout. For straight-up wagers on a single number, which pays out at 35-to-1, the chip that is bet must be located only on the number desired, without touching any of lines on its perimeter. For wagers of more than one unit, chips are simply stacked atop one another. If the chips of other players occupy the space desired, additional chips can be stacked directly on top of theirs. The colours of the chips indicate to whom they belong.
It is also possible to make a “split” bet on any two adjacent numbers. In this case, the chip that is wagered must straddle the line between the two numbers. Should either of the two come up, a win will pay 17-to-1. In much the same way, bets can be made on a “corner” or “block” of four neighboring numbers by positioning a chip on the intersection of the lines separating the four numbers. A win on any of the four selected numbers pays 8-to-1.
In order to wager on a “street” or “row” of three sequential numbers, a chip must be placed on the line at either end of the sequence. Winning on this bet pays 11-to-1. Similarly, a wager can be made on a “six-line” or “double street” of six sequential numbers by positioning a chip on the T-intersection at the end of the double row. This bet pays 5-to-1 when any of the six numbers comes up.
Making outside bets is quite the same. Chips are placed directly on table’s the designated areas. Winning on Red or Black, Even or Odd, and High or Low all pay 1-to-1 or “even money.” Successful wagers on any of the three dozens or the three columns pay 2-to-1.
It would be difficult to tell the difference between European and American roulette table layouts if not for the telltale Double Zero. On the American layout, it appears immediately to the right of the Single Zero at the top of the columns of numbers. European tables, of course, have only the Single Zero there.
French tables have done away with the red and black markings for the individual numbers. The fields are somewhat wider, too, in order to provide larger betting areas for wagers outside the main field. Many French tables also have special positions for dozens betting, located on either side of the numbered field or else at the very foot of the columns.
In Monte Carlo, a special table design has evolved. The roulette tables there have a single wheel located between two identical European Roulette layouts. This allows twice as many players to participate with the addition of only one crew member to watch over the bets at the extra “wing.”
A close look at the pattern of numbers on any Roulette table will reveal several interesting anomalies. For example, the colours are distributed unevenly throughout the field. Although the three dozens, the first column, the high/low and the odd/even all feature just as many black numbers as red ones, the second and third columns do not. The second column favours black numbers by a factor of 8:4, while the third column is dominated by red numbers 8:4.
These differences open the door for some intriguing betting combinations. As a case in point for the European table, wagering two units on Black and one unit on the corner of 0-1-2-3 will produce a winning probability of 21:37 or 56.8%, which is considerably better than 50:50. Such a wager pays one unit in profit if any of 17 black numbers come up, while a successful outcome on either of the two red numbers or zero will pay six units. The black two alone is worth ten units if it wins.