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American vs European vs French Roulette Rules and Tables

I can bet you don’t know the difference between the American the European and the French roulette tables. You may think you do but you don’t. It is not your fault. It is because none told you about, since most of roulette writers out there, have incomplete knowledge of the game and confuse the different roulette wheels with the different roulette tables and the different roulette rules. In a nutshell, the problem is that usually when people refer the type of roulette, instead of referring to the rules, they usually refer to the wheel, which is formally wrong and leads to misunderstandings.

It is interesting that even a few casinos refer to their own games with the wrong terms. They do it, either to confuse players or because they don’t understand the differences or because they don’t want to confuse the players so they describe their games based on most player’s faulty assumptions.

Anyway, I will clear things up for you once and for all. And you will have the right to boast that you know something most “roulette experts” miss.

Roulette wheels

There are only two types of roulette wheels: American and European and it is extremely easy to distinguish between the two. The main differences are:

  • The American has 2 zeroes (0, 00) and the European has only one zero (extremely easy to distinguish them)
  • They have different layouts; the numbers are at different positions
American vs European wheel
American vs European wheel

As a result of the two vs one zero, the American wheel has a 5,3% house advantage while the European wheel is better for the player, with a reduced house advantage of only 2,7%. If you want to understand the logic of roulette wheels we have an excellent article you must read.

Roulette tables

Professional roulette tables have a rectangular shape and are usually made of solid wood. The border on the side of the players is usually made of leather, polished wood or Alcantara and often includes ashtrays and drink holders. An independent structure is used to support and stabilize the roulette wheel.

What is the American roulette table?

The American roulette table typical dimensions are  2.9mx1.7m. It has the wheel on the short side, one dealer is standing on the side next to the wheel and the players sit on the other two sides: opposite to the wheel and opposite to the dealer.

American roulette table
American roulette table with European wheel and racetrack bets layout

What is the French roulette table?

The French roulette table typical dimensions are  3.3mx1.8m. Two croupiers (French for dealers) holding a 60cm croupier’s rake are sitting around the wheel on the short side of the table. Behind the wheel and on a heightened chair, sits the table-umpire. The players sit on the three other sides of the table. There are also some very long French roulette tables (double length) which have the wheel in the center and two table betting layouts, one on each side of the wheel.

French roulette table with croupiers
French roulette table. Far back you can see the two female croupiers and the table-boss at the heightened chair.

Generally, the game is faster on an American table than on a French table.

Double French wheel
Double French roulette with one wheel and two betting tables.

Table betting Layouts

Since the place of the croupiers and players is different in American and French tables, the betting layouts are different. Specifically in the American version all outside bets are on the same (long) side of the table, while on the French tables, the outside bets are split between the two long sides.

American vs French table layout
American vs French table layout

Racetrack bets

Contrary to its name, the American tables are very common across Europe. One difference one may notice is that in Europe, in the American tables betting layout, there is additionally a racetrack that represents the wheel. This racetrack is used for placing bets on Orphelins, Tiers, Voisin du zero, Zero play and neighbor bets. These are also referred as “called bets” because only the croupier can place them after the instruction of the players.

roulette racetrack bets
Roulette racetrack for Tiers, Orphelins, Voisins and neighbor bets

Roulette rules

This is where it starts to get complicated; because contrary to popular belief, the roulette rules have nothing to do with either the wheel or the table. The wheel and the table are physical objects; the rules are intangible and have nothing to do with them. What makes matters more confusing is that often the rules are written on a sign placed over the roulette table. So it is easy to misunderstand the sign with the rules of “American roulette” as the description of the table; which is not.

In fact there are only two traditional sets of rules for roulette: American and French. Yes, although there is a European wheel, officially there is no such thing as European rules and therefore there is no “European roulette” as a game.

American rules

According to the American roulette rules, when zero comes, then all outside bets (Odd, Even, Red, Black, High, Low) are lost completely.

French rules

According to the French roulette, when zeros comes (French roulette is usually played on a European wheel), then all outside bets (Odd, Even, Red, Black, High, Low) are NOT lost completely. Instead, one of the two following rules applies – so there are actually two variations:

  • En Prison rule: It means “in jail”. In this case, your money is not lost and your bet stays (“is jailed” so to speak) on the same outside bet for the next spin. If zero comes a second consecutive time you lose your bet. Otherwise the bet wins or loses as it would normally do.
  • La Partage rule: It means splitting. In this case you lose half your bet. The rest half is returned to you and you can bet normally in the next spin.

No matter which rule is in effect, the benefit for the player is mathematically the same, so En Prison and La Partage are equally beneficial to the player. Overall, the best conditions a roulette player can find in a casino are: a French roulette rules on a European wheel. Such games are very rare and mostly available in brick and mortar European casinos.
Of course in online casinos one can find a great variation of roulette games, from mini roulette to no zero roulette (roulette without zero). But online games are outside the scope of this article.

Conclusion

I think it is obvious now why there is so much confusion. It is possible to have a European wheel on an American table and play with French rules. Or have a French table with European wheel and American rules. Next time you hear or read about European, American or French roulette, you should ask yourself are they referring to the rules, the wheel or the table.

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