Learn Roulette from a Croupier with 40 Year's Experience
In February 1974, I went to croupier school at Holiday Inn in Maseru, Lesotho. The course was a month long and, by the end of it, I knew how to cut chips, knew the 35 times tables, knew the picture bets, and could look at a table layered three inch deep in chips and pay them out just by looking at them.
Since then, I have dealt at casinos, on three continents, plus worked as your friendly neighbourhood dealer dealing Black Jack, Texas Hold’Em, Pai Gow, Let It Ride, Roulette, and numerous other games…
For the sake of clarification, while casino dealers are generally called dealers, only roulette dealers are called croupiers.
Background to Roulette
Roulette is the house’s biggest money-maker, whether it’s American Roulette or French Roulette. I deal American Roulette. In America, there are 37 numbers on the layout: 1 – 35 plus a double zero. In other countries, it’s 1 – 35, plus only one zero. The reason for the extra zero is to make more profit. The profit works out to one in every thirty six pieces belongs to the house.
The layout consists of three rows of numbers with twelve in each column. Then there is are the side bets which are, um, on the side. These cover columns, rows, the colours (black and red), the numbers (1 – 18 and 19 – 36), and odds and evens.
See the layout below.
There are two zeroes, three columns which run lengthways, and three lots of dozens which cover the numbers 1 to 12, 13 to 24, and 25 to 36. The last row with 1 to 18, even, red, black, odd, and 19 to 36 pays even. So if you bet that the roulette ball is going to fall on a black number and the roulette ball falls on black, you will be paid the exact amount you bet, plus get your bet back.. On the other hand, if it falls on either zero, double zero, or red, you will lose your money.
The dozens and the columns pay two to one. So if you put $5 on the first dozen, and number seven came up, you would win $10 and get your $5 back.
American Roulette Side bets
Payouts on Roulette
Now let's look at the numbers on the layout.
If you bet on the center of a number, that is called a straight-up. For every one piece you bet, you will win thirty five if the number comes up. If you put your bet on the line between two numbers, that is called a split, and you will be paid seventeen pieces for each piece. If you placed your bet in the center of four numbers, that is called a corner, and you will be paid eight pieces. If you place your bet to cover three numbers (a row), you will be paid eleven pieces, and if you place a bet to cover six numbers (a street), you will be paid five pieces.
The zero and double zero work the same way. Notice however, that you can bet on the whole number (straight up), on a split (covers two numbers) or you can cover three numbers. The payout is the same. Thirty five pieces for the straight up, seventeen pieces for the split, and if you cover three numbers, it pays the same as for a row.
See the layout below.
Odds on American Roulette
Buying your chips
Different casinos sell chips at different amounts, and some tables can have higher priced chips than others. That said, chips are sold in lots of twenty. Generally, for Roulette, it's advisable to buy a hundred chips if you are going to spread your chips all over the layout. That will be five sets of twenty chips.
If you are only going to bet side bets, then you can start with twenty or forty.
You will lay your money on the table, tell the croupier what you want (you must have the exact amount of money), and she will pass it to you. Do not reach out to take the chips from her because hands are not permitted to touch. S/he will put the chips in front of you.
You will notice that each player has a different colour. This is so that each player knows which chips are theirs and so that the dealer knows who the chips belongs to. Sometimes one can pay with 'money chips' but it can be confusing. Generally, the dealer will know who they belong to and if s/he doesn't, the inspector also has an eagle eye.
Roulette etiquette on the table.
Most casinos have the same rules, although some may be more rigid in their application. While I will explain the mechanics of the the 'pit,' etc, there are some rules that always apply to punters.
When the croupier has paid out the last bet, s/he will say "Place your bets, please." At that point, you have free access to anywhere on the table. You can also ask the dealer to place a bet for you. However, you cannot put any chips in the dealer's hand. You have to lay the chip/s on the table and s/he will pick it up from the table. The reason for that is so that the croupier cannot pass the punter chips.
The croupier will then pick up the ball and spin the wheel. At a certain point, she will say, "No more bets, please." When she says that, you have to withdraw your hands from the layout and cannot place anymore bets. If you do, s/he will remove them and give them back to you.
When the ball drops, she will call out the winning number, e.g. "Seventeen - black seventeen." She will also mark the number by putting a marker on the number so that no one can be confused as to which number won. There is a particular way of clearing the table of losing bets. First the croupier clears the areas around the winning bet. Then s/he clears the table from the outside in.
She will then begin to payout. There is a certain order that bets are paid - from the outside in. So side bets will be paid first and then it will move to the inner layout. Payouts will sound something like this, "Eight pieces blue." "One hundred and thirty four pieces yellow."
S/he will pass the bets to you. Do not reach out to take the bet from her/him because, again, hands are not permitted to touch. S/he will put your winnings in front of you. When she removes the marker from the table, you can begin to place your bets for the next round.
Tips for the dealer
It is etiquette in the casino to tip the dealer if you win. What you want to tip the dealer is up to you. Obviously, if you were betting corners and only won eight pieces each time the ball fell on your corner, you might only want to give one piece as a tip. On the other hand, if you just won one hundred and thirty five pieces, giving five or ten pieces is more acceptable.
So let me tell you a story.
Many moons ago, I was dealing at a 'promotion' and there were gazillions of diamonds floating around on women's fingers and gazillions of bucks passing by on the tables. I had heard stories in the Croupiers' Room (where dealers go for a break) that there was a couple who weren't tipping. They had been winning steadily through the week and the croupiers were not feeling happily.
On their last day, they came to my table. They were playing betting dozens and columns and they were doubling up if they lost. That's a system. How it works is that the punter would cover two of the dozens and leave the third one open, thereby having a 66% chance of winning. If they lost, they doubled their bet, once more having a 66% chance of winning. If they lost that, they would double again. Eventually, if they didn't run out of money, they would recoup everything they lost.
So when they started playing at my table, I was determined to spin the column or dozen that they weren't betting in. I didn't like people who didn't tip. My salary depended on their tips, and we worked long hours.
I must have been fairly successful at this because about an hour in, the lady stood up and caused quite a commotion and said, "She's psychic! She's psychic!" I just looked at her. I don' believe in psychics. Do you?
She and hubby left the casino. :)
Payout for Roulette
How the odds are determined on Roulette
There's a method behind what the different bets play. I'm going to work with a table that has thirty six numbers - i.e. one to thirty five plus the zero which equals thirty six.
A straight up bet pays thirty five pieces plus the one the punter put on. That's thirty six.
A split pays seventeen pieces. A split covers two numbers, so if two pieces were on on the split, the split would pay thirty four pieces, plus give back the two pieces the punter played. That's thirty six pieces.
A corner pays eight pieces. A corner covers four numbers, so if four pieces were on the corner, that would mean that bet would pay thirty two pieces plus the four pieces the punter played. That would be thirty six pieces.
A row pays eleven pieces. It covers three numbers, so if three pieces were played on the row, it would pay out thirty three pieces, plus the three pieces that the punter played. That would be thirty six pieces.
A street pays five pieces and cover six numbers. If the punter played with six pieces and it won, the bet would pay out thirty pieces, plus the six that the punter played would be thirty six pieces.
You get the idea? That's how the odds are worked out. :)
Have you ever been in a Casino?
Dealers, Inspectors, and Pit bosses
There is a hierarchy in the casino. You might have six tables that are in a circle. The inside of this circle would be called the 'pit.' The person who was responsible for all the tables would be called the pitboss. However, one person cannot look at all the tables, so you have inspectors. One inspector might cover two tables. He watches the dealers to see that they are dealing according to procedure.
A croupier spins with either the left hand or the right hand, depending on where the wheel is on the table. And there is a precise order in which the dealer pays out. She also gives out chips so that the inspector can check that she is giving the right amount. S/he cannot deviate from procedure.
Sometimes a casino will have particular bets that covers a certain array of numbers. They might be 'neighbours to zero' in which case they would be the three numbers of each size of the zero. If one of those numbers came up, they would be paid a particular sum.
So I promised you some stories from my days as a dealer. I'll give you two. here's the first one.
It was high-roller day and the casino was packed with wealthy people with too much cash, and though I knew I would earn a packet at the end of the month, this particular day I wasn't feeling like another lot of high rollers. Well, um, Murphy and all that. I walked to my table and the entire laybout was three inches deep in chips. Every corner, ever split, every straight up, ever row, every dozen - they were all covered with dozens of chips. It didn't matter where the ball fell, I was going to be spending ten minutes doing mental arithmetic. There's something called a picture bet in which the punter will cover all four corners, all four splits, and the straight up. This pays out 135 pieces. Only each colour had two or three for the picture bet, and two or three people had bet on each picture bet. That meant that if the ball fell on a particular number, I would be paying out in the vicinity of between 270 and 405 pieces to each punter.
I looked at the layout, and there was only one number free. It was red three. I determined to spin it. I kid you not. It landed on red three and I cleared the entire layout while all the punters glared at me. They bet again, and I kid you not, red three was empty again. I determined to spin it again, and by sheer coincidence, that's where the ball landed. There was an explosion of sound. Nobody could believe it. Truthfully, I couldn't either, but I always did believe (in those days) in positive thinking. :)
Well, the good merry men and women around that table with plenty of bucks to spare layered the table once again in the same manner. I couldn't believe it. They left that red three open, and I determined to spin it once again. Well, you know, a girl can wish. The ball came down. A red three, it was.
Yup, they took their money and went elsewhere, and I stood at my table, content. A girl needs a break now and then when the night is too busy. :)
Following the dealer - the math.
Ever played heads or tails? Think about it, there's a fifty percent chance that the coin will come down either way. However, there is not a fifty percent chance that, if you play twenty times in a row, that the coin will come down heads, tails, heads, tails, heads, tails, heads, tails, etc. Indeed, what will happen is that it will probably be something like this - heads, heads, heads, tails, tails, heads, tails, tails, tails, tails, heads, heads, tails, etc.
That's the same with Roulette if you are playing red and black (something that a lot of punters do.) So that's when the punter follows the dealer. If the dealer spins red, the punter should bet red. The punter continues to bet red until the dealer spins black. Then the punter bets black.
This also works by looking at what section of the wheel the dealer is spinning in. One of the reasons that a dealer takes breaks is so that she doesn't get into a rhythm when she is spinning the ball. Sometimes the dealer will spin the same number in a row and I once personally witnessed a very tired croupier spinning number nine eight times in a row, then missing it once, and spinning it again.
The guy who bet on that number made a fortune. You see, casino custom is that if you have a winning bet, when you are paid your winnings, you do not remove the original bet from the table. You leave it there in case the dealer spins the same number. It happens more frequently than you would believe.
It was three in the morning. A professional gambler had been so incredibly lucky for the past month that the casino profits were actually down. For whatever reason, if he bet on thirty five, it would come up. If he bet on eight, it would come up. Luck. Luck. Luck. When you have been working in a casino a long time, you begin to wonder about things.
Only one table was open and a dealer with many years experience was dealing to this particular punter. And he just kept winning. The casino manager wasn't very happy. I was called to chip for the dealer. That meant I stood beside her and picked up the chips. I did that for about half an hour. The casino dealer just kept spinning the numbers that the punter was betting.
The casino manager said to me, "Tessa, take the wheel." And so I did. I was, of course, determined not to spin his numbers, so I did my special trick. I imagined which number to spin (the numbers he wasn't betting on) and that's where they landed. Of course, that was very easy because he was about the only one playing which meant virtually the entire layout was open. After half an hour I had taken back all his winnings for the evening. As I took the last of it, he wanted to buy more chips.
The casino manager said, "Tessa, close the table." The punter was angry and went to talk to the casino manager. I saw them arguing. I saw the casino manager shake his head. I closed the table. I went home at four that morning.
Just another night in the casino.
So how does someone become a dealer? In those days, I have to confess that I didn't have an interview or anything. I was in the fortunate position of begin the 'girl about town' with parents who had a business and all that. I approached the manager one of the Holiday Inns and asked if he could get me a job at a casino. About a month later, the casino manager from another country called me and I was hired.
There were about a dozen dealers at Croupier school. We learnt to cut chips until we could feel a stack of twenty, a stack of five or four or three. We learnt picture bets and how to deal the game. It took four week - eight hour days.
We had free accommodation, free food, and were paid a month's salary for dealing. That was Holiday Inn Dealer School in the early 70s.
I have never gambled in my life and I never will. Yes, I have played these games, but being a croupier, we often played on the tables before a game began in private gigs. So, yes, I've played black jack, craps, pai gow, roulette, and the rest of them. I know my full house from my twenty one and my blinds from my draw. I honestly have no idea why anyone would gamble hard earned money away.
One of the interesting things when watching people gamble through the years is that men tend to give back the money they win by playing until they lose while women tend to keep their winnings and move away as soon as they begin to lose again.
I have enjoyed the times I dealt and the opportunities it gave me. In days gone by, it was well paid, but these days, not so much. Also while dress is informal in America, that is not so in Europe.
Some years after I had returned to South Africa from exploring the globe, I used to pop in to Holiday Inns with a date. I always had a date because someone always phoned to ask me out. As I walked in one night, someone told me that there was a lady to see me. I looked up and there was one of my punters that I had dealt to some years before. She was a really nice lady and I always tried to spin the numbers she bet on.
She came to me now, and she looked at me and said, "You know I always won at your table. How did you do it?"
I looked at her and said, "Oh, it was very easy. I just thought of the number." She looked at me as if I was crazy. I really didn't know what else to say. What else could I say? It really was just an ordinary table, no magic involved, and I didn't deal any differently to anyone. Maybe the gods were just kind to her. Who knows? :)
© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger