Roulette – All About the Wheel

Perhaps the most iconic image in all of roulette is the wheel. Whether you play online roulette or play in a virtual online casino, the roulette wheel is at the center of the action, just as it has been for the last 200 years. Watching the ball spin around and waiting to see which number will be hit is one of the most exciting, nervous and tense moments in all of gambling, and it’s all thanks to the roulette wheel. But how much do you know about this important piece of roulette equipment?

The layout of the numbers on a roulette wheel is not random. Red and black numbers alternate, with only the zero (and on an American roulette wheel, the double zero) colored green. This makes a total of 37 (or 38) pockets. The American and European number layouts are different, but every wheel of the same type has the numbers ordered in the same way. The order insures that every section of the roulette wheel has numbers that add up to approximately the same total.

While modern roulette wheels are routinely examined to make sure that they are as close to random as possible, this wasn’t always the case, and there have been a few famous examples of biased wheels that hit certain numbers often enough for a smart player to turn a profit. In 1873, an Englishman named Joseph Jaggers lead a team that won over $300,000 in Monte Carlo by tracking numbers for several days and discovering biases in the casino’s roulette wheels. More recently, Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo used computer analysis to find a bias in a wheel at the Casino de Madrid to win about one million euros.

Casino roulette wheels are almost always made of high quality wood, and measure about 35 inches in diameter. A typical wheel will weigh over 88 pounds. The wheel is in the shape of a bowl, with a track running around the top of the bowl where the roulette ball spins until it slows enough to drop into the pockets below. Originally, many roulette balls were made of ivory, but in modern times plastic balls have become standard. The croupier or dealer spins the wheel using a metal handle set in the center of the roulette wheel, while the balls is spun in the opposite direction. Most casinos have a minimum number of revolutions that the croupier is required to spin the ball each time; this makes predicting where the ball will fall nearly impossible.

In online roulette, the “wheel” is a little different. In most online roulette games, there is a graphical wheel that spins around, so that you can watch the ball travel and see it fall into one of the numbered pockets. However, this is all an illusion! There’s no actual wheel involved. Instead, a random number generator determines the outcome of each spin. Usually, the computer program will take in all sorts of data from various sources and use that to seed its random number generator (or RNG). All of this happens behind the scenes to make your online roulette experience feel just like the game you play in your local brick and mortar casino.

While some people may try to detect bias in the virtual “wheel,” this is even less likely to occur with a good RNG than when playing with a physical roulette wheel! In modern roulette, casinos are very careful with their wheels — whether a dealer is spinning a ball around a wooden bowl, or a computer is randomly selecting the numbers, casino operators are constantly looking for bias and will stop using any wheel that might threaten their profits.