Red and black betting in roulette

How do the red and black wagers work, and how do the odds and payouts stack up against other roulette bets? We’ll show you how to place them, house edge, and strategy.

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One of the great things about playing roulette is the spread of betting options available. Inside bets, outside bets and call bets offer different degrees of risk and reward, which is why all kinds of punters – raw beginners, seasoned veterans and high rollers alike – enjoy the devil’s wheel.

For many gamblers, however, it boils down to a simple choice: red or black? 

This is the easiest way to bet on roulette, and a great option for new players who want to experience the game without taking a huge amount of risk.

Red and black numbers in roulette

The roulette wheel features either 37 or 38 pockets, depending on whether it is a single-zero game (European) or a double-zero game (American). The remaining pockets are numbered up to 36, with half coloured red and the other half coloured black.

In the vast majority roulette games, the pockets are assigned like so:

Red numbers – 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 30, 32, 34, 36

Black numbers – 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29, 31, 33, 35

A bet on red wins if the ball finished on one of the red numbers, while a bet on black covers all the black numbers. For example: if you pick red and the result is 16, you win; but if you choose red and 22 black comes up, you lose.

Note the zero (and the double zero in US roulette) is not included in either the black or red bets. Zeroes are usually coloured green and are said to belong ‘to the house’.

How to bet on red or black

Every standard roulette game features a betting layout which allows players to wager on certain outcomes by placing their chips in betting boxes or specific positions. The layout is divided into two main parts: the inside, where the 36 numbers (with zero at the top) are arranged in three columns; and the outside, where players can bet on large groups of numbers with a single wager.

The red and black wagers are located at the centre of the outside betting layout on conventional American, European and Australian roulette tables, in between the odd and even bets and directly below the second dozen (‘2nd 12’) option. This is also the case at most online casinos.

Traditional French roulette layouts are slightly different, with red on one side of the number grid and black on the other. To bet on one or the other, place your chips either in the box with the red diamond or in the box with the black diamond.

Payout odds for even money wagers

The red and black wagers are outside bets, as they cover large groups of numbers at a time. More specifically, they belong in the ‘even money’ category alongside four other options: odd, even, low (1-18) and high (19-36). All six of these bets cover exactly 18 numbers each and pay odds of 1 to 1 (i.e. even money) for a win.

For example: if we bet $10 on black and win, we keep our original wager and collect a $10 profit; but if we bet $10 on red and lose, the croupier claims our stake and we get nothing in return.

While even-money options such as red and black pay less than any other bets in roulette, they remain among the most popular wagers on the table. That’s because outside bets hit far more frequently than inside wagers.

Look at the numbers: the probability of red or black winning in single-zero roulette is 48.6 per cent, compared to only 2.7 per cent for any single number. So if you want to win more often, the 1 to 1 bets are the way to go.

Bet type Payout odds Win probability (EUR) Win probability (US)
Red/black 1 to 1 48.6% 47.4%
Even/odd 1 to 1 48.6% 47.4%
1-18/19-36 1 to 1 48.6% 47.4%
Dozens 2 to 1 32.4% 31.6%
Columns 2 to 1 32.4% 31.6%
Six line 5 to 1 16.2% 15.8%
Corner 8 to 1 10.8% 10.5%
Street 11 to 1 8.1% 7.9%
Split 17 to 1 5.4% 5.3%
Single number 35 to 1 2.7% 2.6%

House edge on red and black roulette bets

The house edge represents the percentage of total money wagered a player can expect to lose over time in any given casino game. For example: if the house edge is 10 per cent, a punter will lose around $10 out of every $100 staked in the long run. In roulette these figures are calculated by comparing the actual payout odds against the true probability of winning a bet.

The casino’s precise advantage on red and black depends on the specific format being played. In standard single-zero European roulette games, the house edge on all wagers is 2.70 per cent; in double-zero American roulette, however, that number rises to 5.26 per cent.

This is because the house edge in outside bets is derived solely from the zero pockets, which are not included in even-money wagers, dozens or columns. Thus, the extra ‘house pocket’ (00) on the US roulette wheel means the player’s expected losses are almost double that of a single-zero layout.

Play French roulette for better odds

For the lowest possible house edge on black and red wagers, find an old-school French roulette table which uses imprisonment rules. Games offering ‘la partage’ or ‘en prison’ allow players to reclaim half their original stake on even-money bets should the ball finish on zero, which brings the house edge down to only 1.35 per cent.

Unfortunately, French-style layouts are all but impossible to find at land-based Australian casinos. If you play roulette online and are from a country where online casinos are legal, however, there are one or two titles out there which offer imprisonment rules. Our favourite is the simply titled French Roulette by Microgaming, which is available at AllSlotsCasino.com – among our most trusted online roulette casinos.

Michael Maguire

About Michael Maguire

Mike writes about casino games for Roulette.com.au - one of the leading Web resources for Australian gambling news and info. He enjoys long sessions at the devil\'s wheel where he diligently sticks to a betting pattern, then forgets where he is in the sequence, then panics and puts everything on 7.