Outside bets explained in roulette

If you’re new to the wonderful world of roulette, you might be a little confused by what people mean when they talk about outside bets. Here, we will explain all you need to know about these basic wagers, including how they work, what they pay, and where to find them on the betting layout.

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What is an outside bet in roulette?

There are two broad categories into which most roulette bets fall: outside wagers and inside wagers. The former allows you to cover a large group of numbers at once, while the latter gives you the option to pick and choose single numbers and small clusters.

Outside bets get their name from the traditional French roulette table, where the corresponding betting boxes reside on either side of the betting layout. On modern-day American and European roulette tables, these boxes are placed on the side closest to the players.

Different types of outside wagers

There are five kinds of outside bet in roulette, each of which offers either two or three options. These are:

Black or red – With the exception of zero (and double zero in US roulette), every number on the wheel is either a black pocket or a red pocket. You can choose to bet on all 18 black numbers, or all 18 red numbers.

Outside bets in rouletteEvens or odds – Rather than covering colours, you can bet on the ball to land on either any even number (two, four, six, eight, et cetera) or any odd number (one, three, five, seven, nine, et cetera).

High or low – This one divides the 36 numbered pockets (excluding zeroes) down the middle. Bet on either the lower half (one to 18) or the higher half (19 to 36).

Dozens – These are similar to the high-low bets, except they split the layout into thirds rather than halves. Cover either the first dozen (one to 12), the second dozen (13 to 24), or the third dozen (25 to 36).

Columns – Whereas the dozen bet divides the layout numerically, column wagers group numbers according to their position on the betting layout. There’s the first column (one, four, seven, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34), the middle column (two, five, eight, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29, 32, 35) and the third column (three, six, nine, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36).

Payout odds

Because they feature large groups of numbers, roulette outside bets win much more often than straight-up numbers and other inside wagers. However, they also pay the shortest prices:

  • Red/black, even/odd and high/low all pay 1 to 1 odds (aka, even money). So if you bet $10 on red and win, your payout is $10.
  • Columns and dozens pay 2 to 1 odds. So if you bet $10 on the second column and win, your payout is $20.

Probability and house edge for outside betting

At first glance, even money bets like red/black seem like simple 50/50 propositions – you bet on half the numbers and win or lose exactly what you staked. However, the presence of the zero pocket(s) means the probability of winning a 1 to 1 bet is actually slightly less than 50 per cent, while 2 to 1 bets return a bit under the true odds of 33.33 per cent.

This margin between the payout price and the actual chances of success is where real money roulette casinos derive their house edge. However, the exact figure depends on the specs of the table. Because American roulette layouts feature both a zero and a double zero pocket, the casino advantage is nearly double that of a European single-zero roulette wheel.

Bet type Single zero Double zero
Probability House edge Probability House edge
Black 48.6% 2.70% 47.4% 5.26%
Red 48.6% 2.70% 47.4% 5.26%
Odd 48.6% 2.70% 47.4% 5.26%
Even 48.6% 2.70% 47.4% 5.26%
1 – 18 48.6% 2.70% 47.4% 5.26%
19 – 36 48.6% 2.70% 47.4% 5.26%
1 – 12 32.4% 2.70% 31.6% 5.26%
13 – 24 32.4% 2.70% 31.6% 5.26%
25 – 36 32.4% 2.70% 31.6% 5.26%
First column 32.4% 2.70% 31.6% 5.26%
Second column 32.4% 2.70% 31.6% 5.26%
Third column 32.4% 2.70% 31.6% 5.26%

Why outside roulette bets are good value

There is one very simple argument in favour of playing the outside: you win more often. No, you don’t get the big 35 to 1 payout of a single number bet, but you do get a much healthier flow of hits against misses on average.

If it’s big money you want, you can simply up the stakes. Online roulette tables offer very flexible betting limits, accommodating everyone from $1 per spin grinders to high rollers throwing down hundreds of bucks at a time. There are some live dealer roulette games online which accept outside bets up to $2000 per spin, which is great news for VIPs and high-stakes casino players.

So whether you’re a serious bettor or you just want to have a bit of fun, you can’t really go wrong with the even money bets and 2 to 1 wagers. Just remember: for the best roulette odds, always play a Euro-style table with a single zero on the wheel.