Everyone knows that roulette comes in so many different varieties. For the usual gambler, there are but three that come to mind: the French, European, and American roulette variants. Many would usually think that the difference merely lies on the number of zeros in the roulette wheel – the European and French roulette both have a single green 0 while the American variant has both 0 and 00. Little do people know that there's a whole lot more than that.
French roulette is an unfortunate victim of this mentality. Often, it is confused with its more popular European cousin, simply because they make use of the same single zero roulette wheel. There was a time that this author even referred to both versions as "European or French roulette" instead of "European and French roulette". This article is here to clear things up and explain how French roulette differs from the European variety.
The difference of French roulette to the other two popular variants is – ironically – primarily physical. The table is strikingly unique to this version of the game. While the usual roulette table only has a single betting board and a wheel on one end, the French version uses a long table with two betting layouts, between which is the roulette wheel.
In French Roulette, all the numbers on the betting board are colored red or of the same hue as the table, just like the outside bets in the European and American roulette tables. This is merely an aesthetic choice however, and does not change the fact that the colors red and black are legitimate bets as the game still uses the single zero red-and-black wheel. Meanwhile, outside bets are placed on all both sides and one end of the betting layout, making the name a lot more appropriate. In addition, every textual label is in French, owing to it being a former Monte Carlo Casino exclusive.
French roulette's gameplay is basically the same as that of European and American roulette. Though there'd be no need to elaborate on it, here's a very quick rundown for the benefit of those who do not know: you place your bets, the dealer spins the wheel then rolls the ball opposite of the direction of the wheel's spin, after which you'll win once the ball lands on the slot labeled with the same number you've bet on.
This version of roulette however, is close to the European variety, sharing a few quirks that distance it from American roulette. One of these is the game's call bets feature. Call bets are wagers announced before the ball lands on one of the wheel's slots and placed on certain sectors on the wheel. These bets include Voisins du Zero (17 numbers near zero), Tiers du Cylindre (12 numbers opposite of zero), Orphelins (ungrouped with the "Voisins" and "Tiers"), and Finales (bets with the same second digit).
Another is the La Partage and En Prison rules. The La Partage is incurred once the ball lands on zero and the bet is lost. The player is then allowed to recover half his bets or invoke the En Prison rule, where the player leaves his entire losing bet on the table for the next spin. Either way cuts the 2.7% house advantage nicely to 1.35%.
Having reached this paragraph, you should now be able to differentiate between these roulette variants. French and European roulette truly are different beasts, an evidence of just how varied and colorful the world of roulette is.