Improve Your French By Learning Roulette

min read
Top view of a ball in the green 0 on a roulette wheel.
BetMGM Sep 16, 2023, 2:57 PM

Entertainment is the primary purpose of online casino games, but they do have other benefits, too. Blackjack, for instance, can sharpen up your computational skills, while poker can provide you with strategic insights that are useful in all roads of life. 

As for roulette skills, this classic casino table game may serve as an introduction to the language some people consider to be the most romantic in the world: French. That’s because roulette is a 100% French invention, elegantly combining simple gameplay and complex betting options for a truly satisfying gaming experience. As a result, the roulette casino game comes with a bunch of French terms that can enrich your gaming experience. It’s not strictly necessary to master them, but if you’re just starting to learn how to play French roulette in a casino, you may as well pick up some French for free. Get started with one of the most entertaining ways to learn French.

French Words You Already Know

You may not realize it, but you know some French words already, starting with “roulette.” It means “little wheel” (from “roue” for “wheel,”) referring to the slotted wheel that determines which numbers win. It’s what’s called a loan word, which is a word that one language borrows from another. This happens when a foreign language term is so commonly used that it enters everyday speech. The reason roulette appears in English is that the game became so popular in England and the United States in the 19th century. 

Another loan word from French that you already know is “croupier.” It’s just the French word for “dealer,” but it’s more formal (and French.) to use the correct term when you’re playing casino table games. And it’ll cost you “zéro” effort. Yes, that’s French for “zero.” Another word you don’t need to memorize. Now you’re already three words up from zero. Félicitations.

Basic French Roulette Betting Terms

“Faites vos jeux.” That’s French for “place your bets,” and it’s something you’ll hear croupiers say at the beginning of every round in a French casino. You can pick up a lot of French from roulette betting terms, and it’s interesting to learn how to place the bets too. The simplest bet of all is “en plein,” a straight-up bet where you put your “mise” (stake) on a single number on the “tableau” (roulette table.) It’s also the bet with the worst odds. The least risky options are the even-money bets that make roulette one of the casino games with the best odds. These are bets on “rouge” (red,) “noir” (black,) “pair” (even,) “impair” (odd,) “manque” (a bet on numbers 1–18,) and “passe” (a bet on numbers 19–36.) If you have these under your belt, you’ll be able to place even-money bets in confidence until the croupier says that there are no more bets: “Rien ne va plus.”

More Advanced French Roulette Betting Terms

Once you’ve mastered the terminology of straight-up and even-money bets in French, you can move on to some of the more complicated options. If you bet a “cheval,” you’re making a split bet covering two adjacent numbers. A “carre” bet is a corner bet on four adjacent numbers. A “sixaine” is a six-line bet on two adjacent lines of three numbers each. A “transversale” is a bet on three adjacent, consecutive numbers (1, 2, 3 or 4, 5, 6, for example.) Then there’s a “douzaine,” a bet on a group of a dozen numbers (1–12, 13–24, or 25–36,) and a “colonne,” which is a column bet covering 12 numbers on the table. As you can see, if you’re looking for multiple betting options, roulette’s one of the best casino games in town.

French Roulette Calls Bets

Would you rather put your money on the orphans or the neighbors of zero? This might sound like some weird code, but they’re just French terms for some of the call bets you can make in roulette. If you bet on the “voisins du zero” (“neighbors of zero,”) you’re wagering that the ball will land on one of the 17 numbers that lie between 22–25 on the wheel, 22 and 25 included. (The series on a French, or single-zero, roulette wheel is 22-18-29-7-28-12-35-3-26-0-32-15-19-4-21-2-25.) The “orphelins” (“orphans”) make up two slices of the French roulette wheel in the middle (17-34-6 and 1-20-14-31-9.) The rest of the wheel is called “le tiers du cylindre” (“third of the wheel”) and comprises the 12 numbers on the side of the wheel opposite the “voisins du zero,” between 27–33 (that’s 27-13-36-11-30-8-23-10-5-24-16-33.)

En Prison’ and ‘La Partage’

If you memorize only two French roulette terms when you play French roulette online, memorize these. They refer to the two specific rules that lower the house edge in French roulette. The “en prison” rule allows you to take half your bet back if the ball lands in the zero pocket. In other words, you only lose half your bet. Alternatively, you can leave your bet “in prison” for another spin. If the ball lands in zero again, you lose it all, but if you win the bet, you break even. Under the rule of “la partage” (“the division,”) you get half your wager back if the ball lands in zero, but you don’t have the option to take a free ride like in “en prison.” Both of these rules apply to even-money bets only.

Useful Phrases

If you do find yourself playing casino games in a French establishment, knowing a few basic phrases can help improve your experience. They’re not related to betting, but they’re useful nonetheless. “Merci beaucoup” (“thank you very much”) is probably the most important, whether you’re talking to the “personnel” (staff) or another “joueur” (player.) The croupier will be especially well disposed towards you if you say “Personnel, merci” while handing over a “pourboire” (tip.) If your game goes well, you may want to find the “caissier” (cashier) and pay by “jeton” (check.) At the end of the evening, a hearty “au revoir” (“goodbye.”) always goes down well. If you’d like to practice your French without traveling, you can always look for French-language live dealer games.

Why Play French Roulette?

Other than providing one of the most entertaining ways to learn French, what other reasons are there for including the French version in your roulette strategy?

The biggest difference between American and European roulette is that American wheels have one more number than their European counterparts and there is a slight difference in the order of numbers on the wheel. American roulette contains the numbers 1–36, a single zero (0,) and a double zero (00.) European roulette doesn’t include the double zero.

While this doesn’t seem to make a huge difference, it actually significantly alters the house edge and makes the odds in French roulette slightly better.

Play at a Casino That Speaks Your Language – BetMGM

Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, and if you want to learn French online, what better way than with exciting online casino games?

Whatever your game, you’ll get every opportunity to practice when you register at BetMGM. Virtual and live dealer variants of French, European and American roulette are all available in the BetMGM online casino, along with blackjack, baccarat and Texas Hold’em poker. If you’re looking for games that are easier to play but just as much fun, the broad range of online slots and variety games will keep you entertained. All games are optimized for mobile, so you can be assured of a premium experience whether you play casino games on the couch or when you’re out and about.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.