[<< wikibooks] Roulette/Mechanics
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All roulette tables deal with only four elements:

1. The roulette wheel.
2. The roulette table (aka layout).
3. The ball.  These days the ball is most likely high impact plastic, but originally it was made of ivory.  Modern casinos maintain the integrity of their roulette balls with regular magnetic and x-ray exams.
4. The chips.  Some casinos allow the player to use generic casino chips at the roulette tables, but most require the player to buy in at the table.  The croupier has stacks of various colored chips.  Usually each player gets a different color to help avoid confusion of bets, and the player can designate the value of the chip.  This is particularly interesting because if one does not specify the chips are usually valued at either $1 or the table minimum, however if they player wished for the chips to be worth $0.25, s/he may do so as long as the ‘’’total’’’ wager meets the table minimums for their respective sectors.  So even if the table minimum is $1, one could place four $0.25 bets and still be a legal.
All roulette tables operated by a casino have the same basic mechanics:

There is a balanced mechanical wheel with colored pockets separated by identical vanes and the wheel which spins freely on a supporting post.
The wheel is held within a wooden frame which contains a track around the upper outer edge and blocks of a variety of designs placed approximately halfway down the face of the frame.
A plastic or ivory ball is spun in the track in the frame that holds the wheel.  As the ball loses momentum the centrifugal force is no longer sufficient to hold the ball in the groove and it falls down the face of the frame.  As the ball hits a block its trajectory is randomly altered on all 3 planes (X, Y, and Z) causing the ball to bounce and skip.
The ball falls onto the spinning wheel and eventually lands into one of the pockets.
The number of the pocket the ball falls into determines how the bets placed on the layout table are treated.
After this the specifics of individual tables can vary greatly.
Next | Table Layouts