Straight Up & En Prison: The Intriguing World of Roulette Lingo


Roulette is quite possibly the most iconic casino game. Sure, fans of blackjack and poker might argue that their game of choice is superior. But roulette is the purer game of chance, the one that is most synonymous with the rich history of the casino industry. 

It is one of the oldest games, with its roots stretching back to 17th century France and its creator, the mathematician Blaise Pascal. Pascal would never have dreamed that his primitive form of roulette would have become an icon of gambling halls from Las Vegas to Macao 100s of years after his death. 

Of course, the game has evolved since Pascal’s time, most notably in its language. And it’s interesting as that evolution has charted different steps in our own linguistic journey over the centuries, with roulette using a blend of words borrowed from different languages and different eras. 

To understand roulette, is to understand some of its unique language. To play the game, you must first get a handle of the odds and payouts of roulette. But appreciating its language is something else – it’s, let’ say, cultural. 

French origins still loom over game

So, where to start? Well, why not with the name of the game itself? Roulette means “little wheel”, coming from the old French word “roelete”. It’s still understood in modern usage through the French word “roel” (wheel) and the affix “ette”, which denote small or little. 

French words still permeate through the game. But, as often happens in linguistics, there can be changes to the original meaning. For example, if you bet on a single number in roulette, we call that a Straight Up bet in English. The French term is En Plein, which means “in full”. They have different meanings for the same thing. 

It can get confusing, too, with terms like Orphans and Orphelins. The latter is the French translation for the former. But in betting terminology, Orphans is a specific bet on neighbouring numbers of 34, 17 and 16, whereas Orphelins is a bet on neighbouring numbers of a non-specific group. 

Not all French-English crossover terms are confusing. A Douzaine is the same as a Dozen Bet, which is a wager on a group of 12 numbers, and a Colonne is the same as Column Bet, which is a wager on a column of numbers. 

If you are playing French Roulette, look out for the term En Prison (in prison). While it suggests something negative, it’s actually a benefit for the player. It refers to the retention of even-money stakes when the ball lands in the zero pocket, which are returned to the player if the next bet is a winning one. 

Some terms are logical 

Moving away from the French terms, you’ll appreciate that a lot of roulette terms come from the position on the wheel and the betting table: Red/Black, Odd/Even, Split Bet (two numbers) and Corner Bet (four numbers) are all fairly self-explanatory. 


As you might expect, technology plays a role in the changing language of roulette. For instance, when we speak of Live Dealer Roulette, we are talking about live games streamed from an online casino, not an in-person game. Indeed, because of the prevalence of online live dealer games, some terminology is changing. 

Traditional terms like Dealer and Croupier (the French-based equivalent) are starting to disappear, being replaced by Host, which better reflects the game-show elements that you’ll find with live games at the online casino. 

What’s next for the evolution of roulette language? Well, some believe the future of casino will be wrapped up in the metaverse. So, expect to see new terms appear in this blending of the virtual and physical world.