The yearning for French Roulette

We asked André Jansen, a former croupier, to share his experiences with us about French roulette as it used to be played in Holland Casino. We think it’s a great story!

When a croupier is asked to tell about French Roulette his blood starts to flow faster. Often this is accompanied by a warm feeling about the time “spent at the table”.

As early as the 19th century, French roulette was played in the then mundane world of casinos by the finefleur of society. A meeting place of the elite, enjoying the thrill of the ‘rien ne va plus’.
Donation to the French RouletteDonation to the French Roulette

The croupier has his say

Croupier, an entirely new profession introduced in the Netherlands in 1976. I remember the moment when I was at the bar in ‘De Colonel’, a café in Zandvoort, talking to an Englishman. He talked about the imminent opening of the first Dutch casino in Zandvoort. Candidates were still being sought to work at the casino.
Advertising croupierThe advertisement at the time
As a tour guide for Neckermann Germany, I traveled through southern Europe and Africa for years. At that time, I was thinking of moving back to the Netherlands. This adventure appealed to me.

The next day a selection would take place in the Transavia building at Schiphol. As it turned out, there were a lot of applicants, despite their unfamiliarity with the subject matter. I went to Schiphol Airport, where a room full of about 100 young people were waiting with a paper in their hands. Just as I entered, a door to an office swung open, out of which came a young man. I looked in and saw a gentleman sitting there behind a desk.

I go in, put out my hand and say, “My name is Jansen, when can I start?” The man stood up and said, “My name is also Jansen, and yes, when can you start?” The next day I was on a course in Haarlem. I became a croupier!

French Roulette in ZandvoortFrench Roulette in Zandvoort

The training

A long training followed, led by the Austrian know-how partner of the “National Foundation for the Exploitation of Casino Games”.

Only German was spoken, no problem for me, years at Neckermann Germany had sharpened my German. Just a month after the start of the course, a number of our 40-strong group (course 2) were allowed to fill in as ’bout de table’ (head coupier) at the French Roulette in the casino and I was one of the 8! Every hour a 15 minute break, in the staff canteen you then met people from many countries, experienced colleagues who loved to tell about the countries where they had worked. You “grew” into the métier.
The Casino
There you were, in a brand new tuxedo, pinned and dusted as a ‘kopcroupier’, at the head of the table, assisting guests and colleagues with placing bets and passing on changes and payments. A small ‘râteau’ (rake) was the tool used to reach the numbers in the second dozen. Exciting, unforgettable, ‘rien ne va plus’….

A wonderful time, you grew into the atmosphere, colleagues of many nationalities were hired to give this first Dutch casino some experience. Often we were the only ones who could understand all the colleagues, and often acted as interpreters for the guests.

Working hours

Late shifts, and back to the course during the day. After 6 months we took an exam and received a real diploma from the general manager. As enthusiastic young employees we wanted to be ‘in the lead group’, a mentality that was necessary to gain acceptance. As a former cyclist I did have that ambition and wanted nothing more than to learn a nice profession and ‘take my chances’. Even in my days off I could be found in the training center, wanted to ‘get good’ as soon as possible….

I spent whole days aligning (placing chips in fractions), ramassing (retrieving chips), making a tableau (retrieving lost chips), making a ‘salad’ (sorting), throwing chips, placing chips, quick calculations and above all, accepting and placing ‘cancellations’.

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Differences from American Roulette

Unlike “American Roulette,” where the guests are supposed to place themselves on a much smaller table served by a single croupier (dealer), the “annonces” (orders) at French Roulette were often placed by a croupier. Guests (gamblers, players) were accustomed to having their play put out by the croupiers, mainly to be assured that their bet would not be claimed by anyone else if any of the numbers played came out.

There were a few “marked” (dashes on tokens) values to the French Roulette, but most people played with the same color. Each annonce had to be repeated in a loud voice, thus confirming the order to the guest, as well as colleagues and table chef.
HC BredaFrench roulette in Holland Casino Breda
On the American Roulette there are 8 suits, and one is expected to place himself, the lost chips are brought in by hand by the dealer, and are sorted by an automatic sorting machine (chipper champ). On French Roulette, however, the lost bets are sorted again by hand each spin and placed back at the cylinder edge (boudin). The value per color can be chosen by the player, from the minimum to the maximum.

Payments on the French Roulette

Payments at the French Roulette are aligned in fractions that differed by value. An ‘en plein’ (full number) with the value 2 was paid by placing 3 pieces of 10, with two fractions of 5 twos attached, then a space at the value 50, then two more fractions of 5 twos until the value 70 (35X2=70). With fives, payment was usually made by putting down 1X100, then 3 fractions of 4 fives, a space, and then 3 more fives. (175=35X5).

At the American Roulette, payment was always made with as many chips in color as possible, each stack that came out of the sorting machine was placed at the cylinder edge by color and always had 20 pieces. When paying an ‘en plein’, two stacks of 20 pieces of the winning color of the ‘boudin’ are taken, and 5 pieces are ‘cut off’ (cut) from one of the stacks. These 35 pieces are then moved to the player.


Annonces at the French Roulette, a few examples: ‘finale 3’ = 3, 13, 23 and 33. Finale 1-4= á cheval 1-4, 11-14, 21-24 and 31-34. “29 with the neighbors”= 7, 18, 22, 28 and 29. (the numbers next to each other in the ciclinder). “20 with the carreés” is the 20 with the 4 carreés around it. So there were many possible cancellations, even very complicated ones, which every croupier had to know, understand and execute.

German guests in particular had made a habit of having elaborate wishes for each bet, not infrequently walked all the tables with them. “Siebzehn vier vier, drei drei eins eins mit louis, rest siebzehn”…. This annonce cost 400 and involved playing on the four numbers left and right around the 17, again on three, and on one neighbor of the 17. One piece of the annonce of 19 left, that had to be on the 17. If the 17 came, there were 4 ‘louis’ on it, so payment was 2800.
BurenprintNeighbor print
The guest (who obviously knows the numbers perfectly) can place a similar annonce on the American Roulette himself. However, a so-called ‘neighbors print’ has been developed, which is printed in the gaming table. See photo above.

Layout and routing of the tables.

French roulette tables are large, and 5 people work on them; one is always ‘on break’. So with these 5 people you can operate one table. With 5 people, you can also keep 3 American Roulette tables open, in an almost equal area. At each table a croupier (dealer), and one supervisor. A “swinger” provides breaks every hour. Often a group of American Roulette tables are combined into a ‘PIT’, and combined with other casino games. It is considered pleasant by the dealers to deal in a combination of different games.
Meanwhile at Holland Casino there is only Roulette, the French tables have been abolished. Many colleagues find this unfortunate, the atmosphere and excitement is different. However, a logical decision from a business point of view. Yours truly sometimes dreams about ever seeing an advertisement: “Wanted: Croupier with experience”. In an old people’s home, a person is found who has not forgotten how to ramass and align. Rien ne va plus!