Fun, glamour of roulette at Placerville’s Red Hawk 

The classic, Monte Carlo-style roulette glamorized in movies with its colorful spinning wheel and big stacks of chips is specifically banned in California.

But just as there is a legal variant that allows a form of craps, or dice, in casinos using cards, so too exist roulette card games.

These card roulette games have the same design betting table and a wheel, like those in Nevada, and bigger California Indian casinos have developed their own legal games.

There are three Mystery Card Roulette tables at Red Hawk Casino off state Highway 50 near Placerville: two on the main gaming floor and one downstairs in the non-smoking gaming section. Be sure to sign up for Red Hawk’s Rewards Card and hand it to your table games dealer or croupier. Unlike some clubs, at Red Hawk, card members can collect points while playing table games.

Most histories credit French mathematician Blaise Pascal with inventing roulette (French for “little wheel”) in the mid-1600s.

Traditional roulette is played with a spinning wheel with 38 divided slots (in the U.S.) numbered 1 to 36 alternately colored red or black, with two green slots numbered zero and double-zero (a house advantage). Players bet on a table layout with numbered squares corresponding to the wheel (the inside) and alternative bets (red or black, odd or even and others) on the outside.

Customers place their bets, and the roulette dealer, or croupier, sets a ball spinning inside the spinning roulette wheel.

Eventually, the ball comes to a stop in one of the numbered slots. Players who’ve made the corresponding bet, win.

The roulette games at Red Hawk “are doing very well,” said Peter Nairn, vice president of gaming operations.

When Red Hawk opened, he wasn’t sure whether their version would prove popular. “You’re not quite sure what’s going to happen with the game. It’s not traditional,” Nairn said.

But on a recent weekend visit, both main floor tables were packed with players, and I waited for a while before landing a seat.
Roulette has proven to be “very popular,” Nairn said. “We started with one table, and added two. Three’s the right number.”

There’s no white ball to spin at Red Hawk. There is a large wheel, with alternating gold and black colored slots. In each of the 38 slots is a playing card. The cards are marked to correspond to the traditional wheel — 1-red-odd, 2-black-even, and so on.

The croupier spins the wheel — officially a “random card selection device” — and when the wheel stops, the card in the winning position is pulled and the table marked. Those who made the correct bet win.

The cards are changed every day and shuffled every two hours and replaced in their slots, Nairn said.

“It’s completely random,” and the cards are constantly being changed, he said.

Playing instructions are available on the Red Hawk website.

Red Hawk Casino

Where: 1 Red Hawk Parkway, Placerville
Phone: (888) 573-3495
On the Web:
Slots: 2,100
Tables: 75, including seven poker
Restaurants: Five
Extras: Players club members can get discounts of up to 20 percent at area hotels. Nonsmoking games downstairs. Child care and arcade games for children.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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