There are several types of roulette games available for you to spin for the win, but which one is right for you? Oui, you can choose French roulette, with its many types of complicated side bets (all with complicated French names), or American Roulette, with its extra double zero.
Or you can play European roulette for a change of pace. The little wheel (roulette in French) still spins around the same smooth circular motion and the ball bounces, but there are definite advantages to playing European roulette over the other variants.
A Brief History of Roulette
Historians credit Blaise Pascal for giving us the game of roulette. Pascal’s early roulette wheel was his attempt at inventing a perpetual motion machine. Sadly, we still do not have a perpetual motion machine, but we now have the hypnotic spinning roulette wheel as a consolation prize. The lives and labs of inventors are full of hits and misses, and many of the best inventions in history are accidents. The basic rules of invention: if you invent something nobody has seen before, patent it. If you have an accident during the invention process, all is not lost. If the accident burns down your lab, the military will weaponize it. If you can paint numbers on it, a casino will monetize it.
A 1796 French novel describes a roulette wheel in the Palais Royal in Paris. It described the wheel and the betting table in detail, including the pockets and fields reserved for the bank, which makes up the house advantage. Various versions of roulette wheels started rolling around Europe. The French family Blanc brought roulette to the German spa casino town of Bad Homburg, which saw plenty of roulette action—until the German government banned gambling in the 1860s. Undaunted, les Blancs packed up their little wheels and moved to Monte Carlo, the last bastion of legalized gambling in Europe at the time.
The double zero now present mainly on the American roulette wheel was dropped in Monte Carlo. Early French roulette wheels featured both single and double zeros. The double zero was dropped as a way to entice gamblers looking for an edge. The single zero roulette wheel remained a European standard, while the double zero roulette wheel made its way to America via the fine French city of New Orleans.
Fans of numbers might be interested to learn that there is slightly sinister sum imbedded in all roulette wheels. The sum of all numbers on a roulette wheel totals 666, the “Number of the Beast.” Legends say Francois Blanc made a deal with the devil to exploit the secrets of roulette and profit from them. This is a prime example of a contract where the devil is in the details.
The House Edge
All casino games have a house edge, aka house advantage. This percentage figures into every casino game to ensure the profits of the casino. The house edge varies from game to game, and smart gamblers tend to choose games with a lower house edge, thus increasing their chances of winning. Everyone knows that the odds favor the casino, but that same risk is half of the joy of gambling. We prize things that are hard-won.
The house edge varies among casino games from 0.1 – 27%. Keno has the highest house edge, while blackjack games, when played using proper blackjack strategy, come out closer to the zero end. While the house always has an edge, you can choose your game based on the percentages to increase your odds of winning.
Casinos calculate their house edge based on probability and the numbers on the wheel. Because of the extra number on the American roulette wheel (double zero), the house edge increases to 5.26 %. European roulette does not have the double zero, and with one less number in the equation, the house edge decreases to 2.70%. For this reason, many people prefer European roulette over other variants. Americans can always play European roulette online to take advantage of the lower house edge.
Roulette Game Play Basics
A roulette table features a spinning wheel and a betting table printed with numbers and betting fields. A croupier (casino employee with a fancy French name) spins the wheel in one direction, then spins a ball in the opposite direction around a circular track on the outer edge of the wheel. Eventually the ball loses momentum, bounces around a bit off the edges of the number pockets, and finally falls into to one them. A single or double zero result cancels out all table bets, unless you have specifically bet on a zero field. The croupier pays out the winning bets, and rakes the rest over to the banker area.
The layout of the game also varies by region. The position of the numbers on the wheel are not arranged in numerical order. The sequence runs from zero to 36, with numbers placed seemingly randomly along the wheel. The numbers alternate between black and red, with green for the zero. The numerical order of each basic type of roulette wheel is clockwise as follows:
Single-zero wheel (European)
Double-zero wheel (American)
The betting field, or the layout, consists of two basic areas: inside and outside. The inside portion of the layout contains all of the individual numbers from 0 to 36, arranged in columns. The outside part of the layout contains combinations of colors and numbers in groups, i.e. even/odd, black/red, dozens, high/low, and columns.
Another important distinction between European and American roulette: the American variety uses special roulette chips with a different color for each player. European roulette uses the same types of casino chips you would find in a card game. So when playing Euro-roulette, keep track of where your chips are on the table. Or play European roulette online; the computer tracks your bets for you.
Basic Roulette Betting Strategy
For every game there exists a variety of strategies to help you gain an edge. It’s important to remember that the most obvious bets are not the ones with the best odds. Examine odds charts for an exact idea of your chances of winning each type of bet. There are a wide variety of betting combinations available, broken down into two basic types: inside bets and outside bets. Place inside bets on the inside area of the layout, and outside bets on the outside area.
Outside bets (based on odds and chances) are the ‘safest’ bets to make, but they also pay out lower. The odds of hitting red or black is slightly less than 50% (remember the green zero). Other outside bets vary in probability and payout depending on which you choose. Most players hedge their bets by dividing chips among multiple fields along the layout.
Inside bets (based on probability) involve betting on a specific number (straight bet) or a combination of numbers. You may place your chips directly inside a numbered square, or on the lines and corners which separate groups of numbers. Placing a chip on the line between two numbers is a split bet, betting on three in a row is called a street bet, and a chip on the corner of four numbers is called, you guessed it: a corner bet.
Once the croupier has spun the wheel, no more bets may be placed on the table. However, in French and European roulette, a player is allowed to ‘call out’ or announce bets aloud to the croupier. These bets are related to the numbers on the wheel, not the table.
Roulette Betting System Strategies
The following roulette betting systems are about as funny as their names. Strategies get their names from certain people who probably had several good runs, sensed ‘a pattern,’ and then gave the system a name (usually theirs). The first gambler’s fallacy: there is no pattern in roulette. It is truly random. The spin you’re in bears no relation to the one before it, or any of the spins to follow. You could just as easily get 12 black numbers in a row as red. There is no rhyme or reason. Still, these guys thought they could game the system with their ‘sure-fire’ strategies.
The Martingale system is an easy one to remember. Choose one even-odds type of bet (i.e. red or black, odd or even) and stick with it. Whenever you lose, double the next bet. Even after several redoubled bets in a row, a win would repay all of your losses. In theory. This type of bet only works for certain if you have an unlimited bankroll. Otherwise, a long losing streak is sure to cripple you.
The Reverse Martingale does exactly what it says on the tin: double your bets on wins, lower them on losses. The only problem with this system is that it depends entirely on hot streaks. Once the winning streak suddenly ends, you could lose all of your money. This one is more of a hit and run type of strategy. You can only win using this strategy if you are extremely lucky, and know when to walk away with your winnings.
You can use the D’Alembert strategy even if you aren’t playing French roulette. Place a small starting wager on one of the spots mentioned before. There is no doubling involved here. Simply increase your bet by one after a loss, and decrease it by one after a win. After you have won and lost an equal number of times, walk away.
For a system with the least amount of flexibility, try the Fibonacci strategy. This is based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers discovered in the early 1200s. Every number after the first two numbers is the sum of the two preceding numbers. It goes like this: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, etc. You would bet as before (i.e. red or black, even or odd), then increase your bet by going down two numbers in the sequence when you lose, and decrease your bet by two numbers in the sequence when you win.
James Bond had a system of his own, and it sounds just as fictional as the man himself. You just need at least $200 and some time. Place $140 on the high numbers (19-36). Bet $50 on the numbers 13 through 18. Place $10 on 0 for insurance. Repeat this betting combo until you are ahead of the game. This system favors the higher numbers, and if you keep hitting them, you’re fine. Obviously, Bond never hit a 00 or 7.
Follow these tips and tricks to help you win at European roulette, whether you play online roulette or stroll into a brick-and-mortar casino. Just be sure to understand the rules of the game, don’t bet all your money on a half-baked system, and most importantly: good luck and have fun!