Virtually all American casinos use a double-zero roulette wheel which has pockets numbered from 1 to 36, plus 0 and 00 for a total of 38 pockets. This is in contrast to Europe where a single-zero wheel is used and the game has always been the most popular in the casino.
There are usually six seats at the roulette table and to help the dealer differentiate what each player is betting every player is assigned a different color chip which they purchase right at the table. Each table has its own minimum chip values and that information is usually posted on a sign at the table. As an example let’s say a table has a $1 minimum chip value. This means that when you give the dealer your money the colored chips he gives you in return must have a minimum value of $1 each. So, if you gave the dealer $50 he would ask what value you wanted on the chips and if you said $1 he would give you 50 colored chips.
If you prefer, you could say you wanted the chips valued at $2 each and he would just give you 25 chips rather than 50. You can make the value of your colored chips anything you want and you’ll notice that when the dealer gives you your chips he’ll put one of your chips on the railing near the wheel with a marker on top to let him know the value of your chips. Later on when you’re done playing at that table you must exchange your colored chips for regular chips before leaving. The colored chips have no value anywhere else in the casino so don’t leave the table with them.
Besides the minimum chip value, there is also a minimum amount that must be bet on each spin of the wheel. Once again, the minimums are probably posted on a sign at the table and if it says $2 minimum inside and $5 minimum outside this means that if you are betting on any of the 38 numbers that pay 35-to-1 the total of all your bets must be $2. You could make two different $1 bets or one $2 bet, it doesn’t matter except that the total of all your bets on the numbers must be at least $2. The $5 minimum outside means that any of the outside bets that pay 2-to-1, or even money, require that you bet $5 each time. On the outside bets you can’t make a $3 bet and a $2 bet to meet the minimums – you have to bet at least $5 every time. After you’ve exchanged your cash for colored chips you’re ready to place your first bet so, let’s see what your options are:
You can make a straight bet where you only bet on one number and if it comes in you. ll be paid 35-to-1. The casino advantage on this bet is 5.26% and by the time you. re done with this roulette section I’m sure you. ll be very familiar with that number.
Another choice you have is to do a split . This is where you put a chip on the line that separates two numbers. If either number comes up you’ll be paid at 17-to-1. The casino advantage on this bet is 5.26%.
If you put a chip in an area that splits 4 numbers this is called a corner bet and if any one of those 4 numbers comes in you will be paid off at 8-to-1. The casino advantage on this bet is 5.26%.
If you put a chip at the beginning of a row of 3 numbers, this is called a street bet and if any one of those 3 numbers shows up you will be paid off at 11-to-1. The casino advantage on this bet is 5.26%.
You can also put a chip on the line between two streets so that you have a double street covered and if any one of those 6 numbers come in you. ll be paid off at 5-to-1. The casino advantage on this bet is?… you guessed it…5.26%.
The only other bet you can make on the inside numbers is the 5- number bet where you place one chip in the upper left corner of the number 1 box. If any one of those 5 numbers comes in you’ll be paid off at 6-to-1 and what do you think the casino advantage is on this bet? Nope, I gotcha… it’s 7.89%. Actually, this is the worst possible bet on the roulette table and the only bet you’ll come across that doesn’t have a 5.26% house edge on the double-zero roulette wheel. You should never make this bet.
One quick word here about “to” and “for” when discussing odds. Whenever the odds are stated as “to” this means that in addition to the stated payoff you also receive your original bet back. In other words, if you won your single number bet in roulette you would receive 35-to-1, which is a 35-chip payoff, plus you’d still keep your original one-chip bet, so you end up with 36 chips. Now if the odds are stated as “for” that means you do not receive back your original bet. If the odds in your single number bet were 35-for-1 you would still receive a 35-chip payoff but the casino would keep your original one-chip bet so you would only end up with 35 chips. The only place in a casino where the odds are always stated as “for” is in video poker. You might also come across it on a couple of craps bets where the odds are stated as “for-one” rather than “to-one” in order to give the casino a slightly better edge.
Now, getting back to our roulette examples, let’s look at all of the outside bets that you can make and keep in mind that the house edge on all of these outside bets is…do you remember the number?…that’s right…5.26%.
There are three bets you can make that will pay you even money, or 1-to-1, which means that if you win, you will get back one dollar for every dollar you bet:
Red or black – If you put a chip on red then a red number must come up in order for you to win. If the ball lands on a black number, 0 or 00 – you lose. The same thing goes for black – you lose if it comes in red, 0 or 00 and you win if the ball lands on a black number.
Odd or even – If you put a chip on odd then the ball must land on an odd number in order for you to win. If it lands on 0, 00, or an even number – you lose. If you bet on even, you win if an even number shows up and lose if the ball lands on 0, 00 or an odd number.
1 through 18 and 19 through 36 – If you bet on 1 through 18, then you win if a number from 1 through 18 comes in and you lose if the ball lands on 0, 00 or a number higher than 18. Similarly, if you bet on 19 through 36, you win if one of those numbers comes in and you lose on 0, 00 or any number lower than 19.
The only other bets left are the dozens and columns bets. If you look at the roulette betting layout you can see three areas that each correspond to 12-number sections on the table. The one marked 1st 12 covers the numbers from 1 to 12, the one marked 2nd 12 covers the numbers from 13 to 24 and the other one that’s marked 3rd 12 covers the last section of numbers from 25 to 36. If you bet on the 1st 12 you would win if a number from 1 to 12 came in and you would lose if anything else came in, including 0 or 00. The same principle holds true for each of the other dozen bets where you would win if a number in that section came in and you would lose if anything else showed up. All dozens bets pay 2-to-1.
The last bet to look at is the column bet and that is also a bet that pays 2-to-1. There are three possible column bets you can make and you’ll notice that each area corresponds to the numbers in the column directly above it. So, if you put a chip under the first column you will win if any of the numbers in that column come in and you will lose if any other number, including 0 or 00 shows up. Once again, the same rule is in effect for each of the other columns where you would win if the number appears in the column above your bet and you would lose if it doesn’t.
All right, now you know all the possible bets and you know how to make them at the table. So, the next question is “How do you win?” and the answer to that is very simple – You have to get lucky! And that’s the ONLY way you can win at roulette. As you found out earlier, every bet, except for the 5-number bet, which I’m sure you’ll never make, has a house edge of?…that’s right…5.26%. So, feel free to put your chips all over the table and then just hope that you’re lucky enough to have one of your numbers come up. You see, it just doesn’t matter what you do because you’ll always have that same house edge of 5.26% working against you on every bet you make.
Now, you may have heard of a system for roulette where you should place your bets only on the numbers that are evenly spaced out around the wheel. For example, if you wanted to play only four numbers, you could bet on 1,2,31 and 32 because when you looked at a roulette wheel, you would notice that if you divided it into four equal parts, you would have a number that appears in each of the four sections. So, is this a good system? Well, actually it’s no better and no worse than any other roulette system. The fact is that it’s purely a matter of chance where the ball happens to land and it makes no difference whether the numbers you choose are right next to each other or evenly spaced out on the wheel. Each number has an equal chance to occur on every spin of the wheel and the house edge always remains at 5.26%.
You can probably tell that I wouldn’t recommend roulette as a good game to play because there are other games that offer much better odds, but if you really insist on playing the game I have three good suggestions for you. #1 – Go to Atlantic City! In Atlantic City if you make an even-money outside bet, like red or black, odd or even, 1 through 18 or 19 through 36 and if 0 or 00 come up, the state gaming regulations allow the casino to take only half of your bet. Because you only lose half of your bet this also lowers the casino edge on these outside bets in half to 2.63%. This rule is only in effect for even-money bets so keep in mind that on all other bets the house edge still remains at that very high 5.26%.
The second suggestion I have for you also involves some travel and here it is: Go to Europe! The game of roulette began in Europe and many casinos over there use a single-zero wheel which makes it a much better game because the house edge on a single-zero roulette wheel is only 2.70%. To make it even better, they have a rule called “en prison” which is similar to the Atlantic City casino rule. If you make an even-money outside bet and the ball lands on 0 you don’t lose right away. Instead, your bet is “imprisoned” and you have to let it ride on the next spin. Then, if your bet wins, you can remove it from the table. Because of this rule, the casino edge on this bet is cut in half to 1.35% which makes it one of the best bets in the casino and almost four times better than the same bet when it’s made on a standard double-zero roulette wheel in the United States.
Now, if you’re not into traveling and you don’t think you can make it to Atlantic City or Europe, then you’ll just have to settle for suggestion #3 which is: Win quickly! Naturally, this is easier said than done, but in reality, if you want to win at roulette the best suggestion I can give you is that you try to win quickly and then walk away from the table because the longer you continue to bet the longer that big 5.26% house edge will keep eating away at your bankroll. One major principle of gambling is that in order to win you must only play the games that have the lowest casino edge and, unfortunately, roulette is not one of them.
Before closing out this look at roulette, let’s take a minute to examine one of the most famous betting systems of all time and the one that many people frequently like to use on roulette. It’s called the Martingale system and it is basically a simple system of doubling your bet whenever you lose. The theory behind it is that sooner or later you’ll have to win and thus, you will always come out ahead. As an example, let’s say you’re playing roulette and you bet $1 on red, if you lose you double your next bet to $2 and if you lose that then you double your next bet to $4 and if you lose that you double your next bet to $8 and so forth until you eventually win. Now, when you finally do win you will end up with a profit equal to your original bet, which in this case is $1. If you started the same system with a $5 bet, you would have to bet $10 after your first loss, $20 after your second loss and so forth, but whenever you won you would end up with a $5 profit.
In theory, this sounds like a good idea but in reality it’s a terrible system because eventually you will be forced to risk a great amount of money for a very small profit. Let’s face it, even if you only wanted to make a $1 profit on each spin of the wheel, sooner or later you will hit a major losing streak where you will have to bet an awful lot of money just to make that $1 profit. For example, if you go eight spins without a winner, you would have to bet $256 on the next spin and if that lost then you’d have to bet $512. Would you really want to risk that kind of money just to make $1? I don’t think so. You may think that the odds are highly unlikely that you would lose that many bets in a row, but eventually it will happen and when it does you will suffer some astronomical losses. One other problem with this system is that eventually you won’t be able to double your bet because you will have reached the casino maximum, which in most casinos is $500 on roulette. Just keep in mind that the Martingale system works best when it’s played for fun on paper and not for real money in a casino. If it was truly a winning system it would have bankrupted the world’s casinos years ago.