Roulette comes to us via the French where the word roulette is literally translated as “small wheel.” Many historians believe that roulette originated in the 1790’s in Paris.
The basic game is played by players making bets on either a single number, various groupings of numbers (columns, rows, lines,—more on these later) the colors (red or black), whether the number is odd or even, or if the numbers are high (19–36) or low (1–18). There are 36 numbers on the wheel and one zero, and most games add a double zero, (we have even seen triple zero roulette games!) all corresponding to the same numbers on the layout of the table. Essentially, you are betting on which number the ball will land on in the wheel.
To determine the winning number and color, a dealer (or, croupier, in Europe) spins the numbered wheel and then spins a small white ball in the opposite direction. The dealer also stops players from further betting (announcing: “No more bets”) as the wheel slows until the ball lands in one of the 37 (single zero French/European style roulette) or 38 (double zero American style roulette) colored and numbered pockets on the wheel. (We will discuss more about the differences between American and European later in this article.) The winnings are then paid to anyone who has placed a successful bet.
Now let’s take a look at how to play roulette.
To start, offer your money (buy-in) to the dealer by placing your bill(s) down on the table and take a seat (although you do not have to be seated to play.) There are usually six chairs at a roulette table.
The croupier (dealer) will then assign a chip color to you (or you can ask for your favorite color if it’s not being used by someone else) that only you will use, to differentiate your play from the others at the table.
All roulette tables have a minimum chip value; for example we will use $1 as the minimum. If you buy-in for $100, you would receive 100 of the colored chips selected or assigned to you. You could also request a higher denomination for your chips such as $2 or $5 and you would receive the reciprocal amount in chips for that value. The dealer makes note of your chip value with a marker next to him on the railing. When you are done playing, you must exchange your colored chips for regular money-valued chips that you can redeem at the cashier’s cage. The colored chips have no value anywhere else in the casino.
Besides the minimum chip value, there is also a minimum amount that must be bet on each spin of the wheel. The minimum bet will also be found posted on the table. For example, the table sign might say, “$2 minimum inside and $5 minimum outside.”
So, 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 sum total of all your bets on the numbers must be at least $2.
Outside bets are all of those betting areas outside of the individual numbers. The $5 minimum outside bet in this case would mean that any of the outside bets that pay 2-to-1, or even money, would require you to bet at least $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.
Now you must decide on the bets you want to make and let’s start with the inside numbers.
A straight bet is betting one number (example: your favorite number is your birthday, let’s say, it’s 5.) You bet the minimum inside bet and place two of your $1 chips on #5. If it lands on 5 after the dealer spins, you win! And it pays 35-to-1! An easy, $70 right? (Actually, in this case it would be $72 because you also get your original bet back too.) Not so fast. You should understand that the casino advantage on a double-zero roulette game is 5.26% on every bet you can make, except for one (the five number bet is 7.89%). Why? Because of the zero and double zero, of course! There are actually 38 numbers as possible outcomes instead of the 36 numbers you see on the layout and the payoff is only 35-to-1 rather than the true odds of 37-to-1.
There are a multitude of additional optional ways to bet at roulette including splits (bet the line between adjacent numbers.) They pay 17-to-1.
Split your chip between 4 adjoining numbers, called a corner bet, and the payoff is 8-to-1, if any of the four numbers hit.
A street bet is a row of three numbers across the board and pays 11-to-1 on any of the three numbers.
A double street covers what it sounds like; two streets covering six numbers and if it wins, pays off at 5-to-1.
It is advised to never make a bet on the “5 number bet” covering the zero, double zero and 1, 2 and 3. It pays off at 6-to-1 but has a casino advantage of a whopping 7.89%! It is the worst possible bet on the roulette table. Don’t make this bet. Instead, bet each of the five numbers separately to lower the house edge to 5.26% on each of your bets.
Now, we’ll look at the outside bets but keep in mind that the house edge of 5.26% remains the same for all of these bets too.
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.
Betting red or black, odd or even and 1-18 or 19-36 all pay even money. If you win, in our $5 minimum outside bet example, you would win $5, plus get your original $5 bet back for total of $10.
Betting the “dozens” means a group of 12 numbers clearly labeled on the outside of the layout as 1-12, 13-24 and 25-36. Placing and winning a bet in any of those three sections pays off at 2-to-1.
The “column” bet is similar. You will find it at the bottom of the layout and covers the 12 numbers that correspond to that column of numbers. There are three possible column bets and the payoff if you win is the same as the dozens bet: 2-to-1.
So, now that you know all about playing roulette, the big question would be “how do you win at the game of roulette?”Well, some casino games such as blackjack or video poker are games of skill where you can increase your chances of winning by learning how to properly play your hand in any given situation. However, skill doesn’t apply in roulette because it is strictly a game of luck.
Therefore, there are no betting strategies for roulette that will make you a long term winner at the game. While it can be fun to play, with a house advantage of 5.26% there is little you can do to overcome that obstacle. That said, anything can happen can in the short run.
You may have heard the story of Englander Ashley Revell. In 2004, he bet his entire life savings on a single roulette bet at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Downtown Las Vegas. He put more than $135,000 on the outside “red.”The ball landed on red 7 and Revell collected $270,600 on his win. He repeated a similar feat in 2019, betting less money, but winning again. Note: In no way are we advocating that you put your life savings on the spin of a wheel! Rather, we are just relating a winning story of interest for all of you roulette players.
Actually, there is one way to improve your chances of being a winner at roulette and that is by finding a single-zero roulette game because it has a lower house edge. Single-zero roulette, also known as European roulette, has only one zero and it does not include a double-zero pocket. There are only 37 numbers in total on a single-zero roulette wheel, but there are 38 numbers in total on a roulette wheel that also includes a double zero. A single-zero roulette game has a lower casino advantage better odds, 2.70%, because there is one less number on the wheel.
There are two Las Vegas casinos that offer a single-zero game with a minimum bet of only around $10: Downtown at The Plaza, and along the Strip at The Cromwell. Of course, there are other casinos in Las Vegas with single-zero roulette but none with the low limits offered at those two casinos. At other Las Vegas casinos the minimums are often $25 and many go as high as $100. Most single-zero roulette games are found in the high limit rooms. There are nine other Las Vegas casinos besides the Plaza and Cromwell, as of March 2020, that offer single-zero roulette. They can be found at Aria, Bellagio, Encore, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Palazzo, Venetian and Wynn. But be aware that Palazzo and Venetian also have some triple-zero roulette games (which raises the casino advantage to 7.69%!) so check the tables carefully before playing. As stated previously, a single-zero roulette game reduces the house edge to 2.70% as compared to the normal 5.26% edge on a double-zero roulette wheel.
In Atlantic City casinos, state gaming regulations allow for outside even-money bets to only take half your bet if 0 or 00 comes up. It lowers the house bet to 2.63% on outside bets, exactly half of the normal 5.26% casino advantage. However this only applies on double-zero wheels and not for single-zero wheels.
And in Europe, they have even more relaxed rules beneficial to roulette players. As noted at the beginning of this article roulette began in Europe and most of the casinos in Europe use a single-zero wheel. That 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 double-zero roulette wheel.
To improve your chances and cut down losses, always look for single-zero games, also use your player’s card at the table to earn comps, and be sure use any casino matchplay coupons that may be available. And, don’t spend too long playing the game! The game does play fairly slowly, so you can have some fun and get a comped drink, but avoid overstaying any good (or bad) luck runs! And, remember, you will need “good luck” to win at this game!
Finally, in closing, no “betting systems” work for roulette. One popular (wrong!) theory is called the Martingale system, a simple system of doubling your bet whenever you lose. It has been proved wrong repeatedly by mathematicians and will cost you a lot of money to try it!
Others look for “wheel bias,” a way to watch or clock a wheel for patterns. You would have to watch hundreds of roulette wheels for long hours to find even the slightest bias to any wheel. Another bad system to avoid.
Before finishing this article on roulette, let’s take a closer look at the Martingale betting system that some roulette players like to use. As noted above, it is a rather a simple system of just doubling your bet whenever you lose. Many players think that if you just double your bet each time then you’ll have to win eventually and, therefore, you will always come out ahead.
As an example, let’s say you’re playing roulette and you bet $1 on black, if you lose then you double your next bet to $2. If that loses, then you make your next bet $4 and if that also loses, then double-up on your next bet to $8 and keep following that pattern until you win. The idea is that when you finally do win you will end up with a profit equal to your original bet, which in this case is $1. So, if you tried this same system starting with a $5 bet, then you would have to bet $10 after your first loss, $20 after your second loss, $40 after your fourth loss and keep going until you eventually won. Then you would pocket a $5 profit.
Now, on paper, this sounds like a great idea because you are guaranteed a profit, but in real life it’s not quite so good because, eventually, you will have a bad run of luck and it will force you to risk a great amount of money for a very small profit.
Also, keep in mind that you are only betting on the next spin of the wheel and each spin is an independent event. The wheel doesn’t care what happened in the past. Every time a double-zero roulette wheel spins the odds are constant for a red/black, odd/even, high/low, result: 18 out of 38. So, just because red came in six times times in a row, the odds are still 18 out of 38 for the next spin to be red again and the house advantage against your bet is 5.26%.
So, even if your goal was to only make a $1 profit, sooner or later you will hit a big losing streak where you will have to bet a rather large amount of money in order to make that $1 profit. For example, if you play seven spins without winning, then you would have to bet $128 on the eighth spin and if that lost then you’d have to bet $256. Would you really want to risk that kind of money just to make a $1 profit? Probably not!
Of course, you may think that the odds are highly unlikely that you could 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 the Martingale betting system is that you won’t be able to always double your bet. That is because every roulette table has a maximum bet limit and in most casinos that limit is about $500.
Most importantly, keep in mind that the Martingale system probably works best when it’s played for fun on paper and not for real money in a casino. There are many players who have gone bankrupt using this betting system, so be careful if you attempt to use it. Good luck!
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