Roulette

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Roulette by Mike Shackleford aka Wizard of Odds

Roulette is one of the oldest and simplest casino games. It involves a spinning wheel with 37 to 39 numbered slots and a ball. The player bets on a number or group of numbers the ball will hopefully land in. This article explains the different ways to bet in roulette and the effects of different rules on these wagers. While roulette is mostly a game of dumb luck, it is very important to choose the best set of rules you can find. Depending on the rules, some bets may have a lower house edge than others, so bet selection matters, too.

Rule Variations

The most important decision to be made in roulette is game selection. Sometimes, the rules will be different from one wheel to the next in the same casino, and other times every wheel will have the same rules. Listed below are the various versions of roulette I have seen and their rules. Not everybody necessarily adopts the same parlance, but my terminology below seems to be the most common.

American

Also known as "double-zero roulette," the American version features two zeros -- a 0 and 00 -- for a total of 38 numbers. This is the usual set of rules in the United States, but some liberal Las Vegas casinos will offer European or French rules for high limits.

European

Also known as "single-zero roulette," the European version features one 0, for a total of 37 numbers. I believe this to be the standard for most of Europe. These rules can also be found in some Las Vegas casinos at high limits.

French

This the same as European roulette, but the player loses only half his bet if the ball lands in zero on an even money bet. These rules can be found on high limit tables in France, Monaco, and Las Vegas.

Atlantic City

This the same as American roulette, but the player loses only half his bet if the ball lands in zero or double-zero on an even money bet. I have seen these rules in Atlantic City only.

Sands

This new version of roulette features effectively three zeros -- a 0, 00, and an S, for a total of 39 possible outcomes. It can be found at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Bets

Following are the various types of bets in roulette. For each a table, the probability of winning and house edge under the five sets of rules above is provided.

Single Number

The player can bet on any individual number he wishes. To make these bets, place your bet directly on the number itself. Wins pays 35 to 1.

Point

Prob. Win

House Edge

American

2.63%

5.26%

European

2.70%

2.70%

French

2.70%

2.70%

Atlantic City

2.63%

5.26%

Sands

2.56%

7.69%

Two_Numbers_Roulette

Two Numbers

The player may bet on any adjacent two numbers on the betting layout by placing the bet on the border. Wins pay 17 to 1.

Game

Prob. Win

House Edge

American

5.26%

5.26%

European

5.41%

2.70%

French

5.41%

2.70%

Atlantic City

5.26%

5.26%

Sands

5.13%

7.69%

Three Numbers

Three_Numbers_Roulette_3

The player may bet on any row of three numbers on the betting layout. To make this bet, place your wager at the edge of the row. You can also cover some combination of the zeros and the numbers 1 to 3 by placing your wager on the intersection of three betting areas. Wins pay 11 to 1.

Game

Prob. Win

House Edge

American

7.89%

5.26%

European

8.11%

2.70%

French

8.11%

2.70%

Atlantic City

7.89%

5.26%

Sands

7.69%

7.69%

Four Numbers

Four_Numbers_Roulette

The most common way to bet four numbers is on the intersection of four numbers on the betting layout.  In any single-zero game, you can also cover the 0, 1, 2, and 3. Wins pay 8 to 1.

Game

Prob. Win

House Edge

American

10.53%

5.26%

European

10.81%

2.70%

French

10.81%

2.70%

Atlantic City

10.53%

5.26%

Sands

10.26%

7.69%

Five Numbers

Five_Numbers_Roulette

This is the most dreaded bet in American and Atlantic City roulette. It pays 6 to 1 and has the highest house edge of any bet under those rules at 7.69%. It is made by covering the 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3. Never, ever, make this bet. If you must cover those numbers, just bet them individually, to lower the house edge to 5.26%.

Six Numbers

Six_Numbers_Roulette

This bet covers two rows of numbers and is made by placing the chip at the border of the two rows and the edge of the layout. Wins pay 5 to 1.

Game

Prob. Win

House Edge

American

15.79%

5.26%

European

16.22%

2.70%

French

16.22%

2.70%

Atlantic City

15.79%

5.26%

Sands

15.38%

7.69%

Twelve numbers

Twelve_Numbers_Roulette

There are six ways to bet a group of 12 numbers -- covering any one of the three columns or a group of 4 rows. The bets on four rows are described as the first, second, or third 12. Wins pay 2 to 1.

Game

Prob. Win

House Edge

American

31.58%

5.26%

European

32.43%

2.70%

French

32.43%

2.70%

Atlantic City

31.58%

5.26%

Sands

30.77%

7.69%

Eighteen numbers

There are six ways to cover 18 numbers in one bet:  red, black, odd, even, 1 to 18, and 19 to 36. If you're fortunate enough to be playing French or Atlantic City rules, if the ball lands in any zero, these wagers lose half only.

Lest the many perfectionists out there correct me, I've heard that in some European casinos instead of losing half the player can choose an "imprisonment" option, where the outcome is based on the next spin, with the player getting only a push on a win. However, most places don't bother with that and just pay the player half, which is the better option anyway when given the choice.  

The following table shows the house edge by the rules. Note the low house edge of 1.35% under French roulette, which is as good as it gets with roulette.

Game

Prob. Win

House Edge

American

47.37%

5.26%

European

48.65%

2.70%

French

48.65%

2.70%

Atlantic City

47.37%

5.26%

Sands

46.15%

7.69%

Conclusion

Let me disabuse you of the idea that the past history of outcomes is of any help. The casino may even have graphics helping to aid you in believing this myth by showing you the last series of numbers or which are the hot and cold ones over the last 300 spins. This will not help you at all. Every spin is independent of the past. Even if the last 100 spins were red, the chance the next one will be black is the same as it will be another red. Nothing is ever overdue in roulette. 

In most cases, it doesn't matter what you bet on in roulette. The most important thing is game selection. If you have the choice of American and European roulette -- of course play European. There is often this choice with Internet casinos. Why anybody chooses American roulette at an Internet casino escapes me, but I'm told they do.  

However, if you're looking to maximize your odds in the casino, you shouldn't play roulette at all. The odds are better in blackjack, craps, and baccarat.

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