One of the, “Big Three,” (Along with Craps and Blackjack) and coming from the French word for, “Little wheel,” Roulette is one of the longest extant casino games out there. Starting out in the 18th century in a form really close to its current form, Roulette is a game that is as easy to play as Baccarat (the player does nothing except make bets) and the easiest to understand.
Simply, the player makes a bet on a single number, or alternatively, makes one of many available bets that cover multiple numbers. Additionally, the player can also bet on multiple individual numbers (or multiple bets consisting of more than one number) if the player likes. While some players stick to Even Money or 3-For-1 bets, (more on specific bets later) most live casino players seem to enjoy picking individual numbers by hunch or that hold some sort of affinity for them.
Roulette was once more popular than it currently is, although it has experienced a recent resurgence in certain casinos in Las Vegas due to Millennials enjoying the game. This is probably due to the simplicity of the game and casual pace. While Roulette has a higher House Edge than a game such as Blackjack, in some cases, a player might actually lose less per hour on Roulette due to the slower speed of the live game.
Roulette felts are often green, especially in live casinos, but online casinos (and certain live casinos) prefer to switch up the color scheme in support of the aesthetics of the casino. Some casinos may use sandy colored felts, whereas I have also personally seen bluish felts.
Other than some side bets which have not spread, Roulette is a simple game in which the croupier (proper term for a Roulette dealer) spins a ball until the ball comes to rest in one of the slots. If the ball lands on a winning individual number for the player, or if it lands such that the number corresponds to a multi-number bet, (Black-29 would win if the player bets Black, for example) then the bet wins. If the number hit does not correspond to the player’s bet, then the bet loses.
The Roulette Wheel
Before we get into the specifics of Roulette, there are a number of misconceptions that should be dispelled. I want to get this out of the way now because it is fairly important not to fall into any, “Traps.”
Many players believe that if they, “Track,” a Roulette wheel, then they can make bets that, “Should,” win by betting either with or against streaks. How about that notion? If betting with streaks was viable, then all of those players would be winning and those betting against would be in error. If betting against streaks was viable, then the, “With streaks,” players would be in the wrong.
The truth of the matter is that the majority of bets on the Roulette wheel have the same house edge. If we are talking about a, “European,” (single zero) wheel, then the probability of any number hitting is 1/37. Some players like to wait for a number to come up two or three times in a row and then load up on that number thinking it will happen again. That’s not true. While you are extremely unlikely to see it happen, the wheel doesn’t care if the same number has appeared twelve times in a row, provided that there is not some flaw with the wheel.
Many players believe in a concept called, “Visual Ballistics.” That essentially refers to watching the ball circle the Roulette wheel and having a general notion, right before bets close, of where the ball is going to land. While successfully adopting this practice is theoretically possible, one would have to spend tons of time training/practicing at it, and even then, its viability is disputed by many gambling specialists. I personally think it is possible in a live casino, though insanely difficult. There are much easier advantages to be had.
Some people believe that they can identify a flawed wheel and bet on that to their advantage. What I will say about that is many casinos recalibrate their wheels frequently in an effort to ensure that they are, “Balanced.” In other words, all of the results of that wheel are fed to the casino and the casino itself is able to become aware of any wheel bias that may exist well before most players would be able to identify it, assuming the individual player could at all. Again, before computer tracking on the end of the casino, this may have once been a viable way to beat the Roulette wheel, but it would be insanely difficult now if it is even possible.
In the meantime, many players like to adopt betting systems in an effort to beat the game. Among these systems is the Martingale, which we have discussed at length elsewhere, and other popular systems are the Labouchere’ and Fibonacci. Feel free to look those up on your own time if you are interested.
The only thing I will say about Roulette systems, for the purposes of this writing, is that they are all entirely useless and your long-term results over enough spins will come very close to the expected loss pursuant to the house edge. In fact, betting systems perform worse against Roulette than against games such as Craps or Baccarat because Roulette has a greater house edge working against the player. More on House Edge later.
While Roulette may be a viable casino game if someone has an angle such as a Loss Rebate, most of the time, Roulette is not even the best game to play for those purposes. Again, this is because Roulette has a greater House Edge than many other Table Games.
In terms of playing straight up, Roulette should be generally avoided unless you really enjoy the game, are playing for fun and with money, you can afford to lose. Games such as Craps, Baccarat, Blackjack and Video Poker almost always have a lower House Edge than Roulette. Pai-Gow Poker has a lower house edge than American (double-zero) Roulette and the player can essentially directly control the speed of PGP. In terms of decisions per hour v. amount bet v. house edge, a player might have a lower expected loss per hour with Roulette than Video Poker or Blackjack, (depending on other factors) but the player will lose more money per dollar bet over the long run.
The Roulette Wheel
There are a few different Roulette wheels out there and it is the wheel itself that determines the House Edge! Here are a few different examples of Roulette wheels:
European: 1-36 and one 0.
American: 1-36, 0 and 00
Sands: 1-36, 0, 00 and Sands (Effectively a third zero!)
Simply put, a player will do better to play on a Roulette wheel with as few zeroes as possible because zeroes result in a loss for the player unless the player is betting on zero. You may occasionally hear someone say, “More numbers is more ways to win,” and you can rest assured you should NEVER listen to anything that person has to say about gambling henceforward.
It is true that you can bet on one (or more, if applicable) of the zeroes, but that means any of the other numbers (or other zero) will then cause you to use. Since all of the payouts are the same regardless of the table, more numbers are always a bad thing.
While the game of Roulette is extremely simple, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with a wide variety of bets that you can make! In fact, many players like to play multiple bets that, “Stack,” up on certain numbers while avoiding others. It would be impossible to go through every possible combination of bets that could be made, but here are all the individual ones:
Perhaps the most common Roulette bet, Red/Black is found at the center bottom of the layout and is the easiest for a player sitting in the center of the table to reach. This bet is simple, if you bet Red and it lands on a Red number, you win. If it lands on Green or Black, you lose. If you bet Black, same thing, just the opposite!
Another common bet is the Odd/Even bet, and I’m sure you can all guess how that works! If you bet on an Even, and the number is a non-zero Even, then you win! If it is a zero or an odd, then you lose. Betting on Odd has the same but opposite effect, unless it lands on a zero, then you still lose. That’s why zero is called, “The House Number.”
1-18/19-36 (Or High/Low)
I have never seen a Roulette layout actually say, “High/Low,” but I have known a few players to call it the High or Low bet. I’m not sure if that is a colloquialism pertinent only to my area of the United States or a common thing.
Either way, if you bet on 1-18 and the number falls in that range, then you are paid Even Money. If you bet on 19-36 and the number falls in that range, same thing.
1-12, 13-24, 25-36 or Column Bets
These are bets in which the player places a wager on any of twelve numbers. In the case of the bets denoting actual numerical values, the player wins 2:1 (3-FOR-1) if the number falls within the value in question. In the case of the columns, the player wins if any number in the selected column hits. If any other number than that upon which the player has bet hits, then that bet shall lose.
This is a bet made on six of the numbers going by two columns. The way this bet is placed consists of the player placing the desired bet amount on the bottom and between the two columns in question. For example, the player could bet on 1-6 because of the way the numbers appear on the layout. The player could make this bet the following ways:
The player cannot bet on 34-36 AND 1-3 with one chip because they are on opposite sides of the table. However, if the player could cut the desired bet amount in half, then the player would be able to make a three-number bet on 1-3 AND 34-36. Besides that, if the player can divide the desired total bet amount by six, then the player could just bet each of those numbers individually, it makes no difference.
The first five bet is a bet that can only be made on American Roulette, and the bet does what it says on the box. The player is making a single bet on the numbers 0-00-1-2-3. This is the WORST bet on the table and is actually the only bet that has a worse House Edge than all of the other American Roulette bets, which each come in at 5.26%.
A Corner bet is a bet that consists of four numbers. It is called a, “Corner,” bet because the player places the bet in one of the corners such that the chip is essentially touching four numbers. This bet wins if any of those four numbers hits and loses otherwise.
Once again, there is no mathematical difference between making this bet and just dividing the desired bet amount by four and picking four individual numbers. The only real use for this bet (and many other multiple number bets) is that it gives the player the ability to quickly bet multiple numbers with one chip.
25-26-28-29 is an example of a Corner bet, but if you do not like 28, then you could divide the bet by four and just make equal bets on 25, 26, 29 and 3 (or whatever number you like). Again, Corner Bets and others really just exist for convenience.
This is a bet on a Row of numbers, such as 1-2-3, and pays 11:1. Again, if you wish to bet three numbers that do not appear in numerical order, then you can divide the desired bet amount by three and spread it out across three individual numbers anywhere on the layout. There is no impact on the House Edge.
A Split Bet means that you are splitting one bet between any two numbers that appear either side by side, or one above and one below the other. To make this bet, simply put the bet on the line between the two numbers.
Individual Number Bets
Roulette Bets Chart
Please see the following Table for the House Edge for all of the different bets as well as probability of winning:
|1 to 18||1||47.37%||5.26%||48.65%||2.7%|
|19 to 36||1||47.37%||5.26%||48.65%||2.7%|
|1 to 12||2||31.58%||5.26%||32.43%||2.7%|
|13 to 24||2||31.58%||5.26%||32.43%||2.7%|
|25 to 36||2||31.58%||5.26%||32.43%||2.7%|
|Any one number||35||2.63%||5.226%||2.7%||2.7%|
I’m not getting into this information with Roulette games that have three or more zeroes. They suck and are ridiculous, so don’t play them. In my opinion, American Roulette is MORE than bad enough with its two zeroes.
Unique Bets And Variations
There are a few different unique variations of bets that are available on either single-zero or double-zero wheels, but are not terribly common, so we will list them separately:
Atlantic City Evens
If you make an Even Money bet in Atlantic City (Red/Black/Even/Odd/1-18/19-36) and the bet loses, then half of your money will be returned. This is true only for Double-Zero Roulette wheels, but this rule does reduce the House Edge to 2.63%, which is a lower house edge than a single-zero Roulette game that does not have this rule.
Obviously, there is no reason a player should make any bets other than Even Money bets on these tables, but I assure you, many players do anyway.
French Roulette is played on a single-zero Roulette wheel and features a rule known as, “En Prison,” known to English speakers frequently as, “Imprisonment.”
Imprisonment may also work under a mechanism that enables the player to leave the same bet up as opposed to losing anything, however, if the next spin is a winner for the bet, then the player only receives the original bet back. The way it works out, some casinos will allow imprisonment only once while others will allow it multiple times, in case a zero repeats. If allowed multiple times, for instance, if the zero came up twice in a row, then the imprisoned bet would need to win twice to be fully returned to the player.
Given the choice, the player would do well just to take half of the bet back regardless of the imprisonment rule, but the difference in House Edge is very small, especially since the initial decision only comes up on 1/37 spins.
There you have it, those are all the bets and they all suck compared to other games, except an Even Money bet with Imprisonment (or half back) on a Single-Zero wheel isn’t too terrible. You would still be getting a much better bet on Craps, Baccarat, most Blackjack games and many Video Poker paytables, so only play Roulette if you really enjoy it or there is some angle that enables you to use Roulette for the best advantage.
One thing that you will notice is that different Roulette tables will have different minimum bets, but those minimum bets can be made in different ways. In general, bets are known as either being, “Inside,” or, “Outside.” The easiest way to know the difference is that, if your bet is directly touching a numerical value, then it is an inside bet. If your bet is fully within a box (and not on an individual number) then it is an outside bet.
When it comes to Table Minimums, whatever the stated minimum is must be met in order for a player to be permitted to make an Outside Bet. In other words, a player may not combine multiple Outside Bets to reach the Table Minimum. When it comes to Inside Bets, a player may generally make a combination of bets with a smaller denomination chip than the Table Minimum, provided the sum (total) of the bets meets or exceeds the Table Minimum.
Additionally, some casinos will allow a greater maximum bet on Outside Bets as opposed to Inside Bets. The reason for that is because Outside Bets either pay Even Money or 2:1. (2-FOR-1 or 3-FOR-1) For that reason, casinos will allow a larger maximum bet on those because a single win is not going to, “Hurt,” them and is within their levels of risk that they want to take. Inside Bets may not always have a lower maximum, but they usually do. These lower maximums are referred as, “To the number,” which means that you may not put more than that maximum, in total bets, in such a way that the total bets on an individual number exceed the maximum.
For example, if the maximum were $50 to the number, then you could not bet $50 on Black-29 and then make a Corner bet also containing Black-29 as one of the four numbers. Some casinos, in fact, will not allow your total bets to exceed the Table Maximum for Inside Bets, (even if they are not all to the number) but that is rare in my experience.
Other Various Specifics
One thing that players in many Land Casinos will notice is that there are a bunch of different colored chips available for Roulette players that do not denote a specific denomination. The reason for that is because each individual player is assigned a color and gets to select what denomination (within the table maximum, and a, “Regular,” amount) that the chip will represent.
If a player is the only one (or first) at a table playing a particular denomination, such as $25, then the casino might provide that player with actual casino chips to play with. However, it will generally not do that for more than one player.
The reason for this is because all of the players share the betting spots at the Roulette Table, that makes Roulette very unique compared to other games with a technical exception to Craps. The difference in Craps, though, is that bets on the Don’t Pass, Pass or Field will always be placed in front of the player, so the crew knows what bet belongs to who and it is difficult (if not impossible) to cheat.
The way that players used to cheat is by doing things such as, “Past-Posting,” which means that they would place bets after the result was known. In general terms, someone usually runs distraction on the croupier, or a really fast person can do it while the croupier is busy glancing at the result on the wheel, and they can put the bet out knowing it will win. It’s not really a bet at all. It is cheating and is 100% illegal.
Different colored chips make past-posting much more difficult because the croupier will have a general idea what bets you had out before the result is known. More importantly, surveillance will be able to more easily identify and catch a past-post as opposed to an honest mistake.
Another gimmick that many old-time cheaters would do is to swap in stacks of chips for other stacks that get swapped out while the croupier was checking the result or someone was running distraction. The way it worked is that the person would have a stack of a few chips that might be four red ($5) chips on top of a chip of a much greater denomination...often $100 or more.
Anyway, the player would make bets (sometimes Even Money) with a stack of all Reds and then swap in a stack with the big denomination chip on the bottom if the bet was a winner. The croupier, if the move worked, would not know the difference. Alternatively, the player might bet a stack with the big chip at the bottom, but then swap in a stack of all red if the bet did not win. Sometimes, if a win, the player would make a big scene about how they made the big bet, “Accidentally,” and can’t believe they got so lucky.
That sort of move overcomes the House Edge BY A LOT. Even if it is not possible to pull off at every opportunity, the cheater does not need every opportunity to be successful in order to profit. Let’s take a look at how much a losing attempt with four red chips v. three reds and a black ($20 v. $115) would cost:
(20 * 18/38) - (20 * 20/38) = -1.05263157895
As you can see, the expected loss of the move, playing fairly, corresponds to the House Edge. However, here is the new expected value if the cheat works and is able to be employed:
(115) - (20 * 20/38) = 104.473684211
The amount of $115 is only bet if the result is known, therefore, when that amount is bet it wins 100% of the time. The player, if he has the opportunity, will either win $115 or lose $20.
In other words, this move can fail much more often than it succeeds and the cheater is still expect to profit a ton. Sometimes the player would get caught, but when that happened, they would just claim to have made a mistake or not been paying attention. It took a great innocent act, but some people were able to pull it off. After a big win, most players would get the Hell out of there, or make another bet or two just for show then leave.
If that sounds good to you, please reexamine your moral code! Besides that, the main reason that the casinos switched to having individually colored chips for each individual player is to prevent that. Since all of the chips have the same value, the move doesn’t work. Granted, a savvy cheater might be able to replace one stack of chips with another containing one or two extra chips, but that’s not going to be worth the risk and is more likely to be noticed. Why more likely? You’d have to do it with bigger stacks to have any real chance of pulling it off.
Besides, since all the chips have the same value, it’s really not enough of a profit margin for most cheaters when you factor in the possibility of doing time because of it. Some people want to play Roulette with the Imprisonment Rule, but nobody wants to GO TO PRISON for playing Roulette!
But, why do you need different colored chips? In a word: Cheaters.
Online Roulette Differences
There are a few fundamental differences in the Online Roulette games as opposed to Live Casino games, but surprisingly, not very many.
The first major difference is that there is no need for different colored chips, even in the Live Casino Online Roulette Game, because individual chips do not get put on a physical layout. All of the chips are an electronic representation, and as a result, players can choose chips of varying denominations that have the denomination reflected on them since it makes no difference. You can’t past-post a computer screen.
Beyond that, Online Roulette minimums are often going to be lower than those of Land-Based casinos, for both Live Dealer and electronic games. Again, that’s compared to Live Table games in land casinos. Many land casinos actually have electronic Roulette games for lower denominations, (often $0.25 or $0.05 depending on visual quality and features, I have even seen one for pennies!) so online might not even have the lowest minimums.
As a side note, be careful what bets you make on those electronic Roulette machines in land casinos. On some of them, the casinos do not change the number of zeroes, but what they do change are the payouts on some of the longer shot bets. Changing the payouts effectively is the same thing as adding one or more zeroes to the physical representation of the game, but you cannot just glance and see that the payouts are reduced without going to the HELP screen sometimes.
Another difference with the online game is that it gives you the opportunity to play at whatever pace you like, with exception to Live Dealer Roulette. You can take your sweet time making your bets, switching them up, “Tracking,” numbers, or doing whatever else it is you want to do. There are no other players at the table.
That’s one nice thing about Land Casinos, too, if you are there at a time when you can be the only player at the table: You can play as slowly as you want! If there’s going to be a croupier there no matter what, then there’s really not much they can say about how long you are taking to place bets. It is important to remember, though, if you are going to play slowly that the croupier might spin the wheel and drop the ball as soon as the first bet hits the felt! If you’re really nice and a good conversationalist, though, they’ll sometimes let you play as slow as you like if you’re the only one. However slowly you may be playing, you’re better than an empty table!
In fact, I would suggest playing alone (or close to it) your first time in a land casino that way you can get an idea of how to place the bets you like. Inexperienced players will often get in the way of experienced ones and draw agitated glances and annoyed sighs or grunts. If you’re already comfortable with placing your bets, then you will be a much better companion.
Of course, you don’t have to worry about any of these niceties online when you are the only one at your table. No free drinks, though.
Online Roulette Bonuses
The first thing to note about online Roulette bonuses is that many casinos categorically forbid Roulette play while on a bonus, so it is important to look into the Terms and Conditions to make sure that you are even allowed to play the game to begin with.
Ironically, some online casinos might not even be aware of why they started doing that to begin with, but one of the major reasons was due to two factors that made the game extremely profitable for some players, Opposite Betting and low Wagering Requirements:
Starting with low wagering requirements, some casinos were offering juicy enough bonuses with low enough Wagering Requirements that it was once occasionally possible to play Roulette straight up while on a bonus and have an expectation of profit. The reason why is that the House Edge multiplied by the playthrough requirements resulted in a dollar amount that was less than the amount of the bonus to begin with. Let me give you an example of a magic number:
The first thing that we will assume is a 100% Bonus on a $1000 deposit, which would yield a total bankroll of $2,000. We will also assume that the game is single-zero Roulette, which is a game that would have been offered by most online casinos at that time. We know that the House Edge of an Even Money bet on single-zero is 2.7%, which is denoted as 0.027, so let’s determine how much a player could make in total bets to yield an expected loss of $1,000.
In other words, the player would have to bet $37,037.04 in order to have an expected loss of $1,000, which is the amount of the bonus. That would mean that the player would break even on the deposit. The one thing that you will notice is that WR would only be 37,037.04/2000 = 18.51852x the deposit + bonus. While it seems unbelievable, once upon a time, playthrough requirements were occasionally lower than that.
Playing with a total WR of less than that would yield an expected profit and an advantage for the player. Playing with Wagering Requirements greater than that would yield an expected loss of varying amounts of a player’s deposit. The way WR’s work now, players are generally expected to lose the ENTIRE deposit + bonus if playing the game straight up.
One other thing that would happen is that players could occasionally employ low variance means of, “Grinding out,” playthrough requirements by way of, “Opposite Betting.” In Roulette, opposite betting would consist of betting opposing Even Money options, sometimes occasionally hedging on the zero, which would result in either an expected or guaranteed loss on every spin. In some cases, before casinos discovered that players could do such a thing, the player might even bet the same amount on every single number, which guarantees a loss!
The thing is, with low enough Wagering Requirements (see above) the player could have a guaranteed loss on every single spin and still come out ahead. In fact, had some players not been exceptionally greedy with bonuses and did this sort of opposite betting, online casinos may not have caught onto the problem with low WR’s as quickly, so the ability to play bonuses at an advantage might have lasted that much longer. They certainly would have figured it out eventually, after all the math is EXTREMELY simple, but maybe not quite as fast.
In addition to the greater WR’s, most online casinos have Terms that either directly or indirectly forbid opposite betting on games such as Roulette. Granted, a player may still have the ability to cover 36/37 individual numbers on individual number bets, but again, there may be Terms that effectively forbid playing in that way.
Even with that, there are still Roulette Bonuses out there that can be played at an advantage, even though they are few and far between. The biggest problem is that many of the casinos that have such bonuses are also those notorious for slow-paying or no-paying players, so even if you have a profitable expectation, it really doesn’t matter.
Looking At Some Bonuses
We’re going to look at a few Roulette Bonuses currently available at Wizard of Odds here:
In order to determine the expectation of the bonuses. Most, if not all of them, will have a negative expectation. Either way, this is a good exercise to help everyone understand the math behind them.
Win A Day Casino
Okay, in addition to the fact that it is a Phantom Bonus, the Rules for Win A Day are such that Roulette only contributes 1% to the 10x Wagering Requirements making the Wagering Requirements for Roulette 1000x the deposit + bonus. I really shouldn’t need to explain why this should generally be considered unbeatable, so I won’t.
Honestly, even if there was a super high variance way to beat it, (it would require more than one individual number bet to eventually hit in a short timeframe) you would probably be flagged for Bonus Abuse due to pattern betting. More than anything else, though, I’m not going to entertain this because of the absurdly high Wagering Requirements.
The bonus that Drake Casino is offering seems insane, so chances are it is not advantageous. It seems that a player may make three deposits of as much as $2,000 each and get a Bonus of 300% ($6,000) on each one for a total bankroll of $8,000 every time.
The first thing that I want to say is, “Bonus at your own risk,” for the following reason:
Management will not be obligated to provide a reason for refusing any withdrawal request or be liable for its decision.
Wonderful, so if you play the bonus they can refuse to pay you for, literally, no reason whatsoever. I’m not saying that they would actually do that, but technically, their own Terms say that they can if they wish.
That being the case, I would not play the Bonus at Drake Casino, but for those of you brave enough, let’s forge ahead.
The deposit bonus has WR of 40x D+B on slots, so the $8,000 bankroll would have a Wagering Requirement of $320,000. Of course, American Roulette only counts as 10%, so the WR on that would be $3,200,000. Granted, a player obviously does not have to take such a large bonus (and would be better off not to) so these are just silly numbers, really...unless you’re crazy.
In any event, the player would expect to lose $168,320 on 3.2M in playthrough requirements, so obviously American Roulette is not the way to go if you want to take