Surrounded by games like blackjack and video poker, both of which allow players to apply a certain level of skill, roulette is the ultimate gamble.
Guess a number or color, watch the wheel spin, and hope for the best - that is the very essence of roulette.
As a game of pure chance, roulette leaves players hoping for Lady Luck to smile down on them during each and every spin. And thanks to the long-shot odds of 37 to 1 (on double zero American wheels) for the main single-number wagers, roulette players seldom have luck on their side.
That doesn't stop them from trying, though, and your presence reading this page is the proof. Gamblers are only human, after all, and anything people do, they want to do well.
To this end, you'll come across "can't miss" roulette systems and "surefire" strategies for success littering the online landscape. These are usually peddled by self-styled gambling experts, who claim to have discovered the secret to predicting where that shiny silver ball will bounce next.
Perhaps they track patterns in the previous numbers, or vary their bets according to a precise structure, or maybe they just play at certain times of the day when the wheel is "hot."
No matter how the system or strategy is designed, they all have one thing in common - they won't do a thing to help you win at roulette.
The truth of the matter is this: roulette is a game of chance, and nothing you do can influence the outcome.
In other words, nobody can control how lucky they are when playing roulette.
But that doesn't mean you can't improve your chances to leave the table with more than you arrived with. Roulette is like any other gambling game, consisting of various wagers that offer a precise ratio of payout versus probability of success. Throw in the regional variations within the game play and rules - with the single and double zero divide looming large - and players can definitely play roulette smartly using a "sharp" approach.
When you ditch the fantasy offered by systems and strategies, and focus on the three tips for roulette success below, you'll notice that your luck seems to be turning for the better.
For the typical recreational player, roulette seems to offer just two basic bets.
Most players chase that long-shot single-number wager I mentioned above, hoping to beat 37-to-1 odds to score a sweet 35-to-1 payout.
The more conservative crowd opts for a safer play, backing either red or black at slightly less than 50/50 odds - with those green "0" and/or "00" spaces working against them. These color bets pay back at just even money, but with a 47.37 percent chance at success, the likelihood of receiving a payout increases almost 20 times over.
But when you observe a crowded roulette table in action, you'll notice more seasoned veterans of the game placing a wide variety of wagers in addition to single number and color bets.
Depending on where you place your betting chip(s), the roulette table contains more than a dozen additional wagers to choose from - all of which offer payout versus probability ratios that fall somewhere within long shots and coin flips.
Take a look below for a full glossary of roulette bet types:
As you can see, once you move past the single number and color bets, the roulette wheel puts an abundance of wagering options at your disposal.
If you can bet on the color for a near coin flip, why not guess whether the number will be odd or even at the same price?
You can also reduce your variance by half on a single number bet by placing your chip on the line dividing two numbered spaces. Slide a chip directly between the "4" and the "5," for example, and you'll now be playing both numbers at once. Obviously, the odds of hitting correctly with two numbers in play on the same wager - known as a "split" bet - have been cut in half, so the payout is halved as well (more on odds and payouts in the next section).
You can apply the same concept when betting on the green house spaces by using a "row" bet, which covers the "0" and "00" spaces with a single chip.
A "street" bet entitles you to three numbers within any given row, and you can place this wager by sliding a chip on the borderline where a three-number row (1 2 3, 7 8 9, etc.) begins.
Slide that chip down slightly, so that it touches two of the numbered rows, and you'll make a "six line" or "double street" bet, which covers the six numbers in those two rows.
Put your chip on the corner intersection where four numbered spaces connect, and you'll have a "corner" or "square" bet in play, which covers all four numbers in that intersection.
The "0" space can be incorporated in several ways, starting with a "trio" bet that covers the "0" along with the "1" and "2" spaces. A "basket" or "first four" bet simply extends the string to include the "0, 1, 2, 3" spaces, while a "top line" bet covers both the "0" and "00" green spaces, plus the "1, 2, 3" row.
The number grid doesn't have to be viewed as rows, however, so why not try a "column" bet that includes all 12 numbers aligned vertically in a column?
Or, you can lump the numbers together in order using a "dozen" bet, which simply groups the spaces sequentially (1-12, 13-24, 25-36).
With all of these bets in play at the same time, you can see why the roulette table is usually littered with chips and stacks in every conceivable corner of the board. All of these bets take the long-shot odds offered by a single number wager and reduce them significantly. And while the payouts go down as a consequence, you should be able to see the benefit by now.
After all, would you rather enjoy a 35-to-1 payout once every 37 spins, or collect a 2-to-1 payout every 2 spins or so?
In this game, the secret to sustaining your luck really boils down to how you answer that question. If the long-shot odds are what you crave, by all means, chase them to your heart's content - but if you do, you can't rightfully complain about having bad luck.
On the other hand, if you recognize the value of securing smaller payouts more often, a roulette session instantly transforms. While single-number bettors are waiting for their luck to turn, you'll be collecting chip stacks from the dealer far more often than they can hope for.
Now that you know all about the various roulette wagers on the table, take a moment to study the payout versus probability ratios.
If you flip a coin with a dollar on the line, calculating your payout to probability ratio is pretty easy. You have a 50 percent chance of success, along with a 50 percent chance of failure, and an even-money return of $1 to $1 on your wager.
But gambling on a casino game is slightly different, as the house must maintain its edge over players at all times.
To gain this edge, the house has designed roulette to offer slightly downgraded payouts when compared to the odds against winning.
Take that single-number bet I've mentioned a few times now. When using a standard American roulette wheel - which uses both the "0" and "00" house spaces (more on this in the next section) - your odds against stand at 1 in 37.
In other words, with 38 numbered spaces on the wheel, and only one single number chosen between 1 and 36 - you're left with a 1-in-37 shot of hitting that number exactly. But when you manage to beat the odds and hit it perfectly, the dealer will hand you 35 chips for every one you wagered, good for payout odds of 35 to 1.
The difference between a 1-in-37 chance of winning and 35-to-1 payout odds when you hit may not seem all that meaningful, but that's where the house builds its edge into the game.
That edge stands at 5.26 percent on the American double zero wheels, which isn't all that great when compared to other casino games like blackjack (0.50 percent for basic strategy players), baccarat (1.06 percent on Banker, 1.24 percent on Player), or craps (1.41 percent on the Pass Line).
And that 5.26 percent house edge rate isn't just for single number bets only. The math behind roulette payouts versus odds against on all wagers is constructed to create the exact same house edge across the board (except for the "top line" or "basket" bet).
And even when you find a rare European-style single-zero wheel - which I'll help you do in the next section - the house edge only falls to 2.70 percent.
Check out the table below to see how the payouts, and odds against winning, stack up for every bet on the roulette table:
Roulette Bets by Payout, Odds Against Winning, and House Edge for Both Wheel Types
|BET||PAYS||ODDS (EUR)||EDGE (EUR)||ODDS (AMER)||EDGE (AMER)|
|0||35 to 1||36 to 1||2.70 percent||37 to 1||5.26 percent|
|0||35 to 1||36 to 1||2.70 percent||37 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Single #||35 to 1||36 to 1||2.70 percent||37 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Row||17 to 1||36 to 1||2.70 percent||18 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Split||17 to 1||17.500 to 1||2.70 percent||18 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Street||11 to 1||11.333 to 1||2.70 percent||11.666 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Corner||8 to 1||8.250 to 1||2.70 percent||8.500 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Top Line/Basket||6 to 1||6.600 to 1||7.90 percent||6.600 to 1||7.90 percent|
|Six Line||5 to 1||5.166 to 1||2.70 percent||5.333 to 1||5.26 percent|
|1st column||2 to 1||2.0833 to 1||2.70 percent||2.166 to 1||5.26 percent|
|2nd column||2 to 1||2.0833 to 1||2.70 percent||2.166 to 1||5.26 percent|
|3rd column||2 to 1||2.0833 to 1||2.70 percent||2.166 to 1||5.26 percent|
|1st dozen||2 to 1||2.0833 to 1||2.70 percent||2.166 to 1||5.26 percent|
|2nd dozen||2 to 1||2.0833 to 1||2.70 percent||2.166 to 1||5.26 percent|
|3rd dozen||2 to 1||2.0833 to 1||2.70 percent||2.166 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Odd||1 to 1||1.055 to 1||2.70 percent||1.111 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Even||1 to 1||1.055 to 1||2.70 percent||1.111 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Red||1 to 1||1.055 to 1||2.70 percent||1.111 to 1||5.26 percent|
|Black||1 to 1||1.055 to 1||2.70 percent||1.111 to 1||5.26 percent|
|1 to 18||1 to 1||1.055 to 1||2.70 percent||1.111 to 1||5.26 percent|
|19 to 36||1 to 1||1.055 to 1||2.70 percent||1.111 to 1||5.26 percent|
Obviously, with the house edge standardized for nearly every possible wager, you can't use bet selection strategy to gain a leg up on the house. With that said, luck is a matter of perspective, and you can change yours by backing the bets that offer better odds of success.
Like I said already, it's a different vibe altogether when you're collecting steady - albeit smaller - payouts on a consistent basis. Standing around and waiting to beat 1-in-37 odds can take a while, and a long while in many cases, which makes roulette feel like a drag. Everyone else is scooping up chips by the handful, while you're left watching and waiting for lighting to strike.
By backing the "coin flip" type bets - the odd/even, red/black, and the 1-18/19-36 - you can expect to land a winner on every other spin. This approach offers a much more lively and entertaining experience than long-shot hunting.
But speaking of long-shot single-number wagers, why not take the time to seek out those single-zero European-style roulette wheels to cut your odds in half?
Unfortunately, the regional labels applied to roulette wheels are quite accurate, so you won't find many single-zero wheels when playing in North America.
Venture across the pond to Europe, and the game will be exclusively played on single-zero wheels - but the American spirit of capitalism ensures that you'll face worse odds stateside.
Simply put, the corporatization of the casino industry of the last two decades has prompted operators like MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment to scale back their more player-friendly games. This trend holds true in blackjack as well, where the old single deck-games have been phased out for multiple-deck shoes. For roulette players, who could enjoy single-zero roulette all over Las Vegas in the old days, that shift means the vast majority of wheels today carry the dreaded "00" add-on to double the house's edge.
For the most part, the only time you'll see a single-zero roulette wheel spinning in Sin City is by entering the High Limit area. If the casino knows you'll be betting big bucks on every spin, they're far more likely to let you enjoy the reduced odds against offered by a single-zero wheel.
Take a look below to see where high limit, single-zero roulette can still be found throughout Las Vegas:
Single Zero European Roulette Wheels in Las Vegas Casinos
|CASINO||# OF TABLES||MINIMUM BET|
If you don't fancy yourself as a high roller, all is not lost, as a few casinos outside of Las Vegas still spread single-zero roulette wheels for smaller stakes players.
The list below highlights the casinos which are confirmed to offer single-zero roulette when requested:
Single-Zero European Roulette Wheels in American Casinos
|Foxwoods Resort Casino||Mashantucket, Connecticut|
|Horseshoe Southern Indiana||Elizabeth, Indiana|
|Paragon Casino Resort||Marksville, Louisiana|
|Coushatta Casino Resort||Kinder, Louisiana|
|Casino Rouge||Baton Rouge, Louisiana|
|Club Cal Neva||Reno, Nevada|
|Peppermill Resort Hotel||Reno, Nevada|
|Nevada Club||Reno, Nevada|
|The Siena Hotel Casino||Reno, Nevada|
|Tropicana||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|The Showboat||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|Harrah's AC||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|Caesar's AC||Atlantic City, New Jersey|
|Santa Ana Star Casino||Bernalillo, New Mexico|
These venues adjust their minimum wagering requirements based on a number of factors, so I can't say for sure how low they'll go at any given moment, but for the most part the games run from a $10 minimum through $50.
The only effective way to control your luck at the roulette table is by playing the best bets, and single-zero wheels are inherently more favorable than the double-zero alternative. Do yourself a favor and seek out a few of the casinos listed above, and try the single-zero experience out for yourself.
I can't guarantee a winning session - that's for the hucksters that are hawking systems and strategies - but I'll bet good money you'll have more fun when the extra "00" space is removed from the equation.
And in a game like roulette, which is based solely on chance alone, having fun should always be the primary goal. When you're having fun, you'll play with a more relaxed approach, rather than "chasing" losses with higher bets.
Taken in sum, the proven strategies of studying the game, learning the odds, and seeking out single-zero wheels should provide immediate dividends - both in terms of entertainment and expected return.