Single-zero roulette has been around since 1843. Since that time, the game named "the little wheel" in French has captivated casino audiences with its hypnotic spinning wheel and relatively-low house edge.
Like any casino game, roulette has rules that govern the way it's played and the etiquette of its players. If you go in to a roulette game blind, you're likely to run into grumpy employees, grumpy bettors sitting at the table around you, and a streak of what can only be called bad luck. This bad luck may take the form of literally bad luck in the casino, or you could get thwacked on the back of the head by a disgruntled gambler or harried employee.
Learn the Ten Commandments of roulette play listed below and you're likely to enjoy yourself more. That's the point of playing games like roulette – to have a good time, and MAYBE (if you're really lucky) to win a little spending cash.
Without further ado – the Ten Commandments of Roulette:
Roulette's rules are easy to learn. You can pretty much read any online guide to the game and be familiar enough to play with confidence. Do some Google work, play some free versions online, and just generally spruce up your knowledge of roulette for an hour or two before your casino visit. Your bankroll (and the people at the table around you) will thank you for it.
While you're at it, go ahead and research some basic casino etiquette tips. These are, in my opinion, a part of the game. For example – you should NEVER wager after the dealer calls out "No more bets!" In fact, don't even go near any chips with your hands at that point. If you break this rule, you may even be asked to leave the table or the casino altogether.
Okay, so part of this is an etiquette consideration. But I think being considerate of the casino employees (the boxman, the security guards, etc.) and the casino guests around you is important enough to earn its own commandment. If you've spent any time in a live casino before, you know how annoying people can be. Some get too drunk and make fools of themselves, while others talk incessantly to anyone around them – whatever the annoying habit, do some work to reign in your ugly side before you head off to Vegas for some roulette action.
Single-zero roulette, sometimes called European roulette, is a better game for players because the house edge is about half what the house gets on double-zero (or American) games. In single-zero roulette, the house edge is 2.7% on all wagers except for even-money bets. At tables with the surrender (or "en prison") rule in effect, the house edge is even lower - 1.4%. Compared to the house edge on double-zero games (5.26%), wagers on European wheels are preferable.
So why doesn't everyone just play single-zero roulette? In America, European-style wheels are difficult to find. The few casinos that do host them in Vegas and Atlantic City do so in VIP rooms, where the tables have $100 minimums. In America, single-zero wheels are available for a premium, and most players don't have the option of betting that much per spin.
This is kind of a specialized commandment, but don't overlook it. If you're playing on a European wheel with a Surrender or "en prison" option – or if you've found one of Atlantic City's double-zero tables with a Surrender options – you should never place straight-up wagers on a single number. Why not? Because you're facing a house edge twice as steep as you could with an even-money bet. Basically, you're betting right into the casino's hands.
Again – why doesn't everyone always play on layouts with surrender rules in place? Believe me – I would if I could. I'm an American, and I don't leave the country to gamble all that often – in fact, I've only ever gambled once outside the USA. Because all of my betting is done in American casinos, I'm relegated to hunting desperately for $25-minimum single-zero tables. Finding a game with an available Surrender rule is the type of Holy Grail that an explorer is better off forgetting about.
The five-number bet is only available on double-zero wheels – so if you're following the Commandments like you should, you shouldn't even have the opportunity to place this wager. A bet on the "five numbers" covers 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3. The house edge on this bet has the distinction of being the highest in any version of roulette – 7.89%. Compared to the 5.26% you could be getting with any even money wager on the layout, or the 2.63% you could get by placing even-money bets with surrender rules, the five-number bet is a sucker bet.
Roulette is a pretty streaky game. It's similar to craps in that streaks of wins and losses are common. Please avoid the temptation to think that "you're hot" or you're especially lucky just because you've had a few wins in a row. Streaks don't indicate anything except what's happened in the past – hold on to the fact that past results have no bearing on future ones, and you should be okay. Normally, you'll see good streaks, bad streaks, and average streaks in the same session. Instead of focusing on being hot or cold, enjoy your wins. They probably won't last long.
Not forgetting the dealer means more than handing her a couple of chips at the end of your session. Yes, tipping is important. Most dealers really do depend on tips for their wages. If you tip waiters and bartenders and the hotel concierge, you should have no moral problem with tipping a dealer who's working hard to help you have fun.
But it doesn't stop at tipping. If you're hitting a casino for several days in a row, you're benefitting from the work of a boxman and a whole team of security professionals. It's not a bad idea to buy a nice small gift for a boxman if you have a good experience with her, although it's not by any means required. A classy gambler who follows his Commandments might give a gift of a cigar or bottle of wine, especially if the employee has been helpful.
All games in the casino incorporate a house edge – that's a margin between the game's anticipated payouts and pay-ins. Casinos aren't in the business of handing out chunks of cash to any old Joe who walks in the door, so they operate games that are designed to turn a profit over the long haul.
Some people hear that and assume that it means that no one leaves the casino a winner. Recent statistical reports by gambling interests in Vegas prove that's not the case – one major casino-hotel proved that on any given day, 1/3rd of the people who place a bet walk out of the casino with a profit.
The trick is to play games for fun, not for profit. Play in such a way that any money you win is lagniappe, and remember that gambling is a (potentially-expensive) form of adult entertainment. If you can't handle losing to the point that you try a fault betting system, maybe it's time to take a dip in the hotel pool.
Here's how I establish my betting limits:
It really is that easy. Determine how much you don't mind losing, then use the statistics like I did above to figure out how long you'll be able to play.
The trick is to stick to that plan. Don't go over $100 if you've decided beforehand to stop at $100 of losses.
Casinos are going electronic at the same rate that they have for decades – even more so, now that mobile and online gambling is a major competitor. Until my last casino visit, I'd never played an electronic version of the game before. I suggest every roulette fan give it a go. For starters, it's still something of a social game. The electronic portion of the game is a replacement for the live dealer. Multiple players still gather around placing wagers – you can ignore or make conversation with other bettors at the same table with as much ease as you can with the standard game. But this one moves more rapidly, and usually allows for lower wagers than the standard table format.
Roulette is a casino classic in part because the rules are so easy to understand, the bets easy to lay, with a clear payout structure, and a lot of excitement thanks to the game's unique props.
If you're headed out for a round of casino roulette, make sure you follow the Ten Commandments above to the letter. You'll have a better time, and you may even be more profitable, if you follow the wisdom handed down to you from previous generations of roulette players.