How to Play Roulette:
Everyone wants a “good” mathematical system to employ at the tables! Unfortunately, there are no “good” mathematical betting systems in existence only bad, very bad and worse yet, systems.
A mathematical system is a scheme by which the amount of your next wager is determined by what happened on your last bet. Raise after a loss, raise after a win, or some convoluted method of tracking sequences of losses or wins to formulate subsequent wagers is a system. No matter how great a system you believe that you have, one thing’s for certain. There are still 38 pockets on the American double-zero wheel and the casino only pays you 35 to 1. What does this mean? That means that you are taxed on your winnings and not your losses. Losing is free, so to speak. If the game were fair, you would receive 37 to 1 on a straight up win and 18 to 1 on a split, for example. You are always paid as if there were 36 pockets instead of 38. This is how the house is able to run a thriving business! Please realize that all mathematical systems will lose over a sustained period of time.
The House’s Edge
Let’s calculate the house edge for any roulette wager. First you will take the actual payoff minus the correct payoff. Now multiply that by the probability of hitting your number. Multiply that by 100 to convert to a percentage and you come out with the house edge that the casinos bank on:
[35/1 – 37/1] x 1/38 x 100 = -5.263%, a negative player’s edge.
Incidentally, the edge on the single zero wheel is similarly calculated, but remember that we are only shorted 1 unit instead of two. Also, the probability of hitting is 1 chance in 37. So, we have:
[35/1 – 36/1] x 1/37 x 100 = -2.703%, against the player.
“Yeah, but I have this new betting system that I just bought,” you say. “The seller unconditionally guarantees that I will win 96% (or some impressive percentage) of the time!” I’ll show you that although technically correct, these claims are seriously misleading!!
The “Due” Theory
Most staking systems would have you bet on some number or group of numbers. A group of numbers could be the “red” or “odd” numbers, or the second column numbers, or the 1 through 6 line, etc., etc. Usually, you are instructed to increase the amount of your next bet based on something impressive called “The Maturity of Chances” or “The Law of Large Numbers.” Those who know better refer to this as “The Gambler’s Fallacy.” The endorsers of these “due” systems will have you believe that sooner or later, your group has to come in. Well, that’s true over the long run; it could be sooner but it could be later… much, much later at times. Over the course of 50,000 spins, the chances of, say, the number 8 not occurring for 200 spins in a row would not even register a “hiccup” in the overall statistical scheme of things. You will not have the bankroll necessary (infinite) to execute your betting scheme and, even if you did, the house imposes minimum and maximum bet sizes, so you are limited regardless.
These “systems” have been around for hundreds of years. They did not work then, and they still do not work today. Anyone who claims that they’re selling a “newly developed” or “recently rediscovered” betting system is feeding you a line. It is probably some variation of a Martingale, Labouchere, Fibonacci, or d’Alembert system. What tends to happen with any of these systems is that you may experience a series of small wins, deceptively building a false sense of infallibility. However, as you continue to play, you inevitably will be wiped out by one catastrophic loss… and if you’re really unfortunate, you could experience that disaster right away!! Let’s go on to discuss the most widely used of these systems in detail.
Probably the most popular of them all is the Martingale. It’s most likely as old as gambling is itself. This system has you increasing your wager after a loss… the old “double or nothing” routine. You continue to increase your bets in an up-as-you-lose fashion until you finally do win. At that point, you begin the progression all over again. Your objective is to win 1 unit, usually on the even-money wagers. If it were a fair game, you wouldn’t get hurt in the long run. Let’s assume that the casino was feeling generous, so they removed the zeroes from the rotor and left the pay outs the same. You are there and observe that several “black” numbers appeared, so you decide to wager on “red” up to five times in a row, to try and hit at least once. Your betting progression would look like this:
1) Bet $5 on red. If you win, repeat step 1. If you lose, go to step 2 (50% of the time). 2) Now bet $10 on red. A win takes you back to step 1. A loss takes you up to step 3 (25% chance of happening).
3) Bet $20 on red. If you hit, go back to step 1. If you lose, go to step 4 (12.5% chance).
4) Bet $40 on red. A win has you start a new progression. A loss has you go on to 5 (1 in 16 or a 6.25% chance of occurring).
5) Now bet $80 on red. A win puts you back at step 1. A loss also puts you back at step 1 (or to the ATM machine). At this point, you have lost the whole progression. The chance of losing the whole series is 1 in 32, which is 3.125% of the time.
You’ll note that if you win at any time during the progression, you will be ahead $5 or 1 basic betting unit. You will have won that progression and will attempt a new one. Because the zeroes were removed (a fair game), your chances of winning $5 in the first step are exactly ½. Your chances of losing $5 are therefore ½ also. The chances that you will lose steps 1 and 2 are [1/2]^2, or [1/2] x [1/2] = ¼. The chances of losing the first 3 steps are [1/2]^3 = 1/8, for a 1 in 8 chance. Following this down through step 4 (1 in 16 chance), and finally at step 5, the probability of losing the whole series is [1/2]^5 = 1/32, or 3.125% of the time. That means you will win the progression 96.875% of the time! “That’s virtually a lock!” you say. But let’s take a closer look…
If I played 32 cycles of the progression, I will win my 1 unit 31 out of 32 attempts or 96.875% of the time. So, 31 x $5 = $155, not bad.
But, I will lose the whole series 1 time in 32, or 3.125% of the time. This means 1 x ($5 +$10 +$20 +$40 +$80) = <$155>.
That works out dead even! $155-$155 = $0. I guess that’s why they would call it a fair game. By the way, the length of the betting progression has no bearing here on the consequences… longer or shorter, it still breaks even. Over the long haul, the person betting on this game will not get hurt.
Let’s say that the casino wasn’t making any money offering a fair game, so they added the 2 zeroes back in, but kept the payouts the same. The progression will look the same, but the chances of winning are reduced. We now have 20 ways to lose out of 38 numbers:
1) $5 on red. You will now lose [20/38]^1, or 52.63% instead of 50% of the time.
2) $10 on red. Now loses you [20/38]^2, or 27.70% instead of 25% of the time.
3) $20 on red. You lose [20/38]^3, or 14.58% of the time instead of 12.5%.
4) $40 on red. Will have you losing [20/38]^4, or 7.67% instead of 6.25% of the time.
5) $80 on red. You now lose [20/38]^5, or 4.04% instead of 3.125% of the time.
“So I lose a little less than 1% more often,” you say. “What’s the big deal?” Let’s look at the unfair game more closely:
In 32 cycles, you will now win only 95.96% instead of 96.875% of your wagers. So, (0.9596) x 32 x $5 = 30.707 x $5 = $153.54. “Not too far off from the $155, previously,” you’re quick to point out.
But, you will see we are losing much more… (0.0404) x 32 x $155 = 1.2928 x $155 = <$200.38>!!
By the way, you now know how a system can win 96% of the time (as claimed in some sales ads) and still lose money overall. The systems sellers forget to mention that the one loss will, over the long run, wipe out all of your winnings… plus! The calculation above shows our net loss is $153.54-$200.38 = <$46.84>. This is the average you will lose over 32 cycles of playing this progression. “Wow, I’m losing 1% more often and I’m averaging -$46.84 over 32 attempts… I know, I’ll just increase the progression to 6 bets! That should more than pick up that extra 1%,” you reason.
Well, let’s see…
6) Now raise bet to $160 on red after 5 straight losses. This bet will lose [20/38]^6, or only 2.13% of the time! Great!
Hold on… the judges are conferring…
In 32 cycles, you will win 97.87% of your wagers. So, (0.9787) x 32 x $5 = 31.318 x $5 = $156.59.
But, you are losing… (0.0213) x 32 x ($5+ $10+ $20+ $40+ $80+ $160) = 0.6816 x $315 = <$214.70>!!
$156.59-$214.70 = <$58.11>, for a net loss of $58.11 every 32 cycles on average. “I’m losing 24% more money by extending the progression from 5 to 6! Let’s shorten it down to 4 instead,” you correctly conclude. Now you are on the right track. The longer your progression, the more you will lose with that progression. Remember, you are exposing larger amounts to that house edge on the back end of your progression. It’s simple really, the more that you bet, the more you will lose.
Using our calculations from above we can determine what our expected loss will be on a 4-bet progression. We notice that we will lose $40+ $20+ $10+ $5 = $75. This will happen 7.67% of the time. So, (.9233) x 32 x $5 = $147.73 in average winnings and (.0767) x 32 x $75 = <$184.08> in loses. Our resulting net loss has been reduced to <$36.35>! If you follow the mathematics all the way down to a progression of 0 bets, then you will reduce the losses down to $0.
The Grand Martingale
One notable variation to the Martingale is the Grand Martingale. The only thing “grand” about this system is the fashion in which you will lose your money. This more aggressive cousin has you double your last bet and add one more unit. If our betting unit is $5, then the progression would look like this:
1) $5 on red. You lose [20/38]^1, (52.63% of the time) and win 47.37% of the time.
2) $10 +$5 on red. You lose [20/38]^2, or 27.70% and win 72.30% of the time.
3) $30 +$5 on red. You lose [20/38]^3, (14.58% of the time) and win 85.42%.
4) $70 +$5 on red. Will have you lose [20/38]^4, (7.67%) and win 92.33% of the time.
5) $150 +$5 on red. You now lose [20/38]^5, or 4.04% and win 95.96% of the time.
The “grand” total that you are prepared to lose on just one progression with this system is [$5 + $15 + $35 + $75 + $155] = $285. Let’s calculate our average net loss for the same 32 cycles of the progression:
So, this 5-bet progression loses $76.64 in “Grand” style versus the more modest $46.84 for the plain Martingale. The Grand loses 63.6% more money on a 5-bet progression!! This system is deadly, folks. Stay clear!
The Probability of a Run
Let’s say that the casino that you frequent most has 6 roulette tables. On each of these tables you’ll find 3 sets of even-money wagers: red vs. black, odd vs. even and high vs. low. That presents 18 possible runs at any given time. The chances of any one of these groups having a losing run of, say, 6 in a row is [20/38]^6, or 0.02126. That’s about 1 chance in 47. Now factor in 3 such sets at each table times 6 tables and your chances of encountering such a run are 18/47. That works out to be 38+% of the time! A run of 6 blacks, for example, isn’t as rare as you might think! How about a run of 8, in a casino with 12 roulette tables? [20/38]^8, or 0.00589 which is multiplied by 36. That’s 0.21197 or better than 21% chance of finding a run of 8. These events will happen, and when they do, think back and remember what you read here. Imagine if you had been doubling up against one of these “monsters” from the get-go!!
Obviously, the less we play, the less we lose. Some methods are worse than others. My recommendations, if you must play a Martingale-type system, are as follows:
1) Wait for a particular group to be absent for 6 to 8 spins before running a progression. If there are 4 or less wheels open, then wait for a string of 6 losses. If there are 5 to 10 open wheels, then 7 will suffice. Anything over 10 will require a run of 8. Technically, this won’t increase your chances of winning, but it will keep you off of the tables more (minimizing losses).
2) When you do encounter this situation, run a progression 2 or 3 bets at the most on this group. If you lose the progression, you may quit or begin a new cycle. If you lose three progressions of 2 bets, or two progressions of 3 bets, then abandon that group and search for another one that qualifies.
3) Do not use the Grand Martingale progression at any time.
4) Determine how many units you will reasonably be satisfied with winning. If you reach your goal, consider yourself lucky and cash in. By the same token, select a stop-loss point and stick with it. At least take a walk and clear your head.
5) Don’t bet with your emotions! If you lose a few units… fine. Never go chasing a falling piano!
If you play the Martingale, please stick to the above guidelines.
Have you ever found yourself being mesmerized by the spinning little white ball… orbiting the outer wheel like some celestial satellite? …then, spiraling down to meet a whirl of blacks, reds and greens, taking a few bounces and then a final rendezvous with fate.
The game has fascinated casino patrons for close to 300 years now. Although no one seems to know all of the details surrounding its origination and development, some form of the game is probably as old as the “wheel” itself. There are accounts of ancient Romans tipping their chariots on their sides and spinning one of the wheels for games of amusement. The word roulette itself is French, meaning “little wheel.” Several early versions of roulette appeared in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. It is believed that the noted French scientist and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, invented the mechanism in 1657 while experimenting with perpetual motion devices. Pascal, incidentally, pioneered the mathematical field of “probability.”
The first account we have of a spinning ball and rotating horizontal wheel being used as a gaming device was in a game called “roly-poly,” in 1720. The Gaming Acts of 1739 and 1740 banned roly-poly, as well as many other games of chance, in England. An innovative Beau Nash, the Master of Ceremonies at Bath, England, evaded these laws by introducing “EO.” EO, or even-odd, was a simplified version of the game, but that too was outlawed in 1745. During the next 50 years, the game evolved into the one we would recognize today. These modern wheels appeared in Paris casinos around 1796. They contained all of the familiar elements that survive today; the alternating red and black colors, the layout of numbered pockets 1 through 36, the 0 and the 00. About the only difference being that the single zero was red in color (although the casino barred any “red” bets from winning if 0 appeared) and the double zero was black (again barring “black” bets). To alleviate the confusion, the color “green” was eventually assigned to the zeros.
This version of roulette found its way over to the U.S. by way of Europeans in New Orleans in the early 1800’s. Some proprietors, not content with a big 5.26% edge, experimented with wheels containing 31 pockets. These wheels were numbered 1 through 28, with a 0, 00 and an “Eagle” pocket. These greedy proprietors paid out only 26 to 1 for a single number win (30 to 1 is the fair pay out). This translates into a whooping 12.90% house edge! People soon stopped playing these wheels in favor of the original double zero wheels.
Meanwhile, back on the “continent,” two innovative brothers from France, went in the opposite direction. Francois and Louis Blanc introduced the first single zero roulette wheel in 1842. They left France, where gambling was illegal, and set up a house in Homburg, Bavaria (now Germany). The new single zero wheel, with a 2.70% edge instead of the double zero’s 5.26% edge, was an instant hit. It decimated the competition. When gambling was outlawed in Germany, Louis Blanc (who survived his brother) accepted an invitation from the Prince of Monaco, Charles III, for whom Monte Carlo was named. For a cost of 2 Million Francs, he was allowed to establish and operate the magnificent casino that sets all the standards in Europe.
Although both the double zero and single zero wheels originated in France, the double zero became known as the “American Wheel,” because it survived in the states. The popularity of the single zero wheel had supplanted the double zero wheels in Europe and consequently was dubbed the “French Wheel.” In Europe, the option of “En Prison” was offered, further lowering the house edge, on even money wagers, down to 1.35%! No wonder the game accounts for over 50% of revenues in European casinos as compared to about 5% in U.S. casinos. Casinos today in Atlantic City, do offer En Prison for even money bets on their double zero wheels. This effectively reduces the casinos’ edge from 5.26% to 2.63% for those bets.
Roulette did enjoy popularity stateside around the turn of the century up until World War II. As Americans learned to lose less at craps and subsequently became interested in the notion that black jack was beatable, roulette declined in popularity. Roulette is the oldest casino game still in existence. I believe that with the emergence of more single zero wheels in the United States, and a well informed gambling public, the game may enjoy a resurgence in popularity.
In Europe, roulette is an immensely popular game. It is a comfortable, quiet, leisurely game usually enjoyed by the fairer sex and systems players. The table limits are higher and the house edge is smaller.
When you consider the fact that there is only one zero (37 pockets instead of 38), the house edge is brought down to 2.70%. Then compound that with the “En Prison” rule for even-money wagers and you’ll find the edge cut down to a less formidable 1.35%. If you think you might visit any of the European casinos, plan ahead. Find out if they have a dress code. The more elegant casinos will require formal dress. Also, the casinos may actually be private clubs, open only to club members and their guests. This is especially true in the United Kingdom. After you apply for membership, you will have to wait at least 24 hours before playing. Be wary… tipping the dealer may not be allowed. Before visiting these establishments for the first time, remember to do your homework up front.
The casinos stateside have a much different atmosphere. American games run two to three times faster. You’ll probably find a more casual dress and attitude. On one recent visit to Las Vegas, I watched as two young couples, sprinkling the layout and swiggin’ beer, were having an amusing and uninhibited time at one of the roulette tables at the California Club. Whenever one of them would hit a straight-up winner, all four would jump to their feet… banging backsides and singing “Roller coaster… of love…” I have to admit, everyone was enjoying themselves, including the dealer and the supervisor. But what a contrast to the more reserved and slower paced games found on the “continent.” Tipping the dealer in North America is not only permitted, it is often encouraged. It is possible to find single-zero wheels in Las Vegas and the “Surrender” rule (similar to the En Prison rule) in Atlantic City, but I have not seen both available at the same casino, or even in the same city.
En Prison vs. Surrender
By the way, now is probably a good time to explain the difference between the European “En Prison” rule and the Atlantic City “Surrender” rule. Basically, in Europe, when the single-zero comes up, all even-money wagers are frozen (or put “En Prison”) until a nonzero number results, deciding the bet’s fate. If the bet wins on the subsequent spin, then it is returned to the bettor. If it is not a winner, then it is lost. Here’s an example: You wager $5 on “red.” If red comes up immediately, you win $5, getting back $10 total. If “black” comes up, you lose, but if “green” comes up, you wouldn’t necessarily lose. You at least have a chance to get your original bet back. If red appears on the next spin, then you would receive your $5 back, with no winnings. If black is the result… you lose. You would remain in prison if green appears again. This effectively cuts the house edge in half, from 2.70% down to 1.35% for all even-money wagers.
Surrender also cuts the house edge in half for even-money wagers, but it works a little differently. If you had put that same $5 bet on “red” in Atlantic City, and a zero or double zero (green) appeared, then the dealer would immediately give you $2.50 back instead of losing the whole thing. The Atlantic City casinos don’t wait for the next spin to decide if you get $0 or $5 back. They split the difference and settle right away. Thus the casino’s edge is cut from 5.26% down to 2.63% for even-money bets.
Table Layout and Seating
In Europe, you’ll usually find two betting layouts with one single-zero wheel in between. The spinner or croupier operates the wheel. Two dealers on either side watch the betting layout and assist with placing bets. In Europe, dealers often place about 80% of the wagers. Aside from the extra dealers, there is usually an Inspector or boss who presides over the game. Interestingly, the Inspector must have the ability to recall all of the bets that were placed and whom they belong to, for the previous two spins! This is done to help alleviate confusion. One wheel can accommodate 12 to 16 seated players. In North America, one wheel per betting layout is customary. The wheel is positioned at the far end beyond the top of the betting layout. Most times one dealer is stationed behind the wheel and controls the entire game. A floating supervisor or boss will monitor two tables at a time. These games will accommodate 5 or 6 seated patrons, but sometimes a second row of players will stand behind them. I’ve seen 10 to 12 patrons squeezing in to play at one table. In North America, the dealers assist with placing only about 20% of the wagers. Usually a second dealer will help to sort out chips when the action gets hot.
If you wish to sit and relax, find an open seat. If you have options, select a seat that fits your needs. For example if you are a wheel watcher, you’ll probably appreciate sitting right next to the wheel. I call this “first base”. From this position you can easily see the wheel and cover the top and middle of the betting layout. The next position, I call “center,” is the best seat for reaching the entire betting baize. With great access to the layout and good visibility of the wheel, this is probably my favorite seat. The third position (last seat on the straightaway) is “second base,” this seat offers the worst view of the wheel. You will need assistance from the dealer if you wish to place wagers at the top of the layout. Just around the corner are two seats that directly face the wheel. Keeping with our baseball notation, these would be “shortstop” and “third base.” Reaching for anything beyond the third dozens would require quite a stretch, but they are usually afforded a good view of the action. Sometimes a sixth chair is positioned around the corner from third base (same side of the table as the dealer). This player can access most of the layout and sports a great view of the wheel, also. The European tables may have 1 or 2 additional seats on the same side of the table that the dealer occupies. Another option, which I usually accept, is to stand. I like to watch the wheel from behind the seated first base player. After the seated players have placed most of their bets, and the dealer has commenced spinning the ball, I reach over between first and center and place my bets. Usually a quick, “excuse me please” is all that is required for them to give you some room.
Wheel Chips vs. House Chips
In Europe, all players bet with the same house checks (or chips). Sometimes if the game heats up, the confusion is very real. Imagine… you’re down to your last few chips. You place one each on 26, 0 and 32. The ball crosses onto the rotor near 7, strikes 35 and dribbles into 26! Just as you reach for your winnings, another patron has firmly wrenched his hands around your winning stacks, claiming them as his. But you know that you wagered on the 0 and its two neighbors. Everyone looks at you as though you were trying to pull a fast one!?! Unfortunately, this scenario has probably happened many times before. Just make sure to keep your guard up at all times. Betting the same number of chips each spin will help. If you are betting neighbors (forming a sector) or favorite numbers, it will be easier to locate your bets. If you are just sprinkling the layout as you see fit with no particular pattern to speak of, then you may lose track of your wagers too easily.
In North America, the roulette games use special chips called “wheel chips.” These chips will have a unique letter or design on them designating which table they belong to. They cannot be used anywhere else in the casino… only at the table from which they were issued. The wheel chips come in 6 or 7 different color groups of 300 chips each. Each seated player will usually have his own color to bet with, eliminating any confusion on the layout. After the dealer has paid off all the winning bets from the previous spin, place your buy-in (cash or casino checks) out on the layout and ask if there is a “color” available. You cannot hand the money to the dealer; place it down on the table. If the dealer does not see your buy-in right away, be patient; he may be busy. But do keep an eye on it until he is ready to convert it. He will count out your money or chips on the table in front of him. After getting a final check from the supervisor, he will push your colored wheel chips over to you.
You can buy in for any amount that you wish, as long as it is equal to or greater than the minimum bet allowed on that table (check the placard located near the wheel itself). The wheel chips are organized into stacks of 20. If the chip minimum for that table is 25 cents (downtown Vegas) and you give the dealer a $5 bill, he will assume that you want (20) 25-cent chips to play with. If, instead, you want (10) 50-cent chips or (5) $1 chips, you will have to inform him of your preference. There is a shelf on the back rim of the roulette wheel where one of each colored chip can be placed. The dealer will place a special marker button or “lammer” on your color to signify what it is worth. You can make your wheel chips worth the minimum (usually 25 cents, 50 cents or $1 each), $5 each, $25 each or up to $100 each in certain casinos, depending upon the amount of your buy-in. If you wish to play with chips worth more than $100 in value, talk to one of the bosses in the pit to see if they can accommodate you. No other person can use your chips to bet with, not even your own spouse, who may be standing right behind you.
Chips are cleared and moved by hand in North American casinos instead of by rake. You will notice that winning wagers are paid by “cutting” the chips. Dealers will bring their entire hand over a stack of chips and use the index finger to cut and separate chips into smaller stacks. Outside bets are simply paid off in like stacks. The dealer doesn’t actually count the chips. He will pay you in two same-height stacks for 2-to-1 wagers or one equal stack for even-money bets. Winning bets are paid in Europe by “running out” the chips. Because the French-style chips are beveled on-edge and more awkward to handle, the winning bet is spread out left to right in front of the dealer and counted out precisely. This of course, accounts for much of the extra time taken. After the dealer has paid off all the winning bets, he will remove the marker or “dolly” from the winning number and place it near the wheel. This is your signal to begin betting. Players are given time to decide where they want to put their chips on the layout. After most bets appear to be placed, the dealer will commence spinning the ball. In North America, the dealer will typically spin the wheel head counter-clockwise and snap the ball in the clockwise direction. In Europe, the croupier will alternate directions on subsequent spins. The ball is always spun in the opposite direction that the wheel is spun. You may continue to wager after the ball is snapped, but only until the dealer cries, “No more bets” and waves his arm over the layout. Recently, many European casinos have set up special rooms offering “American games.” They have adapted many of the American innovations like “square-edge” chips and a set of differently colored “wheel chips” for each table. Like the games in North America, these games clip along at a faster pace. As the inefficiencies of the French-style games become more apparent, I believe that the slower French games will give way to the faster, more profitable American style of play.
You must bet the table minimum on each spin (or nothing at all). If the table minimum is $5 and the chip minimums are $1 each, then each outside bet that you place must equal $5. The “outside bets” include the even-money wagers and the 2-to-1 wagers found on the outside of the layout. Any bets on or to an individual number (placed on the inside of the layout) are referred to as “inside bets.” These only need to total up to the table minimum. So, for our $5 table, you could place one $1 chip on the 1-4 line, one on the number 5 straight up, one on the 16-19 split, one on the 10-street and one chip on the 17-21 corner to fulfill the minimum requirement for inside betting. At the same time if you wish to wager on “red” and the “second dozens,” for instance, you will have to put down a complete and separate $5 bet on each one. Any additional outside bets will have to be $5 each. Once the ball settles into one of the numbered compartments or “pockets,” he will mark the winning number. All losing bets are immediately removed from the layout. Winning bets are paid according to the proper odds offered by the casino. Before leaving the table, you must color-up your wheel chips at that table (where you received them). Stack them neatly into piles of 5, 10 or 20 chips each and announce to the dealer, “Color coming in.” Push your stacks carefully over to the dealer. He will recount your chips, check their value and pay you in regular casino chips.
If the table is not busy, or you only wish to place a few quick bets, then use the regular casino chips. Most dealers won’t mind if nobody else is using them. Just check with the dealer first. Also, if you confine your betting to the outside bets, then the regular house chips are fine. Unlike the inside bets, keep your bet separate from anyone else’s. Stack your bet with the larger denominations on the bottom and the smallest denomination on top. Organizing your wager in this way will make it easier for the dealer to make quicker and more accurate payoffs. Be sure to read our accompanying article, “Various Wagers and Their Payoffs” for a better understanding of all the inside and outside bets, and what their payoffs are. Whether seated or standing at the table, conduct yourself with proper comportment. Sure, it’s alright to enjoy yourself, but blowing smoke, bumping or shoving the other patrons or using crude language is all too common. A little respect for your fellow man will go a long way toward having a more pleasurable experience. Well… maybe I’ll see you at the tables sometime.
There are 38 different pockets that the ball may fall into (37 on the French-style wheel). Couple that with 11 different types of bets that you can make, and you have countless ways to wager at the roulette table. You can go for the long shot or the more conservative even-money wagers. Either way, you’re probably playing against the same house edge, unless you’re taking advantage of the “En Prison” or “Surrender” options.
Bets are usually broken up into two different categories: “Outside Bets” and “Inside Bets.” The outside bets are called that for a good reason. These are the bets that are contained outside of the numbered grid. They include the even-money wagers and the 2-to-1 wagers. As you might guess, the inside bets are found on the inside of the numbered grid or layout. These bets are also treated a little differently. If the minimum wager is $10 for that table, then all of your individual inside bets must add up to the minimum. Chances are, you will be playing with $1 chips, so you will have to use at least ten $1 chips on the inside of the betting layout. The outside bets, on the other hand, require that each bet equals the table minimum. So, for our $10 table example, if you wanted to wager on “black,” the “Second Dozen,” and the “Odd” numbers, then you would have to bet at least $30 total, or three times the table minimum. Because the outside bets can afford you the space to have separate bets placed, you can use the regular house chips with the denominations on them for outside betting.
The other difference between inside and outside bets is that all inside bets from all players are stacked on top of each other. Unlike the other games, where everyone has their own place to make a wager, there is only one spot on the inside layout for each particular bet. That’s why each person at the table (in North American casinos) is issued his or her own private color of “wheel chips” with which to bet (see Table Etiquette…). For the outside bets, you will place your own wager, or stack of chips, separate from anyone else’s. The outside bets will have a higher maximum bet allowed as compared to the inside bets. If the maximum inside wager is $100, then the maximum outside bet is probably $1000 or $2000. Imagine a patron likes the number 20, for example, so he wagers $1000 straight up on it. The dealer falls into a pattern and hits three 20’s in the next five spins… the casino would be down over a $100,000 in short order. Or worse yet, the dealer is skilled and has an accomplice betting a certain set of numbers for high stakes… well, you get the picture. A lot of money could change hands very quickly! The lower inside number maximum prevents wild fluctuations (whether random or not) from killing their “hold.”
In the Illustration above, chips A through F are placed on the Even Money Wagers; that is to say that they pay 1 to 1. Each of these bets gives you 18 ways to win and 20 (American wheel) or 19 (French wheel) ways to lose. Below is an explanation of each wager with its English and French name:
A.Numbers 1 through 18 (Low or Manque).
B.All 18 different “Even” numbers (Even or Pair). Zeros are not considered even numbers.
C.Includes all 18 “Red” numbers (Red or Rouge). D.All 18 “Black” numbers (Black or Noir).
E.All 18 different “Odd” numbers (Odd or Impair).
F.Numbers 19 through 36 (High or Passe).
Also above you see the “2-to-1” wagers: the “Dozens” and the “Columns.” Each dozen wager covers the 12 numbers directly above its marked betting area. The column bets are simply labeled “2 to 1.” They include the 12 numbers starting just to the right of the zeros on the layout, all the way down the column and just to the left of the “2 to 1” space, where you would wager on that column.
G.Numbers 13 through 24 (2nd Dozen or Moyenne Douzaine).
Note: In Europe, the dozens are lined up across the bottom of the layout, under the “2 to 1” column bets. The space labeled “12 P” (Premiere Douzaine) is reserved for wagers on the first dozen. “12 M” (Moyenne Douzaine) refers to the “middle” or second dozen and “12 D” (Derniere Douzaine) denotes the “last” or third dozen.
H.Covers the 12 numbers starting with number 3 and adding by 3’s up to 36 (3rd Column or 3rd Colonne). In our picture above, one of each bet type is included as an example. Each wager is explained as follows:
I.A one-number wager on “5” (Straight Up or En plein) – It pays 35 to 1.
J.A two-number bet on “17 & 20” (Split or A¢ Cheval) – paying 17 to 1.
K.Three-number bet on “10, 11 & 12” (Street or Transversale plein) – it pays 11:1.
L.Four-number bet covering “26, 27, 29 & 30” (Corner or En carre¢) – paying 8:1.
M.Five-number bet. Incidentally this is the only 5-number wager on the board. It covers “0, 00, 1, 2 & 3.” It is the only non 5.26% house edge. It gives the house a whopping 7.89% edge (Top Line or Cinq numeros) – 6:1.
N.Six-number wager on “31 through 36” (Line or Sizain) – 5:1.
If you cannot reach a number on the layout, solicit the dealer for assistance. Once the dealer waves his arm across the table and declares, “No more bets” you must stop wagering. Hopefully, this article helped to explain the various betting options that you have and their resulting payoffs. Have fun and good luck!
Why We Play Roulette
Betting, waiting, watching… as the ball makes its passes in the outer rim, gradually slowing down and breaking from upper track. Spiraling down to the rotor, the ball crosses over, strikes a numbered pocket, then a few short hops later, hopefully comes to rest in one of our favorite numbers.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement as the event unfolds right before your eyes. I can’t imagine feeling more excited than seeing the ball enter the rotor right before my targeted sector of pockets and watching as it dribbles right into one of my heavily favored numbers!! What an adrenaline rush! Or the ball descends half a wheel away, but through the benefit of a strange bounce, it is suspended on the rotor’s edge… waiting for my area to come into play! Then, bam, it takes a turn right into one of my pockets. Of course, the reverse happens as well. Either way, it is a roller coaster ride of emotions. It is the “highs” and the “lows” that make it addicting.
What’s a casino without a roulette wheel? Imagine Rick’s Café in Casablanca or James Bond’s savvy wagering without a roulette wheel around. In fact, countless movies with scenes situated in a casino will frequently show a roulette wheel to help the viewer realize, “Yeah, we’re in a casino now.” It has been the dominant symbol of casino gambling. From movies to television shows to photographs – a roulette wheel is usually visible… and why not? Roulette is the oldest of all the modern casino games, dating back almost 300 years. Couple this long history with romantic notions of breaking the bank, and you have an irresistible lure. There are plenty of stories to go around of big wins and near misses. Ask anyone of the patrons playing roulette. They’ll usually have some personal stories to share. Perhaps they even know some of the romantic tales of past heroes who tempted fate and were victorious. My favorite roulette story starts off… “One of the most spectacular and popular gamblers at Monte Carlo was a handsome young American named William Nelson Darnborough from Bloomington, Illinois. How he beat roulette at Monte Carlo from 1904 to 1911 has been a well-kept secret.” Darnborough, in fact, beat the casino to the extent of $415,000. A sum, no doubt, equal to 10 or 15 times that amount in today’s dollars. If you would like to hear the rest of the story, you’ll have to buy Russell Barnhart’s book, Beating the Wheel. With painstaking attention to details, Barnhart has included many more interesting stories.
There’s something for everyone… from the more conservative “even-money” bettor to the more aggressive long-shot artist, and everything in between. There’s a bet to go with every temperament. Unlike the game of craps, for example, the house’s edge is consistent for conservative betting all the way up to the 35-to-1 straight up wagers. The French 2.70% edge or even the American 5.26% edge kills the double-digit edge found on the center of a craps table. Because of the variety of wagers, many systems have been developed over the past couple of hundred years with roulette in mind. Whether it’s the Martingale, the Labouchere, the d’Alembert or a half-dozen others that come to mind, there are numerous betting systems available to employ. And now, with the popularity of the electronic tote board, systems players can easily canvas the pit for various combinations of results. Of course there is no way to beat the game with a purely mathematical approach, but when applied in moderation, it will help enhance your enjoyment of the game as well as your accounting skills.
Some folks just develop an appreciation for the finer things in life. Adding a touch of sophistication makes life interesting. Things like art, music, fashion or just fine dining help us to develop a more civil side to our personality. As an engineer, I appreciate the precision crafted mechanism of a casino roulette wheel on one hand, along with the richly appointed hardwoods and chrome trim on the other. Like a fine Swiss watch or an expensive German auto, there is a beautiful mixture of old-world craftsmanship and state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. Just like the automobile or the watch, a finely tuned roulette wheel is a joy to observe!
The game can be an elegant, leisurely break from the rest of the casino. With a sense of civility and decorum, where else can the common folk and the aristocracy both share the plush surroundings of a relaxed and quiet atmosphere? Roulette is often characterized as a serious, but unhurried game, graced by Kings and Queens. With plenty of time between spins, you’ll have ample opportunity to play your systems. You can calculate your next series of wagers or socialize with neighbors. Relax and enjoy the company of that attractive blond on your right or that shapely brunette on your left who needs assistance reaching the layout. Of course, not wanting to appear sexist in any way, how about rubbing elbows with that dashing young Duke, or some friendly conversation with that handsome, witty Texan? You can make an event out of playing the game. Because of its slower, more relaxed pace, you can stop and enjoy the company at hand. Indeed, the game is faster here in the States, but you can still stop to chat with your neighbors if you’re feeling social. In North America, only a small percentage of gamblers consider roulette to be their favorite game. It can provide a welcome diversion or change of pace for the many other patrons.
The biggest reason, I believe, that many play roulette is to make money! Whether playing systems or hunches, everyone seems to have an opinion on the proper method of play. If we thought that we had no chance of winning, we simply would not play. Most patrons will play if they feel they have some chance to beat the game, even if it’s a “lucky” win. But is it possible to beat this game over the long term? I believe it is… if (and that’s a big “if”) you have the proper strategy and dedication to know how to employ it. While mathematical systems alone will fail in the long run, the right predictive methods can, and have beaten the game. In future articles we’ll discuss such topics as “dealer’s signature,” “biased wheel play” and “visual tracking,” to name a few. So stay tuned…