It is the most identifiable casino game that you will find on the gaming floor. First invented in the 17th century and tagged with the French moniker for “small wheel,” roulette is both exceedingly popular and quite easy to learn, understand, and play.
Which is why, be it the wealthiest casino in the Riviera, the Native American casino down the block, or the charity gaming night at your local church, roulette wheels are everywhere.
There is no human element, as with blackjack. No one touches the object of the spin, like in craps. It’s just a wheel, a ball, and the gambler placing bets on where they think that ball will land. Because the entirety of the game is up to chance, the odds never change. However, that doesn’t mean that bettors can’t also do things to aid themselves in the quest to be a winner.
Roulette doesn't come with very many variations, unlike poker as an example. There are only two main types of roulette that you are likely to encounter when playing at a casino. (Online casinos may feature many more versions including mini-roulette).
As its name suggests, American roulette is what you'll find being played in the United States. It's also popular in Asia and the United Kingdom.
What differentiates American roulette is the 38 numbers on the wheel. There are numbers 1 through 36 that alternate red and black, and both 0 and 00 are marked in green.
All spaces are identical in size and shape, so when the ball is put in play, there is an equal chance for it to land in any of the 38 numbered pockets. Your job as the bettor is to correctly bet on where that ball will eventually come to rest.
There is only a small difference with European roulette. Instead of 38 numbers, there are only 37 numbers. The 00 is not on the European roulette wheel, leaving 0 as the only green space.
This feature lowers the edge to the house and makes European roulette more desirable for the gambler to play. So if you find yourself with the option of playing European roulette over American roulette, we recommend you do so.
The basic roulette bets are broken down into two categories - inside bets and outside bets. Inside bets are placed on the actual numbers on the table:
Outside bets are placed outside the 38 numbers on the table:
Before placing any bets at the roulette table, you will need to cash in your chips for special colored chips available at the table. Each player gets their own designated color of chip to avoid any confusion as to which placed bet belongs to which player.
Casinos don't keep opening up because they are giving money away. There is no casino game that can be easily beaten, and there is no betting system that is guaranteed to win you money.
But as long as you keep your overall expectations tempered, you can find a system that can help you be more profitable, making it worthwhile to learn.
A game that has been around as long as roulette has seen many enterprising gamblers create systems designed to help them win more money. Most are total failures. But others are actually useful, and before you head to the roulette table, a few of them are worth knowing about.
The best known of the progressive betting systems, The Martingale System, tells the bettor to double their wager amount after every loss - making it a negative progressive system. This system is designed for outside bets that pay as close to even odds as the bettor can make. It looks like this.
As long as the bettor is losing, the bet must be doubled each time. The theory behind the system is that eventually, a bet will win, and all of the previous losing bets will be recovered.
Over the short term, this can be successful. However, if you bump up against the limits of the table or the limits of your own bankroll, you could end up losing a lot of money.
Another progressive system, though this one is a positive progressive system, is The Paroli Betting System. It's also called the reverse Martingale because its rules are the exact opposite of those of The Martingale System.
Instead of doubling your bets when you lose, The Paroli System wants you to ride your winning streak and double your bets after each winning bet. In practice, it looks like this.
You won three of five bets, but are down money. So what's the point of The Paroli System? The idea is that wins and losses come in streaks. But of course, you can only turn a profit if you can capitalize on a winning streak, and then get out before the next loss.
So unlike The Martingale System, a positive progression system tells players to pick a target win streak, and once you hit that win streak, pocket your profit and begin again.
As you can see from the above example, if you keep playing and keep doubling, you will eventually lose it all. The key to being successful with The Paroli System is to know when to stop.
Most experienced progressive system bettors will set the limit of their target win streak at three. After three consecutive winning bets, they stop and then start the sequence over.
In the long run, the casino will always win, which is why short and sweet is the best way to go. Win streaks longer than three are unpredictable and much harder to find.
A negative progression system like Martingale, The D'Alembert System was created by mathematician Jean Le Rond D'Alembert as he was trying to create a more profitable version of The Martingale System.
Instead of doubling bets, D'Alembert uses an increase in what he refers to as units. These also come into play following wins. And again, this system is designed for outside bets that pay close to even odds.
Let's say $10 is your base unit. After each loss, you would increase your bet by a single unit, or $10. And after each win, you are instructed to reduce your bet by a single unit. Let's see how it looks in practice.
You've placed six bets, won three and lost three, but are up $30 in profit. That's a pretty good result. So does this mean The D'Alembert System is better than The Martingale System?
It's a much flatter progression than Martingale, making the losses easier to manage. But the winning bets will also be less, and it may take multiple wins to make up for multiple losses. So it's not better; it just carries less risk.
The Fibonacci Sequence goes back to the 1200s - long before roulette was even being played. It's a sequence of numbers such that each number in the sequence is the sum of the two preceding numbers.
It shows up in everything to math, to the leaves on a stem, to the genealogy of bees. The sequence looks like this.
And on and on it goes.
So what does an 800-year old Italian mathematician have to do with betting on roulette?
Bettors have found that using a betting system built from this sequence plays out in similar ways to other negative progression systems, but with less risk. Here's how the Fibonacci Sequence looks when used for roulette.
Now that we have a win, the rules of this betting system tell us to drop back two spaces in the sequence and place a bet in that amount. In this case, that is $5.
And we are to repeat this process - moving forward one space after a loss, and moving back two spaces after a win - until we are back at the beginning of the sequence. So let's continue.
And we now have returned to the very beginning of the sequence and completed the system. We won five bets and lost eight, but actually came out of it winning a profit of $1. So, no, this isn't a get-rich-quick system, but it will allow for a large number of plays with much lower risk than other progression systems.
This system may look a lot like the Fibonacci Sequence in that it has a list of numbers that you use to choose your wagering amount. But in reality, this is an entirely different system with no relation to Fibonacci whatsoever. For one, the sequence of numbers is created by you.
Pick an amount you want to win during this roulette session. Let's say $20 is your goal. The Labouchere System tells you to create a sequence of numbers that, when added together, equal 20. Let's go with this.
For our initial bet, we take the first number (3) and the last number (5) and wager the amount of their sum ($8). Since this is another even odds strategy, let's bet on black.
We won our bet, which means that we cross off those two numbers, and now our remaining sequence looks like this: 3-4-5.
And once again, we take the first and last numbers and place another wager for that amount.
This time we lose the $8 bet, so instead of crossing off those two numbers, we add an 8 to the end of our sequence. It now looks like this: 3-4-5-8.
We repeat the process, now betting $11 on black. We win, cross off those two numbers, and place a final bet for $9. We win that bet, our sequence has been completely crossed off, and our session is over.
It is quite an easy system to execute if you remember the two basic rules. After a winning bet, you always cross off the numbers on the ends used to make that bet. After a losing bet, you don't cross off anything and instead add the amount of the losing bet to the end of the sequence.
The advantages of this system are its organization, its variation in betting, and that the progression isn't too steep. You can also modify your goal amount and chosen sequence in any way you want.
But while this system is very helpful in being able to visualize how close you are to turning the desired profit, it does not swing any odds in your favor. The house still has its edge.
On American roulette, there are 38 numbers, and the most that any one bet can cover are 18 of those numbers. So the house edge is 5.3%. On European roulette, there are 37 numbers, which creates a house edge of just 2.7%.
That means that for every $100 bet on American roulette, $94.70 is paid back in winnings. On European roulette, $100 in bets will return $97.30 in winnings.
When looking at the edge of the house, the worst bet to place is the First Five Bet. That bet, placed on 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3, comes with a house advantage of 7.89%. This bet returns less money in winnings than any other bet on the roulette table and is not recommended.
There are, of course, variables at play on other casino games that can’t be quantified. In blackjack, your experience, plus the experience of the people sitting with you, alters the rate of results. But from a purely mathematical standpoint, we can say which games offer the best odds to the player.
There most certainly are. At a land-based casino, you are likely restricted to just the two major types of roulette – American and European. However, most online casinos will feature several other roulette variations.
When implementing a new betting strategy, you can try it out for free online, since it’s easy to practice roulette. This is a great way to experiment with different bet types and to figure out your own personal preference on how you like to play. You will not have a free-play option in person at a casino.
And because an online casino has significantly less overhead than a brick-and-mortar casino, quite often you’ll find variations of roulette that have better odds and bigger payouts. The cheaper it is to run a casino, the more that casino can give back in winnings.