The roulette wheel is the ultimate random number generating device. Invented in the 1700s as an attempt to create a ‘perpetual motion machine’, roulette quickly became one of the world’s favourite gambling games. From the French gambling houses frequented by the elite of society, the game has spread throughout the world. Today, with the advent of online random number generated games as well as live dealer roulette, your nearest real money game is no further away than your phone.
You know that lucky number of yours? Yes, that’s right, your nephew’s birthday/house number/date you got married… well, I’m afraid that it’s probably not going to help you out at the roulette table. If you do decide to go for a straight up bet (a bet on a single number) then the good news is that you have chosen the option with the biggest potential return. A straight-up bet pays out at odds of 35 to 1, so a $10 bet would earn you a sweet $360 (made up of $350 plus the return of your $10 bet).
Sounds like a pretty good deal! However, you should bear in mind that there are 36 numbers on the roulette wheel plus the Zero, meaning that the real odds of a win are 37 to 1. If you are unfortunate enough to have to play on an American table, the odds will be 38 to 1 as there is a 00 pocket on that wheel, and your potential return is still just 35 times your bet.
Those of you who are good at maths will have worked out that the house edge on a straight up roulette bet is 2.7% if you play on a French or European table. If you play on an American table that jumps up to 5.3%. In fact, this house edge remains constant across all the different roulette bet types, whether you are trying to win with corner bets or outside bets like red/black or odds/even.
The difference is that the chance of an outside bet actually resulting in a win is considerably better, although of course, the payout is a lot less since it just doubles your stake. If you want one of the safest bets in the casino then go for red/black or similar, if you want to take a chance then try for the straight-up bet, but if you don’t hit in your first 5 spins it’s probably best to pick up your chips and move on.
The first obvious piece of strategy advice is that you should never play on an American roulette table if you have the choice! Online players nearly always have the option to choose a non-American table, so make sure that you don’t make the foolish mistake of betting on an American roulette wheel.
That leaves French and European tables: which of these is better? The answer is that whenever you have the option, you should choose to play on a French roulette table. That is because of an additional rule which applies only to the French roulette table, and only when betting on ‘even money’ bets like odds/evens and red/black.
When you place an outside bet like this, the normal chance of success is 50:50, less than 1 in 37 chance of green coming up. However the special French roulette rule – called La Partage – changes the odds in your favour.
In this case, if you make a red/black bet, for example, and the ball ends up in the green zero pocket, you get half of your bet returned to you. You won’t always be able to find an online roulette table offering the La Partage rule, but if you do you should make it your home for online roulette play as you won’t find better roulette odds anywhere else.
So the secret to successful roulette play is not so much of a secret after all. The biggest influence on your success will be the table you decide to play on. Choose the French option whenever possible, to take advantage of the La Partage rule.
Avoid American tables and also ‘gimmicky’ roulette games where an extra pocket with a bonus feature will reduce your probability of success. Don’t be fooled by so-called can’t lose roulette systems, just play the odds and never bet with money you cannot afford to lose.