American vs. European Roulette – Which is Better?

By J.W. Paine in Roulette
| July 13, 2022 12:00 pm PDT
American roulette table in a casino

In any brick-and-mortar casino in the world, you will find two games regularly swarmed by players and spectators: Craps and roulette.

And while craps is a game that requires significant knowledge of odds and a relatively sophisticated way of playing, it’s roulette that attracts the most involvement from the bettors. Why? Because whether it’s European roulette or American roulette, it’s a simple and exciting game to play.

Incidentally, roulette was invented back in the 1600s by the French, so I guess we can add that to letters, fries, and kissing to their list of important contributions to humanity.

At any rate, these are two terrific games, but it’s important to note the difference so you can decide which to play. I’m tasked with doing just that, so let’s pit European vs. American roulette against each other and see which is the superior casino game.

Which One Is Better to Play Online?

It’s quite possible you want to waste no time in finding the best place (or way) to bet on roulette. Perhaps that’s where your interest in this European vs. American roulette clash ends. If so, the first question may be where should you look to play these games on the internet.

If you have no interest in the social aspects of roulette and instead want the best bet for the money, then try playing online roulette but the European variant instead.

Instead of spending hours, if not days looking for a place you can bet the Orphans or make a basket bet, you’ll find all the possible permutations of roulette online.

You’ll even have your choice of both RNG-driven video roulette and live-dealer roulette. The only difference between the two is the number of spins you can wager on in an hour. Just make sure you’re using the best online casinos out there.

The list of trusted roulette betting sites below should help point you in the right direction.

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Which Is Better to Play at a Land Casino?

Casino floor

If you prefer roulette in the real world, then you probably enjoy the social aspects of the game as much as the wagering itself. If that’s the case, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a casino spinning 0/00 wheels in Europe.

And the obverse is true in the US—there aren’t many casinos spinning the single zero. In fact, there are some casinos in the US that are actually spinning triple-zero wheels. These 0-00-000 tables give the house a 7.69% advantage.

Still, if you look carefully, you can actually find an American casino or two spinning European roulette. These tend to be the larger casinos, and the European table maybe there just for an experiment.

Your best bet (in the truest meaning of the word) is to find European roulette. In fact, playing the American game is at the top of the list for ways roulette players sabotage themselves. You can still play both, but just make sure you’re doing so at one of our top online casinos.

What Do American and European Roulette Have in Common?

Blais Pascal

Now that you have a few spots to play either of these roulette games, it’s time to really get into this European vs. American roulette debate. Before we examine the differences between the two types of roulette, however, let’s look at what they both have in common.

First, a bit of history: The French mathematician Blais Pascal invented the first form of the roulette wheel in the 17th century.

For the first two hundred years of its existence, it would have looked quite odd to present-day gamblers if for no other reason than it was missing one important feature: a pocket numbered 0.

About halfway through the 19th century, a pair of magicians working on a roulette game for the king of Monaco added the missing zero—and the rest, they say, is history.

Roulette became quite popular, partly because of that zany zero and partly because Germany outlawed gambling, and Monaco was the nearest casino town.

In any case, aside from America’s addition of a double zero to the wheel, roulette has remained basically unchanged for the last two hundred years. Before trying your hand at some real money roulette online, let’s look more closer about the mechanics of the roulette table below.

The Table

Although some are more oddly shaped, the roulette table is a long rectangle with enough surface area to accommodate both the roulette wheel and a betting grid representing all of the available wagering options.

The Wheel

The basic concept of a slotted (or pocketed) wheel with numbers in each pocket. The wheel is rotated, and a ball (typically white) is rotated in the contrary direction along a rim until the wheel slows and the ball succumbs to gravity, falling into one of the pockets.

The Numbers

While the number of zeros may differ, the ordinal numbers of the roulette wheel on either side of the Atlantic are still 1 through 36, and the specific distribution of red and black numbers are identical (e.g., 35 is black in New Jersey as well as in Monaco).

The Wagering Grid

Bettors wager chips (typically, cash is not allowed on the roulette table; you must exchange your money for casino chips before placing a roulette bet). The 36 numbers are arranged in three columns of 12 numbers each, with either a single zero (European) or a zero and a double zero (American) at the top of the columns.

Betting on multiple numbers is allowed, and with a single chip (or single stack of chips), you can wager on up to six numbers simply by overlapping the border of the chosen numbers with the chip.

Some of the wagers permitted are called outside bets. These are small odds wagers with low payouts. They include the following.

  • Is the number red or black?
  • Is the number even or odd?
  • Is the number in the first, second, or third column of numbers on the wagering grid?
  • Is the number in one of the three sequential groupings of numbers (1-12, for example)
  • Is the number low (1-18) or high (19-36)?

The Casino

Regardless of location, the casino employee working the roulette wheel is called the croupier, although, in the US, that employee is also referred to as the dealer. Calling the croupier “hey pal” tends to be discouraged on both sides of the Atlantic.

The croupier’s manager is the “pit boss” in the US and the “table inspector” in Europe.

Both employees have the same responsibilities regardless of nomenclature—the croupier runs the table, pays all wagers, rakes all losses, and does that with the ball and the wheel everybody likes to watch.

The pit boss ensures all the roulette tables are functioning properly and oversees everything in the roulette section.

European Roulette

European roulette gives the house a lower advantage—2.7%, to be exact. Not the lowest in the casino, but certainly better than some of the bets in craps and all the bets in the keno lounge.

Single zero roulette

One zero

One of the biggest differences between European and American roulette is the number of zeros on the roulette wheel. Why is this a big difference? One zero means the house edge is 2.7%, putting roulette in the same league as some of the smarter wagers on the craps table.

Incidentally, the zero wasn’t added to the roulette wheel until nearly two centuries after its initial invention.

Wheel layout

There are only 37 pockets around the outer edge of the European roulette wheel—and the order differs from its American counterpart.

The numbers are sequenced seemingly at random, but upon closer inspection, reveal that the high numbers (19-36) and the low numbers (1-18) are evenly distributed in the sequence.

European Roulette Wheel Numerical Order (Counterclockwise from Zero)
0 26 3 35 12 28 7 29 18 22
9 31 14 20 1 33 16 24 5 10
23 8 30 11 36 13 27 6 34 17
25 2 21 4 19 15 32

En Prison

Some European casinos (but not all) offer a free spin if an even-odd bet loses to zero. In simple terms, if you bet on even or odd, and the spin results in a zero, you have to option of having the croupier declare your wager “en prison.” The croupier places a marker on your wager, then the next spin occurs.

If en prison is available at the roulette table, there may also be the opportunity for la partage—which means that you only forfeit half your wager if the en prison free spin results in a loss.

The French Bets

European casinos that offer the en prison option also tend to include some outside bets commonly referred to as “the French bets.” These three multi-number wagers all revolve around a group of numbers and their varying proximity on the wheel to zero. They are below.

  • Voisins du Zero (“Neighbors of Zero”)This bet covers the 17 numbers on either side of the zero. The numbers are 22, 18, 29, 7, 28, 12, 35, 3, 26, 0, 32, 15, 19, 4, 21, 2, and 25.
  • Tiers du Cylindre (“Third of the Wheel”)Also called simply Tiers, this bet is a wager on the 12 numbers across the wheel from the zero. They include 27, 13, 36, 11, 30, 8, 23, 10, 5, 24, 16, and 33.
  • Orphelins (“Orphans”)This bet is on those numbers not included in either the Voisins or Tiers wagers—i.e., 17, 34, 6 and 1, 20, 14, 31, and 9.

Call Bets and Announced Bets

Call bets are basically the house extending the player’s credit and permitting the player to “call out” the bet they wish to make without actually putting money chips on the table to represent those bets. Announced bets are similar but require the player to have chips in front of them sufficient to back the “announced” wager.

Interestingly, you won’t see this take place in the UK because GB has a law against betting on credit.

American Roulette

In comparison to European roulette, American roulette is comparatively straightforward. After all, you pick a number between 1 and 36 (38 total with the single zero or double zero). Let’s not make this difficult, m’kay?

Double zero roulette

One Zero, Two Zeros

Adding double zero to the roulette wheel might not seem like much, but it nearly doubles the house advantage, from the European 2.7% to the American 5.26%. And all those French bets? As they say in New Jersey: Fuhgeddaboudit.

Not only does the 00 increase the house edge, but the sequence of the numbers on the wheel has been changed dramatically. Since the ball drops randomly into the pockets as the wheel slows, it’s unlikely that the difference in the sequence between European vs.

American roulette wheels affects outcomes in any appreciable way.

Wheel layout

Like its European ancestor, the American roulette wheel is carefully sequenced to ensure maximum randomness in each spin’s outcome. Still, there are a few instances where the low numbers are pretty close together, such as the 8 and 12 pockets and the 7 and 11 pockets.

This allows some people to claim that the European roulette wheel is superior to the American roulette wheel. To this, I say, “whatever, Frenchie.”

American Roulette Wheel Numerical Order (Counterclockwise from Zero)
0 2 14 35 23 4 16 33 21 6
18 31 19 8 12 29 25 10 27
00 1 13 36 24 3 15 34 22 5
17 32 20 7 11 30 26 9 28

Five-Way Bet/Basket Bet

This special wager can be accomplished with a single chip and represents a wager on five specific numbers: 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3. There’s nothing particularly daring about this since you can use a single chip to bet a single line (three numbers) or two lines (six numbers).

Concerning the basket bet: the chance of hitting one of those five numbers is 13.16%, but the casino typically pays 6/1 on a win. That means the house advantage on that specific wager is a gobsmacking 7.89%.

American vs. European Roulette – Do You Have to Choose?

Roulette table

As I mentioned earlier, French mathematician Blais Pascal created the roulette wheel. But he didn’t do it to revolutionize the gambling world. It was an experiment in his continuing research to make a perpetual motion machine.

They say the experiment failed, but we have to wonder. After all, it’s a certainty that there’s a roulette wheel spinning somewhere in the world right now. And we can assume that since that first single-zero wheel in Monte-Carlo, there’s been a roulette wheel spinning constantly.

And what can you call that except “perpetual motion”?

Be that as it may, if you like this game—regardless of which side of the European vs. American roulette debate you’re on—your best bet is to visit a safe online casino that features your favorite variation of roulette.

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