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10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Roulette Before I Started

| January 1, 2018 12:00 am PDT
Helpful Roulette Tips

Roulette is one of the simplest table games to play once you get the hang of it. All you need to do is place your bets and watch as the ball spins around the wheel.

But roulette isn’t so simple when you’re getting started, because it has lots of bets and several variations. You can end up surrendering a higher house edge when you don’t know the ins and outs of the game.

I certainly suffered through this problem when getting started with roulette. I’ll go over 10 things that I wish I knew in the beginning, so you can avoid these problems.

1. Even-Money Bets Give You High Odds of Winning

One fun thing about roulette is that it offers dozens of wagers. What’s more is that you don’t need to worry much about strategy, because every bet has the same house edge (relevant to the variation).

But does this mean that you can pick any bet and expect to have the same chance of winning?

No, because roulette wagers all offer different odds of winning. You can see this below by looking at the odds and payouts for different European roulette bets:

  • Single number – 36:1 odds, 35:1 payout
  • Split – 17.5:1 odds, 17:1 payout
  • Street – 17.5:1 odds, 17:1 payout
  • Corner – 8.25:1 odds, 8:1 payout
  • Six line – 5.17:1 odds, 5:1 payout
  • Column – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
  • Dozen – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
  • Odds/even – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
  • Red/black – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
  • High/low – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout

All of these wagers offer a 2.70% house edge. But you can see the differences in your odds of winning.

I was naive about this in the beginning and just bet on whatever I felt like in the moment. This wouldn’t have been such a big problem if I had a larger bankroll and could wait on long-shot bets coming through.

But the truth is that my bankroll wasn’t very large, and I should’ve started with even-money bets. This would’ve allowed me to play longer and get more entertainment out of roulette.

Instead, I was constantly throwing my money away on single-number and split wagers, which rarely came through.

2. American Roulette Is the Worst Version

American roulette is the main roulette variation found in North American casinos. And since I’m from America, it only felt natural to play the variation that I found most often in local casinos.

But the problem is that American roulette is the worst because it has a 5.26% house edge. For context, many modern slot machines pay this much or more.

I didn’t know much about roulette house edges back then, which is why I blindly played American roulette so often.

What makes this variation so bad?

The American wheel features 38 numbers, including a single zero and double zero. Both of the zero pockets are house friendly, meaning they favor the casino on many wagers.

When you divide the 2 zero pockets by the 38 total numbers, you arrive at the 5.26% house edge. Below, you can see all of the different casino games that pay better than American roulette:

  • Video poker = 0.46% house edge (9/6 Jacks or Better)
  • Blackjack = 0.5% to 2.0% (varies based on table rules)
  • Baccarat = 1.06% (banker bet)
  • Craps = 1.36% (don’t pass line)
  • Pai gow poker = 1.46%
  • Let It Ride = 3.51%
  • Caribbean stud = 5.22%
  • American roulette = 5.26%

I’m not saying that you should never play American roulette, because sometimes it’s all that’s available in your local casino. But as I’ll cover next, there are better options if you can find them.

3. European Roulette Is Better Than American Roulette

European roulette is one of the options that is better than the American version.

A European wheel has 37 numbers, including a single zero. If you divide the single zero by the 37 total numbers, you arrive at a 2.70% house edge.

This is almost twice as low as what American roulette offers. And this is the big reason why you should look for the European game over the American variation whenever possible.

The only catch, as I’ll cover later, is that it can be hard to find European roulette. But I’ll discuss some options you have if the European roulette wheel isn’t available in your area.

4. French Roulette Is the Best Version

French roulette is played on the European wheel, meaning you get the benefit of only having a single zero pocket. But this game offers another advantage in that it has either the la partage or en prison rule.

Here’s a look at how both of these rules work:

  • La partage – You receive half back of any losing even-money bet that lands on zero.
  • En prison – Your even-money bet is kept “in prison” for a spin if it lands on zero. The next spin then decides whether or not you win per bet.

You can see that both of these rules work differently. But it doesn’t matter which one is in play, because they each cut the European roulette house edge in half.

The end result is that you’ll only be facing a 1.35% house advantage, which is one of the best in gaming.

The catch is that you have to stick to even-money bets if you want to take advantage of the low house edge. Any wager outside of the even-money variety results in the normal 2.70% European roulette house advantage.

5. European and French Roulette Are Difficult to Find Outside of Europe

The best roulette strategy is to play French roulette. If this isn’t available, then you need to play European roulette.

This sounds easy enough, but the problem is that not everybody has access to these games in land-based casinos.

As the name implies, European roulette originated in Europe. And it’s mainly found in European land-based casinos today.

I’m not saying that you can’t find European roulette in North America. But keep in mind that the stakes are going to be higher than the average American roulette game.

French roulette is even more difficult to find in land-based casinos.

The main reason is because casinos don’t like offering such a low house edge with this game.

You can find French roulette games in France, Germany, Monaco (Monte Carlo), and Switzerland on a consistent basis. But you’ll have a more difficult time once you get outside of these countries.

6. French and European Roulette Games Are Available Online

Playing online roulette won’t replace the experience that you get from brick-and-mortar casinos. But this is a good place to find both French and European roulette games when you’re looking to drop the house advantage to its lowest point.

European roulette is the standard at online casinos, and you won’t need to look hard for this game online.

You can also find American roulette with the la partage rule. This cuts the American roulette house edge from 5.26% down to 2.63% on even-money bets.

French roulette isn’t as easy to find online as American and European roulette.

But Microgaming and RealTime Gaming (RTG) are two providers that do feature this game. All you need to do is search for Microgaming and RTG casinos to try their French roulette games.

Besides the ease of finding European and French roulette, another good thing about internet casinos is that they offer much lower stakes than land-based casinos.

The average brick-and-mortar casino requires a minimum bet of $10 or $25. But online casinos normally have minimum bets ranging from $1 to $2.

7. Wheel Bias Is No Longer Valid

After playing roulette for a while, I discovered that there’s an advantage-play technique called wheel bias.

This method involves watching roulette wheels and tracking results to discover bias toward particular numbers. Wooden roulette wheels break down over time and eventually favor certain numbers.

The wheel bias process is painstakingly slow, but the potential rewards are great. Roulette players like Billy Walters, Gonzalo García Pelayo, and Joseph Jagger made millions of dollars through wheel bias.

This sounds like an easy way to earn profits from the casino if you’re willing to put in the time. After all, you merely need to stand off to the side and track results.

Unfortunately, wheel bias is no longer feasible these days, because most casinos have switched to Starburst wheels.

This wheel features metal frets, which are far less likely to wear down when compared to wooden frets.

Another roadblock is the fact that roulette tables have electronic scoreboards that track winning numbers. This not only helps players who like making bets based on patterns, but it also helps the casino track if wheels are favoring specific numbers.

The fact is that so many casinos have Starburst wheels and electronic tracking today that wheel bias is nearly impossible to pull off.

I’m not saying that there’s no way a biased wheel exists in today’s gaming world. But it’s not worth your time to find this needle in a haystack.

Luckily, I gave up my interest in wheel bias as soon as I did some research and found out that it’s no longer a viable advantage-play method.

8. Roulette Players Should Sign Up for the Players Club

It’s definitely good to earn comps when you’re playing roulette. But I was ignorant about how comps worked when I started playing roulette, and didn’t receive them.

The first thing to understand is that the pit boss in land-based casinos needs to rate you before you receive any roulette rewards. You can make this happen in a few different ways:

  • Sign up for the players club and hand your card to the dealer. They’ll then give your card to the pit boss.
  • Buy into a roulette game with at least $300-$400.This might get the pit boss’ attention.
  • Bet $50 or more per spin so that the pit boss notices you.

Of these methods, signing up for the players club and handing your card to the dealer is definitely the most effective. I wouldn’t have missed out on as many rewards if I’d known this earlier.

The second part of the story is that you don’t want to get carried away with chasing comps. Once I was receiving rewards, I extended sessions to try to improve my comps.

The problem with doing this is that comps are never worth your theoretical losses. Casinos have already done the math to determine how many rewards they can offer the average player and still make a profit.

Let the comps come naturally and never extend your sessions just to get more rewards.

9. You Should Tip the Roulette Dealer Every Hour

Roulette was one of several table games that I played in my earlier days without realizing the standard for tipping dealers. And it’s embarrassing when you find out that you’ve been stiffing dealers on the traditional tips.

The general guideline is that you should tip roulette dealers $5 for every hour you play at the table. This means that you should give them $20 if you’re at the table for 5 hours.

Of course, you can go above or below the standard, depending upon the circumstances.

Some players add more when they really like the dealer or they’re having a major hot streak. The latter is almost always a recipe for bigger tips, because players are riding high and have money to burn.

You might tip lower or not even at all if the dealer is being a jerk. You won’t normally find many dealers who are jerks, but it does happen.

As long as everything is running smoothly with the game and dealers are being nice, you should offer the standard tip of $5 per hour. If you can’t afford to tip, then stick to playing online roulette.

10. Betting Systems Can’t Beat Roulette

Roulette doesn’t feature much strategy beyond what games you choose. This has motivated players to attempt to overcome the house advantage through betting systems.

A betting system involves wagering on patterns to try to beat the casino. Some of the most common betting systems include the d’Alembert, Labouchere, Martingale, and Paroli.

The Labouchere is one of the systems that I’ve tried. This strategy begins with creating a betting unit, which I always consider to be the table minimum.

The next step is to create a number string that adds up to how many units you wish to win during a session. Here’s an example: 4, 3, 5, 2, 4 = 16 units.

You determine bets by adding the first and last number in the string. In the example above, your first bet would be worth 8 units.

When you win a bet, cross off both numbers and move on to the next one. If you lose, add the bet to the end of the string.

Now let’s put the Labouchere into action:

  • Your number string is: 4, 3, 5, 2, 4 = 16 units.
  • You win the first wager (8), and your new sequence becomes: 3, 5, 2.
  • You win the second bet (7), and your last bet is 5 units.
  • You lose this wager, and your new string becomes: 2, 5.

The goal is to cross every number off the list and end with a profit. And this would work in theory if you had an infinite bankroll.

But the problem is that nobody has an infinite bankroll, and betting systems don’t overcome the house edge. These factors combine to ensure that you’ll eventually lose with betting strategies over the long term.

Luckily, I’ve never gotten so carried away with betting systems that I lost thousands of dollars. But I’ve tried them enough and walked away with some losses.

Conclusion

The three main things that you need to know to beat roulette include:

  • Choose European or French roulette.
  • Get comps.
  • Make more even-money bets so your bankroll lasts longer.

Beyond this, there’s not much you can do to influence roulette results. Unfortunately, not every beginning player realizes this, and they fall for many/all of the same traps I did.

The truth is that you don’t need to do much beyond finding European or French roulette, because both games offer a good opportunity to win. If your main goal is to beat the casino and you can’t find them in land-based casinos, then check online.

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