Invented in 18th century France, roulette is a classic casino game that has gained widespread popularity around the world. The aura, the mystique, and the chance to win a huge prize on each and every spin have attracted players to this ultimate game of luck for hundreds of years now, and it will likely retain its popularity for centuries more in the future.
While there are multiple versions of this game found in various regions now, the game has roots in Europe, and it’s safe to say that Europeans still do roulette better than anyone else. European roulette offers rules that are better for the player than the American alternative, and even when not all of the so-called French rules are in play, simply having only the single zero on the wheel is enough to make this the superior version.
European roulette is played using a wheel that contains 37 pockets. The pockets are numbered 1-36, with an additional pocket featuring the number 0. On each spin, the croupier will place a ball on the outside of the wheel and spin it, allowing the ball to travel around the edge for a while before falling into one of the pockets. The number corresponding to that position is the winning number.
For players, the object is to predict which number will win. Players have a variety of options when it comes to betting; they do not necessarily have to predict the exact number, but can instead choose to bet on a variety of numbers, winning if any of them are chosen. On each spin, it is possible for players to make as many bets as they like.
There are two main types of wagers available. Inside bets are those that cover just one or a few numbers, and appear on the inside part of the layout seen on a typical table at a casino. Meanwhile, the outside bets cover large portions of the wheel, pay out at lower odds, and are made on the outside portion of the layout. A complete list of the common bets available includes the following (payout odds in parenthesis):
- Straight: Covers one number (35-1).
- Split: Covers two adjacent numbers (17-1).
- Street: Covers a row of three numbers (11-1).
- Corner: Covers a square of four numbers (8-1).
- Six Line: Covers two rows and six numbers in total (5-1).
- Column: Covers a column of 12 numbers (2-1).
- Dozen: Covers 12 consecutive numbers (2-1).
- Odd/Even: Covers the 18 appropriate numbers (Even Money).
- Red/Black: Covers all pockets that match the appropriate color (Even Money).
- 1-18/19-36: Covers all numbers in the given range (Even Money).
In a live game, each player will be given chips of a unique color in order to distinguish their bets. The croupier will accept bets up until the time they spin the wheel, and then may also allow last-second wagers for a few seconds after, at which point they will wave off any additional attempts to place chips on the table. In an online game, the player can typically place bets and trigger spins at their own pace.
Once a winning number has been determined, all losing bets will be taken off the table. Winning wagers will then be paid out. Once this process is completed, players may begin placing bets again, and the process will repeat itself.
There are also a couple of special rules that are offered in some European games. These rules apply only to the even money outside bets, and their implementation varies from game-to-game – and are not always present. These are sometimes known as French rules, and games that use them are occasionally referred to as French roulette.
The most common of these rules is known as La Partage. Under this rule, any time a spin results in the zero being selected, all even money bets lose only half of their money. In other words, if you bet $10 on even, you will only lose $5 when a zero is spun.
Sometimes, you may see a similar rule known as En Prison. In these games, a zero will result in all even money bets being “imprisoned.” In these cases, the bet is held over until the next spin, and will be released back to the player (without any additional winnings) should the player win. If the player loses, the bet is lost forever. It may even be possible for a bet to become double-imprisoned (or more) should multiple zeroes be spun in a row.
In either case, these rules are favorable for the player. Since they will receive about half of their money back over the long run, this means the house edge is essentially cut in half on these bets.
Simple Game, Simple Strategies
Right off the bat, playing the European version of the game is a great strategy of sorts for roulette fans. All bets are designed to pay out fairly for a wheel with 36 pockets; it is only the fact that there are 37 on the wheel that gives the house an advantage. Because the American version has two zeroes– and 38 pockets in total – there is a larger house edge, making it the version smart players know to avoid. On most bets, this makes the casino’s advantage in the European game 2.70%, compared to 5.26% on American wheels.
But the situation gets even better if you are playing with the special French rules. These rules make it a smart play to make any even money bet, as the house edge is further reduced to about 1.35% under La Partage. If you have the choice between this rule and En Prison, choose to take half of your money back; because of the possibility of rolling multiple zeroes in a row, the house edge is very slightly higher on imprisonment.
Other than these suggestions, however, there is very little we can tell you in order to improve your odds. Most of roulette is based entirely on luck, and there is nothing you can do to make it more likely that your numbers will be selected. Many players enjoy using betting systems while playing, but while these systems can change the way in which you structure your wins and losses, they will not change the house edge over the long run.
Why do so many people swear by the Martingale and other systems, then? One issue is the gambler’s fallacy, in which people are inclined to think numbers that haven’t hit in a while are “due.” This is not at all the case: assuming a wheel is fairly balanced, it has no memory of the previous results that have come on it, and all numbers will be equally likely to show up on future spins.
Of course, that “fairly balanced” qualifier can be a pretty big assumption. Over the history of the game, many individuals have scored massive victories over casinos around the world by finding wheels that were biased, then exploiting that fact by betting on the numbers that were more likely to win. The bias doesn’t have to be particularly strong: if a number is selected just 3% of the time rather than the 2.7% that would be expected by chance, that would be far more than enough to give the player a huge advantage.
If you’re looking for a biased wheel yourself, however, you probably won’t have much luck. Today’s casinos only use modern equipment that is carefully crafted by manufacturers and constantly analyzed for randomness. It’s not impossible that a biased wheel could appear somewhere, but it’s highly unlikely, especially at any major casino.
The Best Option For Serious Players
If you’re serious about playing this game, there’s simply no better option than European roulette. The odds are better than in games that use the American wheel, and other than that, there are no differences between the games – so why choose anything else? Even in the United States, where you wouldn’t expect anything but American wheels to be offered, high-limit players typically enjoy single-zero wheels, because they wouldn’t play otherwise. The next time you have the option, give European roulette a try, and know that you’re getting the best odds possible on this enduring casino classic.