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A Few Things About Roulette

17 March 2012

By John Marchel

Roulette is one of the easiest games to learn and play in the casino; it's also considered the oldest casino game. Francois Blanc, the man who put the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco on the map in the 1860s, designed the roulette table and wheel layout we use today in most casinos around the world. However, his design is slightly different from what we normally find in most U.S. casinos. His layout has 36 numbers and a single zero. It is commonly known today as the "French" or "European" roulette wheel.

In most casinos throughout the U.S. we still find the 36 numbers and the single zero, but we also find a double zero as an additional selection. This game, with the double zero, is known as "American" roulette. This extra "number" brings the total options to 38 possible results versus 37 different ones on the French wheel. It also increases the edge to 5.26 percent in favor of the house. On the French wheel, with only one zero, the house edge is only 2.70 percent; obviously the French wheel is a better game for the player. If you go to Las Vegas, you will find a few single zero wheels, but they are in the minority. The double zero wheel is the most common one found in most casinos all across the country.

When it comes to playing the game, the player has eight different options when placing a bet on the table. The player can select one single number, 36 are available, plus the zero and double zero, totaling 38 spots, or a combination of two numbers, three, four, five, six, twelve, or eighteen different numbers with a single chip, which includes the red - black, odd - even, low (1-18) - high (19 - 36) spots. The more numbers selected for each individual wager, the lower the payout. One little detail to know is only on the American wheel. With the double zero, a player can bet the five spot, which has 0, 00, 1, 2, 3 on the table layout. This specific bet turns out to be the very worst one you can make at roulette. The house advantage on the five spot jumps up to 7.89 percent, which is not a good bet for any player.

One important thing you can do when visiting casinos is to try to find a roulette wheel with only the single zero. There a few casinos that offer the single zero game, but you have to search carefully to find one. By asking for a single zero roulette wheel while in a casino, you just might get management thinking about offering it in the future.

To help understand the percent of the house edge at roulette, think of it this way. Mathematically, if you were to bet one dollar on the first dozen or one of the columns spot (12 numbers), after 38 spins you will have won $24 and lost $26. Still another way to look at it is the odds of hitting one number is 37 to 1, but the casino will only pay you 35 for hitting that single number. The odds of hitting two numbers are 18 to 1, but the house will pay only 17 to 1. The house has to pay salaries, lighting, the overhead cost, and still make a profit. That built-in house edge resulting in 5.26 percent on the double zero and 2.70 percent on the single zero game is how they do it. This is true for all the different wagers available at the game except the five spot that was talked about earlier. That one gives the house a 7.89 percent return.

One of the options at roulette is to only play the 18-number spots, which include the Black or Red, Odd or Even, Low (1-18) or High (19-36) spots. These are known as the "outside" bets, while the numbers themselves are called "inside" bets. The house pays even money on these wagers; the true odds say they should get paid 1.05 percent of your bet, but you will only get paid at the one-to-one rate. Still, these even-money payouts are similar to playing blackjack. If you bet five dollars at blackjack you hope to win another five. The same is true playing craps. Betting five dollars on the Pass Line and winning will result in your winning another five dollars.

Betting on single, two, three, four, five or six numbers at roulette is considered by some to be long shots. Another way of looking at playing only the outside bets is you might be able to play for a much longer time since the odds of winning are a lot more reasonable than the long shot "inside" ones. You might not win a lot, and you might not lose a lot, but you will have played a lot. Another technique to consider is to go with the trend, not fight it. If Red is showing up a lot, go with it; don't think Black is "overdue;" mathematically it's not.

Bet You Didn't Know

  • In the 1930s, the Monte Carlo casino was spending 5,000 francs each year on new croupier's rakes. The old ones wore out by racking in players chips at roulette.
  • In 1796 in the gambling houses of the Palais Royal in Paris France, the game of roulette was first introduced to the world.
  • At one time Harold's club in Reno, Nevada offered "Mouse roulette." A mouse would be released into a cage having a circular board with numbered holes. The mouse would eventually go into one of the holes and the number of the hole would be the winner of the game. The game was taken out after a short time because the house lost too much money on it.
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany made one trip to Monte Carlo. He had heard about a roulette system developed by a Dr. Schott, a mathematics professor at Heidelberg University. He brought it and in one night the Kaiser lost 100,000 francs. He left the next morning and never returned to Monte Carlo.
  • At the El San Juan hotel and casino in Puerto Rico in 1959, the #10 hit six times in a row on their roulette wheel. The odds of that happing are about 3 billion to one.
  • March 16, 2004 Three gamblers used a James Bond-style laser device to win over a million dollars at roulette at the Ritz London hotel-casino but, police said, they will not face prosecution as they did nothing illegal. The trio smuggled into the casino a laser scanner inside a mobile phone that was linked to a micro-computer. Officials said the gamblers had not broken any law because their scanner did not interfere with the ball or the roulette wheel.
John Marchel
John Marchel is an author, speaker, teacher and player -- what John plays are casino games. He’s been a casino player for over 25 years and has played successfully in Europe, Panama, the Caribbean, Canada, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, on Indian reservations, cruise ships and in over 350 casinos throughout the US. He is also the author of six books about gambling, and has written numerous magazine articles and is currently a columnist for three gambling magazines and one internet magazine.

Since 1988 John has combined his experience as a manager, teacher and player to present seminars and lectures about gambling. In addition, John has had an Internet website since 1995 that offers books, special reports and tips about gambling. He also publishes a monthly Internet gambling newsletter. The newsletter keeps subscribers alert to trends, information and winning techniques that allows them to be more successful when visiting casinos.

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101 Casino Gambling Tips: Affordable Strategies & Techniques for Maximizing Profits & Reducing Loses

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