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How the Ball Falls

What to put into roulette to get the most out of it.

It might look intimidating at first, but roulette is one of the easiest casino games to play and understand. But with that ease comes a high house edge, so be wary.

First rule: remember where you are—there are a lot of variations of roulette and the game you’re accustomed to in the UK will be slightly different once you touch down in Las Vegas, or anywhere on the European continent for that matter.

A US roulette wheel has 38 numbered slots: numbers 1 to 36, a zero, and a double zero. The betting layout consists of every individual number as well as a host of “outside” or combinations of numbers. After the players make their bets, the dealer spins the wheel, then the ball and the anticipation looms as the ball bounces around to find its perch. The house edge on all bets in the US is 5.26 percent apart from one exception: the 0-00-1-2-3 combination, which carries a house edge of 7.89 percent. Most high-end US casinos have single-zero wheels as well. The limits on the single zero wheels are usually higher than the double-zero wheels and the house edge is 2.70 percent.

On the other side of the Pond, European roulette is also played on a single wheel but features a favourable “en prison” rule. Here, if the player makes any even money bet (red, black, odd, even, 1-18, 19-36) and the ball lands in zero, the player either gets half the bet back or it becomes imprisoned. If an imprisoned bet wins on the next spin, it’s released and the player gets it back, without winnings. The similar “La Partage” rule offers half back only, without the option to imprison.

Adding it Up

To the casual observer it appears that the numbers on the wheel are arbitrarily placed even though red and black alternate and, usually, two odd numbers alternate with two even ones. However, the distribution of numbers is carefully arranged so the sum of the numbers for any given section is roughly equal to any other section of equal size. Most numbers are part of a pair, with one number between them and these pairs add to either 37 or 39.

But people who keep a note of all the numbers that have come up in previous games, however, aren’t amassing any quantitative knowledge. Due to chance, each number averages out in the long run and applying roulette strategy, whether online or live, creates equal chance of each number dropping in.

Basically, you’re playing with profit and loss ratios, which can be a blessing one moment and a curse the next; the more you expect to gain, the more you should be ready to lose.

Super System?

Some claim that many roulette wheels are rigged so numbers on a heavier side hit more often than the lighter side. But that might be more old-school paranoia than anything else. Regardless, if you think you can beat the game, you may want to re-think. You have to address the indisputable fact that in the long run, any strategy can’t overcome the house’s advantage of the 0, or 0 and 00. This is the only system that consistently wins.

Regardless, there are many who insist they can chop the wheel into segments and reasonably predict an outcome. But the science of percentages is so imprecise and reliant on so many things, like the dealer’s spin—which will change after a new dealer goes on shift—that the return on investment isn’t worth the effort.

Online, however, you can adopt a fairly simple rule. The online roulette table is split into three rows, i.e. from 1-34, 2-35, and 3-36. The last row of 3-36 has eight red numbers and four black numbers. So place one chip on red and two chips on the first row of 1-34 and two chips on the second row 2-35 and see what happens. Hopefully you’ll prove all those naysayers wrong.
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