I wrote extensively in another article about understanding what your goals are when deciding what kind of casino gambling game you should play. I’m going to suggest in this article that roulette is a great game for casino gamblers who don’t want to make a lot of decisions, who enjoy a leisurely, social, and relaxing game, and who don’t care too much about getting the best odds.
I say this because roulette is a casino table game in which you have multiple choices, but the decisions you make don’t affect the mathematical odds of the game in the least. In fact, one bet on the roulette table offers worse odds than all the other bets, so the only real strategy you can use when playing roulette is to avoid that bet.
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What Is Roulette and How Is It Played?
Roulette is easily recognized. It’s a big green table with a lot of different places where you can place bets on various outcomes. Those outcomes are determined by the roulette wheel, which is a spinning wheel with multiple numbered and colored slots in it.
There are two versions that can be found, sometimes both in the same casino. Single zero and double zero. Both can be played online. The single zero is called European roulette online and the double zero is called American roulette.
Each slot is colored red, black, or green. An American roulette table has 38 slots. 18 of them are black, 18 of them are red, and the other 2 are green.
The red and black slots are numbered 1 through 36. The green slots are numbered 0 and 00.
The croupier (which is what the dealer at the roulette table is called) spins the roulette wheel, then he spins a ball around the rim of the bowl which the roulette wheel sits in. When the ball lands in one of the slots, the bets are paid off.
For example, you can bet on red or black, and you’ll win even money if the ball lands in a red or black slot. Or you can bet and win even money on odd or even, or high or low. Those bets all pay even money.
It should be obvious where the house gets its edge on these bets. Even though the bets pay even money, there’s not a 50/50 chance of winning these bets. That’s because of the presence of the green slots on the wheel. A bet on red or black loses if the ball lands in one of the green slots. So does an odd or even bet, or a high or low bet.
You can bet on other outcomes at the roulette table, but all of them pay out as if the green slots didn’t exist. This gives the house an edge of about 5.26%, which makes roulette one of the best games for the casino and one of the worst games for the player.
On the other hand, and I’m being a little bit philosophical here, all casino games give the house an edge. And any time you play a negative expectation game, you can expect (mathematically) to eventually lose all your money.
The only difference is how long it takes to lose your money. The higher the house edge, the faster you lose your money.
But even that is an overly simplistic view of how fast or how slowly you’ll lose your money at a negative expectation game, because it doesn’t take into account how many bets you average per hour.
For example, you might be playing at a crowded roulette table, and you might be placing twenty $100 bets per hour. That means you’re putting $2000 into action each hour, and you can expect to lose 5.26% of that, or $105.20.
But if you’re playing blackjack with perfect basic strategy, and you’re at a table by yourself with a fast dealer, you might be making eighty bets of $100 per hour instead of twenty. Now you’re putting $8000 into action per hour, but you’re only losing 0.5% of it, because the odds are so much better. You’re losing, on average, $40 per hour, which is an hourly loss of a little less than half.
But the difference in the house edge is far greater than that. You’d think that a house edge that’s ten times as great would result in you losing ten times as much money per hour as that, but that’s not the case, because of the average number of bets per hour you’re making.
Most roulette systems are based on the Martingale System, which seems like a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t work very well in practice. The Martingale System has you doubling your last bet after each loss, so that when you eventually win, you get your losses back plus one unit.
So let’s say you bet $5 and you lose. On your next bet, you’ll bet $10. If you win, you’re up $5 for the session.
But if you lose again, you now have to double your bet again. This time you have to lay down $20. If you win, you’re still only up $5 for the session. And if you lose a third time in a row?
Well, now you have to bet $40. And if you win, you’re still only up $5, because of the amounts of the three previous losses.
You don’t have to double your bets for long before you run into the betting limits at the casino or the limits of your bankroll. Many casinos don’t accept bets of more than $1000 on a spin of the roulette wheel. So if you started by making a $10 bet, and you lost seven times in a row, you couldn’t place your eighth bet of $1280, because the casino won’t let you bet that much.
Fans of the Martingale will argue that it would be extremely rare to have a losing streak of seven losses in a row. But in reality, you’ll have a losing streak of 7 losses in a row about once in every one hundred sessions.
And the amount of money you’ll lose in that one losing streak will be staggering. You’re not just losing the $640 you lost on that final bet of the streak. You’re also losing $320 + $160 + $80 + $40 + $20 + $10, or a total of $1280.
And even if you won that $640 bet after the losing streak of 6 losses in a row? You’d be up only $10. You’re risking $640 for a net win of $10. Does that sound like a good bet to you?
The problem with the Martingale System is that it guarantees lots of small wins, but those small wins are offset by occasional large losses. Changing the sizes of your bets doesn’t affect the math behind the game.
So Which Roulette Strategies Actually Work?
Only one roulette strategy actually works, and it’s quite simple.
Your are powerless over the math behind roulette, no matter what any Internet salesperson or website tells you.
Think about this, too. If changing the sizes of your bets could enable you to beat the casino via sheer force of will, how long would the casinos continue to offer the game of roulette?
Casinos around the world have one thing in common. None of them are in the business of losing money to their customers.
Since you can’t change the odds of winning money at roulette in your favor, then the only real strategy that makes sense is to enjoy yourself as fully as you can. You chose the game. Make sure it’s a game you enjoy, or don’t play.
No one has ever made a living playing roulette, and no one ever will.