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Roulette may be a game with European origins, but it has long since become popular throughout the world, including the United States. American roulette is now one of the two main versions of this casino classic, popular throughout most of North and South America, as well as in the Caribbean. It is also commonly offered at online casino sites, which usually spread both versions of the games (sometimes with other variants as well).
Among fans of the game, the American variation tends to get something of a bad rap. It is true that it comes with a higher house edge than European tables, with no real advantages to make up for that fact. But it’s still a very social and entertaining game, and if this version is the only one available, you may well find that you will enjoy playing it all the same.
Roulette is a game in which players place bets on where a ball will land on a circular wheel that contains dozens of different numbered pockets. On an American rouletteb wheel layout, you will see 38 pockets in total: the numbers 1-36, as well as 0 (zero) and 00 (double zero). Each of these pockets is exactly the same size, meaning all numbers are equally likely to be hit on any given spin. The zero and double zero are painted green, while the remaining numbers are evenly split between red and black.
Before each spin, players have the options of making as many bets as they like, with a variety of different options offered. Of course, you can also choose to pick a single number and run with it, hoping that it will be hit. However, number combinations can also be covered by a single bet. Wagers are made over a large layout on the table next to the wheel; in a live casino, there is plenty of room for multiple players to start around the table and reach out to place their own bets.
Here’s a quick rundown of the betting options available on an American table, divided into the “inside” bets – which generally cover only a few numbers or less – and “outside bets,” which cover large portions of the wheel at lower payouts.
Single: A bet covering a single number that pays out at 35-1.
Split: A bet covering any two adjacent numbers on the layout that pays 17-1.
Street: A bet that covers a row of three numbers, paying out 11-1.
Corner: A bet covering a “square” of four numbers that pays 8-1.
Six-Line: A bet covering two consecutive rows (six numbers in total) which pays out at 5-1.
Top Line: A bet that covers the 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3, which pays 6-1.
Column Bets: These bets cover a column of 12 numbers, and pay out at 2-1 odds.
Dozen Bets: These bets cover 12 consecutive numbers (such as 1-12 or 13-24), and also pay out at 2-1.
Odd/Even: These bets cover the appropriate 18 numbers, and pay out at even money.
Red/Black: These bets cover all numbers of the color selected, paying out at even money.
1-18/19-36: These bets cover all of the numbers in the range selected, and again pay even money.
In a live game, players will be able to make bets for a minute or so before the croupier (or dealer) will place the ball in the outside of the wheel, causing it to spin rapidly. Players will then have a few more seconds to finalize their bets before the croupier closes the action. Once the winning number is determined, the losing chips will be swept off the table, and then winning wagers will be paid before the table opens again for more betting.
Since this is a game that can accommodate many different players, steps need to be taken to ensure that each player’s bets can be identified. This is usually done by having each player convert their money into special chips that are only valid at the roulette table. Each player gets their own color, which can represent any denomination that is appropriate: a typical low-stakes player might use their chips at $1 each, while other players might count each chip as $5 or more.
Of course, none of these measures are required in online versions of this game. Instead, players can take as long as they want to figure out their bets and trigger a spin whenever they like, allowing them to have full control over the pace of play.
Double Zero Consequences
The American roulette game differs from its European counterpart in only one notable way: the presence of two zeroes on the wheel instead of just one. Unfortunately, this is universally a bad thing for players, which means that when you have the choice, you’ll probably want to play the European version.
The issue comes from the fact that both games offer the same payouts for all bets. These payouts are mathematically designed to be 100% fair for a wheel with 36 pockets; any extra pockets give the casino the advantage. On a European wheel, there is just one extra pocket (the single zero), which sets the house edge at 2.70%.
The second zero on America wheels nearly doubles that edge, increasing it to 5.26%. In fact, the difference is sometimes even larger: some European games use rules that offer players even better odds on even money bets by sometimes returning part or all of their bet if the result of the spin is a zero. With the action and gameplay being exactly the same in both versions, it’s clear that European roulette is without a doubt the better bet for players.
Strategies in a Luck-Based Game
There’s nothing (legal) that you can do to influence what number the ball will fall on, and the days of biased wheels at casinos is all but over, which means that your results in roulette will almost certainly come down to pure luck. But we can still give you a few ideas that might make the game a bit more enjoyable, and help you avoid some common mistakes.
First, it’s important to realize that while almost all bets on the table have the exact same house edge (5.26% in the American game), there is one major exception. The unusual bet that covers the two zeroes and 1, 2 and 3 offers 6-1 odds, but this isn’t quite enough to measure up with all of the other wagers on the table. This option comes with a 7.9% house edge, by far the worst figure in the game.
You might also hear about some betting systems that other players will swear can help you overcome the house edge in this game. We’re sorry to say that this isn’t the case: no sequence of bets can change the fact that the casino has the advantage on each one you make. That said, they also can’t hurt you mathematically, so if you find one you enjoy, feel free to use it!
For instance, many players enjoy using the Martingale system, in which they start with a small wager on one of the even money bets and then double it after every loss, returning to the initial amount after a win. This system typically leads to a small win eventually, as any win will cover all of the previous losses. However, there is a danger: if you lose several times in a row, you may get to a point where you either hit the table maximum or cannot cover your next double, leading to a catastrophic loss.
Better Than Its Reputation
Despite the unflattering comparisons to its European cousin, American roulette is not a bad game. Yes, if you have the choice between the two versions, you should always pick the single-zero layout: that’s just common sense. But when the two zero option is the only one available, that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from the table.
Despite the higher house edge, American roulette still has the same relaxed pace of play, classic atmosphere, and social gaming feel that has made it popular for well over a century now. And with the possibility of a jackpot-like payout on every spin, we’re confident that people will be lining up to play this game at casinos worldwide for centuries to come.