Roulette

Last update: October 23, 2009

Introduction

I've always said that, as a rule of thumb, the easier a game is to understand, the worse the odds. Roulette is a good example of that. The dealer rolls a ball onto a wheel with 37 or 38 numbers, and the players bet where that ball will land. The only skill is in playing the wheels with liberal rules to begin with, and avoiding the dreaded "first five" bet (described below).

Rules

The vast majority of roulette wheels in Las Vegas are have 38 numbers: all the numbers from 1 to 36, a zero, and a double-zero. If it were not for the zero and double-zero numbers, the game would have no house edge. It is the two zeros that give the house a 2/38 edge, or 5.26%. The following are the bets to choose from, with the probability of winning, and the house edge under double-zero rules.

Even Money Bets

Red, Black; Odd, Even; 1-18, 19-36
Pays 1 to 1
Probability of winning = 47.37%
House edge = 5.26%

Column Bets

1-12, 13-24, 25-36
Pays 2 to 1
Probability of winning = 31.58%
House edge = 5.26%

Six Line Bets

These are bets that cover two rows of three numbers each. For example, the numbers 22-27.
Probability of winning = 15.79%
Pays 5 to 1
House edge = 5.26%

Corner Bets

Corner bets cover four adjacent numbers on the betting layout. For example, 14, 15, 17 and 18.
Probability of winning = 10.53%
Pays 8 to 1
House edge = 5.26%

Street Bets

Street bets cover three numbers in a row. For example, 7, 8, and 9.
Probability of winning = 7.89%
Pays 11 to 1
House edge = 5.26%

Split

Split bets cover two adjacent numbers on the layout. For example, 29 and 32.
Probability of winning = 5.26%
Pays 17 to 1
House edge = 5.26%

Single Number

Single numbers bets cover just a single number. For example, 23.
Probability of winning = 2.63%
Pays 35 to 1
House edge = 5.26%

First Five

Bet on 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3.
Probability of winning = 13.16%
Pays 6 to 1
House edge = 7.89%.

Single-Zero Rules

Most of the nicer Strip casinos have a 37-number, single-zero roulette wheel. With only one zero, the house edge drops to 2.70% on every bet (compared to 5.26% on double-zero wheels). The bad news is that the single-zero wheels require higher minimum bets.

European Rules

In Europe, it is the norm for roulette to have just one zero. Plus, if the ball lands in zero, any even money bet only loses half. That lowers the house edge on even money bets to 1.35%. Some of the best Strip casinos have European rules but always in the high-limit rooms. Usually a $100 minimum is required on the even money bets.

Las Vegas Roulette Survey

I try to keep up to date on which casinos have single-zero and European rules. For that information, please see my Las Vegas Roulette Survey.

Further Information

There isn't much else to say about roulette, but I try at my companion site WizardOfOdds.com. Included there is information on Atlantic City rules and the European "en prison" rule.

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