Find out how much you really know about roulette.
By Henry Tamburin
So you think you’re an expert at roulette? Maybe you are, and maybe not. To find out, try answering these 10 simple questions about the game.
True or False
- The chance of a red or black number hitting is 50/50.
- You have a modest bankroll and you want to play roulette. To minimize the chance of getting wiped out quickly, you should make bets on the outside of the layout rather than on the inside.
- Betting systems will allow you to overcome the house edge.
- The house edge on a straight-up bet on number 7 is higher than the house edge for betting on an even number.
- You can reduce the house edge by playing on a single-zero wheel versus a double-zero wheel.
- Making a $10 minimum bet on a single-zero roulette wheel is better than making a $1 minimum bet on a double-zero wheel.
- If an even number hits four times in a row, you should bet on an odd number because it’s due to win.
- Most roulette tables nowadays have an electronic scorecard that lists the last 20 or so winning numbers. You should always check the scorecard before you place your next bet.
- Some casinos offer the surrender rule in roulette where you only lose half your money on an even money bet if zero or double zero hits.
- Two ways to gain the edge at roulette is to find a bias wheel or dealer signature.
- FALSE. A typical American roulette wheel has 18 red and 18 black numbers. Although this appears to be a 50% proposition, what most players neglect is the zero and double- zero numbers. If the ball lands in either of the latter “house” numbers, all bets on either red or black lose. This makes the odds of winning a bet on a black or red number not 50% but 47.4%.
- TRUE. Most players only consider the house edge of a roulette wager and not the probability of winning. You have a much better chance of winning a bet on the outside of the layout, such as betting on red and black or odd and even, then you do betting on the inside of the layout (such as straight up on one number or a street bet covering three numbers). So your bankroll tends to last longer when you wager on even-money payoff bets. The trade-off is that when you win an outside bet, you get a smaller payout compared to betting inside. Therefore, inside bets have the highest risk and highest payoffs whereas outside bets are less risky but pay less. In the long run, the house edge is the same, but if your goal is to make your bankroll last as long as possible, then you are better off making the less risky outside bets that pay even money.
- FALSE. There never has, nor will there ever be, a betting system that will overcome the house edge in roulette as long as the wheel is unbiased (completely random). The reason that many roulette players mistakenly believe they can beat the game with a double-your-bet-after-a-loss betting system is that they have a high likelihood of a small profit using this betting method. However, the player also has a small but finite chance of incurring a major loss. The latter, when it occurs, will wipe away all the player’s profits and in the long run the house take will be 5.26% of all the money wagered. So the next time you get a mailing that promises a can’t-lose betting system for roulette, do yourself a favor and toss it in the garbage can.
- FALSE. The house edge when you bet straight up on number 7 is 5.26%. You face the same house edge if you wager on an even number. In fact the house edge is the same for all bets in roulette except the five number bet on the American wheel that covers the numbers zero, double zero, one, two and three. The house edge on the latter is 7.9%. This is a bad bet; don’t ever make it!
- TRUE. The house edge for all bets on a single zero wheel is 2.63%, which is 50% less than the 5.26% house edge on the standard double-zero wheel.
- FALSE. Even though the house edge is smaller on the single-zero wheel it will cost you more money to play in the long run because of the tenfold higher minimum-betting requirement. A $10 bet with a house edge of 2.63% costs the player 26 cents on average ($10 x 2.63%). A $1 bet on a double zero wheel costs only five cents ($1 x 5.26%). Therefore make sure you factor the table minimum bet requirement as well as the house edge when comparing the merits of one roulette game with another.
- FALSE. The chance that an odd number will hit on the fifth spin is the same as an even number, assuming the game is completely random. In roulette, past wins do not affect the outcome of future spins. Each spin is independent with a fixed probability. The fact that four even numbers happen to hit in succession was just due to random chance. So, an even number has just as much chance to hit on the fifth spin as an odd number even though the previous four winning spins were even numbers.
- FALSE. The roulette scorecard was installed on many roulette tables as an aid to system players who track the previous numbers that won to determine trends, which presumably will help them determine where and how much to bet on the next spin. However, as mentioned above, past decisions in roulette have no influence on what will happen during future spins. Some roulette players use the information on the scorecard to try to determine if a bias exists on the wheel. Unfortunately the scorecard only tracks the last 20 or so winning numbers. You need a lot more than 20 numbers to determine with mathematical certainty that the wheel has a bias (i.e., some numbers or sectors of the wheel are hitting more frequently than probability dictates). The bottom line is that those fancy electronic roulette scorecards might be a nice thing to watch as winning numbers are automatically posted after each spin, but as far as helping your chances of winning, forget it.
- TRUE. The surrender rule is prevalent in double zero roulette games in Atlantic City casinos. With this rule, players who wager on any even payoff wager (i.e., bets that pay 1 to 1 on the outside of the layout) will lose only half of their bet if the roulette ball lands in the zero or double-zero pocket. This reduces the house edge for even money payoff bets by about 50% and is a good rule for players.
- TRUE. Yes, it’s theoretically possible to beat the wheel if you can find a bias wheel or dealer signature. The problem is finding one because the casinos don’t advertise them. In order to find a bias wheel, professional roulette players will clock or record a minimum of a thousand consecutive spins 24 hours a day in shifts. These teams often clock hundreds of wheels before they find one that is bias and when they do, they bet big and win big. This is why casinos check their roulette wheels for balance and wear and tear on a regular basis to minimize the chance of a bias occurring. Some skilled experienced roulette dealers can remarkably spin the roulette ball with the same speed each time they launch the ball. This often results in the ball falling in the same sector of the wheel. Some players carefully watch where the dealer launches the ball and where it lands to find a dealer with a signature. They then bet on that sector of numbers that appears to be winning more frequently as the result of the dealer signature. So theoretically it’s possible to beat a bias wheel or to take advantage of a dealer signature when they exist. But in practice the probability of finding one or the other is very slim.
For over a quarter of a century, Dr. Henry Tamburin has been a leading authority on casino gambling and a teacher of “smart gambling” to players everywhere. To order copies of his books and tapes at a 30 percent discount, visit www.smartgaming.com. To receive a free subscription to his Blackjack Insider e-newsletter visit www.bjinsider.com. For a free copy of his Casino Gambling catalog call toll-free (888) 353-3234.