For as long as roulette has existed, people have tried to use roulette strategy to beat the house advantage.
Even today, you can find dozens of websites that claim to have secret roulette systems that can beat the house “every time.” Of course, these people always want to sell the system for a one-time payment of $29.99. But do these roulette strategies really work?
In the long run, roulette is not a beatable casino game. It’s one of the most static games in the casino because players cannot make any decisions to affect the outcome of any single bet. Once your bets have been placed, the rest is left up to complete chance. The good news is that you can still lower the house advantage to a more acceptable level with a few basic roulette strategy tips.
European vs. American Roulette
The single easiest piece of roulette strategy to implement is to always choose European roulette wheels over American roulette wheels. American roulette wheels have two green slots: 0 and 00. Both of those slots cause losses on even-money bets and make it slightly less likely for your inside bets to land.
European roulette wheels only have a single green slot reserved for 0. That one minor difference gives European roulette wheels a house advantage half that of American roulette wheels. Any time you have a choice between the two, choose the European wheel.
American roulette wheels have a house advantage of 5.26% and European roulette wheels have a house advantage of 2.7%. Over the long run, you will lose twice as much money playing American roulette as you would playing European roulette.
Roulette Strategy: Find Favorable Rules
Some casinos have favorable rules such as the “surrender” rule and the “en prison” rule. Both of these rules give you a chance to recover some of your money when the ball lands on the 0 or 00 slot. The exact rules depend on the casino at which you play, but they always work in your favor.
The “en prison” rule places your ball in “prison” for one spin if it lands on the 0 or 00 slot during an even money bet such as red/black. On the next spin, the imprisoned bet is returned if the roulette ball lands in a slot that would have won the bet for you the first time around. You don’t get any winnings on your bet, but at least you get your money back.
The “surrender” rule accomplishes the same thing in a slightly different manner. At tables that feature this rule, you only lose half your bet if the ball lands on 0 or 00 during an even money bet. So if you wager $10 on red but it lands on green, you only lose $5.00 instead of the full $10.00.
Both of these rules cut the house advantage on even money bets by half. On American roulette wheels, this results in a house advantage of 2.63%. On European roulette wheels, this results in a house advantage of about 1.35%.
Avoid the Basket Bet
If you have to play at an American roulette wheel, make sure you at least avoid the basket bet. This basket bet is a five-number wager on the group of numbers 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. The basket bet pays 6:1 odds, which may sound attractive but don’t let that fool you. The house advantage of the basket bet is a whopping 7.89%. Every casino game has a sucker bet, and the basket bet is roulette’s.
Avoid Roulette Betting Systems
Roulette betting systems do nothing to change the house advantage of roulette. No matter how you size your bets, the little roulette ball will always land randomly and the house will always have an advantage. It’s OK if you want to use a betting system for fun, but make sure you don’t ever pay any money for one. Roulette is an unbeatable casino game in the long run.
The most talked-about roulette betting system of them all is called the “Martingale System.” This betting system works on a simple premise: double your bet every time you lose. Eventually you will win and recover all your losses plus capture a small bonus.
The logic behind the Martingale system almost makes sense, but it breaks down upon closer analysis. For one, it’s not that hard to lose a few bets in a row and suddenly be forced to place bets that are way too large for your bankroll or the table betting limits. If you start out with a $5.00 bet and lose six in a row, your seventh bet will cost you $320. And believe me, it’s easy to lose six or ten bets in a row.
The Martingale System suckers a lot of people through the Gambler’s Fallacy. This is also known as the fallacy of the maturity of chances. For example, if a coin is flipped and lands on heads 10 times in a row, people who suffer from Gambler’s Fallacy will believe the coin is “due” to land on tails any time now to even the odds. The truth is that no matter what has happened in the past, the coin still has the same exact chance to land on heads again: 50%.
I’m not going to try to talk you out of using a roulette betting system but just don’t pay any money for one and don’t let any betting system force you to bet more money than you’re willing to lose. Betting system salesmen might show you convincing videos and testimonials, but there is a reason those people try so hard to convince the odd straggler to buy the latest system rather than just use it for themselves. Hint – it’s not because they think casinos are “unethical” and want to spread this secret knowledge out of the goodness of their hearts.
Practice Bankroll Management
Bankroll management doesn’t have an affect on the house advantage of roulette, but it still qualifies as a smart strategy. If you place bets that are small in comparison to the size of your bankroll, your bankroll will last longer and you’ll get more enjoyment per dollar spent.
The exact size of your bets relative to your bankroll should depend upon how much risk you’re willing to tolerate. If you consider yourself a conservative gambler, you may want to only place bets that are equal to 1% the size of your total roulette bankroll. If you don’t mind losing your bankroll, you can make bets as large as you want. If you’re not sure how risk-adverse you are, a good number to begin with is 5% the size of your bankroll.