Gambling Tips > Roulette

The Renaissance of Roulette

By Henry Tamburin



The Renaissance of Roulette

 by Henry Tamburin, Ph.D.


When it comes to revenue production for table games, roulette has always been the bridesmaid to blackjack, craps, and baccarat. However, roulette is beginning to have resurgence, especially in the very competitive gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas. This article summarizes what experts believe is the cause of this reawakening of roulette among gamblers, along with a playing and betting strategy tip if you decide to give roulette a spin in a land-based or online casino.


An unusual and rare result occurred in Nevada in May 2017; specifically, the casino revenues for roulette exceeded those for craps. The trend is definitely on the upswing for roulette but how can this be for an old-fashion game that commands a 5.26% house edge? (This is roughly ten-times greater than the optimal bets in blackjack and crap.)


Casino managers have been quoted as saying, “We are seeing an increase in volume of roulette play and also a decrease in the age of the demographic playing it.” My good friend Anthony Curtis (owner of the Las Vegas Advisor newsletter) stated the following in a newspaper story (Las Vegas Sun): “When I’m walking through the casino, there’s always a younger customer and a younger crowd on the roulette wheel,” “It’s a hit with the club crowd. Roulette seems to be a cool thing to do before you go into the club and when they come out they play. I see them all the time, having a few drinks and powering up on the roulette table.”


It appears that the growth of roulette is coming from the Millennial demographic. These “youngsters” enjoy the social aspects of roulette, and the fact that no special skill is required to play it.


Playing roulette online has also seen resurgence, thanks to the technology of offering live roulette games that is very similar to playing roulette in a land-based casino.  For example, online live roulette games feature a live croupier that speaks your language, and their new Immersion Roulette Room is designed to get players closer to the roulette action than ever before by capturing every bet, call, and spin of the roulette ball in high definition. Whatever roulette bets you can make in a land-based casino, you can do the same in live roulette games on your computer or smart phone.


I’ve assembled below some quick facts about the game of roulette that you might find quite interesting.


  • -The French word roulette means “little wheel.”  Credit for the invention of roulette (17th century) goes to Blaise Pascal, a famous French mathematician who inventing the game while trying to invent a perpetual motion machine. The present form of roulette was played in Paris as early as 1796. In was in the 19th century when roulette spread all over Europe and the US, becoming one of the most famous and popular casino games.
  • - A roulette wheel in European casinos has 37 numbers:  1 through 36 plus a single 0. The American roulette wheel has 38 numbers: 1 through 36 plus a single zero (0) and double zero (00). The odds are slightly better, therefore, playing a single zero vs double zero game.


  • - The order of the numbers around the wheel represents an attempt to distribute high/low, red/black, and odd/even numbers in as balanced a fashion as possible. For example, starting at the 12 o’clock position on the wheel there is the number 0 followed by alternating red and black numbers around the wheel. The 00 is directly opposite the 0. Directly opposite each odd number is the next highest even number (e.g., directly opposite the number 1 is 2, and opposite 27 is 28). Pairs of odd numbers alternate with pairs of even numbers, and pairs of low numbers are followed by pairs of high numbers. Also, the first, second, and third dozens of numbers are also well distributed around the wheel. You also won’t find more than one red or black number in a row. In essence, the roulette numbers are mathematically balanced as much as possible around the wheel.


  • · Roulette dealers spin the wheel in a counter clockwise rotation and launch the ball in a clockwise direction around the outer rim of the bowl. The ball will circle in the track several times and then lose momentum and drop into the bowl. Brass deflectors imbedded in the sides of the rim frequently deflect the dropping ball in a random manner until it bounces into a pocket. Usually the ball will bounce in and out of several pockets before coming to rest in the winning pocket.


How to Play


Roulette is a slow-paced and easy game to play. The objective is to guess which one number on the wheel out of 38 numbers (or 37 for European) will be randomly chosen by the roulette ball. Table 1 summarizes the 11 different types of roulette bets that you can make on the American game (the first six are known as ‘inside bets,” and the latter five as “outside bets”), and where to place your chips on the layout to make each bet. Table 2 summarizes the payoff for each winning bet, the probability of winning, and the true odds.


Table 1


 (American Double Zero Wheel)


Straight Up

Place chip(s) directly on the number.


Bet on two adjacent numbers on the layout. Place chips on the center of the line between two adjacent numbers.


Bet on three numbers that run north/south on the layout. Place chips on the line separating the row of three numbers from the dozens betting area.


Bet on four intersecting numbers on the layout. Place chips directly on the center point of the square.

Five Number

Bet on numbers 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3. Place chips on the line between 0 and 00 and the numbers 1, 2, and 3.


Bet on two adjacent row of numbers on the layout. Place chips on the outside line that separates the two rows of numbers.


Bet on one of the columns of numbers on the layout. Place chips at the bottom of the column in the area that says 2 to 1.


Bets on first, second, or third row of numbers. Place chips in the dozens area of the layout.


Bet on red or black number. Place chips on either red or black area on the layout.


Bet on odd or even number. Place chips in the odd or even area of the layout.


Bet on either a high (19 through 36) or low (1-16) number. Place chips on High/Low betting area of layout


  Table 2

  Summary of Roulette Bets

  (American Wheel)


Bet  Payoff  True Odds Probability   Casino’s Edge
Straight up     35 to1 37 to 1 2.63% 5.26%
Split   17 to 1    18 to 1  5.26%  5.26%
Street  11 to1  11.67 to 1    7.89%  5.26%
Corner    8 to 1 8.5 to 1   10.53%    5.26%
Five number   6 to 1 6.6 to 1 13.16% 7.89%
Line    5 to 1 5.33 to 1    15.79%    5.26%
Red/Black   1 to 1  1.11 to 1   47.37% 5.26%
Odd/Even  1 to 1 1.11 to 1  47.37% 5.26%
High/Low   1 to 1  1.11 to 1 47.37% 5.26%
Dozens    2 to 1 2.17 to 1 31.58% 5.26%
Columns   2 to 1 2.17 to 1 31.58% 5.26%



One point to keep in mind is that American casinos prefer that players wager using “wheel chips.”  Usually a roulette table will have 7 or 8 different color groups of 300 wheel chips each. Each player will have his or her own colored chips to wager. (This makes it easy for the dealer to know whose bet belongs to whom.) Keep in mind that wheel chips can’t be used elsewhere in the casino, only at the roulette table where they were issues. This means you cannot redeem these chips for cash at the cashier’s cage so don’t pocket them while you are playing. (At the end of your play, the dealer will count your wheel chips and give you regular casino chips that you can cash out at the cage or wager on other games.)


House Edge

Casinos make money in the long run at roulette not when a player losses a bet but rather when they win. That’s because every time you win a roulette bet you are paid less than the true odds. (See Table 2).


You can use the information in Table 2 along with the following equation to calculate the expected value (or house edge) for any roulette bet.


Expected Value (EV) = probability bet wins  x  payoff  + probability that bet losses  x  amount lost


For example, the probability of a red number winning on any spin is 18/38 (or 47.4%); the probability that the bet will lose is 20/38 or 52.6% (there are 18 red numbers and 20 non-red numbers on the wheel). Plugging this information into the above equation yields an EV of –$0.526 or in percentage, a house edge of 5.26%.


All the bets on an American double zero wheel have a house edge of 5.26% except a bet on the five numbers 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3, which has a house edge of 7.89%. Some casinos (e.g., in Atlantic City) offer the “surrender rule,” meaning if you wager on any even money payoff bet (e.g., red or black) and the ball lands in 0 or 00, you lose only half your bet. This reduces the house edge to only 2.63%.


If you think that making a combination of bets (say $1 on number 17; $2 on the first column, and $5 on black) as a way to improve your chance of winning at roulette, think again. That’s because the house edge on combination bets is exactly the same as the house edge on the individual bets.


The standard European roulette game has only one 0. The casinos edge on all bets is reduced from 5.26% (American 0 and 00 game) to only 2.7% (a 49% reduction in house edge). They also offer the en prison rule. When the single 0 hits, all even-money payoff bets do not automatically lose. The bet is “en prisoned” and returned to the player if it wins on the next spin. (If it loses, then the bet is lost.) The effect of the en prison rule lowers the house edge on the even money payoff bets from 2.7% to only a 1.5% (50% reduction).  (But keep this in mind. Roulette in Europe has different rules and playing conduct. The game is more formal, and there are two layouts per wheel rather than one. Regular casino chips (or cheques) are used for betting, the different bets on the layout are in French (e.g., a Cheval is a split bet), and players often call out there bets to the dealer.)


Betting Systems

For centuries, players have tried to beat roulette using different betting systems.  Some of these well-knows systems including the Martingale, d”Alembert, Labouchere and others.  (For details on some of these systems, consult Chapter 7 in my Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide.) Bottom line is this: it has been mathematically proven over and over that betting systems will not alter the house edge in roulette.


Biased Wheels and Prediction Techniques

There are two known and documented techniques that have been used to gain the edge at roulette. The first involves finding a wheel that has a mechanical deficiency such that the roulette balls lands on some numbers more than what probability predicts. Finding a “biased wheel” requires hours of tracking the results of winning spins. However, nowadays roulette tables have the ability to determine and confirm that the wheel is balanced and that no biases exist. The second more modern technique is to use computer aided technology that predicts where the ball will land based on the speed of the ball and wheel, and the position of the ball when it is launched by the dealer. (For more on predictive techniques, consult the book Professional Roulette Prediction by Laurance Scott).


Strategy Tips

Since there is no betting system alone that can beat the wheel in the long run, what I’m about to share with you is a technique that will reduce your bankroll’s exposure to the house edge while also allowing you to take advantage of streaks of wins if they occur. (I call it the “Wait and See” playing strategy.) The technique also uses the Oscar’s Grind betting method, which I described in Chapter 7 of my Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide.


Note: The following playing and betting strategy can be used in land-based or online roulette games. If possible, play in a roulette game that offers either the surrender rule or a single zero (0) wheel to reduce the house edge to as low as possible. .


 “Wait and See” Playing Strategy

Follow this strategy for where and how to bet in roulette. The technique reduces the exposure of your bankroll to the house edge.

  • ·         Only bet on the even money payoff bets: odd/even; red/black; or high/low.  (I’ll use red/black to explain the technique.)
  • ·         Wait until the result of the first spin before you make your first bet.
  • ·          If the winning number is red, bet on red for the next spin.
  • ·          If red continues to win, continue to bet on red using Oscar’s Grind (below).
  • ·          As soon as the result is black and you lose your bet, do not bet on the next spin. Wait on the result of the spin and then bet on that color.


Oscar’s Grind Betting Method

This is a conservative betting technique with a goal of winning only one unit per series of bets. Here’s how you should bet:

  • ·         Make your first bet one unit.
  • ·         After every win, you bet 1 unit more than the previous bet
  • ·         After any loss, you bet the same as the previous bet.
  • ·         The goal is to win 1 unit for each series of bets with this stipulation: you never place a bet that would result in a win of more than one unit for the series.

By combining the above two techniques, you will have:

  • ·       A strategy for playing roulette
  • ·       You’ll reduce the exposure to the house edge
  • ·       You’ll be able to capitalize on streaks of wins if they occur
  • ·       You’ll get more play time
  • ·       With a little luck, you’ll enjoy some nice short-term wins and
  • ·       You’ll have fun playing.


Good luck!

Henry Tamburin