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Improving Your Odds at Roulette

Remember to stay realistic about the long odds on this popular game of chance. Approach roulette with the sober realization that, with a house advantage of 5.26 percent on the American wheel, roulette is among the worst bets in a casino. Despite the odds, you can still use some simple strategies to stretch your roulette bankroll and enjoy the thrill of the spin. This article contains a few tips that can help you improve your chances of winning.

Roulette is a drain on your wallet simply because the game doesn't pay what the bets are worth. With 38 numbers (1 to 36, plus 0 and 00), the true odds of hitting a single number on a straight-up bet are 37 to 1, but the house pays only 35 to 1 if you win! Ditto the payouts on the combination bets. This discrepancy is where the house gets its huge edge in roulette.

Starting with the basics

Strategy is critical if you want to increase your odds of winning. The first time you play roulette, the players sprinkling the layout with chips may look as if they're heaping pepperoni slices on a pizza. You can make many different bets as long as you stay within the table's maximum limits. Consequently, few players make just one bet at a time.

Of course, the more bets you make, the more complicated and challenging it is to follow all the action. Here are two possible plans of attack to simplify matters:

  • Stick to the table minimum and play only the outside bets. For example, bet on either red or black for each spin. This type of outside bet pays 1 to 1 and covers 18 of the 38 possible combinations.
  • Place two bets of equal amounts on two outside bets: one bet on an even-money play and the other on a column or dozen that pays 2 to 1. For example, place one bet on black and one bet on Column Three, which has eight red numbers. That way, you have 26 numbers to hit, 4 of which you cover twice. You can also make a bet on red and pair it with a bet on Column Two, which has eight black numbers. Again, you cover 26 numbers, and 4 of them have two ways to win. Pairing a bet on either red or black with Column One (or on one of the three dozens) covers 24 numbers, and 6 numbers have two ways of winning. Spreading bets like this won't make you rich, but it does keep things interesting at the table.

Playing a European wheel

If you happen to find a single-zero European wheel, you greatly improve your odds: The house edge is half that of roulette with the American wheel — only 2.63 percent. You may see a European wheel at one of the posh Vegas casinos, such as Bellagio, Mirage, or Caesars Palace. If you can't find one on the floor, it's probably tucked away in the high-limit area along with the baccarat tables, so you may need to ask. You can also find the single-zero wheel at some other upscale casinos around the country.

Because casinos set aside the European wheel for high rollers, you're likely to find a higher table minimum, say $25. But because the house edge is half that of a double-zero wheel, the European wheel is the better roulette game to play for bigger bettors.

Your chances of winning get even better if the casino offers an advantageous rule called en prison. Sometimes available on the European wheel, the en prison rule lowers the house edge even further to a reasonable 1.35 percent. The rule applies to even-money bets. For example, say you have a $10 bet riding on black. If the ball lands on zero, your even-money bet doesn't win or lose but remains locked up for one more spin. If the ball lands on black on the next spin, the house returns your original bet of $10, but you don't win anything. If the ball lands on red, you lose. And if the ball repeats the zero number again, your bet stays imprisoned for another round.

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