Roulette is a game which continues to grow in popularity with players from around the world. It is one of the true heavyweights of casino gaming, due to its high-risk/high-gain nature. While the advent of the internet certainly brought this game to the consciousness of more players by way of online casinos, the game itself has been around a very long time.
The glamorous movie scenes with guys and dolls standing around the wheel in the best clothes, having the time of their lives, is something we would all like to replicate. We look in envy at the images and videos of high-rollers with chips stacked as high as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What many newcomers to roulette often overlook is that there are two main versions of the game: American and European.
While there appear to be no great differences between both, if you look a little closer, you will find that there are fundamental distinctions. The wheels and betting tables look very similar, granted. It is, however, the presence of an additional number, a higher house edge, and alternative number arrangements which make American roulette a different game than its European forebearer.
From a player’s perspective, these minor differences could end up having major effects on their bankroll. In turn, playing one version over the other could help the house win time and time again.
The Disputed History of Roulette
As is the case with most games with a foggy history, there are conflicting theories regarding roulette’s origins. The most widely-accepted theory is that that the game was the brainchild of French scientist and mathematician Blaise Pascal, who invented the game in 1655. Roulette translates to “little wheel” in French and is alleged to have been first played by gamblers in a Parisian casino not long after that date.
The “French Connection” seems the most likely explanation, but it does not end with Pascal. There is another popular theory which involves French monks, who are said to have conceived the idea of roulette from playing an ancient Tibetan game. According to this theory, these unnamed monks are said to have taken the original game – which originated in China – and morphed it into the game we know and love today.
The Chinese game involved arranging 37 animal statuettes into a magic number square of 666. That’s right, the same “666” which is so prevalent in Christianity and cheesy horror movies from yesteryear. Nonetheless, the monks did away with the animals and arranged 37 numbers – from 0 to 36 – around a revolving wheel. To say the game has been a success would be something of an understatement.
At this point, you have probably learned that all the numbers on a roulette wheel add up to 666. While the origins of roulette are very much unclear, it seems likely that Pascal’s mathematical background would afford him more of a claim to the game than a bunch of random monks. That is, unless, Pascal was the monk who invented the game in France. There is evidence to suggest that the Frenchman actively engaged in monastic retreats, which makes both of these theories even more mysterious.
How to Play Roulette
Despite what version you opt for, roulette is a very straightforward game to play. There are limited rules to the game, making it a favorite of seasoned gamblers and novices alike. There are a number of bets available to players, although straight bets on a single number or a series of numbers tend to be the most common.
Below, we take a look at the types of bets, their odds, and how you can win when playing either American or European roulette.
Bets and Odds
Once you have joined a table – whether this is in a land-based or online casino – you will have the opportunity to bet in a number of ways. As previously mentioned, straight-up bets are most popular and come with odds of 35-1. These represent the 37 numbers on a European wheel and the 38 numbers (0-36 + the 00) on the American variant.
Below are the types of bets you can place on American or European roulette.
- Straight (1 number)
- Split (2 numbers)
- Street (3 numbers)
- Square (4 numbers)
- Six Line (6 numbers)
- Colors (18 numbers)
- Highs/Lows (1-18 or 19-36)
- Odds/Evens (18 numbers)
- Columns (12 numbers)
35-1 payout. Example: A $1 bet on number 5 wins $36, which is $35 plus the $1 stake.
17-1 payout. Example: A $1 bet on numbers 8 and 11 wins $18, which is $17 plus the $1 stake.
11-1 payout. Example: A $1 bet on numbers 1, 2, and 3 wins $12, which is $11 plus the $1 stake.
8-1 payout. Example: A $1 on numbers 14, 15, 17, and 18 wins $9, which is $8 plus the $1 stake.
5-1 payout. A $1 on numbers 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 wins $9, which is $8 plus the $1 stake.
1:1 payout. Example: A $10 bet on black wins $20, which is $10 plus the $10 stake.
2-1 payout. Example: A $10 bet on the third dozen (25-36) wins $30, which is $20 plus the $10 stake.
1-1 payout. Example: A $100 bet on numbers 19-36 wins $200, which is $100 plus the $100 stake.
1-1 payout. Example: A $100 bet on even numbers wins $200, which is $100 plus the $100 stake.
2-1 payout. Example: A $100 bet on column one wins $200, which is $200 plus the $100 stake.
Inside and Outside Bets
Bets are broken down into categories of “inside” and “outside.” Limits differ on bets which fall either inside or outside, with inside bets having better odds. For example, a straight bet on number 5 will bag you odds of 35-1, while a bet on black is 1:1.
American Roulette vs. European Roulette
Like many patriotic Americans, you may wrestle with your options when faced with a choice between American roulette and European roulette. When it comes to the 4th of July, there is no competition, right?
Patriotism aside, there are many reasons why even Americans will shoot for the European version of roulette. For the most part, this has nothing to do with sentiment or the visual aspect of the game, but that the European version gives less of a house edge to a casino. The American version of roulette has an additional pocket on the wheel but the same payout for winning bets.
When given the option, therefore, of choosing between the two, smart players often opt for the European variant. Let’s look at that house edge and just how important it could be to a player’s chances of winning.
As we mentioned above, there is a higher house edge when it comes to playing American roulette. In simplistic terms, this means that the casino has a higher chance of making money when bets are placed and the wheel is spun. While the novelty of having two green pockets wears off after a few spins, when a gambler realizes that they are at a distinct disadvantage because of it, they will probably feel tricked.
Odds given to players in both American and European roulette are based on 36 different outcomes, hence the 35-1 you get on a single number.
- European roulette has 37 numbers (0-36), so the additional outcome is essentially the house edge. This means that the house has a greater chance of winning than the player – 2.7%, to be precise.
- American roulette has 38 numbers. The house edge of 2.7% now becomes 5.26% with the addition of the 00.
It is important to remember that players who only make outside bets will lose every time a 0 or 00 comes in.
A casino well and truly has the house edge, but this does not mean that a player cannot win in the short term. When the probability is against players, such as on a European roulette wheel, it can be difficult to understand why individuals would choose to give up even more of a house edge in American roulette.
En Prison and La Partage
There are two other bets which European roulette has that are not present in the American version. These bets, known as “La Partage” and “En Prison,” are often available for players to utilize, but it can often be at the discretion of the casino or online betting site.
Here is how both work:
- La Partage
- En Prison
Rarely known by its English language translation “the divide,” La Partage is an even-money bet which activates when 0 wins. If a round culminates in a 0 winning, then 50% of even-money bets go back to the player. It is effectively a type of insurance bet, but it also brings the overall house edge down to 1.35% when active.
The En Prison rule applies to even-money bets when 0 wins. In this scenario, the dealer places a marker over the previous bet. If the player wins on the next spin, they will win their stake back.
Should I Play American or European Roulette?
Where both games are available and table limits permit, the choice is yours. In certain casinos, you will only have the option of playing one or the other. This can come down to where the casino is based in the world or for other reasons, such as the casino’s insistence on keeping a higher house edge over gamblers.
Many seasoned players will opt for European roulette time and time again, as it has a lot more value than its American cousin. With a house edge almost 50% less than its closest counterpart, it is easy to understand why. Certain gamblers have their own preferences, however, and just one big win on a 00 on an American roulette wheel can inspire the kind of loyalty even man’s best friend would struggle to compete with.
While casino software developers are trying their damned hardest to create new takes and variations on traditional roulette, there is little interest. Roulette enthusiasts have simply grown to love the simplistic yet glamorous nature of the game, and its popularity is showing no signs of decreasing.
Both American and European roulette are staples of the majority of larger online casinos operating today.
When comparing both versions, it is hard to gloss over the fact that European roulette comes with a lower house edge, which makes for better value. American roulette may look more impressive with its 00 pocket, but bigger doesn’t always mean better, especially when it comes to forfeiting the odds of winning.
Despite this, there will be players with such an affinity for American roulette that these will be seen as minor annoyances. Every gambler has their favorite games, as they have their favorite versions of games, and that is just the way it is.