The UK Casinos Online Roulette Guide is your complete guide to everything roulette, from the early days of conception to the strategies you can employ to beat the odds. Find out everything about online roulette for both the European and American versions.
Table of Contents
- An Introduction to Roulette
- Chapter I: How to Play Roulette
- Chapter II: Roulette Etiquette
- Chapter III: Roulette Strategies
- Chapter IV: Other Roulette Strategies
- Chapter V: The Only True Roulette Strategy
- Chapter VI: Roulette Myths and Legends
- Chapter VII: A Look at Online Roulette
An Introduction to the Online Roulette Guide
As a child growing up at a time when televisions were more or less in every house but certainly not in every room, there was less choice, but more give and take when it came to the viewing choices than there is today.
If Mum and Dad wanted to watch something, there was no disappearing off to the bedroom to choose from 100 other TV channels or on-demand services. In short, if you wanted to watch TV, you watched whatever the broadcasters and your parents chose.
So it was that certain traditions became rife in mine and numerous other households across the land. Everyone sat and watched the News at Ten – how many kids watch the TV news today? But from 4:00 till 5:45 every afternoon, the TV was my domain, and if Mum and Dad wanted to watch, it was kids’ programmes or nothing during those precious hours.
There were other traditions and MOs too. Let’s talk about Christmas – what could be more steeped in tradition? In the modern era of anything goes and TV on demand, The Queen’s annual address is the last remaining vestige of “family gathered round the TV set” that used to be the norm.
Everyone’s seen Casablanca
Why am I sharing these Royle Family style images from the 1970s childhood of a humble croupier and sometimes writer when we’ve only just met? It’s because I need you to understand something that holds true for anyone aged 40 or more, but is sadly no longer so for the younger generation: Everyone’s seen Casablanca.
Up till around the turn of the millennium, it was as much a part of Christmas as the Queen’s Speech. In fact, it used to usually come on right afterwards, and families would settle deeper into the sofa and perhaps let their eyes drift closed as Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman would go through their endless moves.
The movie is etched into our psyches in that indelible way that anything is when it is tied up with memories of childhood, family and Christmas. It is packed with iconic moments and memorable scenes, but you won’t be surprised to know that it’s the two minutes or so at Rick’s casino that I want to talk about.
A young man needs money to buy US visas for himself and his young wife, and is trying his luck at the roulette wheel. He is all set to give up when Rick asks him: “Have you tried 22 tonight?” and shoots a knowing look at the croupier. Of course, 22 comes up, and Rick tells the young man to bet everything on 22 again. When it comes up a second time, he leaves him with the advice: “Cash it in and don’t come back.”
Many people feel the best moment of all is when the man’s wife tries to thank Rick. He gently removes her arms from round his neck and leaves the room, saying: “Just a lucky guy.”
The game where anyone can win
There are lessons to be learned here, but if, like me, you grew up with Casablanca as part of your Christmas routine, they will probably be things that you already know, at least subconsciously.
The guy needs money. He’s desperate, this is wartime and he wants to get himself and his young wife to the safety of the USA. So what does he do? He’s too honest to rob a bank, too proud to ask for a loan and in too much of a hurry to earn it and save it.
He needs a miracle, so he heads to the casino. He’s not really a gambler, this guy. If he sat at a poker table, he would lose the shirt off his back in no time, and if he tried his hand at blackjack, he wouldn’t have the first clue about whether to split or double down.
He heads for the roulette wheel, because that is a game anyone can play. All you have to do is place your chips and hope for a miracle. In the case of Casablanca it was through Rick’s machinations rather than any form of divine intervention, but the man gets his miracle, they leave the casino happy and for the thousands watching at home, another part of the magic of Christmas has slotted into place.
The spin of a wheel
How much influence, subconscious or otherwise, that movie scene has on people’s overall attitude to roulette is a question I can’t answer, but all I know is it is there, etched into the minds of anyone middle aged and above.
For the novice or first-time casino goer, the roulette wheel offers the same sense of reassurance as it did in Casablanca. The rules are simple and it is all down to chance, right? That’s completely true, but chance is a more complex beast than you might realise and is entirely bound by certain mathematical principles.
Harness these, and you can develop a strategy that will use the odds to your advantage. It won’t make you a guaranteed winner – I’ve been in and around casinos for more than a quarter of a century and I can assure you with absolute certainty that nothing can do that. But there are things you can do and not do to improve your odds of winning, or more to the point, to decrease your chance of losing. You might ask what is the difference, but we will take a look at all these things as we go along.
One thing is for sure, over the years, I’ve seen plenty of people try putting it all on 22, but that strategy appears not to work when Bogie’s not around.
A short history lesson
I mentioned that roulette is steeped in mathematics. The roulette wheel actually came about as part of an experiment carried out by French mathematician Blaise Pascal in his studies on probability. In 1655, he attempted to create a “perpetual motion machine.”
It goes without saying that his attempts were unsuccessful, but what he did invent was a game that would capture the imagination and fire the dreams of gamblers for years to come, and continues to do so today.
There are 360 degrees in a circle, and the original roulette wheel had 36 holes dug into it. Perfect for examining those probabilities, and good for a 35/1 chance of a win. But with zero house edge, casinos were only ever going to break even, which is where the 0 and later the 00 entered the fray.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s doff our hats to the ghosts of Blaise Pascal, Rick Blaine and everyone else who played a role in bringing roulette into our consciousness and get into the theory of how the game works and what you need to do to improve your chances of creating your own little Christmas miracle.
Chapter One: How to Play Roulette
The roulette wheel
Lets take a dive into the Online Roulette Guide and have a look a the Roulette wheel. You may be familiar with how a roulette wheel looks, but it is important to understand how it works. The wheel is comprised of three sections, known as the ball track, the base track and the wheel head. The ball track is where the ball first goes around and around. As the wheel begins to slow, the ball descends into the base track. And last of all, it arrives at the wheel head, where it bounces around and finally settles into a numbered pocket.
The biggest variation you will find is in the number of zeroes. Although both single and double zero wheels were invented by the French aristocracy, over time, single zero wheels became the norm in Monte Carlo, while double zero was more commonly adopted in the USA. For this reason, the former is often referred to as the French or European wheel, while the latter is what people mean when they refer to American Roulette.
The pockets are numbered from 0-36. The zero (or zeroes) are green, half of the others are black and the other half are red. The reds and blacks alternate and the numbers are in a specific order. I won’t run through the exact order here, it’s not something you need to learn, but there are a few patterns I will point out.
Let’s start with the American wheel. If you take a look at it, you will notice that each odd number is more or less opposite the next even number. So seven is opposite eight, 21 is opposite 22 and so on. Going around the table, pairs of odds alternate with pairs of evens. Thus, you get 25 and 29 then 12 and 8 then 19 and 31, and so on. The exception is around the 0 and 00, which split 2 and 28 and 27 and 1 respectively.
Moving on to the European wheel, it looks more or less the same at first glance, save for the absence of the 00. However, on closer examination, you will see that the numbering order is different. The “opposites” don’t work out in the same way, and while there are never more than two consecutive odds or evens, they do not follow the same pattern as the American wheel.
The other essential piece of equipment we’ll cover in the online roulette guide is the table. This is where you place your chips to win or lose your visa to America, and it follows a standard layout, with which you will be basically familiar. It is essentially the same for American or European wheels, the only difference being that the former has an additional area for the 00.
It is split into two areas, for inside bets and outside bets. I will explain exactly what those are in just a moment, but for now, you simply need to know that the inside bets relate to the 12 x 3 grid featuring each of the numbers from 1 to 36. Note that on the table, these are in numerical order, and each number is coloured red or black, according to its colour on the wheel.
Outside this grid is the area for outside bets, which is logical enough. These comprise three areas at the “short” side, or bottom of the grid, at the end of each column of 12 numbers. Each contains the phrase “2 to 1.” Then along the “long” side are three areas marked “1st 12,” “2nd 12” and “3rd 12,” and outside those, six more areas marked “1 to 18,” “Even,” “Red,” “Black, “Odd,” and “19 to 36.”
Bear with me, and I will explain all these areas and how you use them once we get on to the different types of bet.
When discussing a hand of poker or even a game on a slot machine, it is necessary to start from first principles, but everyone sort of understands how roulette works. Let me run it by you:
- You make a bet by placing chips on the table
- The croupier throws the ball into the spinning roulette wheel
- You can continue to place bets while the ball is spinning
- At some point, the croupier announces, “no more bets”
- The ball comes to rest in a numbered, coloured pocket
- Depending on where it lands and how you placed your bet, you either win or lose
Does that all sound familiar? Great – now you are probably expecting me to say that’s actually a misconception of roulette, but no, that is basically all there is to it. So, let’s take a look at the bets you can place.
Types of bets
Now lets go through the types of bets in this chapter of our online roulette guide. There are probably more bets available on a roulette wheel than you thought. In fact, I make it 11, but you can also play any number of these in combinations. Don’t worry, though, stick with me and I will talk you through them. They are not complicated, and one intuitively leads to the next. After all, it is only a wheel and a ball, how complicated can it be?
To make it even easier, bets can be split into two types, known as inside bets and outside bets. Let’s start with the inside bets.
Inside bets are ones that you place on specific numbers as opposed to types or subsets of numbers. They couldn’t be simpler to understand.
1) The straight up
Have you tried 22 tonight? This is the bet Rick recommended in Casablanca and it is an example of a straight up. Place the chips on the number you are expecting to win, and if you get it right, you will collect at 35/1.
2) Split bet
Bet on two numbers by placing your chips on the dividing line between those numbers. If either is right, you get a 17/1 payout.
3) The Trio or Street Bet
You can probably guess where this is going. Place your chips on the outside border of three numbers in order to bet on those three numbers. A winning street bet pays out at odds of 11/1.
4) The corner
Place your chips on the intersection where four numbers meet to bet on all four numbers. Also known as “the square” this bet will pay out 8/1.
5) The beast
If you think the name sounds a little unsophisticated, it might have something to do with the fact that it has nothing to do with Monte Carlo and is only available on American double zero wheels. It means a bet on 00, 0, 1, 2 or 3, and it pays at 6/1. I’ve mentioned it so you know what it is, but I’m going to do you a favour and tell you to forget this one straight away – I’ll explain why in a moment.
6) The line bet
The final inside bet is the line bet, where you place your chips on the outside border of the six-number group of your choice. Winners get a 5/1 pay day.
I told you it was straightforward. Inside bets are simply bets on anything from one to six numbers coming up. Next we will look at the outside bets. These involve placing your chips in one of the special areas along the long side of the table or the short side. They are also nothing to worry about, although for these, the French phraseology is still the most commonly used in some casinos, so I will include it here.
7) Red or black
Perhaps the best known outside bet, rouge et noir conjures images of Monte. It couldn’t be simpler, place you chips on red or black, and the casino will pay out at even money.
8) High or low
Passe et manque is another even money bet. Here, you can place your chips on either 1-18 or 19-36. Zero and double zero don’t count, which is how the house retains its edge.
9) Odd or even
The third possible type of even money bet is impair et pair. Again, it does exactly what it says on the tin and is just a case of you placing your chips in the appropriate area.
10) The column bet
Known as colonne, this is a wager that a specific one of the three columns of numbers will contain the winner. Place your chips into the first, second or third box marked “”2 to 1” – on some tables, these boxes are labelled “1st Row,” “2nd Row,” or “3rd Row.” If you are right, you will collect at 2/1.
The final type of bet is known as dozaine. Here, you are choosing the first, second or third dozen numbers as shown on the table layout. Just to be clear, it refers to 1-12, 13-24 or 25-36, ie the numbers in numerical order as per the table layout. It has nothing to do with the order in which they appear on the wheel.
The house edge
We have already established that the house edge is higher in American roulette than European due to the double zero. The easiest way to calculate it is by looking at it this way. Count the ball landing in zero or double zero as a “house win” – on a European wheel, this is a 36/1 shot and on an American wheel it is 37/2. This translates to a house edge of 2.7 percent and 5.3 percent respectively.
The house edge for all but one of the other bets we have discussed is exactly the same. The exception is the beast, which I mentioned at number 5. Available only on American tables, the house edge on this bet is 7.9 percent. That is why I told you to forget about this one – if you want to bet on five numbers, you are better off placing five individual straight bets, that way the edge is back down to 5.3 percent.
Place your bets
So now you know about the construction of the wheel, the layout of the table, the types of bets you can place and the odds available. I think we are ready to place our first wager.
Each spin of the wheel is known as a “decision” and when you arrive at the table, you will see an object known as a puck on one of the squares. Let’s say it’s on 22. This is where the ball stopped on the last decision. When the croupier removes the puck, it is the sign that you can start betting on the next decision.
Place your betting chips on the number, line or area where you wish to bet. So for 22, you know what to do, and for any one of the outside bets, place in the corresponding area on the outside of the table, such as Red, Odd or 1st Row. If you are looking to place a split, corner or line bet, again, place the chips on the appropriate junction or line.
Normally, you will simply place the chips yourself, but the croupier will do so if you can’t reach, you only have to ask.
The croupier will then set things in motion, quite literally, setting the wheel going and releasing the ball. At this stage, you can still place bets, but soon thereafter, you will be told “no more bets” and the croupier will wave her hand across the table.
At this point, you cannot make any more bets. That might sound like a statement of the obvious, but some players find this a really difficult concept, and continue to try to place chips on the table.
All it achieves is some irritated sidelong glances and your bets being disqualified, so do yourself a favour, and play by the rules.
Winners and losers
When the ball comes to rest, the croupier will call out the number, and usually also the colour, for example “Black 22!” and will place the puck accordingly. She will then sweep the board of all losing bets and pay the winning bets.
Chapter Two: Roulette Etiquette
Having spent more hours in and around casinos than I care to think about, you will not think me too much of a show-off if I tell you that I know my way around and understand how to behave. The reason I’m telling you this is not so you think I am terribly suave and sophisticated. It’s more a case that I want you to understand that I can show you the dos and don’ts of how to conduct yourself around the roulette wheel.
I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve chatted to outside the confines of the casino who, on hearing that I am a professional croupier, have said they have always fancied visiting a casino, but wouldn’t know what to do.
Well, as far as playing a game and placing a bet are concerned, the previous chapter has told you that, but you and I both know that’s not quite what they mean. As a species, people seem to go through life desperately trying not to make a complete idiot of themselves in social situations. Fair enough, a casino provides the potential for the odd social faux pas, but no more so than a posh restaurant, and I’ve never heard of anyone turning down the chance of dinner at The Ivy because they wouldn’t know what to do.
Nevertheless as we take you through our online roulette guide, here are some tips from someone who has spun the wheel, placed the bets and seen all manner of behaviour around the roulette table.
Use your own chips
If you are more accustomed to a game like blackjack, you might find the chips confusing at first. Essentially, you buy your own colour coded ones from the croupier, at which point you decide for yourself what they are worth. For this reason, you should play with your chips and nobody else’s. That might sound obvious, but sometimes if you are playing alongside a friend, you might be tempted to pool your resources – not allowed.
Keep your hands to yourself
If there’s one thing that gets a dealer or croupier edgy, it is a gambler with wandering hands. It doesn’t go down well with the casino bosses or your fellow players, either. Place your bet, then get your hands away from the table. This is particularly important after the croupier has called “no more bets.” That’s the signal that the table is now out of bounds until the decision is complete and the puck has been removed.
Speaking of “no more bets,” remember what I said earlier. It’s not a serving suggestion, it is a game rule. Consistently trying to place late bets is a surefire way of getting yourself a reputation as what we in the trade call a PITA. It stands for “pain in the elbow,” but the guy creating the acronym didn’t know how to spell.
There is less in the way of convention around a roulette wheel than there is at, for example, a blackjack table, where you have to worry about whether the other players will mind you joining mid-shoe and so on. Roulette is generally more informal, and can get lively and a little riotous on a good night. That’s fine by me, joining in with some fun and laughter as the players have a good time makes for an enjoyable night at the office.
The most important piece of etiquette advice, then, is one that holds just as true in any other social situation, and that it to be aware of those around you, stay out of their faces and treat them with courtesy and respect. It shouldn’t be too much to ask, and more than 99 percent of the time, that’s exactly what happens.
In case of trouble…
So 99 percent of the time everyone is fine – does that mean if you pay 100 visits to a roulette wheel, you are likely to run up against trouble on one occasion? It is possible. The table can get crowded, people have a few drinks and they can end up all elbows, jostling against other players, knocking over your chips, standing on your foot and generally being the sort of person you would not ordinarily want to hang around with.
If you find yourself in this situation, the croupier will usually step in with a quite word, and nine times out of ten that will be all that’s needed. Ultimately, as with most casino games that involve several people, you will find that some wheels are more lively than others, and if you don’t find the company to your liking, the best course of action is often to vote with your feet and choose a different gaming table.
Chapter Three: Roulette Strategies
Roulette strategies are a cornerstone of any decent online roulette guide. If you have hurried straight to this chapter in order to get the quick and dirty low down on how to beat the odds and come away from the roulette wheel a guaranteed winner, I’ve got some bad news for you. As those who have read the preceding chapters will already know, the house always wins.
Let me put it another way. If 100 people play American roulette on a given table on a given night, and each wagers £100, then the casino is going to end the night around about £530 up. That’s the house edge, and the more people that play and the larger the sample size, the closer to that magic 5.3 percent it will be.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone will end the night £5.30 down. Some will end up £30 up, and others will end up £50 down. The point is that over time, it always works out around that house edge.
Another way to look at the same equation is that if you yourself play on 100 different nights, and wager £100 each time, you’ll have nights when you come out on top and nights when you don’t, but when you look back on it at the end, you’ll be approximately £530 poorer.
Defying the law of averages
Mathematicians build their theories around certain axioms, which you can think of as absolute rules. The house edge is our axiom, and there is no way around it. The question is whether there is a way to grab your win and get out of dodge before it has a chance to bite.
The key here is the point I made above – remember in the first example, I said that when 100 people play and wager £100, some of them come out winners. But if you play 100 times, you’ll come out close to 5.3 percent down. Almost certainly between 5 percent and 5.6 percent. If you play 1,000 times, your loss will be even closer to the 5.3 percent, well within 0.1 of a percentage point.
What does that tell you?
The more bets you place, the better chance the law of averages has of catching up with you. This is why I can only look on in horror when someone comes to the table and places half a dozen different bets on every decision. Put simply, it is a crazy thing to do and you will end up losing.
The Martingale strategy
Let me get some disclosure out of the way up front. I’m not a fan of betting progressions, because however convincing they can be made to sound, if you play them long enough, you hit up against the basic axiom that the house always wins, and you find yourself down by the house edge.
However, there are those who swear by them, and I will grudgingly admit that if you play it smart, you have a better chance of coming out a winner using the Martingale strategy at roulette than you would at blackjack – and it certainly beats throwing a dozen different bets willy nilly in the way I described above.
Duly caveated, then, I will tell you how it works.
Every time you lose, you double your bet.
And that’s it. That simple. Let me explain why some people say it is foolproof, and after that, I will tell you why they are wrong.
It works best with an example, so let’s keep it easy and say that you are betting red on a European, single zero wheel, where the table has a minimum bet of £10 and a maximum of £200.
You start with a £10 bet. If you lose, you then bet £20. If you lose again, you then bet £40. If you win, you collect your £40 winnings, plus your stake. That means you’ve spent £10 + £20 + £40 = £70, and you’ve just collected £40 + £40 = £80.
Congratulations, you’ve won £10.
Try it again, but this time, instead of winning the third decision, you win the fifth. This time, you’ve spent £10 + £20 + £40 + £80 + £160 = £310. And you’ve collected £160 + £160 = £320
You can see how compelling this looks. Every sequence ends with you winning £10, whether red comes up the first time or the 10th. Each time you win, you pocket that £10 and start again. Repeat the process ten times, you have £100 winnings in your pocket and you can call up your mother and take her out for dinner. So what’s the catch?
Suppose it runs to a sixth time, what do you do then? You can’t double the wager, as the table limit is £250. You could wager that instead, but even if it comes up red at last, you have paid out £570 and only collected £500. That means you need another seven entire sequences just to get back to even. Of course, you need to hope you don’t bump up against the table limit again, or you’re in real trouble. And what if it runs to a seventh time?
You might think such a catastrophic run is unlikely, but I’ve got news for you. There is a one in 60 chance of a six game losing streak.
The point that our example above has demonstrated is that usually, you will win small, but occasionally, you will lose big.
Suppose you had £100,000 to play with and you bet it all using this system. Over time do you think the many small wins would outweigh the occasional catastrophic loss, or vice versa. Anyone who said they will end up somewhere close to £270 down, go straight to the top of the class.
Regardless of how smart you think your strategy looks, in the long run, the house always wins and the house edge is axiomatic.
The straight up Martingale
The Martingale is a dangerous beast because it looks so placid. It is that nice old lady’s spaniel that looks at you, all doe eyes and silky coat, wags its tail, behaves impeccably, then unaccountably takes a chunk out of your ankle while you are pouring the tea and slicing the cake.
If I can stretch the metaphor a little further, the straight up Martingale is the junkyard Doberman on a length of rusty chain that looks like it hasn’t eaten in weeks. OK, the spaniel looked cute, but this fella? Why would you even go near it?
Nevertheless, you will encounter those who swear by this beast as the way to make serious money and run, so I will tell you how it works and retire to a safe distance.
Let’s stick with Rick’s recommendation for a straight up, and say we are going to bet on 22. But it works exactly the same for any number, or even betting a random number each time. The point is that every bet you will place £10 on a 35/1 shot. Sooner or later, you will win, and when you do, you pocket the winnings. When you lose, you just keep betting that £10.
If you are becoming familiar with the world of mathematical axioms, you can probably see where this is leading. In some ways, it is the reverse of the previous scenario – in that one, we steadily gathered small wins, with the risk of a big loss. Here, we accumulate small losses while we wait for the big win.
Sometimes you will get the big win at the fifth attempt, and sometimes you will get it at the 105th, winning £350 when you are already more than £1,000 down. In the long run, you can guess what happens – you will be down by the house edge.
I’ve told you several times that winning or losing all comes down to mathematical probabilities, so how about going with the maths rather than fighting against it? The Fibonacci Sequence is one of the most well-known mathematical progressions. You can see it manifest itself in all manner of natural phenomena, from musical notes to the evolution of galaxies.
Can you harness this cosmic power to come out a winner at the roulette wheel? Some people think so, and I will explain how and why.
I’m sure you were paying close attention in your maths lessons at school, but in case you need a reminder, the Fibonacci Sequence starts with 1 and 1, then adds the previous two numbers together. So 1+1 = 2, 2+1 = 3, 3+2 = 5, 5+3 = 8 and so on.
This gives the sequence 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21 and continues ever onwards.
The rules for Fibonacci betting follow what initially looks like a similar pattern as the Martingale, but instead of doubling your wager, you go up by Fibonacci numbers. Let’s stick with the same wheel and betting limits as earlier, so we will say that 1 represents £10, 8 represents £80 and so on.
Exponents say that the numbers are so elegant, or cosmically aligned, or however you want to put it, that you can’t lose.
The section of the Fibonacci sequence that is of interest to us is the numbers up to the table limit, which we said was £250, so we do not need to go beyond the 21 in the above list, as the next number would be 34, equivalent to a £340 bet.
The idea is that for every bet we lose, we go up a step, but for every bet we win, we go down two steps. The idea is that we leverage the way the Fibonacci numbers suddenly start getting high in order to get a big win, but we cover our potential losses by getting up there gradually.
With Fibonacci, you do not get the small wins along the way that you will receive with the Martingale. What it does instead is protects you from big losses so that you can make the most of a winning streak when it comes.
So does it work? Unfortunately, you are as prone to a catastrophic losing streak as you are to a life changing winning streak, and at some point you are going to bump your head on the table limit. Play long enough, and I think you can work out without me saying it where you will end up if you invest £100,000. That’s right, you’ll be a net loser by the house edge.
Take the money and run with a parlay
Perhaps you think that trying to sneak up on the roulette wheel and nibble away at some winnings before it can turn around and bite you is the wrong approach. Why not be bold, take it for a big win and get out before the laws of averages know what happened?
This is the thinking behind the Paroli, commonly known as the parlay strategy. The theory here is to accept the losses as inevitable but make the most of a winning streak.
Here’s how it works. We all know that sometimes you will get winning streaks and sometimes you will get losing streaks. So you make a decision that you will target those three win progressions. Starting again at your £10 wager, if you win, you reinvest the winnings with a £20 wager. If you win again, you reinvest again, with a £40 wager. If you win again, you pocket the £40 and start again at £10.
Whenever you lose, you simply bet another £10.
You can even make it safer still by pocketing some of every win – for example, instead of doubling the stake, you could go £10, £15, £25.
Exponents of the parlay will tell you that most of the time you will more or less break even, and periodically, you will get a £40 bonus straight into your pocket. You have to come out on top, surely?
The trouble is, all you are doing is altering the bet amounts, you are not making any change to the odds of winning or losing, so you will ultimately run straight up against our old friend the house edge.
That is not to say the parlay is a bad strategy to follow – it reduces the likelihood of a catastrophic loss, and gives you the opportunity for a more substantial win, and ultimately, that makes for more fun than the other way around.
There are plenty of other betting progressions along similar lines to the Martingale, Fibonacci or parlay, but when push comes to shove, they all have the same basic shortcoming. You can beat neither the basic rules of mathematics nor the axiom of the casino by simply changing the amount that you are wagering.
Ultimately, progression techniques rely on you making use of streaks, but that demands a correlation, some cause and effect between one event and the next. And ultimately, that’s why I have an instinctive dislike of these kinds of strategies.
Each decision in roulette is an independent event, and what came before has zero bearing on it. Put another way, if you’ve just had a streak of ten reds in a row, the odds of the next one also being red are still exactly the same.
Chapter Four: Other Roulette Strategies
If progression strategies are always going to bump up against that same old problem of the house edge, perhaps there is a different approach we can take. Believe me, I’ve seen some outlandish ones over the years, and here, I will share some of the more memorable examples. These come with the same caveat that I provided at the beginning of Chapter Three – you’re not going to find any get rich quick scheme here, but it won’t stop fans of the various systems from trying to convince you that they’ve finally managed to beat the laws of mathematics.
Historically known as the Kavouras system, this strategy demands that you fight fire with fire. If a real firefighter was to try this, he would soon find himself out of a job, and the consequences can be equally disastrous at the roulette table.
The reasoning goes something like this. A ball on a roulette wheel is in a state of chaos. The only way you can hope to beat it is by taking a similarly chaotic approach. Therefore, you should place a variety of bets, of varying sizes, avoiding any kind of pattern or logic.
If you think I am being cynical, or trying to make a joke of it, I’m not – that is the strategy in a nutshell.
We established earlier that your best chance of beating the odds is by playing the fewest bets possible. Playing, for example, 18 straights just means 18 different bets and more time for the dreaded law of averages to catch up. You know exactly what will happen by now – you’ll lose just a little more than you win. The only difference is you will be haemorrhaging money at a far quicker rate, and your bankroll will be gone all the faster.
If you want to bet on half the numbers, simply place a single outside bet on one of the even money shots. You are reducing your exposure to the house edge, and there is definitely a reduced probability of the other players thinking you need a psychiatric evaluation.
In the USA, they call them “elite spinsters” – these are not women who are experts at avoiding marriage, although given the time and practice that it would take to really do this, I find it extremely unlikely that anyone, male or female, would be able to fit in any sort of family life.
Some claim that by watching ball, wheel and croupier, they can predict at least the sector in which the ball will come to rest. The theory is that they know the wheel is spinning at a certain speed, and the ball will do a certain number of circuits before it comes down to the wheel head. It will then perform a given quantity of bounces on the frets between the pockets before it comes to rest.
By watching which sector is going past as the ball is sent on its way, the “elite spinster” can supposedly predict where it will come to a halt, at least within a range of perhaps ten numbers, and will place bets on these.
Can it possibly work? I’ve encountered two or three people over the years who claimed they could do it, but let’s just say none of them have invited me out for a ride in the Ferrari or a cruise on the yacht, so I have yet to be convinced. I tried it myself a few times, and all that happened was that I started to feel dizzy.
A variation on the above theme is the theory that certain croupiers have a way of controlling where the ball lands. This is known, for obvious reasons, as a signature, and the theory goes that if you find a croupier with a signature, you can take advantage of the fact by predicting where he’s going to place the ball.
I can’t speak for every croupier on the planet, but I have to tell you that I have a big problem with this theory. Even if it was possible, why do it? For a share in the spoils? Even if someone was completely unethical, the risk of being caught would always outweigh the return.
On a more pragmatic level, though, I don’t see how it’s possible. As I mentioned above, I tried a couple of times to see if I could see the pattern that elite spinsters can apparently see, and even when I’m the one releasing the ball, it only made me feel a little queasy. The thought of actually being able to control the outcome is completely out of the question.
Back in the days of Casablanca, it might have been a possibility, but on a modern table, you would need a complex array of laser scanners and supercomputers to have any hope of accurately predicting where the ball will come to rest – but perhaps we’ll talk more about that a little later.
Chapter Five: The Only True Roulette Strategy
In this part of the online roulette guide we’ll look at the only true roulette strategy. I told you earlier that the house always wins and the house edge is axiomatic. The problem with some gamblers is that they just won’t listen to reason. You and I are altogether more sensible and pragmatic people, so I’m sure you will agree with me when I tell you that attempting to beat the house is, in itself, the wrong strategy.
Roulette is a game of chance. In a card game, and even some slots, there are strategic decisions you can make depending on the cards in front of you or what appears on screen, and these decisions will shave something off the house edge and shift the odds a little way in your favour.
Don’t look for such a strategy in roulette, because you are chasing shadows. That doesn’t mean there is no strategy at all that I recommend, however. To me, “no strategy at all” takes us back into the realms of chaos theory, and I’ve already told you exactly what I think of that.
Why play roulette?
To circle in on the perfect roulette strategy, I need you to answer a question. Why do you play roulette? What is your objective? Here are three common answers – choose the one that applies to you, and then imagine three people playing roulette, each with one of the three objectives. Who is going to have the most successful night?
- To win a whole heap of money
- To enjoy yourself and hope to win some money
- To have a fun night out and try not to spend too much money
Here’s the eureka moment. In a game of chance where the odds are just a little bit against you thanks to the house edge, your strategy is not to beat the house, because that’s impossible. Your aim needs to be to lose as little as possible.
I’ve seen hundreds, thousands, of people troop in night after night to play roulette, blackjack, slots and poker at the casino, and I’ve seen them arrive with a variety of aspirations and expectations. But all can be essentially distilled down to the above three options.
Ultimately, the reason that casinos remain so popular in spite of that dreaded house edge is because most people fall into category three above. Getting dressed up, having a night out with friends in a high class casino, soaking up the atmosphere, drinking a few martinis and enjoying the thrill of the roulette wheel. It’s a fantastic way to spend an evening, and most people accept that like any great night out, it is going to set them back a couple of hundred pounds.
Now let’s get into the real strategy of how to ensure that couple of hundred doesn’t turn into a couple of thousand.
After everything we have been through together, you will probably think that trend betting is going to be the world’s worst idea. After all, doesn’t that mean betting in accordance with streaks and patterns? Yet we’ve already established that these don’t really exist, and every spin of the wheel is an independent event.
You’re right, and I’m glad you’ve been listening. But here’s the thing, you need some sort of pattern or system to follow, because the alternative is to descend into chaos, and that’s when things get expensive.
By placing your bets according to trends, you keep a lid on your outgoings – this means your bankroll lasts longer, and you reduce your exposure to the house edge, so you might still come out with a nice little win.
There are numerous ways to use trends to inform your betting, but this basic strategy will give you the idea. Remember, now that the scales have been removed from our eyes, our objective is to have a great night and minimise our spending.
My first suggestion is that even money bets are the most fun. Remember, the house edge is the same whatever type of bet you go for, so it doesn’t really matter, but with red/black odd/even or low/high, you are always in the action, and it has more of the feeling of a fairly fought contest between you and the wheel.
It makes not the blindest bit of difference which you choose, but let’s say you are going red/black. Here’s how the trend betting works:
Watch the wheel, keep your chips to yourself and wait till you get two consecutives, be it red, red or black, black. When it does, place a bet on that same colour. If you win, go again, and see how long the streak continues. If you lose, sit back and wait for another two consecutives, then you are off again.
The benefit of this strategy is that you are not betting on every spin, but you are constantly engaged in the action and enjoying the anticipation even when you are not directly involved. This protects your bankroll and keeps the number of bets placed lower, thus reducing the chances of you simply flatlining out at the house edge.
Of course, there are numerous variations on this. For example, you can play it the other way round and bet against the run continuing.
If you want to mitigate the risk even further, you can wait for a sequence of three instead of two before you join the fray. This further protects your bankroll, while really ramping up the anticipation levels.
Chapter Six: Roulette Myths and Legends
Next up in our Online Roulette Guide we take a look at the Myths and Legends behind the game. Casinos, and the people who frequent them, are steeped with superstition, myths and tales that might or might not have their basis in reality.
When it comes to roulette, a game where the wheel of chance holds sway with an iron fist over any strategic input, the superstition can be even higher. Let me share a few of my favourites with you.
1) The man who broke the bank
There is an old music hall song entitled “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.” This tells the tale of a real life gambler by the name of Charles Wells, who did exactly that. Now Wells was quite a character, and definitely not the sort of guy you would leave unattended in the living room unless you’d locked away the family silver. He committed a number of frauds over the years, and there is considerable speculation about how he managed to do what he did in Monte Carlo.
The events took place one fine day in the summer of 1891, and then again on a subsequent visit in November. Each time, Wells arrived at the casino with a bankroll of £4,000 and walked out with winnings of around £60,000. To put it into context, that equates to around £2 million today. On one occasion, Wells notched up 23 consecutive successful spins.
Back then, each table had a cash reserve of 100,000 French Francs. This was known as the “bank,” and in the event that the funds were exhausted, the casino would add some theatre to proceedings by laying a black cloth over the table and declaring it “broken” until staff could replenish the money from the underground vault.
Wells broke the bank several times on each of his visits. Nobody has ever been entirely sure how he did it – when interviewed by The Times newspaper in 1893, he claimed to have an “infallible system,” but given his track record, it is understandable that many suspected some underhand trickery was in play.
2) Ocean’s Three take the Ritz for £1.3 million
If someone came up with this as a film script, it would be thrown out for being just too implausible, but here is one of those occasions when truth is stranger than fiction.
In early 2004, two men and a woman, all three in their 30s and immaculately dressed, swept into London’s glamourous and sophisticated Ritz casino. They headed for the roulette wheel and walked out at the end of the evening £100,000 up. The following night, they were back, and this time, they took the house for £1.2 million.
As is standard practice for big wins, the casino reviewed the security tapes and it seemed that something untoward had been going on with mobile phones. The police were called, and the trio were tracked down and arrested.
It transpired that they had used a laser scanner in a mobile phone to feed information on the spinning wheel to a laptop, which used this data to calculate where the ball would stop. The real mystery is how the software managed to perform such complex calculations with such accuracy and speed that they were able to place their bets in time.
This kind of technique has been discussed at the theoretical level since the 1970s, but it would require inconceivable computer power even today – so how did they manage it 13 years ago?
The answer to that question remains an unsolved riddle, but the upshot is that no law had been broken, the police released the three without charge, and they were allowed to keep the winnings. They have never been heard of since, and as far as we know, there have been no other incidents of this nature.
2) The devil’s in the detail
Could those three have had some unnatural assistance of a supernatural nature? Some call the roulette wheel “The Devil’s Wheel.” In part this is doubtless related to the belief among some that gambling is “sinful,” but they will tell you that there is mathematical evidence to support the theory.
Add together all the numbers on the roulette wheel and they come to 666 – the sign of the beast according to The Book of Revelation in the New Testament.
3) Lucky seven
Back in 1991, a computer programmer by the name of Chris Boyd decided that he wanted to place a bet and win a lot of money at roulette.
Now you and I both know that’s a dangerous mindset, and we would tell Mr Boyd all about the house edge and the axiom of the casino. But we would also be able to offer him a few tips on how to reduce the risk of losing and potentially pull a crafty one on the laws of averages.
He decided to place just one bet – that’s a good decision, the fewer the better. He also decided to place it on red – better and better, we like the even money wagers.
The third part of his plan might cause you to pale, a little, though. He saved up £150,000, flew over to Vegas and toured the casinos until he found one that would accept his $220,000 wager on red. Eventually, Binion’s accepted the bet, the wheel was set in motion and the ball landed on red number seven. Mr Boyd collected his money and walked out a happy man.
A remarkable story, but it gets better. 18 years later, in 2009, a US businessman by the name of Ashley Revell decided to do the same thing. He, however, sold all his worldly goods and converted them into $136,000. Like Mr Boyd before him, he headed to Vegas to make or break his fortune. Like Mr Boyd before him, he put it all on red. And like Mr Boyd before him, it landed on red number seven.
The legend of lucky seven does not even stop there, however. On 14 July 2000, at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, red seven came up six times in a row. What are the odds of that, you might ask – approximately three billion to one.
In case you are wondering what they did with their winnings, Mr Boyd disappeared and supposedly lived happily ever after, while Ashley Revell invested his in a new business venture, an online poker site. Sadly for him, it was not a success, and he went out of business three years later. Perhaps he should have stuck to roulette.
Chapter Seven: A Look at Online Roulette
Of course, it could be that Ashley Revell was just a man ahead of his time. In the modern technological age, we all have smartphones, tablets and laptops. Online casinos have become immensely popular, and although yes, I am a traditionalist who has spent my life surrounded by the unique sight, sound and smell of brick and mortar casinos, I certainly have nothing against the virtual ones. This couldnt be an online roulette guide without taking a good long look at what is available at modern day online casinos.
On the contrary, I think they provide a perfect opportunity for people to learn the ropes and get to grips with the rules of a variety of casino games, whether it is roulette, blackjack or poker. These days there are so many around that they are champing at the bit to get you involved, and the free spins and bonus chips that they offer to new members give you a chance to lose someone else’s money instead of your own while you get your head around the strategy.
Anything that introduces new people to the wonders of the casino and inspires them to visit one for real can only be a good thing in my book.
RNGs or the real wheel?
There are two types of online roulette commonly available, which are random number generators (RNGs) or real wheels with a human croupier.
By far the most common is the RNG. You will see a mock up of a roulette wheel on the screen, you’ll see the ball bounce around and you will see it land on a random number.
The odds are exactly the same as you will find in a real casino, and so is the house edge – this is in itself an interesting point, as some online casino games have a reduced house edge because they can afford to do so – after all, there are far lower overheads involved in running an online piece of computer software than operating a real world casino.
But in roulette, the edge is dictated by the zero or zeroes, so you face exactly the same mathematical probabilities online as you do in real life.
Some online casinos will offer real games involving a real wheel and a human croupier. This is a fun gimmick, but in honesty, it makes not a jot of difference to the final outcome. Broadly speaking, I would say that if you want the real genuine feel of a casino, you will go out to one, and if you want to play online, an RNG will do just fine.
Immersive Roullete From Evolution
There is, however, one caveat to that. The RNG roulette wheel goes fast, and you can get through a whole lot of bets in a short time. If you’ve been listening to what I’ve been saying, that should ring a few alarm bells, so just take care. Real dealer games take longer, and that can never be a bad thing in roulette.
Any elephant traps?
Online gambling is a topic that caused plenty of concern a few years ago. Could you trust the sites? Was it all a scam? Would you see your winnings? These days, the online casinos are run by companies every bit as reputable is the physical ones – in fact, in many cases, they are the same players.
They are also subject to plenty of external control and audit processes, so it is really not the wild west that it might have appeared in the early days of the internet.
Just make certain that you are clear on how you put money into your casino account and how you get it out. The casinos will all be transparent about this but they vary from one to the next in terms of payment methods and how long it takes to transfer the funds in either direction.
Conclusion of our Online Roulette Guide
Roulette is one of the most long-established casino games. Slots might be more high-tech, poker might provide the deeper options for strategic play and influencing the odds, but there is something about The Devil’s Wheel. We know it will beat us in the end, but we just can’t stay away from it, and as we found out from Messrs Boyd and Revell, the fact that the house always wins in the long term does not mean that you won’t get the occasional thrill of the big win.
And in the final analysis, it is the thrill of the game that matters more than anything else when it comes to roulette. So let me leave you with the following tips. Keep these pointers in mind and you will get all the pleasure from this wonderful game, and you’ll minimise the pain.
- Always play on the European single zero table over the American double zero if you have the choice. That’s the only way of reducing the house edge.
- Play for the joy of playing. There is a popular TV campaign that says: “When the fun stops, stop.” I really can’t put it any better.
- The fewer bets you place, the better your chance of evading the odds.
- The house edge is axiomatic.
- Steer clear of the beast – it is the only bet where the house edge increases beyond the standard 2.7 and 5.3.
- Progression strategies are a fallacy. They make no difference to the odds, and in the long run you will still run up against the house edge.
- Trend betting is a great way to make your money last longer and get more enjoyment out of your time at the roulette wheel.
- There’s something magic about lucky seven.
OK, so the last one is tongue in cheek, but we all need a little magic in our lives, and it doesn’t have to be restricted to the festive season.
And the magic of roulette was exactly where we came in. I hope you have found our stroll around the science, legend and mythology of the roulette wheel informative and entertaining, and that it will inspire you to visit your local casino or log on to your favourite online version and give it a try for yourself.
I will only add the observation that Casablanca is 75 years old now, and it no longer achieves prime time Christmas afternoon billing. Yet like a favourite relative who is now getting on in years, you can be sure it will put in an appearance at some time around the Christmas season. If you are of a generation that has missed this venerable Yuletide institution, do yourself a favour and keep a lookout for it, if only to catch the magic of 22 and the timeless joy and wonder that can be brought by the spin of a wheel.