Learning the game of roulette is far from difficult, but finding a strategy that actually optimizes your game-play is about as difficult as tasks come. The math behind the game is straightforward. Consequently, many people have proposed a roulette strategy, such as the Martingale system, that professes to exploit this simplicity. To get a proper sense about how systems work with roulette, read our roulette systems page. The problem with trying to develop a proper roulette strategy is that all of the bets on the table calculate out to the same house edge of 5.25% (on American tables). The only exception to this rule is the five-number bet, which has an even worse edge of 7.29%!
So what do we suggest for a roulette strategy? Simple attention. Knowing roulette is more about knowing what aspects of a roulette game can change the ‘unchangeable’ house edge. Now of course in a game so rigid and non-interactive as roulette we can do little as players to lower the house edge, but we can be on the lookout for casinos that offer special rules that accomplish the same thing.
The first rule you should look for in the casino is called ‘surrender’, which should not be confused with the similar term used in the game of blackjack. The rule applies to outside bets which pay even money only. These include red/black, odd/even and the high/low bet. If the ball lands on a 0 or 00 you only lose half of your bet, instead of all of it. As you already know, it’s the 0 and 00 that ramp the house edge up so much in American roulette, so surrender does a good job at significantly lowering this house edge. The house edge on these even money bets is now only 2.63%, not too shabby. Although even money bets are now twice as nice as their inside counterparts, you have to sacrifice any potentially big payoffs to gain the benefit of a lower house edge. It’s not perfect, but it’s a workable roulette strategy. You can find surrender in many Atlantic City casinos, and a few other places in the world. Single zero roulette wheels rarely offer surrender. I’ve had an email from one of my readers, and he tells me that there’s a Single Zero Roulette Table that offers Surrender in in Baden, Switzerland, near Zurich! It’s called the Grand Casino Baden. If you know of any others, please
, if you ever walk away from it that is.
The next most important difference in tables that you should have an eye out for is European wheels, or single zero wheels. These tables exclude the double zero you find on most North American wheels. True to its name it is much easier to find European roulette wheels across Europe than it is anywhere else. Things can be different playing over there. The table is quite often manned by two croupiers, a rake is used to clear bets, and players use normal casino chips instead of proprietary ones. The only difference truly worth noting though, is the fact that there are only 37 pockets on the wheel. This simple change drops the house edge on all bets (not just the even money outside bets) to a much more attractive 2.70%. Payoff amounts are the same as an American table, so you aren’t just having the wool pulled over your eyes. If you’re hardcore, you could have your roulette strategy be ‘do all my gambling in Europe’.
The last, but not least, thing to include in your roulette strategy is a search for the added rule called ‘En Prison’. It would have been mentioned first, but it’s next to impossible to find anywhere but in Europe, which is why I suggested earlier that the best strategy is to play there. It works like this: say you’re placing an even-money outside bet (yup, that's all this rule applies to) and the stupid ball falls in the 0 pocket. If En Prison is offered, the bet will not be swept away after the rest of the bets, but it won’t be returned to you either. The bet is said to be ‘in prison’ and remains on the board to have its fate decided on the next spin. If on the next spin the bet ‘wins’, your money is returned to you, but with no extra winnings. If the number next spin is a loss for your imprisoned bet, it gets swept away. If 0 comes up again, the bet remains in prison.
This nice little rule reduces the house edge on even-money bets to a more advantageous 1.35%. Those who do not employ this strategy must contend with a much greater house edge. Okay so I don’t exactly want you leaving here thinking ‘my strategy should be to move to Europe’, that’s a little excessive. Your roulette strategy should start by visiting my single zero roulette wheel locations page and finding a spot near you where you can play a European table. Remember, you always have the option of gambling at an online casino that offers single zero roulette.