American Roulette

American roulette is the game played in most land-based casinos in the United States. This variant of the game is also known as double-zero roulette, because it has a second zero slot on the wheel, marked by the 00 designation. This means an American roulette wheel has 38 slots on it, instead of the 37 you'll find on a European wheel. Unless special rules are introduced, playing double-zero roulette is a disadvantage to the player, because the additional slot on the wheel means any given bet is less likely to happen.

The double-zero wheel was the way the game was played when it first became known in Europe, originally. Louis and Francois Blanc introduced single-zero roulette in 1843. The Blancs carried that version of the game to Monte Carlo, where single-0 became the European standard. Americans continued to play the old version of the game. When Las Vegas opened for gambling business in the 1930s, the double-zero variant became synonymous with that city (so much that it's also called Las Vegas roulette). These days, you'll find 8 to 12 Las Vegas casinos at any given time which offer the single-zero version, but all of them offer American roulette. Atlantic City casinos have rules to make the game more like its European cousin, but name any other American casino destination and you'll be playing the game I describe below.

American Roulette Rules

The rules require a player to place a wager on one of a number of possible outcomes. Single bets can be placed on one single number, including 1 through 36, 0, and 00. Players can place wagers on small number combinations, ranging from 2 to 6 numbers. These are called inside bets, because you place your chips inside the rectangular grid of numbers ranging from 00 to 36. Outside bets are those placed outside the number box. These involve larger blocks of numbers, usually involve 12-number or 18-number wagers. Outside bets include groupings such as even or odd, black or red, and high (19-36) or low (1-18). The twelve-number outside bets include the twelves (1-12, 13-24, 25-36), the column wagers, and the snake bet. Inside bets don't hit as often, but pay out larger amounts. When it comes to the casino's advantage, the same 5.26% house edge applies to all these bets. Only the 5-number top line bet has different odds, but they are worse. You should never make the five-number wager on the 0-00-1-2-3 proposition.

House Edge

If no house rules are in place, then the casino's house edge in American roulette is 5.26%. This represents a significant disadvantage for the player. Because the game is slow-paced, not as many spins are conducted in an hour, especially when the table is full. This somewhat mitigates the effect of the bad odds, but even when you factor in the number of hands/spins per hour, games like blackjack still remain a better gambling proposition from the perspective of budgeting. Roulette is popular because it doesn't require a lot of memorization of strategy charts to play, while the slow pace makes it a relaxing game for many. Casinos in Atlantic City use a rule in which the player only loses one-half of their wager, if the ball lands on the 0 or 00. This rule, called "la partage", lowers the house edge down to the 2.63% range, so Atlantic City is the best place in America to play roulette.

Don't Try Betting Systems

Many roulette players swear by their betting system, but don't believe any of that. No betting pattern devised can get around the fact that the casino makes more than $5 off of every $100 wagered at an American roulette table. Even those who suggest their system won't help you win, but will help you lower that house edge, don't know what they're talking about (if you take them at their word). Worse, some of the gambling experts writing on the subject know better, but fill their books, articles, and instructional videos up with nonsense in order to sell hope. Computer and mathematical analysis have shown any betting system is false, but people still believe. The most egregious example is the progressive betting method, described below.

Progressive Betting

Those who play roulette long enough will come across someone who advocates a progressive betting system. This is where you vary our betting by increasing the size of your wagers after a losing spin. While many systems exist, the most famous is the Martingale system, which suggests you double your bet after any losing spins.

This is based on the idea you'll win back what you lost plus a little extra, while the fact you've been losing means you're due for a winning spin. The progressive betting systems are thus based on the gambler's fallacy about the law of averages, that this is bound to even out in the short term. It isn't, especially because each spin is independent of the other. Nothing assures you are bound to win a hand eventually, so if you keep increasing your wagers, you could wind up wagering huge amounts of money. This is especially true of the systems which increase exponentially, like the Martingale system. All such false schemes can be avoided if you remember the casino holds a house edge and no betting pattern is going to undo that fact you're playing at a disadvantage.