Winning at Roulette

Roulette is primarily a game of chance, because you have no influence over where the ball lands on the wheel - this is completely random. The area that you can control is the way you bet, so in order to minimise losses and maximise your odds of winning is to concentrate on this area. There are dozens of betting strategies, some useful, others not.

Use Our Guide As A Checklist Of What You Need To Consider

Maximising your chances of winning

1. Observe the wheel before you play

When you first take your seat at a roulette table, watch the game for a little while first. You want to make sure that there isn't some kind of mechanical bias operating on the wheel. No reputable casino will deliberately tamper with the random nature of the wheel and ball, but mechanical wear and tear can have an effect. This can mean that the wheel has a very slight lean to one side, so that the ball lands on a certain range of numbers more than it would through mere chance.

Another thing that can influence the final resting slot of the ball is croupier habit. Some croupiers develop a specific way of spinning the wheel, depending on the about of force they give it, and may drop the ball at more or less the same time after setting the wheel in motion. This can impart a slight bias to where the ball ends up.

If you notice these patterns, your choice is to either leave the table and find a wheel that is in better condition, or take a chance and bet on the numbers that you perceive to come up more than others.

2. Practice the game first

It's not a bad idea to find a free roulette table at which you can play for fun, or if this is not available at the casino, play for free at an online casino to familiarise yourself with the mechanics of the game and the betting options. This will not only help you to get to know the game, it will also give you confidence when betting, and you will learn the various types of bet combinations that you can use. When sitting down at a real money game, take your time to place your best bets - don't feel you have to rush it, and ignore other players who may impatiently want you to hurry up. Remember, it's your money and you have every right to think about how you want to bet.

3. Choose European roulette, not American

There is a very important difference between European and American roulette, which has a significant impact on your odds of winning. European roulette, the older version of the game, has a single zero on the wheel, while American roulette has a single zero slot and a double zero slot. This changes the basic odds of hitting a particular number from 1 in 32 to 1 in 33. In percentage terms, this means that when you're playing American roulette, the house edge is 5.26%. With European roulette it is only 2.63%. This might not seem like a big difference, but every little way you can swing the odds more in your favour is worth it, and halving the casino edge can have a pretty big impact on your winnings.

4. Check out the software before playing online

Online roulette can be a risky business. While most online casinos are reputable, there are always those out to scam you. So make sure you play at a website that publishes audited payout percentages, and uses software that has been certified to provide true random results. Such casinos will usually publish this information on their websites ­- you'll typically find a link to this at the bottom of the home page. At the very least you will see the logos of the companies that have audited and certified the casino for fair play. If you don't see this, stay well away.

Further Reading: Online Roulette for Real Money.

Minimising your chances of losing

1. Always keep your betting affordable

The golden rule with roulette, as with all kinds of gambling is to only bet what you can afford to lose. Remember that winning is really just a by-product of playing for entertainment value. Set aside a bankroll that won't have an impact on your monthly budget, see this as the price of enjoying yourself at the roulette table, and be prepared to lose it all. Set yourself a limit and don't exceed it. When you reach this limit, stop playing.

That isn't to say that you will lose, but there's an old adage that says you can't play with scared money. If you can't afford to lose the money you have a good chance of falling into the trap of desperation if you do start losing, and then making bigger and bigger bets to try and win back what you've lost, resulting in a downward spiral. And whatever you do, don't ever get into debt to fund your gambling. If you can't afford to play, don't play. It's that simple.

In this context, avoid drinking alcohol when you play, as it lowers inhibitions, leading to inappropriate risk-taking and that you'll surely regret the next day. You're also more likely to make mistakes and digging yourself into a hole.

2. Pocket your winnings immediately

If you've been diligent and followed the advice above, make sure that as soon as your bankroll exceeds what you brought to the table, take the profit straight away, to protect it. Remember that you've set a limit to what you're prepared to lose, so if you start playing with your additional winnings, you'll be playing over your limit. It's also a huge boost to your confidence and sense of wellbeing to know that you already have a profit safely stashed in your pocket, and are thus guaranteed to walk away from the table with some money. You can't lose money that you don't bet.

3. Place outside bets

With roulette, a big aspect of winning is simply not losing. Outside bets promise lower payouts, but you're also less likely to lose money. For the uninitiated, outside bets are located on the perimeter of the betting mat, as the name suggests. This is when you bet on red or black, odds or evens, and high or low. These bets pay out at odds of 1:1, which means that you're slightly countering the house edge with a payout expectancy of just under 50%. Seeing as you're playing a game of pure chance, 50% odds are about as good as you can get. Double up on these bets by placing one on red or black, and one on odds or evens.

Strategies for betting on roulette

Expert roulette players have come up with many different betting strategies to minimise the downside and hedge against the house edge. Let's look at a few:

1. Martingale strategy - doubling up

This works when you're placing outside bets, described above. The strategy requires that you double your bet each time you lose, while betting on the same colour or the same type of number (odd or even). Make sure you don't change your type of bet. It's based on simple arithmetic.

If you bet $1 on black and you lose, you're $1 down. Double your bet to $2 on black for the next spin of the wheel. If you lose again, you'll be $3 down. Double your bet again to $4. Now if you win, you'll win $4, thus recouping your loss and making a $1 profit.

To give yourself enough room to double at this rate, choose a table with a relatively high maximum bet limit, and bet the minimum to begin with. Of course you need to make sure you have enough bankroll to afford to double up a number of times.

2. Grand Martingale strategy

This is the same as the Martingale strategy described above, but here you double up and also add the amount of your first bet. So if your first bet is $1, your second bet will be $2 + $1 = $3. This increases your profit when you win.

3. James Bond strategy

For this betting strategy you'll need to wager $200 a turn. On 19-36 (the high numbers), place $140 in bets. Place $50 on the middle numbers (13-18), and the remaining $10 on zero (make sure you're playing European roulette, not American).

This betting spread increases your chances of winning, simultaneously minimising what you'll lose. The high bet will earn an $80 profit, the middle bet $100 and the zero bet $160, according to the payout tables for each.

Of course you'll lose the full $200 if the ball lands on numbers 1 to 12, in which case revert to the basic Martingale strategy to recoup your loss.

4. En prison strategy

This is only possible at a European roulette table that uses the en prison rule. With this rule in place, the house edge is reduced to a mere 1.35%. With this rule you should bet on a colour, either red or black. If the ball lands on zero, you'll lose your bet, but the wheel will be spun again, retaining your original bet without you having to bet again. This time if you win, you'll get your full bet back. It's a good way to prevent losses, even if you won't turn a profit on the spin.

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Roulette Q&A

It makes no difference whether you pick red or black because the odds of the ball landing on either colour are the same. However, if you bet on a combination of red/black and odd/even, you have slightly better statistical chance of winning if you choose to bet on red + even or odd + black.

While we don't recommend this, if you do find yourself at an American roulette table, split your bet on the 0 and 00.

This is much more risky than placing outside bets, but the payout will also be higher if you win. It comes down to your choice of whether you want to take a higher risk for a higher reward.

The overall payout percentage is the same for both, at 35:1. However, the odds of losing on European roulette are less than those for American roulette (36:1 vs 37:1), because the latter wheel has an extra slot.

General roulette tips
American roulette has a relatively high house edge (5.6%), compared to games like blackjack, video poker and even some slots. If you're looking to win, you should rather play those games, or play European roulette.
Watch a good few spins before playing, to see if the same numbers come up more often, due to mechanical idiosyncrasies of the wheel. Use your ears in particular - listen for the ball rattling at a certain point on the wheel, which indicates a slight deformity. Use your eyes to watch the light reflected off the wheel. If the reflection differs as the wheel rotates, this means that there is a deformity in the wheel.
Only take as much money to the table as you can afford to lose. Remember that you're essentially paying for entertainment, and any profit you make is a bonus.
To minimise your losses, place outside bets.