There are two major roulette variations offered by land-based and online casinos: The American and European. Here we will take a look at American roulette – how the game has evolved, the players’ odds, and the pros and cons of spinning the wheel in an American fashion.
The American roulette wheel has gone through quite a few transformations before reaching the game we today call American Roulette – a wheel with 36 numbered slots plus two green slots for 0 and 00. In the late 19th century, for instance, the most popular form of roulette had the numbers 1 to 28 plus 0, 00, and a slot with an American eagle.
Since this roulette version only paid 27 times the wager for a bet on a single number, the house advantage was huge. About every 10th spin ended up on 0, 00 or the eagle, which resulted in the house raking in all the chips on the table. In consequence, very few players could walk away from the table with a profit in those days.
Luckily the players’ odds have improved since these early American roulette variations were developed in Louisiana and made their way up the Mississippi. The house still has an edge, of course, but in modern games it has been reduced significantly.
AMERICAN ROULETTE – PAYOUTS AND HOUSE EDGE
As mentioned, the American wheel contains 36 numbers plus a zero and a double zero (as opposed to the European wheelwhich only has one zero-slot).
There are many different possible wagers to chose from: Straight up bet (a bet on a single number), Square bet (a bet on four numbers), Red or Black, Even or Odd, just to mention a few. See complete list of roulette bets on the roulette rules page.
It’s easy to calculate the payout in American roulette. Simply use this formula: Payout = (36 – n) / n (n is the number of winning slots)
Say that you bet on red. There are 18 red slots on the wheel. (36 – 18) / 18 = 1. In other words, a red/black bet pays 1 to 1.
If you make a square bet (four numbers) the formula is (36 – 4) / 4 = 8 and you’ll get 8 to 1 on your wager.
From a house-advantage perspective it doesn’t matter what bet you make. The zeros are always there creating an edge for the casino (without them roulette would be a zero-sum game.) To speak in gambling terms, the expected value in roulette is always the same wherever you choose to place your chips.
In American roulette the edge is 5.26%, which means that you are mathematically expected to lose $0.053 on a $1 bet. In reality, however, you might have to play a large number of games before reaching the “long run” where the casino’s profit has stabilized at 5.26%. In a short term, players can have a good run and beat the advantage and, naturally, lose more than the expected percentage.
Also, if you play American roulette online you can always work towards a casino bonus. This reduces the house edge and gives you a greater chance of getting lucky.