Roulette is one of the most popular casino games around the world, and it is easy to see why: as well as being an iconic game, it is one of the most straightforward ones available. Roulette rules are simple: you select a number or colour, and if the ball lands on your bet, you win. There is no counting, no complicated rules, and everything happens quickly. The game’s deceptive simplicity and excitement draws millions of players to roulette tables every year, many of which believe they have winning ‘system’: a set of rules by which long-term winnings are guaranteed.
The truth is, the reliability of roulette systems is difficult to prove. Most systems involve varying sizes of bets to maximise earnings, whilst ignoring the fact that the statistical rules of the game remain the same: you have a 1 in 37 chance of winning on a number. However, several long-term players swear by their strategies, and have used them to win big over the years.
Roulette is played using a wheel and a ball. The wheel contains ‘pockets’ with numbers 1 to 36, as well as a 0 pocket and, in the American version of the game, a 00 one. The pockets are black and red (alternately) and the 0 pockets are green. The numbers are not in any particular order. The wheel is spun, and a ball thrown in; the ball then spins until landing on a pocket. A game of roulette involves placing bets on where the ball is going to land.
In a casino, the roulette table will have each number printed on it in a grid layout, with colours and groups of numbers (such as ‘odd’, ‘even’, or ‘1 to 18’) around the edges. An ‘Inside’ bet is a bet placed on the inside of the grid, i.e.: on a specific number, or several adjacent numbers (this is done by placing your chips on the line between numbers). An ‘Outside’ bet is one placed on one of the outside boxes: these are, of course, statistically more likely. The odds of a win are easy to calculate: you have a 1 in 37 chance of getting a specific number, and approximately a 0.48 chance of getting a colour (the green 0 skews it slightly under 0.5).
There are countless roulette strategies out there, and countless players who swear by one method as a surefire way to win. Whilst some of these can be successful, it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a surefire way to win: roulette is, first and foremost, a game of chance. A method that works well for one person may not work for another, or a method that has worked for years for you may start losing you money one day.
The main issue that players encounter when playing roulette is ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’, or the idea that the numbers should ‘even out’. For example: the chances of getting 0 are 1 in 37. This means that if you play 37 times, one of these should yield 0. If the wheel stops on 0 once, what is the chance of it landing on 0 again next? Against most people’s instinct, the answer is still 1 in 37. The outcomes of each roll do not affect each other, which is why any attempt to win the game by identifying ‘patterns’ is flawed.
Instead, most roulette strategies use some form of bet size variation or money management: in short, instead of trying to predict the outcome, they attempt to maximise winnings by managing the size and order of your bets. Below is a short introduction to three of the most popular ones.
This is the most famous strategy, and a favourite for beginners. It is an example of positive progression, which is a type of strategy where you increase your bets every spin. The idea behind the Martingale Progression is simple: double your bet every spin, on even chance bets (odd/even, black/red, high/low). Eventually, you will win and recover your lost money.
This isn’t incorrect, but the system has a few flaws. It relies on you having a big enough bankroll to keep increasing your bets, and on the table having a low minimum and high maximum bet. You risk increasing your bets until you reach the maximum or run out of money, and not being able to recoup the costs. Overall, you could win small amounts over a long time period, but you could get caught out and lose big.
This is similar to the Martingate, and is probably the second best-known strategy after it. To play the Labouchere system, you first write down a series of numbers whose total sum represents your profit goal. For example: 10, 20, 30, for a profit of $60. You start by placing a bet for the sum of the numbers at the two ends (10+30=$40). If you win, you erase both numbers. If you lose, you add $40 (your bet) to the end of the line. Eventually, you should win $60 profit.
The only way to lose here is if your losses outnumber your wins 2 to 1, which is statistically very unlikely, but not impossible. If this happens, your losses could be very big: that’s the risk of the system.
Not as famous as the other two, the Tier et Tout can allow you to play using the casino’s money, with less risk to yourself. You start with an amount of money, divisible by 3, which you are willing to gamble. You divide it into 1/3 and 2/3, and place an even chance bet with the 1/3 – if you lose you do the same with the 2/3. If you win either of these, you will end up with a total of $12. You keep doing this until you have reached a goal, banking any extra money whenever the total is not divisible by 3.
If you can keep this up for enough time (i.e: without suffering two losses in a row), you will bank enough money to have recouped your initial bet, and will be playing with the casino’s money. You can also bank into a good profit. The risk here is that the system relies on no two losses in a row, and you can be wiped out relatively easily with a stroke of bad luck.
So, there you go. You know the rules of roulette, and you can even start practicing with some basic strategies. There are dozens of famous strategies, and even more personal ones which players have developed over the years: find one that works for you, always be smart with your gambling, and remember to have fun with it!