Roulette was the first casino game I ever played. I didn’t realize at the time that the odds on roulette were some of the worst in the casino when it came to table games.
I did have enough sense to avoid the slot machines, though.
Since that first trip, I’ve had a lot of fun playing roulette in Las Vegas. I’ve had many winning sessions, too, which some gambling writers would have you believe is next to impossible.
In this post, I’ve distilled my years of experience playing roulette in Las Vegas into seven tips on how to win, and I’ve explained each of them below.
1- Understand How the House Gets Its Edge in Roulette
You’ll find three different kinds of roulette games in Vegas:
- American roulette
- European roulette
- Sands roulette
American roulette is the most common, so I’ll explain how the house gets its mathematical edge in that game before discussing anything else.
Also, a brief observation about the importance of understanding the odds in roulette:
You should understand the odds in any gambling game because that’s the first step in knowing what you’re up against.
You have a plethora of bets available in roulette, but they all have one thing in common — they would all be long-term break-even bets if there were 36 numbers on the roulette wheel.
But there are more numbers than that. On a standard American roulette wheel, you’ll find 38 numbers.
Let’s ignore red and black, odd or even, or any other complicated bets for now. Let’s just look at the single number bet.
A single number bet is a bet that a specific number will come up. It pays off at 35 to 1.
So, if you bet $100 on the number 7, and the ball lands on 7, you win $3500.
For purposes of calculating the house’s advantage, take a statistically perfect set of 38 spins — you land on each number once, and you make the same $100 bet on the same number every time.
You’ll lose $100 on 37 of those spins, for a total loss of $3700.
You’ll win $3500 on the winning spin, for a total win of $3500.
You’ll have lost $200 total, which is an average of $5.26 per bet. Divide the net loss by the number of bets to get the average loss in this case.
That’s 5.26% of your action, and that’s the house edge.
The other games have different house edge figures, but that’s what you’re facing, principle-wise.
2- Try to Find a Roulette Wheel With Only One Zero
Remember how I said there are three different kinds of roulette wheels?
The differences between these wheels are the number of possible outcomes on each.
A European wheel only has 37 possible outcomes, while a Sands roulette wheel has 39 possible outcomes.
The difference comes from the number of zeroes on each wheel.
All the wheels have the numbers 1 through 36 on them, and half of those numbers are always black and half are always red.
The American wheel also has a 0 and 00, both of which are colored green.
A European wheel, though, only has a 0. There’s no 00.
This reduces the house edge from 5.26% to 2.70%.
And the game plays exactly the same.
The math is easy to do, too. In a perfect statistical set of 37 spins, you’ll only lose $100 instead of $200.
3- Avoid Sands Roulette at All Costs
The payouts for all these roulette games are the same. It’s just the odds of winning that change from game to game.
That single number bet that’s a 37 to 1 shot on an American wheel is a 36 to 1 shot on a European wheel.
But it’s a 38 to 1 shot on a Sands roulette wheel because there are three zeroes on the wheel.
The Sands roulette wheel is tricky, though, because the third zero isn’t labeled as a zero. Instead, it’s often a symbol or a letter of some kind.
Either way, it’s a bad deal.
The house edge goes up from 5.26% to 7.89% when you play on a triple zero roulette wheel.
In other words, you’ll lose 38 times, for $3800 in losses. You’ll still only have a single win for $3500, which means you’ve lost $300 over 38 spins, which is $7.89 per spin on average.
4- Find a Game With the En Prison or La Partage Rule
You’ll only find these optional rules available on European roulette games, and the rules only apply to the even money bets, which I haven’t even discussed yet.
The even money bets at the roulette table are red/ black, odd/even, or high/low.
If you win one of these bets, you win even money. Bet $100, and you’ll win $100.
The house edge is still the same, however. Here’s why:
Take 37 perfect spins on a European wheel. Eighteen of those numbers are red, and 18 of them are black. One of them, the zero, is green.
If you bet on red, you’ll lose $100 on 19 of those spins ($1900 total), and you’ll win $100 on 18 of those spins ($1800 total). Your net loss is still $100 over 37 spins or $2.70 per spin.
But with the en prison or la partage rule in effect, you have a 50% probability of getting your original bet back.
This reduces the house edge from 2.70% to 1.35%.
Now you’re playing a game with odds about the same as craps, which has a house edge of 1.41% on its most basic bet, also known as the pass line bet.
5- Skip the Betting Systems
There are many variations of roulette betting systems to choose from, but the most popular is the Martingale system. To use this system, you make an even money bet. If you lose, you double the size of that bet and bet again. Lose again, and you double the size of your bet again.
When you eventually win, you’ll have won back all the money you’ve lost, and you have a profit on top of that.
If you start with a $5 bet on black and lose, you’ll bet $10 on the next spin. Lose again, and you’ll bet $20 on the next spin.
Every one of those bets is a negative expectation bet, so you’re basically just adding a bunch of different sized negative numbers together hoping to get a positive number as your sum.
And that’s not how it works.
You will see winning progressions with this system, but when you do have a big losing progression, you’ll lose so much money that it will make up for your wins and then some. And that “then some” will eventually be the size of the house edge.
6- Or Use a Betting System if You Want To
The Martingale system isn’t the only betting system used in roulette, but it’s always a great example.
If you understand that the Martingale system doesn’t change the odds, it’s okay to use.
In fact, in the short run, the Martingale system can increase your probability of having a winning session.
The profits will be small, though.
The other 20% of the time, you’ll have a large enough set of losses to compensate.
That’s because the numbers grow faster than you think when you start doubling them.
If I gave you a penny and you doubled that penny every day for 30 days, you’d wind up a millionaire.
Of course, losing 30 spins in a row on roulette is unlikely in the extreme, which makes for some great roulette bankroll management. However, you only need to lose eight times in a row to need to place a bet that’s bigger than your bankroll, or the table limits can handle:
$5 – $10 – $20 – $40 – $80 – $160 – $320 – $640
Most roulette tables have a maximum bet of $500, which breaks the system right there.
7- Don’t Gamble With Money You Can’t Afford to Lose
No matter what you do in roulette, the odds are against you. Those casinos didn’t get so big by losing money to roulette players.
Sure, you can sometimes win in the short run, but the odds are always against you.
Keep that in mind when you decide how much money you can afford to bet on roulette.
Roulette’s a negative expectation, but then again, that’s true of all casino games. You can still win if you keep your wits about you.
These seven tips for how to win at roulette in Las Vegas are meant to help you do just that — keep your wits about you.