For a while there back in the mid-1990s, inventing new and creative casino table games was a booming business. Budding entrepreneurs like Derek Webb – developed his hit title Three Card Poker in 1994 – tinkered with statistical probability, game theory, and casino economics to cobble together new concepts out of whole cloth.
In turn, major companies such as Shuffle Master, Bally’s, International Game Technology (IGT), and Scientific Gaming gobbled the smaller firms up via multimillion-dollar acquisitions. As a result, the table game pits of the modern era boast much more diversity than the basic blackjack / baccarat / craps / roulette arrangement of old.
But for every game that became a bona fide classic like Three Card Poker, dozens quickly died on the vine like the five real money roulette variants found below.
Alphabetic Casino Roulette
Under the auspices of his startup firm A. Wheel Inc., game inventor Budimir Ilievski secured a patent for his Alphabetic Roulette wheel in 2007.
That same year, Ilievski arranged for the game’s first live installation at Fitzgerald’s casino in Downtown Las Vegas. That installation was short-lived to say the least, as Alphabetic Roulette soon vanished from Sin City after failing to draw sufficient player numbers.
Speaking of numbers, you won’t find any on the Alphabetic Roulette wheel. No, this game ditches the standard 1-36 (plus 0 and/or 00) setup for an A through Z alignment. With only 26 letters in the English alphabet to work with, Ilievski pared his wheel down to 25 spaces, with A through X found in individual spaces and Y-Z sharing a space.
In a further departure from roulette norms, the classic red / black / green color scheme is eschewed for a rainbow collage featuring yellow, red, green, orange, blue, and pink, along with a lone black space for the Y-Z. That space serves the same function as the green 0 and 00 spaces on a normal roulette wheel, helping the house cut into a player’s odds on almost all wagers.
The house edge on Alphabetic Roulette stood at exactly four percent, making it a much better option than the double-zero American wheel (5.26 percent). Despite offering improved odds of winning, however, casual players never took a liking to Ilievski’s creation and Alphabetic Roulette hit the casino game scrapheap.
A relatively new addition to the online casino landscape, Roulette Express was released by Gamesys N.V. in 2016.
Although the game comes with considerable bells and whistles thanks to three configurable gameplay settings, the central conceit is rather simple. Rather than send a single white ball spinning around the virtual wheel, Roulette Express spins three balls at a time.
From the player’s perspective, you can stick with the script and bet on how each individual ball will land. So if you’re betting on red and two balls hit red numbers, while the third ball finds a black space, you’d win two betting units but lose one to the house.
Roulette Express makes this process easier by using betting units that are divisible by three ($0.03, $0.30, $1.50, $3.00, and so on up the ladder).
Thus, in the scenario described above, a $3 bettor would see their total wager broken up into $1 bets to cover the three balls in play. From there, winning on two balls produces $2 in profit, while losing on one ball eats into that amount by $1 for a total result of +$1.
To make Roulette Express even more entertaining, the game’s designers enabled players to bet on all three balls at once. In other words, you’d need to hit all three balls on a red space for the aforementioned example wager to pay out.
Obviously, landing three balls in an exact way is much more difficult than hitting one ball from a statistical perspective. To offset this discrepancy, Roulette express uses the special pay table for its three-ball bets.
And when you somehow hit all three balls in the same single-number space, you’ll receive a 210 to 1 reward.
Roulette Express isn’t technically dead as of yet, but as it remains relegated to only the shadiest of offshore online casinos, I have no reservations including the game in this list.
Double Ball Roulette
In 2013, a small development company called Games Marketing showcased Double Zero Roulette at the Global Gaming Expo.
One year later, the two-pronged roulette alternative was being played for real money at the Tropicana casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Whereas the Roulette Express model was based on adding three balls to the wheel, Double Zero Roulette dials things back to just a pair of balls.
By using a compressed air device to shoot both balls at the same speed only microseconds apart, the game’s designers ensured that the balls never strike each other and disrupt the natural outcome.
Double Zero Roulette plays out almost identically to the standard version, while simply doubling the wagering options presented to players. When betting on any of the outside bets which typically pay out at even money, both balls must land correctly to earn a juiced up 3 to 1 payout.
As for the inside bets like the single number, two-number “Split,” and so on, players can still win when just one of their balls connects. However, they’re still hoping to see both balls find the right spaces for a doubled up payout.
And adding to the intrigue, Double Zero Roulette includes a jackpot side bet that pays out a whopping 1,200 to 1 when you hit both balls in the same single number space.
Even worse, that Double Ball Jackpot side bet offers a house edge of 16.82 percent, so you’re better off playing the penny slots over the long run.
Experienced players sniffed out those disastrous odds early on, and even with a second installation at Binion’s casino on Fremont Street, Double Zero Roulette has gone the way of the dodo.
Double Action Roulette
One year before Double Zero Roulette attempted to break through, former casino executive Richard Fitoussi debuted Double Action Roulette at the 2012 Global Gaming Expo.
And in fact, it appears likely that Games Marketing borrowed heavily from Fitoussi’s underlying design. Double Action Roulette doesn’t add a second ball, but it does utilize a second wheel which spins independently of the classic wheel found on any basic roulette table.
This new “inside wheel” is smaller, but it uses the same 1-36 (with either a single or double zero) configuration roulette fans know and love.
On every spin, the ball will land on a space between two adjoining spaces on the inside and outside wheels. Players can place a “Single Ring” wager, which uses the standard roulette pay table, or a “Double Ring” bet that offers sweetened payouts.
Double Ring bets incur a hefty house edge of 10.24 percent – just like in Double Zero Roulette, remember – so this game soon faded into obscurity as well.
A blend of the games previously described above, Riverboat Roulette first appeared at the Golden Gate Casino in Downtown Las Vegas back in 2014.
Borrowing the multicolored grouped spaces found in Alphabetic Roulette, and the secondary wheel that defines Double Action Roulette, the Riverboat Roulette concept was a major gamble of its own.
And like most attempts to reinvent the wheel, this convoluted and utterly unnecessary take on roulette never really got rolling. After disappearing from the Golden Gate, the game hasn’t been seen since.
Traditional Roulette Will Always Remain a Favorite
Humans have been inventing unique gambling games since time immemorial, beginning with crude dice fashioned from shells and bone. These diversions ultimately culminated in the multibillion-dollar casino industry you know today, one defined by dozens of games and hundreds of variants.
But while attempting to add depth to relatively new card games like blackjack or poker, trying to improve on roulette has proven to be a nonstarter. The game’s elegant design, deceptive simplicity, and reliance on pure luck remain timeless, as the failed additions found above can attest.