Like many other casino games, roulette is a game of luck rather than one of skill. There is nothing a player can do that will affect the outcome of a game before or during the spin, so the only aspects they have control over are the bets they make and the size of their stake.
It stands to reason then, that if a player cannot have any impact on the actual result of the game they cannot ‘improve’ at it either because there is nothing to improve on.
In the same way that a person cannot be good or bad at guessing the outcome of a coin toss, or picking a winning lottery ticket, a roulette player cannot be good or bad at playing roulette because in order to have any sort of ability they would need to be able to demonstrate some sort of skill.
In roulette, the player isn’t even the one that plays the game, the dealer does it all, so demonstrating a skill for the game is clearly an impossibility. The only way to really beat the game is to cheat or spot and take advantage of wheel bias, like Joseph Jagger, Gonzalo Garcia Pelayo, and Richard Jarecki.
These cold hard facts haven’t stopped people trying to come up with ways to tip the odds in their favour though, and despite the fact that the game itself cannot be mastered in any way there are things players can do to give themselves the best chance as well as some pitfalls to avoid.
Betting systems are supposedly mathematically backed patterns of betting that tip the odds in the player’s favour rather than the casino’s.
It sounds good when you say it like that but sadly, they don’t actually work.
There are many roulette betting systems, with the Martingale and the Fibonacci being arguably the most famous. We have a whole article on the Martingale system as it is the only one that comes close to being successful, but it is still ultimately flawed.
It does work as a concept, but a combination of table rules and a player’s financial limitations will scupper the plan eventually.
It works by choosing outside bets like black/red and doubling your stake every time you lose. In this way, when you eventually win you will claw back everything you have lost so far plus 1 betting unit. So if you were betting £1 a time and you lost, your next bet would be £2; if that bet won you would get £4 back which would cover the £3 staked on both bets plus £1 profit.
The problem is that losing streaks can go on for a long time, and doubling each time you lose quickly adds up to a lot of money. Sooner or later you will run out of funds before the end of a losing streak, and you are bust.
Casinos also have maximum bets set for each table, so even if you had all the money in the world you would hit the maximum bet eventually and lose the lot.
Ways to Improve at Roulette
Possibly a misleading heading since we have already explained that it isn’t really possible to be good or bad at roulette, however, that said there are things players can do to ensure they are giving themselves the best chance.
You can also avoid making sub-optimal bets if you are placing more than one chip on the table at a time.
So while you won’t be improving at the game itself, you will be improving as a strategist.
You can’t alter the odds of the game or play in a way that will enhance your chances of winning on a bet by bet basis, but you can avoid less favourable games, position yourself so that the life of your session is extended, and strategize the way you bet and handle your money.
This all starts before you have even placed a single chip on the table.
Choosing the right game is a sure fire way to make sure you are keeping the house edge as low as it is possible to make it, but an inexperienced player might not know the difference between game variations.
You can see the huge change in house edge for the main game types in the table below, but this does not allow for the many online variations.
By French Roulette, we mean games that include the En Prison or La Partage rules.
The En Prison and La Partage rules are hard to find (because they are so beneficial), but their impact is strong enough to cut the house edge in half.
- En Prison – If the ball lands on zero, all even money bets remain on the table for the next spin. If they win on the second spin, the stakes are returned but they do not win anything.
- La Partage – A less convoluted version of En Prison basically. If the ball lands on zero all even money bets have half of the stake returned.
American Roulette has an extra slot on the wheel, the double zero, which gives every bet you make worse odds and incidentally, also creates the worst bet you can make in any roulette game: the basket. This is a bet on the numbers 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3, so it is essentially a line bet which usually covers six numbers and pays out at 5:1, but the basket covers only five numbers and pays out at 6:1, creating a house edge of 7.89%. Terrible.
This information should keep you on track at a high street casino, but there are far too many online games to cover in a single article, so you will need to look through the game information and find the RTP (return to player percentage) for yourself.
This will give you a good idea as to whether any extra game features have reduced your chances of winning or not, as sometimes payouts are reduced to make up for extra features.
You should also pay attention to the bets you make and balance that with the funds you have available.
Your night at the casino will be very short indeed if you spend half your bank roll on a single spin of the wheel, so split your bankroll into betting units in a way that suits your style of play:
|Bankroll||£ Per Unit||Total Betting Units|
We wouldn’t advise any more than 5% of your total available funds per betting unit.
Using £1 betting units, you can stagger your available funds across a minimum of 100 spins, depending on how lucky you are (100 losses in a row is extremely unlikely) and what you do with any winnings.
Some people actually bank all winnings and will only gamble their initial bankroll; so if they had £100 and placed £5 worth of bets, even if they won £10 they would only put the original £5 back into circulation, banking the other £5.
In this way, they hope to end up with more than they started with in their back pocket at the end of the night and they don’t end up blowing their winnings. At the very least they limit their losses and have had a great time.
At a casino a player can expect an average of around 40 spins per hour, although this can vary depending on how busy it is. But using this number as a guide you could expect at least 2.5 hours worth of play time with a £100 stake broken down into 100 betting units if you bet one unit per spin.
Online you can get through about 300 spins an hour if you make the same bets each time and are click happy, so you might need to either slow down or bet much smaller amounts to extend your play time.
Table coverage is another way you can play tactically, because the more of the table you have covered the better your chances of winning something, but the more it is going to cost you in the first place.
Betting one unit on red which pays out 1:1, along with another bet on the middle column which contains 8 black numbers and pays out at 2:1, you will have 26 numbers covered (4 of them covered twice) which is just over 70% of the board. You can do this with just 2 betting units and it makes each spin interesting as a 1:1 win covers your stake and a 2:1 win leaves you in profit. If one of your doubly covered numbers comes in you will win twice.
Doing the exact same thing but betting on the top column which only has 4 black numbers would only cover 22 numbers which is 59.49% of the board. So the cost is the same but your chances of winning are smaller. Anyone making this bet would not be staking effectively, and by extension you could say they were less ‘good’ at roulette.
There are all manner of different betting patterns people use, with some choosing a combination of straight ups, splits, and corners instead, but essentially they are all aiming at the same end result: a perfect balance between probability and payoff.
If you don’t have many betting chips then making inside bets perhaps isn’t the best strategy. Yes, every bet has the same house edge, but in terms of probability, you only have a 1 in 37 chance of winning, so you will statistically need to be betting for longer for these bets to come off.
Making an outside bet on red or black, on the other hand, gives you almost a 50/50 chance of winning, so you are more likely to achieve a longer play session and even perhaps build your bankroll.