Working out the Wheel: Roulette & The House Advantage

Roulette is one of the most common and popular games of chance ever created; every land-based casino in the world features at least one roulette table, whilst the majority have dozens of tables featuring a multitude of variants to suit the tastes of every possible visiting player.  Having a variety of different slot machines makes a lot of sense, as every demographic is likely to have different tastes in terms of theme and complexity.  When it comes to table games, however, the house advantage is likely to be the biggest deciding factor when choosing a table.

If you are just beginning to play roulette online, you might well have wondered what the difference is between the many roulette variants that these sites offer.  This is a fair question, as the differences are not always obvious to the untrained eye.  Today we will check out five of the most popular roulette variants offered on the web to see which offers players the lowest house advantage.  If you don’t know the difference between an American table and a French one, then you’re in for a surprise!

American Roulette

American Roulette is the most popular variant of the game and is only surpassed in worldwide popularity by the card game blackjack.  Many players mistakenly believe that the American variant is obviously going to be superior to other types of roulette, such as the European and French designs; this is a misconception, however, as an American table offers much lower odds than the other two games.

The reason for this is actually quite straightforward; an American roulette table includes two greenhouse” pockets labeled zero/” 0″ and double zero/” 00″, which results in a 5.4% house edge.  In contrast, the European layout has only a single green pocket which results in a 50% lower house edge of just 2.7%.  The French variant includes other rule changes that are beneficial to the player as well, lowering the house edge even further than the European design to just 1.35%.

European Roulette

The European design of the roulette wheel is much more common than the French one; the two games are extremely similar if you take away the rule changes in the French game, although the ordering of the pockets does differ between each type of wheel.  If a French game is available, then you should choose that one, otherwise, the European table is the one to go for.

Every pocket on a roulette wheel has a 2.7% chance of landing every time it spins, resulting in a 5.4% chance of hitting a green pocket whilst playing American Roulette compared with the 2.7% chance of catching the single pocket in European Roulette.  There’s nothing sneaky here, it really is that simple – a European wheel is 50% more generous than an American one!

French Roulette

We’ve established why an American Roulette game is much less generous than the European one already, but the French design goes even further by offering players a 50% lower house edge than even a European wheel.  The European wheel already got rid of one house pocket to increase the player’s odds, so how does the French game manage to go even lower?

The answer lies in two important changes to the table rules.  Firstly, any even-money bets (eg red/black, odd/even) that end up being lost due to the ball landing on green will only lose half of their value instead of the entire bet.  Secondly, a round that results in a player loss due to the ball landing on green results in their bet being “imprisoned”, and if they win on the next round, that bet will be returned (without winnings!).  This gives you a 50/50 shot of recovering your bet on the next spin, resulting in a 50% lower house edge compared with European Roulette.

Mini Roulette

This variant of roulette first appeared in land-based casinos decades ago but was shunned by regular casino-goers at the time.  The online casino world seems to feel differently about Mini Roulette, however, as there have been numerous versions of this design released over the years from almost every major gaming software house.

The Mini wheel contains just 12 pockets plus the greenhouse pocket, but those with a keen eye will already have spotted the problem here – if you have a third of the player pockets but the same number of house pockets, your odds should clearly drop to a third as well!

Calculating the maths reveals a house edge of 7.6% in Mini Roulette, just as you would expect.  For this reason, you should probably avoid playing this variant of the game.

Multi-ball Roulette

There are several different types of multi-ball roulette; some feature two balls, others have three, some have just one wheel, whilst others feature more.  The exact odds will vary according to the number of possible outcomes, with some versions being more generous than European Roulette and others much less so.

These games are lots of fun and are a great way to keep the game interesting and action-packed, but it’s critical that you make sure you are getting a good deal before deciding to spend your money.  It’s easier than you might think – the regular game pays 35 to 1 for a win, but there are 37 possible outcomes on the wheel.  It’s easy to see where the house gets its advantage here – a completely fair game would pay 36 to 1.

By comparing the number of possible outcomes with the payout given for a win, you can quickly get the measure of how generous – or not – a roulette game really is.  And remember, if you aren’t sure, you can be certain that Google has seen the same game already!