There are two roulette wheel variations used today. The most common wheel in North America is the double-zero wheel. The other, most common in the rest of the world, is the single-zero wheel. They are commonly referred to as American and European Roulette, respectively. Here, we will look at the differences.
Both wheels are comprised of the numbers 1-36. They both have 18 red numbers and 18 black numbers. The zeros are colored green. Other than the zeros, the most obvious difference between the two wheels is the placement of the numbers. This will become significant, as the single-zero game allows for unique bets based on this.
What is less known is, what determined which numbers would be red and black.
Essentially, all odd numbers are red and even numbers are black. Once we get past 1 – 10, they are determined the following way:
11 or 1+1 = 2 (Even, Black); 32 or 3+2 = 5 (Odd, Red) and so forth.
There are two exceptions, being 19 and 29 which are added a second time to end with a single digit; 19 or 1+9 = 10 or 1+0 = 1 (Odd, Red); 29 or 2+9 = 11 or 1+1 = 2 (Even, Black).
Now let’s press forward with the features of American and European roulette.
American roulette is played with a double-zero wheel. It is numbered 1-36, in addition to 0 and 00. The house advantage on this game is 5.26% and is calculated this way:
Assuming a player bets $1 on Red, his chance to win is 18/38, as there are 18 red numbers out of a total of 38 numbers. Therefore, his chance to lose is 20/38. We can then calculate the player’s expected value.
Points of Interest
Though both games offer the same bets and the same payout odds, there are 3 significant differences. First, the American wheel allows for slight betting variations around the zeroes. For example, 0,1,2; 0,00,2; 00,2,3 are paid as Street bets, at 11:1. The placement of bets around the zeroes when the Splits are added (0,2; 00,2) becomes a legitimate game protection issue. Different casinos have different processes for this, but essentially, the Split bets are offset on top of the Street bets due to lack of spacing on the layout.
It is imperative that dealers and supervisors ensure that these bets are booked properly and confirmed with the patron to avoid false claims after the spin.
Secondly, there is a bet called the “Basket” or “Top Line”. The name of the bet will vary from casino to casino. This bet is comprised of the first 5 numbers (0,00,1,2,3) and is placed on the corner of the 0,1,1st Dozen. This is the worst bet on the layout as the odds are paid 6:1. There is an easy way to see why it is the worst bet.
By placing the appropriate amount of chips for any given bet, the total payout, including the winning pieces is meant to total 36. That is:
Straight Up – 1 number/1piece; wins 35 plus the winning piece = 36.
Split – 2 numbers/2 pieces; wins 34 plus the 2 pieces = 36.
Corner – 4 numbers/4 pieces; wins 32 plus the 4 pieces = 36.
And so forth.
Now! Basket – 5 numbers/5 pieces; wins 30 plus 5 pieces = 35!
In very simple terms, roulette makes money because if you were to cover every number on the layout (38), the casino keeps 2 chips from every payout (36 to the player as above). Therefore, the Basket bet affords the casino 1 extra chip.
Lastly, when 0 or 00 is the winning number, all outside bets are lost. This is significant as you will see the major difference with European roulette as you keep reading.
Story – Fact or Fiction?
Now, I’d like to share a funny story about American roulette. I was part of the opening team of a casino years ago in Canada and we opened with all European wheels. A significant portion of our patrons would visit us from the US. We received enough questions about a 00 wheel from these guests that we ended up replacing some single zero wheels with double zero wheels to accommodate. I suppose people thought it was better if they had an extra number they could bet on. What genius marketing in the early days of this game that influences people to this day!
European roulette is played with a single-zero wheel. It is numbered 1-36, in addition to one 0. The house advantage on this game is 2.70%. You can calculate this using the same method of Expected Value noted above. Keep in mind that there are only 37 numbers in a European wheel as opposed to 38 in the American wheel.
Points of Interest
This is the game of choice for most high rollers. It is a game of class and elegance when dealt properly. Skilled dealers will astound with their level of pace and mental calculation, as there are many things happening during the course of one spin. I’ll speak more about dealers and their skills in a subsequent post.
The bet covering 0,1,2,3 is called the “First Four” or “Top Line”. It is placed exactly as in American roulette, but pays the same as a Corner, 8:1. This falls in line with the concept above; 4 numbers/4 pieces as the bet; wins 32 pieces plus the 4 pieces = 36.
Traditionally, when 0 is the winning number, the outside bets do not necessarily lose. The French terms associated with this are “La Partage” and “En Prison”. Different casinos will offer one or the other. It is important to note that this aspect of the game only applies to “even money” bets. “La Partage” means patrons will lose half their bets. “En Prison” means the patron’s bet will be locked in, pending the outcome of the following spin. If the following spin results in the patron’s bet being a winner, the patron keeps the original bet but does not get paid. Otherwise, the bet is completely lost. The majority of casinos today offer “La Partage.
Earlier, the concept of payout totals of 36 were described. This is important due the type of betting that is accepted on a European roulette game. It is referred to as progressive betting and only becomes relevant when maximum bets are involved or unique bets are placed (Complete Bets). This means placing the number of chips on a station relative to the amount of numbers covered. A station is an all-encompassing term for Straight-Up, Split, Corner, etc.
Straight Up covers 1 number; 1 chip is placed.
Split covers 2 numbers; 2 chips are placed.
The type of betting on an America roulette game is called any way to the number, also only relevant when maximum betting is reached. Essentially, this means each station is a flat bet amount. Straight Up – 1 chip; Split – 1 chip, etc.
Now, unique bets for European roulette include:
Section Bets – The numbers in the wheel are set in a way that patrons can place a bet that covers a certain section of the wheel. There are 4 sections that are traditionally played.
Neighbor Bets – These are 5 piece bets that cover the number called by the patron and the 2 numbers on each side of said number.
Complete Bets – These are more complex and include Dozens as well as specific numbers. Adjustments can be made that are called Inside Completes. These bets are designed with the progressive betting style in mind.
Next time, we will visit the technical side of these unique bets and help our friends looking to learn.