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Roulette is one of those casino games with a lot of myths. Something about the game’s math gets in the heads of people, causing all manner of mistakes. Ask any average gambler who bets on the spinning wheel games and they’re likely to have some betting method they think helps them win.
The #1 myth in roulette is the house edge can be beaten. Actually, this is the idea from which all other misconceptions about the game stem. The truth is this. European or single-zero roulette has a house edge of 2.7%. American or double-zero roulette offers a house edge of 5.26%. If one of the other of these games offers “la partage” or “en prison” rules, this cuts the house edge in half on even-money wagers (red/black, hi/lo, even/odd). Those are the facts. The lowest house edge you’re likely to see is 1.35%, but that means you still play at a disadvantage. No combination of bets overcomes that disadvantage. You might get lucky, but if you played into infinity, you would lose all your money.
Some casino games have a strategy component. If a person learns basic strategy in blackjack, they can play optimal 21 and maintain a low house edge. If they learn to count cards, the player might even play at an advantage. A video poker player who finds certain full pay machines might play at a small advantage. Those who play Texas hold’em or some other form of poker can learn to calculate pot odds, then combine that with a knowledge of human nature and self-control to get an advantage at cards. These games have an aspect of skill to them. Roulette simply does not. Nothing you do short of cheating can change the odds in your favour, and I don’t recommend you cheat.
One of the great fairy tales in roulette is a progressive betting system works. This is a betting technique which suggests you should increase your wager after a loss and lower the bet after a win, based on a false assumption about the law of averages. The odds of you winning or losing do not change from hand to hand. If you lost 5 in a row or you won 5 in a row, you still have the same odds of winning or losing.
The primary example of a progressive betting scheme is the Martingale system. The Martingale calls for you to double your bets after a loss (on a 50/50 bet) and go back to the starting bet amount after any win. So if $5 is your basic wager, then you go back to $5 after any win, but go to $10, $20, $40, $80, $160, and so on after successive losses. As you can see, if you lose six spins in a row, then you’re going to be betting $160 per spin. The system presumes the law of averages will work out and you’re bound to get a win after a time, at which point you’ll win back all the money you lost plus $5.
This assures a small winning session often, but one huge disastrous loss every once in a while which wipes out those winnings. Also, the Martingale supposes two things. One, no max wager is in place, because you can reach this in about 10 losing spins on many tables. Two, you have the bankroll to get $500 or $1000 per spin to recoup your losses. It’s an unrealistic betting scheme and I’d stay away from it. Less extreme progressive betting systems exists, such as the Fibonacci or the D’Alembert, but all of them break on one idea: you can’t beat the house edge.
Looking at the last 10 to 20 results on the electronic board does nothing to help you predict future spin results. Don’t get me wrong: biased wheels happen on occasion. Verifiable stories exist in which gamblers got an advantage and exploited it for big profit. This is quite rare. In the vast majority of casinos, the electronic roulette board is just an advertisement for a game.
Dealers talk about how their table gets all kinds of crazy action when the board show 8 reds in a row or 9 evens in a row (or something of that sort). Gamblers assume the other outcome is “due”, so they bet huge money to take advantage of the law of averages. The law of averages is misunderstood by people. For all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist. It’s a figment of your imagination, your attempt to apply order to chaos, to find a pattern in randomness.
This type of thinking is a common factor in bingo lore, too.
The one bit of advice worth taking about online roulette is to play the European roulette games, whether it’s European or French roulette. Never play the American version of the game, unless you know that changes to the house rules give that version of the game a specific advantage over the single-zero variants. The odds against you are doubled in the American game, which begs the question why online casinos offer both games. The answer is they know some people don’t know the difference, so some are bound to wander into the double-zero rooms, much to their detriment.
Money management techniques like the “loss limit” can help you keep from losing your whole bankroll. The “win goal” might help you walk away from the table before you lose all that cash you just won with a lucky spin. That being said, money management won’t make you a winning player. As always, no money management tip is going to change the house edge.
These are the major mistakes new and old players alike make when they play spinning wheel games. I want to come full circle to my original point, before I leave off. Players have their own oddball wager patterns they think are going to help them win, but these are really nothing more than superstitions. Avoid all the misconceptions and fallacies of roulette and you’ll enjoy the game for what it is, a form of entertainment with a price tag.