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Roulette: Are You Just Spinning Your Wheels?24 February 2005
The nobles of Europe a few centuries ago, who were all play and no work, found roulette to be their premier gambling game of first resort. In fact, it was usually their game of last resort as well since many a fortune, built on the back of serf labor and backbreaking taxes, went round and round and down and down until it vanished, poof, just like that! Those nobles have vanished as well.
The earliest form of roulette wagering saw Roman soldiers spinning their shields and betting on which area would point at this or that person, place or thing. Guess right, and you won something (perhaps the right to pillage the village down the road); guess wrong and you lost something (perhaps the right to pillage the village up the road). Over the generations, roulette evolved into the game we now see, with numbers, colors, and various propositions that one can wager on. And the pillaging stopped.
There are two versions of roulette, the American version and the European version. The American version, which has 36 numbers and a green 0 and 00, was actually invented in Europe but is rarely played there now. The European version with 36 numbers and a 0 was actually invented in America but is rarely played here now. The gods of chance are nothing if not ironic.
Of the two versions of the game, the European version is the better bet, as the house edge is a sturdy 2.7 percent. The American version has a higher house edge, a hefty 5.26 percent. That just means that for every $100 you bet on the European version, you will stand to lose $2.70 in the long run and for every $100 you bet on the American version you will stand to lose $5.26. The Europeans certainly got the better of that exchange. The house edge is derived from the fact that a winning wager, which bucks 37 to 1 odds on the American wheel and 36 to 1 odds on the European wheel, is not paid off at the correct amounts but at 35 to 1. So every time a player wins, he actually loses either 1 betting unit or 2 betting units, depending on which version of the game he is playing.
If all this sounds confusing, suffice it to say that roulette is a losing proposition no matter what side of which ocean you're on. Some casinos, not wanting to make peasants of their noble roulette players too quickly, will offer an option variously called "surrender," "en prison," or "give back" that will reduce the house edge in half. This option calls for the giving back of one-half of your "even-money" bet (i.e., red/black, odd/even, high/low) should the 0 or 00 show up in the American version; and keeping the bet "locked-up" for the next spin should the 0 appear on the European wheel. If it wins, you get the bet back, if it loses, you lose the bet.
Over the years many betting systems have been developed in an attempt to overcome the house edge at roulette. The most popular system is called the Martingale, generally used on the even-money bets, which calls for doubling your bet after each loss in the hopes that you won't go on a sustained losing streak of six to nine spins in a row. Most times, you won't. Some times, you will. When you do, you get blasted for so much money that the "some times" outweigh the "most times" just about all the time. I cover all the most popular betting systems in my roulette book, Spin Roulette Gold: Secrets of the Wheel.
Also in that book, I cover certain methods of roulette play where it is possible (though highly unlikely) to get an edge at the game. Some of the biggest wins at roulette have been recorded by players who have recognized when a wheel was "off," that is when the wheel was defective, causing certain numbers to appear more than other numbers. They bet the more likely numbers and made a killing. Unfortunately, today's new wheels are rarely "off," and looking for such "biases" is time consuming and largely a waste of time. In my lifetime, I have seen only four biased wheels, one of which, at the Rio in the early 1990s, I jumped on and won some great money until the pit personnel realized what was happening and closed the wheel.
However, on perfect wheels two other advantage-play methods exist: Looking for dealer signatures and wheel watching. A dealer signature means that a dealer either consciously or unconsciously tends to spin the ball in such a way that it lands approximately the same distance, give or take eight to ten pockets, away from the last number it hit. Some dealers can also select a given area of the wheel they wish to hit and can, more often than not, hit it. I know a couple of former roulette dealers who can actually do this as they practiced it for years and years in order to perfect the skill.
Wheel watching is the nausea-inducing activity of watching the ball spin and trying to judge, based on several factors, just where it will land. The best analysis ever written about wheel watching appears in the book, Get the Edge at Roulette by Christopher Pawlicki. Dealer signatures are not that hard to look for, they are just hard to find; but wheel watching is a killer. I tried it several times, under expert tutelage, and failed miserably each and every time to be able to do it. I also got sick to my stomach as watching that ball go round and round and round and round is like being in a big dryer at a local Laundromat.
For most roulette players, the best method of playing is the method that allows you to reduce the overall hit on your total bankroll and that means not betting on every spin. Choose some kind of betting pattern that let's you sit out about half of the spins. If you can find a single 0 wheel, then do as the Europeans do and play that. If you find a casino where they are offering surrender, then play the even-money bets exclusively.
Roulette is one of the noblest of casino games but played too long and too often it can reduce the grandest bankroll into peasant stock.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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