This post contains 7 ways to win at roulette that actually work. The problem is that none of these tips or strategies will help you win at roulette every time. In fact, they won’t even make you a net winner in the long run.
That’s because roulette is a negative expectation game. Only one of the bullet points below provides an exception. But it’s such a special case that it’s not really practical.
I don’t want to ignore the fact that you can walk away from the roulette table a winner, though. It’s not impossible.
In fact, winning at roulette is easy–at least some of the time.
One of the tricks to winning at any casino game is understanding how that game works. This post starts by explaining how roulette works. The next trick is to understand what you’re up against. That means learning the math behind the game.
Roulette betting systems get a deservedly bad rap. That’s mostly because they’re oversold and over-hyped. I’ll provide you with my thinking about the various betting systems available here, too.
And some of what you need to know is common sense that applies to any gambling activity. Having a large enough bankroll to enjoy playing is an example. The problem with common sense is that it’s not that common.
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Let’s get on with the 7 ways to win at roulette:
1- Learn how roulette and the various bets work.
Roulette consists of a spinning wheel and a table with a bunch of bets available. The roulette wheel has 37 or 38 numbers on it. One or two of those numbers are colored green (0 and 00). The rest are either black or red (half and half).
Half the numbers are odd, and half of them are even.
This provides the casino with a wider variety of possible bets than you might think.
The bets that are most likely to win on a particular spin are the outside bets. An example of an outside bet is a bet on red or black. This bet pays off at even money, and it has a close to 50% chance of winning.
Other outside bets include the high or low bet or the even or odd bet. Since the numbers range from 1 to 36, a bet on high would win if you hit a 19-36. A bet on low would win on any result of 1-18. Even and odd bets are self explanatory.
If the ball lands on 0 or 00, none of the outside bets win. The 0 and the 00 are not red or black, even or odd, or high or low.
You have a huge range of other bets available to you, too. You can bet on single numbers and win 35 to 1 if they hit. Or you can bet on two numbers at once and get paid off at 17 to 1 if one of them hits.
And so on.
The thing about roulette is that none of the bets pay off at the same odds of winning.
2- Understand that the odds are against you.
When you see gambling writers say that roulette is impossible to beat, this is what they mean. In the long run, the house has a mathematical edge over the player. The longer you play any casino game, the likelier it is that your results will mirror the mathematical expectation.
Let’s look at the math behind that even money bet. You have 38 numbers on the wheel, and 18 of them are black. (18 of them are red, too.)
If you bet on black, you have an 18/38 chance of winning. You can convert that into a percentage if it’s easier for you. That’s 47.37%.
If you place this bet repeatedly, you’ll win 47.37% of the time.
But the casino will win 52.63% of the time.
Think about it this way:
Assume you’re placing a bet of $100 on 38 successive spins of the roulette wheel. With that even money bet, you’ll win $100 on 18 of those bets, for a win of $1800.
But you’ll lose $2000 on the other 20 spins.
That’s a net loss of $200.
Average $200 by 38 spins, and you’ve lost $5.26 per spin.
That’s why the writers say that the house edge is 5.26% in roulette. It means that over a large enough number of trials, you’ll lose an average of 5.26% of the money that you bet.
This house edge is in place for all the bets on the roulette table.
It means that in the long run, the game of roulette is impossible to beat.
3- Don’t be afraid to use a betting system.
You should understand first of all that no betting system changes the long term odds of the game. If you play roulette long enough, your results will eventually mirror the long term mathematical expectation.
The most common roulette system is the Martingale. When using this system, you stick with even money bets. You double your bet every time you lose, until you eventually win.
Since you’re doubling your previous bet every time you lose, your eventual winning bet will win back your previous losses. And you’ll be up by a single unit.
Here’s an example:
You bet $100, and you lose. On the next spin, you bet $200, and you lose again.
On the 3rd spin, you bet $400 (doubling your previous bet). This time you win.
You lost $300 on the first two spins, but on the third spin, you won $400.
You have a $100 profit.
This might sound like an unbeatable system at first. And it would be unbeatable if two things weren’t true:
- You don’t have an unlimited bankroll.
- Casinos have betting limits.
In other words, you’ll eventually run into a losing streak long enough that it will be impossible to place the next bet in the sequence. Or you’ll lose so many times in a row that your next bet would be over the game’s betting limits.
Here’s an example:
You’re playing at a table with a $500 maximum bet, and you start by placing a $5 bet. Here’s what the progression looks like:
You only have to lose 7 times in a row before you have to place a bet that’s bigger than the table maximum.
Also, if you’ve gotten to that point, you’ve already lost $635. Even if the table limits weren’t in place, you’d have to place a pretty large bet just to win $5.
Think it’s impossible to lose by betting on black 7 times in a row at the roulette table?
It’s likelier than you think.
In fact, it’s guaranteed to happen eventually.
It doesn’t happen often. Here’s the practical application of the Martingale System:
You can guarantee yourself a lot of small wins by using the system.
You just need to accept that eventually you’ll face a devastating loss that will wipe out all your winnings and then some.
4- Find the best possible game.
The roulette examples I’ve provided so far used standard American roulette as their rules.
But those aren’t the only rules used by casinos.
Remember how I said that some roulette wheels only have 37 numbers on them?
That’s an example of a European roulette wheel, and that game only has a single zero on it. You’ll see it called European roulette or single zero roulette. Sometimes people call it French roulette.
The change in odds should be obvious, but here’s the math:
You place 37 bets this time. You lose 19 of them and win 18 of them. At $100 per bet, that’s $1900 in losses and $1800 in winnings. The net loss is $100.
Average $100 in losses over 37 bets, and you’re looking at $2.70 per bet.
That’s a lot lower average loss rate. And when you play a game with a lower house edge, you usually have a better probability of winning.
But even that’s not the best possible roulette game available.
Some casinos offer an additional rule on their single zero roulette games called “en prison”. When you make an even money bet on one of these games, if you lose when the ball lands on 0, you get another chance.
This further reduces the house edge to 1.35%.
When you’re playing roulette with a house edge of 1.35%, you’re playing a game that’s as good as some blackjack variations.
You’ll still lose in the long run, but you should get the best odds on your money that you can. You can find lists of casinos offering various roulette rules in Las Vegas here.
5- Take advantage of the comps system at the casino.
All modern casinos have a rewards program for their players. They track how much money you put into action and provide you with comps based on that action.
This warrants some explanation.
“Action” refers to how much you bet. It’s not how much you’ve lost. The casino wants to offer you an incentive to play a lot.
The more you play, the more likely the casino is to see the long term expected results from you. In other words, if they can encourage you to play a lot, you’ll eventually lose some money.
The real how to win at roulette secret is to only play in the short run and quit while you’re ahead.
You’re not going to do that, though. You’re obviously a gambler, or you wouldn’t be reading this post.
So if you ARE going to play roulette, you should at least get the perks from that action.
That’s what the word “comps” means. It refers to complimentary stuff. The casino comps meals, entertainment, lodging, and even travel–if you bring enough action to the table.
The casino uses a slots card to track your play. They reward comps at a percentage of your action–usually 0.2% or 0.3% of your total action.
This has the net effect of lowering the house edge.
The casino loves it, though, because the comps they’re providing have a retail value. But they’re paying wholesale prices for them.
For example, if you get a comp to the $30 buffet, that only cost the casino $10 in food costs.
If you get a comp room, the casino only loses money if the hotel would otherwise have been at 100% occupancy.
Since most hotels usually run at 70% to 80% occupancy most nights, the effective cost of a free stay is nothing to the hotel.
But you’d be a fool to leave that free stuff on the table. If you’re going to play roulette (or any other casino game), join the players club and enjoy the comps.
6- Learn about biased wheels.
Roulette wheels are mechanical devices. Most of them are well-built.
But they’re not computers.
Some imperfections sometimes exist in a roulette wheel. If a roulette wheel is less than perfect, it might have a bias toward a certain group of numbers.
If you can find such a wheel and get some reasonable certainty about the wheel’s bias, you can improve your chances of winning.
This is possible but impractical.
For one thing, you’d have to track the result of a wheel over the course of thousands of spins before you could be sure of an actual statistical bias.
For another, you’d have to make sure the wheel doesn’t get moved. Casinos change the locations of roulette tables and wheels periodically.
If you spend 16 hours tracking the results at one table, then go home to sleep, you risk the casino changing out the wheel when you’re sleeping.
There goes your tiny edge.
Biased roulette wheels are interesting.
But I don’t think they’re a realistic way to win at roulette.
7- Don’t gamble with money you can’t afford to lose.
The most important way to win at roulette is to only gamble with money you can afford to lose. This is a bankroll management truism that sounds obvious.
But you’d be amazed at how many people ruin vacations by gambling with money they need for something else.
Here’s my suggestion:
Before gambling on anything, be debt-free. Get all your bills caught up. Have appropriate amounts of insurance, including life insurance. You also need 3-6 months living expenses set aside in case of an emergency.
When you have money left over for fun after taking care of the basics, you can start gambling.
Casino gambling–including roulette–is an entertainment expense. You should treat it as such.
And the only time to spend money on entertainment is after you’ve taken care of all the basics.
Most roulette systems work, but only in the short term. What I’ve tried to do in this post is offer a strategic approach to the game. These 7 ways to win at roulette are probably not the final word in roulette strategy.
But I think they’re useful all the same.
Roulette is a game with an unbeatable house edge. Redefine “winning” as having an appropriate amount of fun in exchange for your money.
That’s the best way to win at roulette.