Casino Gambling — European Roulette vs. American Roulette

By Charles Jay

A lot of people are confused about how to play roulette. And frankly, we wonder why, because the truth of the matter is, it is a very simple game to play.

And in case you’re not familiar with it, you don’t need to be wearing a tuxedo or evening gown to belly up to the table (virtually speaking) and play.

If you are wondering about the layout, let’s begin by saying that you can find two different basic kinds of games at online casinos found at sportsbooks, characterized by different wheels. Ordinarily, we would say that you are not at all likely to find  European wheel; that is, a wheel in which there is a single zero, leaving the “American” roulette game, which has both a zero (0) and double zero (00).

But in the age of the internet, you can have equal access to either one of those games. Now remember that the European game has 37 slots, while the American game has 38, because of the double zero.

Why You Can’t Simply Bet the Favorite

This makes a very material difference in the game. And it’s an easy illustration. Let’s say you were going to engage in this game in the simplest way possible, which is to place your wager on a single number. A winner pays off at 35-to-1 odds. But in the American game, the odds of the number hitting are 37-to-1, while in the European game it’s 36-to-1. 

Likewise, when you play the so-called “even money” wagers, in which you can go even-or-odd, first 18 or second 18, red or black and so on, there is less of a chance for you to hit your wager when there are more slots on the wheel. Online gaming will always keep you guessing.

And consequently, this is going to affect your percentage against the house. You obviously have to understand that roulette itself is a game of negative expectations. In other words, you are going to wind up on the losing side if you play long enough, and there is no way you can do anything to change your long-run chances against the casino.

As far as short runs are concerned, you might be able to do better, but put enough of those short runs together and it will have its effect.

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Because of the difference in the respective wheels, the European (single-zero) game affords the house an advantage of 2.7% over the player. That’s substantial, but nothing as compared to the edge they have in the American (double-zero) version, which is 5.26%. 

There are other things about the European version (in some cases) that are different. The “En Prison” rule applies only when you have one of the “even money” bets out there; when a zero (0) is the outcome of the spin, you can get the option of taking back half your bet (“saving” half, as it were, like the surrender rule in blackjack allows) or leave the wager out there for another spin of the wheel. Keep in mind that you won’t get another reprieve if it comes up zero again. 

The “La Partage” rule is less than an offer than the En Prison rule, inasmuch as it will only allow you, the player, to save half the bet. You don’t get to leave it out there for another spin. 

This will effectively cut the house edge on European roulette in half, when it comes to the even money bets, bringing it down to 1.35%. So that’s about as good a deal as you’re going to get when playing this great casino game.