Roulette Strategy: A Beginner's Guide to Playing the Odds

WATCH: What is the Martingale System?

It’s forgivable to think that online roulette is a classic, simple casino game: you place your bets, spin the wheel and if it lands on one or more of your selections then you trouser a payout and everybody goes home happy.

At face value, roulette looks like a game where the odds are stacked against casino patrons. In actual fact, like any game of numbers, there are a wide range of ways to deploy a strategy and have a good go at beating the house.

American Roulette vs European Roulette

The first thing to address are the differences between American and European Roulette. In theory, the difference is zero - that is, American Roulette has an additional cell, a double zero. In practise, this affects the house edge (the amount the casino will take on average over time), with European Roulette running an edge of 2.7% and American of 5.3%. That means a run of bad luck is extra costly in American Roulette. Of course, if you are a lucky bettor and plan on betting on a single number - the odds are 36/1 in European Roulette and 37/1 in American Roulette. One note of caution, however, many American casinos operate American 'single zero' tables, in which case the edge issue is moot.

Avoiding Zero

Whichever table type you choose, avoiding the extra zero is a good plan for beginner strategies. The Odd/Even, Red/Black and Low (1-18)/High (19-36) cells make a good starting point, and the double zero can seriously chip away at regular winnings.

The Martingale System

If you play one of these cells regularly, a common system is to double down when you lose to reduce losses. This is called the Martingale System, and is a good way to slowly increase your winnings. But remember, the house edge means that each bet comes with a 47.4% win probability, and doubling your stake can end in a major loss if you don't have enough cash to take you to a win.

Three Column Betting

The next step-up in odds is on 1-12, 13-24 or 25-36; or on the three columns starting 1, 2 or 3, which pay 2/1 and have a win probability of 31.58%. Here strategists could consider hedging bets by placing equal stakes on two of the three columns (or blocks) and doubling up with every non-winning spin. It's similar to the Martingale System, but with a 63.2% chance of winning on each spin.

Bond Strategy

More devious strategies can cut risk even further. A famous example is the Bond Strategy. In this system, if you had £100, for example, you would bet £55 on the high numbers, £40 on the first third and £5 on zero for insurance: this covers 31 of 37 numbers and gives an 83.7% chance of ending up after the spin.

Alternative Bets

The key to any strategy is maximising board coverage to minimise risk. Roulette is a game of chance, after all, and the odds are there to be played. Other bets to choose from are:

• Six Line (six numbers): pays 5/1, 16.2% win chance
• Corner (four numbers): pays 8/1, 10.8% win chance
• Street (three numbers): pays 11/1, 8.1% win chance
• Split (two numbers): pays 17/1, 5.4% win chance
• American Roulette also offers bets on the first five numbers at 6/1 (13.2% win chance).

So use the numbers to build your own strategy and then give it a spin. But bet with your head, not your heart - don't get sucked into the gamblers fallacy that a number is 'due' or 'lucky', because each spin is independent from the last and so the odds are the same every time.

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