How to Play Roulette... Properly

Updated on April 19, 2015

Roulette is a game of chance

Roulette is not a complicated game. You've got a wheel with spaces on it and these spaces are all numbered. They're also sub-divided into several categories: black and red, odd and even, dozens, columns, etc. You have the near unlimited freedom to bet on whatever group you want, with the odds of winning and payout being reciprocals of each other. The more risky the play, the greater the reward. Like all games in a casino, the house always has the advantage. In Roulette, that advantage comes from the fact that there is either 1 or 2 green spots in addition to the red and black ones. These green slots don't fit into any of the normal "outside bet" categories you can bet on so they tend to screw you over once in a while, thus giving the house a small edge over the otherwise 50/50 probability.

Assuming that the wheel is being correctly maintained and there is no cheating going on, the game is perfectly random and unbiased. The physics of a small ball bouncing off slots in a rotating wheel makes it impossible to predict the trajectory of the ball, even under controlled conditions, although some have tried to correlate dealer spin strength with final ball position for example. Simply put, the game is as random as random gets and no amount of effort on your part is going to uncover an exploit that will work in your favor, unless, as I pointed out, the wheel is out of balance or something. Then you might be able to figure out which quadrant of the wheel gets most of the balls. However casinos are aware of these exploits and take great care to balance the wheels and swap the dealers often to prevent any sort of a pattern from setting up. If there were some flaw in the design, you'd have to first observe it long enough to even know it was there and by that time, the dealer has changed. You can't make this game of chance into a game of certainties. Lesson #1.

Beating the odds

The second thing you need to realize about Roulette is that the probabilistic nature of the game is determined by physics, not by strategy. The outcome of each spin is a consequence of matter interacting with matter, without any human factor being involved. You can apply whatever strategy you like and it won't change the way the game works. You can certainly affect your bankroll with different strategies in the sense that your money will come and go in different ways depending on how you play but at no point are you ever changing the odds of the game. The house always wins. Remember that.

There are a ton of scams on the internet, all promising a return on investment. The more clever scammers promise a modest return with all sorts of honest sounding caveats to make you think they are telling the truth but even promises of small gains (10 bucks a day or 51% chance of winning) are all lies. Nobody can guarantee you anything with Roulette. The only guarantee is that there are no guarantees. If anyone tells you that you are guaranteed to turn a profit using their strategy, they are lying.

Roulette is a game. It's an exciting game and the element of chance is what draws people to it. The tension of placing your money on the line and then biting your nails, waiting for the ball to land, give people a rush that borders on substance abuse. As long as you can control your hunger for the game and as long as you realize that the money you spend is "play money" that you don't mind losing, you can enjoy Roulette for the game that it is. As we will soon see, if you want to be any more strategic than that, you're far better with a betting "aid" than a betting "system".

The best way to play

With regards to the house advantage, it is only a couple of percentage points but that's more than enough for casinos to make a consistent profit over gamers. Understanding the house advantage is key because that education will help you play more intelligently. The odds of winning are expressed as a probability, as in, you have a 48.6% chance of winning if you bet red, for example. As you know, percentages are based on the number 100. A 48.6% chance means that out of 100 trials, you can expect 48.6 of them to be won. What it DOES NOT mean is that for every 100 spins of the Roulette wheel you must win 48.6 of those spins. Probabilities are only precise when the number of trials are infinite. If the number of trials (or spins in this case) is finite (let's say 50 spins), the number of spins you win could be quite a bit different from 48.6 because there hasn't been sufficient time for the probabilistic nature of the wheel to express itself in the data points. The more spins you record, the closer the win percentage will approach the ideal probability of 48.6%. After 50 spins it might be 42, after 100 it might be 51. After 1000 it might be 48.8 and after 100000000 it might be 48.601. The idea is that the more data points you have, the closer the win ratio will approach the game's probability. The take-away from all of this is that, if you have any hope in hell of walking out of a casino with more money than you walked in with, you have to play AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. You can see, from the above example, that playing less means fewer data points, which translates to a less accurate win ratio. Less accurate means more significantly less or more than 48.6. If you're lucky and the fluctuation is greater than the game's probability, it might be 51% and you could walk away with some cash. This brings me to my next point.

Bet big! If you aren't staying long, this works out well because less time and more money is the same as more time and less money but there's a HUGE difference in how this will affect your bankroll. With less time and more money, the odds haven't settled in and you could win some money. With more time and less money, the odds are more likely to settle in and you're more likely to lose to the house advantage. If you started with 1000 bucks, which way would you rather spend it?

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Knowledge is power

As you can see, you can't change the game but you can change the way you play it and maximize the "volatility" of the outcomes so that you are less "certain" to lose. If there is less certainty of you losing, there is a greater possibility of you winning but remember that this doesn't mean a greater "certainty" or better "odds" of you winning. It just means you're in an oscillating system that hasn't converged yet, which is the best place to be if you want to win.

It's important to be able to quantify as much as humanly possible about the game because it helps you see which types of bets are converging more quickly and which ones, less quickly. Since all the bet types are equally not in your favor (none are better to play than another), you could just as easily close your eyes and pick one at random. The only difference is, if you can quantify the streaks and trends for each bet type, you can see the evolution of that particular group. For example, when examining reds and blacks you might observe: R,R,B,R,B,B,B,B,R,R, which is pretty random and very close to the ideal probability for the game. However the same set of outcomes for odds and evens might look like: E,O,O,O,O,O,O,O,O.O. As you can see this is HIGHLY skewed in favor of odds and very orderly, even though it's almost perfectly balanced for reds and blacks. What this tells you is that there's no point betting on red and blacks but you MIGHT want to play odds or evens. In this case I'd bet odds. Why? Here's where things get interesting.

By quantifying everything and having all statistical info at hand you can make smarter bets. In the above example I said that reds and blacks don't tell you anything but that I might want to bet odds. How come? Notice how many odds came up after the first even number. It's a huge streak of 9 numbers. Now consider the following thought experiment. You have a light bulb and it's been on for 10 years. You are asked one day to predict if it will burn out in the next 10 minutes or not. You have no other information. What would you do? It's painfully obvious that you should bet that it will not burn out. The reason is that it has been on for 10 years. 10 minutes is nothing compared to that. Why would it change at the specific moment when you arbitrarily decide to bet on it? This is the nature of the universe. Things that are a certain way, tend to stay that way, the longer they have BEEN that way in the past. Betting on change becomes increasingly irrational, the longer things haven't changed. Therefore, if you get 9 odds, why would you assume that you can pinpoint the exact spin that will change it back to evens? It's more likely that you will correctly guess that it will remain odd. This is just one example of intelligent betting and it can only be done if you pay attention to the history of the wheel and quantify as much as possible. As always, remember to bet as much as you're comfortable with and to leave as quickly as you can afford to, so the odds don't have time to converge.

Be responsible and have fun!

Roulette is a fun game. If you want to really get competitive with it and try to win, be careful not to get upset or suffer financial ruin if you lose because the game is designed to beat you. Having said that, you can make the game more exciting by using a betting aid to quantify all of the statistical information for you, so you can use your brain to figure out what to bet on. It gives you a greater sense of control over your money instead of the "cross your fingers" approach and as long as you accept the outcome for what it is, it can be a lot of fun. This goes for pretty much any activity too. Whenever you actively take control of what you are doing and really break it down into known quantities, it is very empowering and offers a greater sense of satisfaction, whether you win or lose because you are in control of what you are doing. With that I bid you happy gaming!

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