American Roulette is one of the most prolific roulette variations at casinos due to the fact that its layout has the addition of a double zero to the wheel, affording the house a higher edge over players than its European counterpart.
While European Roulette games which have a single zero carry a house edge of 2.7%, the double zero gives the house a 5.26% advantage, unless the player opts to play the five number bet on 0, 00, 1,2 and 3 which pushes the edge up to 7.89%. The latter wagering option does not exist in the European version of the game, so all bets carry the lower edge.
So it may seem like an easy choice when faced with which roulette variant to play – surely the European version of the game offers better odds and is the obvious choice. If only it were that simple…
There are however, a number of complex factors involved, firstly the fact that European tables are less common, unless of course you play at online and mobiles casinos, then you’ll find them on offer at casinos powered by the major software providers. However, it is still advisable to look around and examine the rules and requirements before playing the game at a particular casino as some casinos will impose higher minimum bets on European Roulette tables than on the other variants.
Also, you need to be able to afford to play, so if you have a $5 budget per spin, but can only find a table with a $10 or $15 minimum bet requirement, then playing European Roulette just because it has a lower house edge won’t work for you. You’ll either get less game play for your money or you’ll end up spending more than you can afford, neither of which are ideal when it comes to playing for entertainment purposes.
In fact, in some instances it can be better to play American Roulette even considering the house edge. This is when you find a game where the wagers that pay even money take just half of your bet total when the ball lands on the zero or double zero slot. This will lower the house advantage to 2.63% as long as you only make even money wagers (i.e. those on odd or even, red or black, first 18 or second 18) as all other bets will carry the 5.26% except for the 5 number bet that has a 7.89% edge.
When you can find games like this, play them as they offer slightly better odds than even the single zero European Roulette variant.
So here’s an example of how the reduced house advantage will work in your favour… if you wager $10 on black for 38 spins and the ball lands in each number of the roulette wheel once (highly unlikely we know, but bear with us for the sake of illustration), you would risk $380 of your casino bankroll. On the 18 black numbers you will keep your $10 wager and receive an additional $10 for winning, so you’ll end up with a total of $360.
Now if that’s all there was to it the house would keep their $20 and we’d simply divide that by the risk ($380) and multiply that by 100 to get the house edge percentage of 5.26%. But because the casino only takes half of your bet when the ball lands in the zero or double zero slot, you’ll keep $5 of your $10 bet each time, so you’d end up with $370 and the house will take $10. If you divide this by the $380 you risked, you’ll see that the house advantage is halved, coming in at 2.63%.
This rule is related to the European Roulette “en prison” rule which you’ll find in the high roller rooms in Las Vegas and at most online or mobile casinos. In this rule, instead of losing your wager on zero, your even-money bet is held “in prison” for an additional spin where you’ll be given the opportunity to win it back. If the next spin results in a win for you, you’ll get your full wager back, you won’t win anything but you will still not have lost. If however you lose the spin, then your wager is forfeited.
This rule lowers the house edge even further to 1.38% in European Roulette games, so it is definitely something to look out for.
Of course there are also other variations of this rule, with different tiers of “imprisonment” where after a single spin of zero there is a subsequent zero and your wagers is not lost, just moved up or down a tier if you win or lose. The most common variation is the double imprisonment rule and the second level drops the edge slightly to 1.37%.