casino roulette

Are Europeans or Americans Statistically Better at Roulette?

Out of all the casino games on offer, roulette is probably the easiest to understand. Most people know how to play roulette. You place a bet – either a single number, a combination of numbers, or half the numbers available – and wait until the wheel stops spinning to find out if you were successful. Unlike poker and blackjack, roulette comes down to luck. But there are still many variations of it. But what is the difference between American roulette and European roulette – and which players could be considered statistically better?

To determine whether American rules roulette or European rules roulette makes for better players, the rules of each need to be outlined. Both are ostensibly the same – except for one small, yet significant, difference. The difference is in the 0 slot of the wheel. In European roulette, there is one alongside the 36 numbers that can be bet on. But in American rules roulette, there is a 0 and a 00.

Playing European Roulette at Betfair Casino outlines a handy guide to the returns expected from most bets on the game. A single number gives a 35:1 return, while an outside bet (red/black) gives a 1:1 return. This can help players determine which bet they want to make. The returns for American rules roulette are also the same. But as there is a greater likelihood (albeit marginally) that the house will win, this means that American rules players have more at stake for the same return as European rules players.  

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The difference between European rules and American rules is negligible for a single number bet – the likelihood of success for the former is 2.7% and the latter 2.63%. But when it comes to an 18-number bet (high/low, red/black, odd/even) the odds of success are 48.65% and 47.37% respectively. That percentage point difference could end up being significant.

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Some players consider probability when playing. But many do so without understanding it. Just because the ball has landed on a black number three times in a row, doesn’t mean that there is a higher chance it will next land on red. However, the probability of the ball landing on black four times in a row, compared to landing anywhere else is lower, so does inform some decisions. But, unlike poker, which has a finite amount of combinations in a game, roulette doesn’t have to fit this mold.   

By adding an extra neutral slot in the wheel, the difficulty level for the player increases. The odds of the house winning also increase. It also amps up the tension, especially as the ball begins to slow its spinning and is deciding where to land. As it approaches the 0 and 00, this gives a more tense experience than the sigh of relief as it skims over the single 0 in European rules roulette.

So, are Americans in fact better roulette players because they’re used to a harder game? Each bet is worth slightly more as the chance of it being lost is higher, so Americans could be deemed hardier players. But Europeans could be deemed better players because they don’t need to make it more difficult, especially when most bets have a less than 50% chance of being right.

Statistically, as American rules roulette has a lower chance of the player winning for the same returns, those who win playing these more difficult rules could be considered better players. Though, ultimately, the game comes down to luck. Maybe American players aren’t better, but, in fact, enjoy the tension caused by knowing they are playing the roulette version with the greatest difficulty level.

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