When you’re trying to decide what the “best” bets in roulette are, you have to decide what is going to make you happiest when you’re playing. Some people want to enjoy frequent small wins and stay in action for as long as possible. Others like the thrill of hitting big wins less frequently, even if it means sometimes going broke faster.
Other gamblers might want to find the bets which offer the lowest house edge. On most roulette games, the house edge is the same for every bet but one. Choosing which game to play becomes the road to a lower house edge for those players.
This page examines the various bets in roulette and compares them with various players’ goals so that you can choose which bets will bring you the most thrills, excitement, and fun.
Variance is the term used by gamblers and mathematicians to describe the swings in your bankroll that are caused by statistical deviation. Usually, the higher the payout is, the lower the variance is. Some examples help illustrate this.
If you’re playing roulette and making straight-up bets on a single number, you’re going to win 35 units when you win, but you’ll only win (on average) once out of every 37 hands. This is a higher variance option than an even-money bet.
With even-money bets, you’ll win a lot less—the same amount that you bet. But you’ll win a lot more often—47.36% of the time, which is almost every other bet.
If you’re interested in spending a lot of time at the table, then the way to do so is to stick with the lower payout bets, because you’ll lose less often. Your money will eventually all go to the casino if you play long enough, but it will last longer, and you’ll have more fun.
Of course, if you’re just looking for the thrill of a big win, the only bet that makes sense is the straight-up bet, which offers a payout of 35 to 1. If you place a $100 wager on a single number and win, you’ll get $3500 for your trouble.
The only problem with this choice is that you can lose a lot of money very fast. But that’s true of any gambling game in which you have the potential to win a big dollar amount on a single bet. The payoff might not be as big as a progressive slot machine jackpot, but you will see the big win a lot more often on this roulette bet.
In American roulette, there are two types of bets—the ones with a house edge of 5.26% and the one bet with a house edge of 7.29%. If you want to minimize the house edge on an American roulette game, then it’s easy. Just avoid the five-number bet, which is the only bet with the higher house edge. All of the other bets on the table offer a 5.26% house edge.
If that house edge is still too high, then your next step is to find an American roulette game that offers the surrender option. These can be found in some Atlantic City casinos. The house edge on this game is cut in half, to 2.63%, because the house only takes half your bet when you lose on the even money bets. Surrender only applies to those bets which offer even money, though.
Another option is to play European roulette, if you can find it. That game only has a single zero on the wheel, which reduces the house edge to 2.70%.
The best bet in roulette is on a European roulette table which offers the en prison option. This reduces the house edge by half again, making it only 1.35%. Here’s how it works:
On a European roulette game with the en prison rule in effect, your even money bet becomes “imprisoned” when the ball lands on the zero. The result of the next spin of the wheel determines your outcome. For example, if you bet on black, and it lands on zero, then you’ll get your bet back if the next spin lands on black. If it lands on red, you lose the bet.
In a larger sense, the worst bets you can make are on worthless roulette systems. All betting systems for roulette are equally nonsensical, so as long as you avoid them, you’re making some of the better bets at the table.
The reason for my strident-sounding condemnation of roulette betting systems is that they offer false hope. I know lots of people like to think that you can control the universe by thinking positive thoughts, but the reality is a little bit different. That’s true regardless of what nonsense is spouted in books like The Secret.
No one is well served by delusion. So don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can come up with some clever way to beat roulette. People have tried for hundreds of years and the only ones who succeeded were the ones who got lucky.
And you don’t get any control over the luck in roulette, other than choosing bets with a lower house edge whenever you can