The House Edge in Roulette


Roulette has offered glamour, mystery, and excitement to casino-goers since its inception. Its relatively simple rules and a surprising level of depth for serious betters give it an unmistakable appeal. But like all games of chance, it is not without its pitfalls.

The house edge in roulette is the most infamous of these. The odds of hitting a single number on a straight-up bet are 37 to 1, but the payouts are only 35 to 1. That difference is where the house gets its huge edge.

A player puts chips on the table in accordance with various propositions, such as numbers (individually or in groups), sections of the wheel, or colors red or black. A small ball is then spun around a revolving dishlike device, the roulette wheel, which has in its center 37 or 38 compartments, colored alternately red and black, with one or two green ones. After a spin, the ball comes to rest in one of these compartments, which then pays out according to the player’s bet.

When a bet wins, the dealer clears off all losing chips from the table and then pays out the winning players. Then the game begins again. It is possible to minimize the effects of the house edge by betting only on red and black or on odd or even. Some players attempt to beat the house by seeking out rigged wheels or using complex systems that are supposed to predict where the ball will land.

The best way to play roulette is to know your limits and stick to them. Each table carries a placard describing the minimum and maximum bets. Choose a table within your budget and do not dip into your winnings for future bets. If you win a bet, cash in your chips as soon as possible, so that the dealer can pay you immediately and clear them from the table before the next decision is made. Some players like to watch the other players, hoping that they can pick up a signal by observing the placement of the other bets. This is no more than superstition, and it will not improve your odds by a factor of more than a few percentage points. You must bet what you can afford to lose, and no more.