Casino Beat: Four Tips for Winning at Roulette

Roulette is one of the most exciting games in the casino because it’s a game people can play (and win!) together. No system works all the time, but knowing a few basic strategies can help minimize losses and maximize gains.

Place your bets, if you've got a plan.
Place your bets, if you've got a plan.

Roulette is a pure game of luck. There is absolutely no 100% successful strategy for winning at roulette, despite numerous advertisements to the contrary in some newspapers and on the internet. Even Albert Einstein weighed in on the subject, reputedly saying “You cannot beat a roulette table unless you steal money from it.” Since stealing money off a roulette table is a very bad idea in the modern casino, I decided to look at some popular strategies that have developed since the game began back in the late 18th century. Allegedly derived from efforts by Blaise Pascal to create a perpetual motion machine in the 17th century, the French novel La Roulette, ou le Jour by Jaques Lablee describes a modern roulette wheel being played in 1796 inside the Palais Royal in Paris.

People have been devising strategies on how to win ever since.

Roulette has a relatively high house advantage, especially on the double zero tables that populate most Vegas casinos. It’s a fun game to play, but it’s a RNG (Random Number Generator) game where the odds stay exactly the same on every spin. In other words, if Red numbers have hit five times in a row, the chance of a Red number hitting on the next spin remains 47.37%, the exact same chance that a Black number will hit. Roulette is not an even money game because the 0 and 00 each have a 2.63% chance of hitting, thus reducing all the “even money” bets (red/black, odd/even, high/low) to 47.37%.

Since the odds remain exactly the same on every spin, most popular strategies for winning at roulette focus on manipulating the amount of units you wager. I’ve experimented with several of the following systems and can say that the one thing they all do (if you adhere to them) is limit your losses. There’s something to be said for following your gut feeling when you walk passed a roulette table. Either keep on walking or look at the results board and try to double your money with one bet.

Tip #1 – Roulette is a Short-Term Game. Set a limit for your losses and set a goal for your winnings before you start to play.

Place a limit for yourself before you enter.
Place a limit for yourself before you enter.

Tip #2 – Avoid the Martingale System. This is the system very popular with people who have had too much to drink. Like the game of roulette itself, the Martingale System began in France in the 18th century. The strategy requires that the gambler double his even money bet after every loss so that the first win recovers all previous bets plus a profit equal to the first amount wagered. The problems with the system are threefold. First, it requires an unlimited bankroll. Second, most casinos have table maximum limits to curtail this system. Third, a $10 initial bet turns into a $160 bet if you lose just four times in a row. Mathematicians sometimes like to tweak the Martingale System and use the Fibonocci sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13…) where the sum of the two previous bets equals the next bet. Elegant, yes, but it’s just a slower road to ruin with less winnings on a hot streak.

Tip #3 – If you’re good with numbers, try the Labouchère system. This may require a piece of paper and a pen, two things the pit boss might not allow you to use. It’s an involved mathematical progression, but you might be able to keep track of by using your chip stack. Basically you decide how much you want to win and then write down a list of numbers that equal that amount. A player stakes an amount equal to the sum of the first and last numbers on the list with every bet. If the bet is successful, the two amounts are removed from the list. If the bet is unsuccessful, the amount lost is appended to the end of the list and the player stakes an amount equal to the sum of the first and (new) last number on the list. As with any system, a bad losing streak can bust you. But, even a moderate hot streak can help you hit your target win amount.

Tip #4 – Start Small and Wait for an Overdue 2-1 Bet. Sit down with your loss limit and target win clearly in mind. Place small even money bets (red/black. odd/even, high/low) bets until you get a feel for the table. Watch for trends, either recurring ones or overdue, in the “1st 12”, “2nd 12” and “3rd 12” groupings. When you feel ready, make you move. Double your average units wagered and pick a group (either 1-12, 13-24, or 25-36). Unlike regular outside bets, these groups of a dozen pay 2-1. This is a variant of the “Double Dozens” strategy. Play it until it hits or you bust. If it hits, take some of your winnings and cover some of the overdue numbers in that group. For example, I like to wait until there’s been a dry spell in high numbers, then bet the “3rd 12” group until it hits and then when it does hit use some of my 2-1 win to cover the inside numbers 30-36, letting the rest ride on “3rd 12”. A lucky back-to-back win can be very profitable when upping your bet with the house’s money!

Although there’s the same probability (2.63%) of any single number hitting on any single spin, trends do occur in roulette and waiting for them is part of the fun and excitement, as well as part of playing to win (or at least limit losses).

Next week I’ll look at some legendary roulette wins, along with some other Vegas myths and legends.


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