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Deal Me In: Pick the Odds Against You: 5.26% OR 2.7%

6 March 2009

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: My game of choice is roulette. I like to play certain individual numbers straight up in sections, not sections being the first (from 1-12), the second (from 13-24), and third (from 25-36), but sections grouped together on the wheel itself. For example, these are the numbers in sections I typically play; 5-22-34,16-4-23 and 28-9-26-30. A pit boss at the casino where I play told me they are bringing in a single zero roulette wheel. My question is, with the 00 missing, are the sequence of numbers the same, so that I can continue playing specific sections of numbers? Justin B.

Unfortunately, Justin, as to betting the same specific combinations of numbers on the wheel, you won't be able to, but switching to a European roulette wheel will unquestionably be the astute way to play over the long run.

Like American wheels, European wheels (single zero) have alternating odd and even numbers displayed in alternating red and black colors, but they have only 37 pockets numbered in an unordered format.

Sequencing clockwise, the number ordering for the single zero or European type of wheel is as follows; 0-32-15-19-4-21-2-25-17-34-6-27-13-36-11-30-8-23-10-5-24-16-33-1-20-14-31-9-22-18-29-7-28-12-35-3-26.

Whereas the American roulette wheel has 38 numbers: 1-36 and a "0" and a "00" (double zero). With the zeros at the opposite ends of the wheel, the numbering scheme for an American wheel is; 0-28-9-26-30-11-7-20-32-17-5-22-34-15-3-24-36-13-1-00-27-10-25-29-12-8-19-31-18-6-21-33-16-4-23-35-14-2.

Clearly, Justin, they are different, but here's the real skinny.

Currently you prefer straight-up bets on specific numbers, giving you a payoff of 35 to 1, with true odds of 37 to 1, and a casino edge of 5.26%. You don't seem interested in Split Bets (i.e. that one of two adjacent numbers will appear; Payoff: 17 to 1, True Odds: 18 to 1, Casino Edge: 5.26%) or a Corner Bet (wagers are placed at the intersection of lines between any four numbers that form a square; Payoff: 8 to 1, True Odds: 8.5 to 1, Casino Edge: 5.26%), so it doesn't make any difference what the number sequence is on either wheel.

Be it Straight-up, Split or Corner bets, most players mistakenly believe that certain wagers on a roulette table are superior to others. In reality, the casino advantage of 5.26% in roulette comes from the presence of the 0 and 00 on the layout, since all wagers are paid according to how the odds would be if there were just 36 numbers on the wheel, even though, by adding the 0 and 00, there are now 38 numbers.

Therefore, Justin, I would highly recommend that you play on a single-zero game where the house will still pay you 35-1, but you effectively cut the house edge about in half, giving the casino a 2.7% edge not only on your straight-up wagers, but on all roulette bets on the layout.

Dear Mark: If slots are presumed to be random, who checks to see that they are, or, are we to just believe the casinos? Sam F.

Each state has a regulatory body that takes responsibility for making sure that the slots are random. And, believe me, they don't presume anything. The guts on the inside (chips) have to be licensed by the gaming board before they are inserted into each machine.

Gambling wisdom of the Week: "A major reason I haven't taken up live poker as a money making activity is because successful bluffing and identifying when others are doing it are not skills I'm particularly good at." --Bob Dancer, Million Dollar Video Poker

Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.