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The above two roulette wheels, one American and one European, can be compared side-by-side and spun to produce realistic results.

American vs European Roulette: Understanding the Key Differences

Roulette is one of the most popular casino games in the world, offering a mix of excitement, chance, and the potential for big wins. It has various versions, with American and European styles being the most widely played. Both offer the thrill of watching the wheel spin and the ball bouncing to its final resting place, yet they have distinct features that influence the game's odds and player strategy.

As you can see when observing these two online roulette wheels placed side-by-side, it is apparent that the European roulette wheel has one green pocket (zero). This means that if the ball on the wheel lands on it, the house wins. There are 36 other pockets marked red or black. 

An American roulette wheel has two green pockets, zero and double zero. Again, the house wins if the ball lands in either of these. Similarly, there are 36 other pockets marked in black or red.

American roulette and European roulette differ primarily in their wheel layouts and house edges. The American version includes an additional double zero (00) pocket, which increases the house edge and thus affects the player's probability of winning. In contrast, the European version has one single zero (0) pocket, which offers improved odds for the player. This distinction is pivotal, as it not only affects the potential return on a player's bet but also the overall strategy one might employ when approaching the game.

Key Takeaways

  • Roulette's variations impact game odds and player strategies.
  • American roulette includes an extra double zero, raising the house edge.
  • European roulette offers more improved player odds with a single zero wheel.

Historical Evolution of Roulette

The modern game of roulette is the result of centuries of development, with notable distinctions between the American and European versions.

Origin of Roulette

Roulette's origins can be traced back to 17th-century France. Blaise Pascal, a prominent mathematician, inadvertently laid the groundwork for the prototype of the game in his quest to create a perpetual motion machine. The game evolved from earlier gambling games and was structured with a spinning wheel and ball, resembling the roulette known today.

Development of American and European Variants

The game of roulette crossed the Atlantic, leading to different versions in Europe and America. European roulette remained closer to the original French game, with a single zero (0) on the wheel, which gives it a lower house edge.

American roulette developed a distinctive variant, initially seen on the frontier and in the makeshift gambling dens of the new territories. They added a double zero (00) to the wheel, increasing the house edge and creating a unique gameplay style. This differentiation held, marking a clear division between the American and European versions of the game.

Roulette Variations and Rules

Roulette, a game of chance, varies notably across American and European versions in terms of rules and layout. Understanding these differences is essential for players.

American Roulette Rules

American roulette features a wheel with 38 divisions including numbers 1 to 36, along with 0 and 00. This double zero increases the house edge to 5.26%. When a player bets on a single number and wins, they receive a 35 to 1 payout. Here are the basic rules:

  • The croupier spins the wheel and launches the ball.
  • Players bet on the number where they think the ball will land.
  • Bets can be inside bets or outside bets.
  • Once the ball lands, the croupier collects losing bets and pays out winners.

European Roulette Rules

Contrastingly, European roulette comprises a wheel with 37 divisions with numbers 1 to 36 and a single 0, which decreases the house edge to 2.7%. Winning on a single number bet pays 35 to 1. Its rules are similar to American roulette with some variations:

  • The wheel contains only one zero, affecting the odds.
  • Bets are placed similarly with inside and outside options.
  • The payouts are identical to American roulette for various bet types.

French Roulette Influence

French roulette also has a wheel similar to the European one but includes two significant rules that benefit the players: La Partage and En Prison. These rules apply to even-money bets only:

  • La Partage: When the ball lands on zero, players lose only half of their even-money bet.
  • En Prison: A zero spin allows the player to either take back half the bet or leave it (in prison) for another spin. If the subsequent spin is a win, the original bet is returned.

Roulette Wheel and Table Layouts

The distinction between American and European roulette lies in the wheel design and the betting layout, each affecting the game's odds and player strategy.

Components of American and European Wheels

American roulette wheels feature 38 pockets: numbers 1 to 36, a single zero, and a double zero. The numbers are not in sequential order and alternate between red and black, while the zeros are green. In contrast, European roulette wheels have 37 pockets with numbers 1 to 36 and a single zero. The absence of the double zero in European roulette reduces the house edge.

American Roulette Wheel Layout:

  • 38 pockets total.
  • Numbers 1-36 (red and black).
  • Single zero (green).
  • Double zero (green).

European Roulette Wheel Layout:

  • 37 pockets total.
  • Numbers 1-36 (red and black).
  • Single zero (green).

Table Layouts and Betting Options

The layout on a roulette table corresponds with the wheel to facilitate a variety of betting options. European roulette tables generally offer standard betting options along with "en prison" or "la partage" rules, which offer player-friendly returns on certain bets when a zero is rolled. American roulette tables provide similar betting options but with odds slightly skewed due to the double zero.

American Roulette Table Betting Options:

  • Inside Bets: Single numbers, splits, streets, squares, and six-lines.
  • Outside Bets: Columns, dozens, high/low, even/odd, red/black.
  • Higher house edge due to double zero.

European Roulette Table Betting Options:

  • Inside Bets: Single numbers, splits, streets, squares, and six-line bets.
  • Outside Bets: Columns, dozens, high/low, even/odd, red/black.
  • "En Prison" and "La Partage" rules applied to even-odds bets.

The layout for both American and European roulette is designed for ease of betting, with the outside bets located around the inside number grid offering a wide range of betting possibilities catering to different risk preferences.

Betting Options and Payouts

In American and European roulette, players have a range of betting options, each with its own payout. Understanding these is essential for any roulette strategy.

Common Bets Across Variants

Both American and European roulette allow players to place several common bets. Inside bets include the straight (a bet on a single number) offering a payout of 35:1, and the split (a bet on two adjacent numbers) with a payout of 17:1. Other bets inside the grid are the street (three numbers in a row), with a payout of 11:1, and the corner (a bet on four numbers in a square layout), which pays 8:1.

For outside bets, players can bet on columns or dozens, both covering 12 numbers and providing a 2:1 payout. Furthermore, even money bets on options like red/black, odd/even, or high/low offer a payout of 1:1.

Unique Bets to American and European Roulette

The key distinction in betting options between the two versions is the five-number bet, exclusive to American roulette. This involves wagering on the numbers 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3, with a payout of 6:1, the least favourable for the player due to its high house edge.

European roulette offers the en prison rule for even money bets, where a ball landing on zero results in the player's bet being "imprisoned" for the next spin, potentially saving the bet if the subsequent result benefits the player. This rule is unique to European roulette and significantly reduces the house edge on even money bets.

Probabilities and House Edge

In American and European roulette, probabilities and the house edge play a crucial role in the gameplay experience. The presence of a single or double zero markedly influences these factors.

Calculating Winning Odds

The calculation of winning odds in roulette depends on the number of pockets on the wheel. In European roulette, there is a total of 37 pockets (numbers 1-36, and a single zero), while American roulette features 38 (numbers 1-36, a single zero, and a double zero).

For a straight-up bet (betting on a single number), the winning probability in European roulette is 1 in 37 or 2.70%, while in American roulette it's 1 in 38 or 2.63%. Consequently, the payout for a winning straight-up bet is the same in both versions: 35 to 1.

Here is a simplified calculation of the odds for a straight-up bet:

  • European Roulette: 1/37 chance of winning.
  • American Roulette: 1/38 chance of winning.

Impact of Zeros on House Edge

The house edge, the average percentage of each bet that the casino expects to retain over the long run, is directly affected by the zeros. In European roulette, the presence of a single zero results in a house edge of 2.70%.

On the other hand, American roulette, with an additional double zero, increases the house edge to 5.26%. This is because the extra green pocket in American roulette does not affect the payout but reduces the odds of winning on any bet.

Here is the house edge calculation for both wheel types:

  • European Roulette: ( \frac{1}{37} \times 100 ) = 2.70%
  • American Roulette: ( \frac{2}{38} \times 100 ) = 5.26%

The zeros are the key differentiators, significantly impacting a player's chances and highlighting the advantage held by the house in both American and European roulette.

Which Roulette Game is Better for a Player - European or American?

The European roulette is better for players. This is because the likelihood of the ball landing on a house pocket (green) is half as likely. Additionally, the returns given for players in both games for landing on a pocket are exactly the same.

In short, given the choice between European and American roulette, it would be foolish to play the American version. 

Strategies for Roulette Players

Players often adopt specific betting systems and strategies to maximize their chances and manage their funds. It is important to understand the mechanics and limitations of these methods.

Popular Roulette Betting Systems

Martingale System: A player using the Martingale strategy doubles their bet after every loss, with the idea that a winning bet will eventually recoup all previous losses and gain a profit equal to the original bet. The table below outlines the progression of bets after each loss:

RoundBet Size ($)Outcome110Lose220Lose340Lose480Win

Fibonacci System: This system is based on the Fibonacci sequence. Each number in the sequence is the sum of the two preceding ones. Players increase their bets according to the sequence after a loss, and move back two numbers after a win.

Sequence Example: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21...

D'Alembert System: This strategy involves increasing the bet by one unit after a loss and decreasing by one unit after a win. It is designed for bets with close to a 50% chance to win, like the even-money bets in roulette.

  • Initial Bet: $10
  • After Loss: $11
  • After Win: $9

These betting systems are primarily applied to even-money bets, where the winning probability is close to 50%.

Strategies and Their Limitations

Strategies involve more than predefined betting systems; they include attention to risk management and psychological discipline. Each strategy has its limitations and should be used with caution.

Probability and Risk: Roulette is a game of independent events, meaning the probability of a certain outcome does not change from one spin to another regardless of previous results. Betting systems do not alter these probabilities.

Strategy Limitations: No strategy can guarantee profit due to the house edge in roulette. Players must be mindful of the risks, including steep losses when progression systems like the Martingale reach table limits or exhaust players' bankrolls. It is essential to have a clear budget and to adhere to it.

In summary, players may use these strategies to structure their gameplay, but should remain aware of the inherent risks and the unchangeable odds of the game.

Roulette in Modern Gaming Culture

Roulette maintains a prominent role in entertainment, with significant traction in both land-based casinos and the digital realm of online gaming.

Roulette's Presence in Land-Based Casinos

In the pantheon of casino games, roulette stands out for its simplicity and elegance. Las Vegas casinos, known for their opulent gambling floors, continually showcase roulette as a centrepiece among table games. Visitors are often enticed by the spinning wheel and the characteristic sound of the ball as it circles before settling into a pocket. With European and American versions available, casinos cater to a diverse clientele. The table layout is typically as follows:

European RouletteAmerican Roulette37 pockets38 pocketsSingle zero (0)Single zero (0) and double zero (00)2.7% house edge5.26% house edge

Growth of Online Roulette

Online casinos have transformed roulette from a traditional casino game into a virtual sensation. Offering both European and American versions, these platforms provide accessibility and convenience for players to enjoy from home or on the go. They capitalize on advancements in technology to create immersive experiences with live dealers, interactive chat, and high-quality graphics. The growth of online roulette demonstrates its adaptation into the digital age, reflecting gambling's evolution as a form of contemporary entertainment.

Tips and Best Practices for Roulette

In approaching roulette, a player's strategy and understanding of gameplay nuances are critical to enhancing their gaming experience. Proper etiquette also contributes to a smoother experience at the table.

Optimal Bets and Gameplay

Bet Selection: Players should become familiar with the different betting options available in roulette. European roulette has a single zero, offering better odds to the player compared to American roulette which includes a double zero. Betting on outside bets like red/black or odd/even provides higher chances to win compared to single number bets, albeit with smaller payouts.

  • Money Management: A player's bankroll should dictate their bet sizing. They might consider setting a limit for wins and losses to manage their funds effectively.
  • Playing Within Limits: Players should choose a table that fits their budget. It's advisable to start with low-stakes tables before moving on to higher stakes as they gain confidence and experience.
  • Roulette Strategy: While no strategy guarantees a win, some systems like the Martingale or the D'Alembert can structure gameplay. These strategies involve adjusting bets based on previous results, but players should be aware of their risks.

Understanding Roulette Etiquette

Interaction with the Croupier and Players: It is important for players to be polite and respectful to the croupier and fellow players. This fosters a pleasant atmosphere and ensures the game runs smoothly.

  • Handling of Chips: Players should avoid touching their chips after the croupier calls "no more bets," as this is against roulette rules.
  • Placing Bets: To place a bet, a player should wait until the croupier opens the table to new bets. Chips must be placed clearly on the desired betting option on the roulette table. If unsure where to place chips for a bet like a corner or a street, they can ask the croupier to assist.

Each point in this section is aimed at providing a player with the requisite knowledge to approach a roulette table with confidence, whether their goal is to preserve their bankroll, understand the game's etiquette, or simply enjoy the experience of playing at a casino.

To spin individual simulator versions of these online roulette wheels, see the links below:


American vs European Roulette Simulator