How Many Zeros Are on a Roulette Wheel? (And Why Does It Matter?)

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Guy Thinking About the Number of Zeros on a Roulette Table

A roulette game is a roulette game, right? Wrong.

Some roulette games are clearly better than others.

What determines the odds on a roulette wheel are the number of spaces on the wheel. You can find roulette wheels with 37, 38, or 39 total possible outcomes.

They all have the same payouts, regardless of how many possible outcomes you have. They also all have the same numbers: 1 through 36, with half of those numbers being red and half being black.

The difference? It’s all about the number of zeroes on the wheel.

American Roulette Has 2 Zeros

American Roulette Wheel
The most common roulette game you’ll come across is standard American roulette. This is a roulette game with the numbers 1 through 36. Half of those numbers are red, and half of them are black.

The other 2 numbers are a 0 and a 00. Both of those are green.

Almost all the bets on an American roulette wheel have the same house edge.

Also, all the bets would be break-even bets if the zeroes weren’t on the roulette wheel.

Here’s how that works:

A single-number bet on a roulette wheel pays off at 35 to 1 odds. Bet $1 on a single number, and if that numbers hits, you get a $35 payout. But since there are 38 possible outcomes, the actual odds of winning are 37 to 1. The difference is the house edge, which turns out to be 5.26%.

That’s the statistically predicted average loss rate over a long period of time at the roulette table.

Here’s how they figure that out:

  1. You assume 38 perfect spins, where you get each possible number once.
  2. You also assume that you’ve placed a $100 bet on each spin.
  3. You’ll lose 37 times, losing $3700 total.
  4. You’ll win once, winning $3500.
  5. The difference is a $200 loss.
  6. Average $200 into 38 spins, and you can see how you’ve lost an average of $5.26 per spin.

There’s one bet available on a roulette table which has an ever higher house edge – it’s the 5-number bet.

This is a bet that the ball will land on any of the following numbers: 0, 00, 1, 2, or 3.

The odds of winning the 5-number bet are 33 to 5. (You have 33 ways to lose and 5 ways to win.)

But the bet pays off at 6 to 1 odds.

Let’s look at a statistically perfect set of results again:

  1. You have 33 losses at $100 each, for $3300 in losses.
  2. You also have 5 wins of $600 each, for winnings of $3000.
  3. That’s a net loss of $300 over 38 spins, which is an average of $7.89 per spin.
  4. So, the house edge on that bet is 7.89%.

It should be clear that proper American roulette strategy includes NEVER making the 5-number bet.

European Roulette Only Has One Zero

European Roulette Wheel
Some casinos also offer European roulette, which only has 37 possible outcomes. They only have a single zero on this roulette wheel – other than that, the wheel is exactly the same.

What does this do to the odds and the house edge?

My first thought is that the house edge would just be half of what it would be on an American roulette wheel – half of 5.26%, or 2.63%.

That’s wrong, though, because it doesn’t account for the actual statistical average:

You now only have 37 spins in your statistically perfect simulation. You’ll lose the single number bet 36 times, and you’ll win once. The payoff is still 35 to 1.

In fact, the payouts in European roulette are all the same as in American roulette.

This equates to $3600 in total losses and $3500 in total wins, so you have a net loss of $100 – which IS half of the net loss in the previous example.

But the difference is the number of spins you average that $100 loss into.

Instead of dividing this $100 loss by 38 spins, you now divide it by 37 perfect spins.

The result is an average loss per spin of $2.70, or 2.70%.

If you’re betting the same amount of money per hour at a European roulette table as opposed to an American roulette table, the difference in expected hourly loss is dramatic. European roulette is clearly the better deal.

For Example

Assume you’re making 50 bets per hour at $10 per bet. That’s $500 in hourly action. If you’re expected to lose 5.26% of that, you’re looking at a loss of $26.30. If you’re expected to lose 2.70% of that, you’re looking at a loss of $13.50.

Sands Roulette Has 3 Zeros

Sands Roulette
In 2016, the Venetian put a new type of roulette on its casino floor – “Sands roulette.” This variation has 3 zeroes instead of 1 or 2.

And the payouts for the bets at a Sands roulette table are the same as ever – 35 to 1 for a single number bet, for example.

What does this do to the house edge?

Now you’re looking at 39 total spins. You’re still losing $100, but this time – because of the extra zero – you’re going to lose 38 times, or $3800.

You’ll still win $3500 on the single winning spin. This is a net loss of $300, which you average over 39 spins.

The average loss per spin is $7.69, which means the house edge for the game is 7.69%. That’s a big difference.

In fact, this makes a bet on Sands roulette one of the worst bets on a table game – by far.

On general principle, you shouldn’t bet money on a game offering such lousy odds.

Which Roulette Game Should You Choose?

You should always choose a roulette game with a single zero if the casino offers one. Many casinos offer both single zero and double zero roulette tables. The double zero table usually has a lower betting limit, but, if you can afford it, you should opt for the single zero roulette game every time.

You should never, under any circumstances, play on a triple zero roulette game. The odds are just too terrible.

You’d almost be better off playing a slot machine.

Which Casinos Offer Which Roulette Games?

Almost all the casinos in Las Vegas offer standard double zero roulette games.

Some casinos, like Aria, Bellago, the Mirage, and the MGM Grand, also offer single zero roulette games.

In some cases, the single zero roulette games are only available in the high roller area, but many times they’re available to other casino patrons, too.

It’s hard to say definitively which casinos offer which versions of roulette because they change the games that are available at casinos on a regular basis.

You might try visiting a gambling forum or a Las Vegas message board and asking the posts on such sites if they have any experience with the roulette games in a specific destination.

You can find websites that publish information about which roulette games are available at which casinos in various destinations, but keep in mind that these can sometimes offer outdated information.

Can You Win at Any Roulette Game?

Of course, anyone can win at roulette in the short term. All the numbers above refer to theoretical averages. In the long run, statistical averages are what matter. But in the short run, people often do win at roulette.

You can use any number of strategies to try to beat roulette. The most effective of these involve capitalizing on the short-term randomness of the game.

One of my favorite strategies for winning at roulette is to place a single big bet on one of the bets that pays off at even money.

Depending on which game you’re playing, the probability of winning a single-number bet in roulette looks like this:

  • European roulette: 18/37, or 48.65%
  • American roulette, 18/38, or 47.37%
  • Sands roulette, 18/39, or 46.15%

Clearly, the likeliest way to double your money is to find a single zero roulette wheel and make one big bet there.

Another strategy I like is to choose a single number and bet on it repeatedly for 37, 38, or 39 spins in a row. Your goal is to hit that number twice or more.

If you hit the single number bet twice in 38 spins on American roulette wheel, you’ll see a solid profit.

Let’s say you’re a normal person like me, and you’re betting $10 per spin. You’ll lose on 36 of those spins, for $360 in losses. But on the 2 spins where you win, you’ll win $700. That’s a $340 profit if you win twice.

Of course, the odds are against that happening. The truth is, the odds are against you in roulette no matter what strategy you use.

But, as with all casino games, you always have a chance of winning in the short term.

Conclusion

I don’t begrudge anyone a little action at the roulette table. That attitude is different from the attitude of many gambling writers. They often suggest you avoid roulette altogether and stick with blackjack or some other game with a low house edge.

I think playing roulette is fine, but I do recommend avoiding the 5-number bet in American roulette.

I also recommend avoiding any roulette game with 3 zeroes.

The house has enough of an edge with a single zero or double zero roulette game.

In fact, triple zero seems almost exploitive in nature.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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