Roulette’s a fun game, but most people don’t think of it as a means of making big money at the casino. Most gamblers looking for a big payday stick with keno, slot machines, and video poker. After all, those are the games with the big jackpots.
Some people, too, like to play the lottery. Presumably, they have the same reasons as the keno, slot machine, and video poker players just mentioned. They want a big payday.
But what if I told you that you could go for a big payday at the roulette table?
Most people think that the gains to be had at the roulette table are minimal. The best possible payoff at the roulette table, in fact, is 35 to 1. On a $50 bet, that’s a win of $1750. That’s a respectable win, to be sure, but $1750 isn’t going to change your life. It’s probably not even going to move you into a different tax bracket.
The trick with roulette is to place additional bets with your winnings. The probability of winning repeatedly when you’re reinvesting your winnings is low.
But as you’re going to find out, they’re not as low as the probability of winning a progressive jackpot on a slot machine or winning a big payday with the lottery.
The Odds of Winning $10,000 Playing the Lottery
I can find the probability of winning a million dollars in the lottery fairly easily on the internet, although the estimates vary based on which source you’re looking at. Let’s just say for the purpose of this post that your odds of winning a million dollars playing the lottery are about 1 in 3 million. That’s 1 in 3,000,000.
I can’t find the probability of winning $10,000 playing the lottery, but I have a reasonable idea based on extrapolating some math from a website I found about keno. The probability of winning $5000 on a keno ticket is about 1 in 40,000. The probability of winning $15,000 is 1 in 230,000.
Based on those numbers, I’d estimate that the odds of winning $10,000 in that keno game are about 1 in 160,000.
Of course, a keno ticket costs a dollar. If we bought 50 of those tickets, we’d have 50 shots out of 160,000 at winning $10,000. That means we’re looking at more like a 1 in 3200 chance of turning that $50 into $10,000.
Of course, those are lousy odds. You’re looking at a payoff of about 2000 to 1 on something that’s only going to happen with a probably of 3200 to 1. It’s easy to see how the house can run a game like that all day long and make a profit.
Is it possible that turning $50 into $10,000 is more likely than 1 in 3200?
Let’s do the math and see. Maybe it is.
Finding the Best Roulette Table
With a house edge of 5.26%, an American roulette table is one of the lousier bets in the casino. I don’t think this is the game we want to play if our goal is to turn $50 into $10,000.
Luckily, many casinos in Las Vegas offer European roulette. The house edge for European roulette is only 2.70%.
If you can find a casino where the “en prison” rule is in place, the house edge gets even lower—1.35%. Now that’s a game where you might have a chance at turning that $50 into $10,000.
If you’re unfamiliar with the intricacies of roulette, let me explain some of the differences between American roulette and European roulette.
An American roulette wheel has 38 numbers on it. 18 of them are black, 18 of them are red, and 2 of them are green—the 0 and the 00. The bets pay off as if the 2 green numbers weren’t on the wheel.
So a bet on a single number on an American roulette wheel has a 35 to 1 payoff. But the odds of winning are 37 to 1.
A bet on a color had an even money payout—1 to 1. But the odds of winning are 18 to 20.
This is where the house gets its edge.
A European roulette wheel eliminates the 00, so there are only 37 numbers on the wheel. You still have 18 black numbers and 18 red numbers. But now you only have 1 green 0.
Your odds of winning that single number bet improve from 37 to 1 to 36 to 1.
Your odds of winning the even money bet improve from 18 to 20 to 19 to 20.
The en prison rule puts your bet “in prison” if the ball lands on green. Then on the next spin, if the ball lands on the right color on the next spin, the player’s bet is returned. (You don’t win, but you don’t lose your bet, either.)
Calculating the Probability of Getting from $50 to $10,000
To get from $50 to $10,000 in a game of roulette, you have to double your money several times:
- From $50 to $100.
- From $100 to $200.
- From $200 to $400.
- From $400 to $800.
- From $800 to $1600.
- From $1600 to $3200.
- From $3200 to $6400.
- From $5000 to $10,000. (Most casinos have a maximum bet of $5000.)
You only have to win 8 times in a row at roulette to turn $50 into $10,000.
But what is the probability of doing that?
To calculate the probability of winning that many times in a row, you have to do a little math.
The probability of winning a single even money bet in European roulette is about 1 in 2. (It’s actually a little lower than that.) The odds of winning 2 bets in a row are 1 in 4. The odds of winning 3 bets in a row are 1 in 9.
4 bets in a row are 1 in 18. 5 bets in a row are 1 in 37. 6 bets in a row are 1 in 75.
The odds of winning 7 bets in a row are 1 in 155.
And finally, the odds of winning 8 bets in a row are about 1 in 320.
The odds of winning $10,000 in the lottery, after buying 50 tickets, remember, were about 1 in 3200.
The odds of turning $50 into $10,000 by doubling up repeatedly at the roulette wheel, are 10 times better than the odds of winning the lottery!
This isn’t to say that the odds are good. You could play every day for almost a year and still not succeed at turning your $50 into $10,000. In fact, if you did, you’d have invested $16,000 to win $10,000, which is not profitable at all.
But that’s why casino games are profitable for the casino and lose money for the players.
Another way to go about turning $50 into $10,000 would be to place some inside bets or a combination of inside bets and outside bets.
For example, if you bet $50 on a single number and won, you’d have $1750. You could then bet that on black and have $3500. Bet on black twice more, and you’d have your $10,000.
The tricky part is winning the $1750 on that first hand.
Putting Your Plan into Action and Having Fun While You’re at It
You don’t need to do much to put this plan into action. You just need $50 and a nearby casino with a European roulette game.
This is also a good example of how powerful the house edge can be. The house edge for lottery style games is about 50%. The people running the games expect, mathematically, to win 50% of every bet you place. That’s a long-term expectation, so it’s possible to get lucky in the short run. It’s more likely to lose even more than that in the short run, though.
The house edge for European roulette, on the other hand, is either 1.35% or 2.70%. That’s a magnitude of difference.
If you play either of these games long enough, you’ll eventually go broke. There’s no other possibility. The longer you play, the closer the game is going to come to the mathematical expectation.
But it’s also a good example of how likely it is to get on a good winning streak or to win a large amount of money.
But the roulette game comes so much closer that it’s not even a contest as to which game you should play.
And if by some chance you can start out with a larger initial bet, you can improve your odds of winning $10,000 dramatically.
If you start with $100 instead of $50, you only need to win 7 times I a row. If you start with $200 instead of $50, you only need to win 6 times in a row.
Now you have a 1 in 155 or a 1 in 75 chance of winning your $10,000.
Turning $5000 into $10,000 Is a Lot Easier, but Only if You Have $5000
But the ideal situation would be to sit down with $5000 and bet it all on black. You’d win $5000, an you’d have $10,000.
The probability of that is 18/37, or 48.65%. Those are almost even odds.
Every additional bet you place lowers the probability that you’ll hit your win goal. That’s because the probability of winning 2 spins in a row is lower than the probability of winning a single spin. And, of course, the probability of winning 3 spins in a row goes down again.
This leads me to a discussion of what the best strategy for doubling your money in a casino is. It’s a “maximum boldness” strategy. If you have $5000, and your goal is to turn it into $10,000 (doubling your money), the likeliest way to make that happen is to bet it all on a single wager with a closer to 50% chance of winning.
If you divide that $5000 into 2 bets of $2500, you have to win both of those bets to achieve the same goal. But the probability of winning 2 bets in a row is only half the probability of winning 1 bet.
Here are the possible outcomes when placing 2 bets in a row:
- You could lose the 1st bet AND the 2nd
- You could win the 1st bet AND the 2nd (Yay! You’ve achieved your goal.)
- You could lose the 1st bet and win the 2nd
- You could lose the 2nd bet and win the 1st
In half those situations, you only break even. In a quarter of those situations, you lose all your bankroll.
You only double your money in 1 of those 4 situations.
A “minimum boldness” strategy would be one in which you bet the table minimum every time. In a game with a house edge, this is a way to practically ensure that you don’t double your money. If the table minimum were $50, you’d be placing 100 bets.
The probability of doubling your money in that situation is phenomenally low.
The time to use a minimum boldness strategy is when you’re playing a game where you have an edge. Examples of this include counting cards in blackjack, or playing Texas holdem at an expert level.
In those cases, you want to minimize the probability of going broke. You do that by not risking much of your bankroll at once. Over time, your edge will be realized, and you’ll see a profit.
If you have an edge when gambling, you become the casino. You just need to make sure you have a casino-size bankroll relative to the size of your bets.
Turning $50 into $10,000 at the roulette table is 10 times easier than winning $10,000 playing the lottery.
You’re looking at a chance of 1 in 320 when compared to a chance of 1 in 3200.
Not everyone wants to turn $50 into $10,000. And the odds are against you even if that’s something you want to do.