You may have tried sundry systems and many methods for playing roulette. I think a good percentage of roulette players have at least flirted with the classic ones before settling on how they now play.

Casino playing is a step-by-step learning process for many of us before we settle in. I guess that is how it should be. Sample the dining offerings before giving the waiter your order.

Visual Tracking

I have tried many approaches to the game. I did the Martingale doubling up after a loss system to be devastated by it. 

I once played a visual tracking system where I followed the ball around the wheel in order to predict where it would land. I got nauseous and almost threw up on the layout. Throwing up doesn’t appeal to me.

I’m sure it wouldn’t have appealed to the other players at that table either. I can’t see how anyone can actually do this but there are a few people who claim that ability. Not me, that’s for sure.

The Biased Wheel

My wife, the Beautiful AP and I played a biased wheel in the early 1990s in Las Vegas until the pit boss closed the table. No one bet our numbers (there were three of them together) even as they saw us winning consistently. 

I doubt any of these biased wheels actually exist now on the modern roulette table. The wheels are almost as perfect as almost-perfect can get. Shallow pockets make those roulette balls bounce and bounce and bounce some more.

Dealer Signatures

I even privately interviewed dealers to find out if they could land the ball in given areas or if they knew of any dealers who could do this or who might have claimed they could do this. That was over three decades ago. 

The technique is called “dealer signatures.” Did it exist in the real world? Did it ever exist? I don’t really know.

I talked to the old timers because the few new ones I talked to had no idea of what I was talking about. “Dealers controlling where the ball will land? You gotta be kidding me,” laughed one young dealer.

Another said, “Someone is bending your ear bub. That is impossible. I’ve been dealing for years and no way is it possible.”

A couple of old timers said they knew a dealer, maybe two, from the past (the distant past!) who might have had that ability. Today? “Nahhh,” answered one. “Nahhh,” answered the other. “Nahhh,” I figured.

The Bottom Line

Of course, I have spoken to an assortment of players and other gambling writers about roulette and most of the other games. That world goes from the sublime to the somewhat stupid. 

[Please note: Not all casino gambling writers are brilliant. Some writers told me they believed roulette was a 50-50 game. It isn’t. I have no idea how they could say that or, worse, write that. Some believe that knowing the math of roulette is a waste of time and that man’s “logic” can defeat the game. Not so. As for players? They come in all intellectual shapes and sizes.]

Roulette Player

How Do You Play the Game?

I think it is fairly obvious that there are four basic ways to play the game of roulette:

  • Play straight-up bets either as singles or as combinations 
  • Play one or more proposition bets such as the “even-money” bets or the “columns” and such
  • Play a combination of straight-up bets and proposition bets
  • Let it all hang out wildly

Danger! Danger! Danger!

The biggest danger for any casino player is not being in control of his or her emotions and thereby allowing the game to play them instead of them playing the game. That is a truly dangerous situation.

Money management is the most important aspect of a relaxed style of play. By “relaxed” I mean simply not having to worry about losses. We should always keep in mind that the casino has the edge and that edge will prevail. If trips to the casino end with you kicking yourself in the posterior, then what is the purpose of going? Casino play should be fun, whether you win or lose.

You should never bet more than you can afford to lose, nor should you pretend, as many players do, that you can afford a lot more in playing money. Think smaller. Losses hurt even if you pretend they don’t.

People who are looking to invest money in this or that stock sometimes think they are more able to handle larger losses than they actually can. If losses subsequently hit them, they become rattled, sometimes severely rattled.

So don’t overestimate your ability to handle high betting levels unless you enjoy being rattled from time to time. In short, stay relaxed. Stay controlled and contained in your money management philosophy.

Dangers in Various Playing Methods

Despite the fact that the casino’s edge on roulette is stable, no matter which ways you wager, the patterns of wins and losses can be radically different. On a single, straight-up bet on a number, a player has 37 chances of losing and only one chance of winning on the double-zero wheel. The player has a better chance with 36 ways of winning and one way of losing on the single-zero wheel.

[Please note: The house edge on roulette is easily figured. On the double-zero wheel the payout is 35-to-one but the real odds are 37-to-one. The casino shorts the player by not paying the true odds when the player wins. It shorts the player by two units. The house edge is therefore 5.26 percent. On the single-zero wheel, the casino also pays 35-to-one but the true payment would be 36-to-one, thus shorting the player by one. The house edge is therefore 2.7 percent.]

Those straight-up bets on one number can create somewhat long losing streaks, but rarely do they create long winning streaks. With so many losses as opposed to so few wins, you can see why this happens. Of course, a hit brings in 35 units for every one unit wagered (meaning $35 for every $1 wagered and won). That certainly takes the sting out of a losing streak if it pushes the player over the top.

If a player bets two numbers, the losing streaks will be shorter but the amounts won will be less. Single-bet players must be ready to experience such losing streaks. The fact that the wins are large brings the house edge to 5.26 percent and 2.7 percent on the double-zero and the single-zero wheels respectively. Yes, the same as on all the bets at the game.

Bankroll Size for Straight-Up Bets

You must factor in the potential for somewhat long losing streaks if you are betting straight-up on a single number. You will face the same house edge, as I’ve stated as any other roulette player, but you have to be able to ride a losing streak to a possible win. Thus, you need to bring sufficient funds to last if things turn against you – and they can turn against you from the very beginning.

Assuming you are a $10 player then you need at least $1,200 with you for a session. Don’t blanche. The good news is that a 35-to-1 payout will catapult you up financially. I’m hoping – and you should be hoping along with me – to get that 35-to-1 hit sooner rather than later. Although your bankroll for a session is quite high, early or almost early hits will see you in decent shape. I doubt that you’ll find many losing streaks where your number never hits and you lose that $1,200.

[Please note: Yes, you have noticed that I am always aware of the possible ways to lose. I wish to win but I dread to lose. So, I always want more money behind me than less; that also means money I can afford to lose without losing my cool.]

Multiple Straight-Up Numbers

You can wager multiple straight-up numbers with a single bet. If you choose to do two numbers per decision, you can reduce your session bankroll in half – to $600. If you are betting four numbers, then your bankroll can go down to $300.

Roulette on Tablet

Proposition Bets  

The game has a host of proposition bets that allow you to bet many numbers with a single bet without having to face monstrously long losing streaks. On the “even-money” bets, you are betting 18 numbers or colors.

You lose on 20 numbers or colors or on the zero and double zero. So, 18 chances to win and 20 chances to lose. You don’t need a ton of a session bankroll to play the even-money bets. How does $200 sound? That would mean you would have to lose 20 more decisions than you win. 

On the single-zero wheel you would win on 18 decisions and lose on 19 decisions. I prefer the “even-money” bets in my roulette play, especially in casinos that allow surrender or en prison which allows you to keep half of a losing bet if the 0 or 00 is the decision. The house edge is then reduced in half on both the double-zero and single-zero games.

You also have proposition bets that pay back 2-to-1 such as the columns bets and the dozens bets. Here you have 12 ways to win with 26 ways to lose on the double-zero wheel and 12 ways to win and 25 ways to lose on the single-zero wheel. You can go with $200 on these as well.

What I find likeable on the proposition bets is that you only need to make one wager to cover many numbers. I prefer to avoid long losing streaks than win large amounts. I once lost my entire bankroll on my third visit to Atlantic City and that burned me. I was, as the song says, “All shook up!” I became quite cautious after that. You have to decide whether you wish to follow my cautions. 

[Please note: My bankroll requirements are merely an opinion. You must decide how much you wish to bring to the table for a session. If you really have a high tolerance for long losing streaks or big losses in exchange for possibly large wins then go for it. You are the arbiter of your money.]

The Wild Style of Play

Now there is a small percentage of roulette players who like to let it all hang out at the table. They are wild to say the least.

They will bet every type of bet; straight-up bets, many straight-up bets, proposition bets of each type. Some will cover the layout with so many bets that the dealers have to expressly tell these individuals personally “no more bets, sir or madam” after they have already told all the other players “no more bets” because these wild players can’t seem to stop wagering.

All these types of bets are placed during one round. Yikes!

It is “crazy time” when such players descend on a table. Many of them are joyous players too. They are having a ball, a blast, and the money just seems of secondary importance. Maybe they have their own printing press.

What type of bankroll for them? I have no idea. They are going to get hits, perhaps hits galore, even on losing decisions so – beats me what to recommend. I can’t see how they win when the house is wresting from each and every bet that they make. The house edge is relentless. 

Inconvenient Truth

Keep in mind that the total bet a player makes at the game is subject to that edge – there is no getting around that. You can’t escape no matter how you bet. Even if you bet every single number straight-up, you will lose every time you do that because the house is keeping one or two units with each decision at the single- or double-zero games.

That’s the true inconvenient truth. I think every roulette player has to make his or her decision based on the above criteria. 

All the best in and out of the casinos!

About the Author

Frank Scoblete grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He spent the ‘60s getting an education; the ‘70s in editing, writing and publishing; the ‘80s in theatre, and the ‘90s and the 2000s in casino gambling.

Along the way he taught English for 33 years. He has authored 35 books; his most recent publisher is Triumph Books, a division of Random House. He lives in Long Island. Frank wrote the Ultimate Roulette Strategy Guide and he's a well known casino specialist.