The old Perry Como television show had a sequence where he answered his mail on the air. Who was Como? He was a crooner who had been a barber. He was a good singer and that’s about all I remember about him. He sang his answers.

In the world of casino gambling, I get some letters too. People have an interest in knowing the games, how to play them, and expressing their opinions.

Here are some of them, although I won’t sing my answers as you won’t be able to hear me.

Roulette Betting

QUESTION: I noticed when I played roulette for the first time that the dealer was paying out 35-to-1 on a hit on a number but was paying even-money on some other bets. Why would anyone bet a number when he can get an even-money game at some of the other bets like high and low? That would be a stupid mistake, right?

ANSWER: Right but there’s more to this.

The dealer pays 35-to-1 in order to give the casino an edge. By not paying the proper amount, $37 or $36 depending on the wheel being played, the house brings in a 5.26% or 2.7% edge over the player. These payouts are called “casino payouts.” 

The even-money bets are not even-money as you are thinking. They do pay 1-to-1 but the player is not actually in a 50/50 game. Say the player bets $10 on the “high” and it comes in, then yes, he does get 1-to-1 for the bet, but he did not have a 50/50 chance of winning that bet.

On the double-zero game, the player would win on high numbers (18 of them) but lose on low numbers (18 of them) and the player would also lose on the 0 and 00. Thus, the player has 18 possible chances to win and 20 chances to lose. Yes, the payout is 1-to1 but the chances are 9-to-10 for a player win.

Roulette Betting Minimums

QUESTION: I have seen two different roulette wheels in the casino, a double-zero (0, 00) and a single-zero (0). The single-zero game had a much higher minimum bet. What gives with those games? Why are the minimums so different?  

ANSWER: The double-zero game is called the American game and the single-zero game is called the European game. They are the same in all their payouts except the single-zero has a much smaller house edge than does the double-zero. 

Let’s take those even-money bets again. You will lose 20 times on the double-zero wheel and you will win 18 times. But on the single-zero wheel, you will still win 18 times but you will only lose 19 times since it only has one zero about which to worry.

The single-zero is therefore the better game in terms of the house edge. That is now 2.7% as opposed to the double-zero’s edge of 5.26%.

This carries through on all the bets at each game. Roulette players should know this fact. 

Now, why would the single-zero wheel have a higher minimum bet at your casino? The answer is simple; to make up for the fact that the house-edge is smaller. Some casino managers don’t want the casino to actually lose more money at the single-zero wheel so they up the ante for those players who choose it. Not all casinos do that but most will.

By the way, most American casinos do not offer the single-zero game, although you can find it on most Internet casinos.

Deciding to play the single-zero game if the minimums are the same or very close to the same is the way to go. But don’t play the single-zero game if the potential losses over time are greater. That’s a common-sense rule.


Oldest Casino Game

QUESTION: Is roulette the oldest casino game? I’ve heard a debate that it is craps and not roulette. Okay, so answer this burning question, sir.

ANSWER: The debates rage on about this. Welcome to the chaos because it really is somewhat chaotic. Oh, and some folks think it is one of card games as the champion. So here is how I see it.

Spinning a wheel (or a shield in ancient times) was done by many people, including soldiers. This was to find out the will of the gods. Same with shooting the dice. “Should I invade yonder village or city? Will I find me a wife there or at least some bit of fun? Tell me, lord, as I have been marching for years.”

But are any of these games involved in ancient forms of casino gambling in the somewhat modern sense? You know, the casino as a place that has been permanently set apart for challenging chance and not figuring out what the gods have to say? I think not. They were not for fun but for real information or what the participants thought was real information.

We do know that the Roman legions gambled but this was usually one-on-one or in small games in tents or such. Such games were usually a moveable feast so to speak. Native Americans gambled too, as did various tribes and small communities across the globe. Gambling seems to be in our natures. Yes, maybe in villages structures existed that offered gambling games.

Therefore, I do not actually think we can give a date to when this or that game came into being in the modern casino sense. It is probably a quandary that will remain a quandary. I can live with that.

Therefore, you can pick your game and argue for it all you desire. But seriously, who really knows? And most gamblers don’t really crave an answer to this question. 

Male vs. Female?

QUESTION: What is the breakdown on roulette between men and women? In short, who plays the most? I say women. It seems more like a female game.

ANSWER: Don’t be so quick to label games based on the sexes that play them. I don’t think the Roman soldiers who spun their shields were thinking this was a feminine activity.

But, yes, there are differences in what games are preferred by women and preferred by men. At least I have noticed this in my over three decades of casino playing. 

Men tend to gamble at a higher percentage than women in the casinos and outside the casinos. While women are the higher percentage of slots players, men tend to play the table games far more often than do women. Craps is almost 95% a man’s game. Blackjack seems to be evenly split between men and women with (maybe) women having the upper hand at this game.

Roulette? Men by an edge. 

I do not know what the percentage breakdown would be in the European or other countries outside of the United States as my playing in those countries is much less than in my own country, which figures of course. 

Little Wheel

QUESTION: Roulette is called “the little wheel” but that wheel doesn’t seem little to me.

ANSWER: I guess compared to a carriage wheel in the olden days one would think of the roulette wheel as little. This is the very first time anyone has posed this question to me. Congratulations.

Best Bets

QUESTION: Aren’t there any better bets at roulette than the ones everyone writes about? That house edge on the double-zero wheel is very large and while roulette is somewhat leisurely a 5.26% house edge is very big in my book. I like to keep the edges under 3%, if possible, maybe even under two percent. Any help in this regard?

ANSWER: You are in for a treat if you can find either of these two bets at roulette in the casinos you frequent. They are “surrender” and “en prison.” These options can only be used in the even-money bets but they cut the house edges in both types of games in half.

“Surrender” is found in the double-zero game. If the green 0 or 00 is the winner, you get back half your bet on your even-money wager. That’s right. If you are betting $10, you will get back $5 of that bet when a green 0 or 00 hits. 

The house edge goes down remarkably here, from 5.26% to 2.63%. In money terms, your expected loss is now $2.63 per $100 wagered over time. Not bad at all. You are under 3% if you can use this option.

On the single-zero game is “en prison.” This also reduces the house edge in half from 2.7% to 1.35%. In money terms “en prison” means a loss of $1.35 for every $100 wagered over time. 

If the green 0 hits, your bet is not lost. It remains for the next spin of the wheel. 

You know that 1.35% edge makes it one of the very best bets in the casinos, better even than the line or come bets at craps. 

If you get the opportunity to play either of these options then do so. A lower house edge is almost always a good deal. Just keep your betting controlled and enjoy the lower house edge.


Triple Zeroes?

QUESTION: I am wound up like you can’t believe. A friend of mine, a loyal roulette player just like me, told me that some casinos are flirting with a three-zero game. Right: 0, 00, 000. The house edge on this game must be tremendous if the casino is still paying out 35-to-1 on a win. I know the casinos want an edge on their games but this would be ridiculous. 

ANSWER: Don’t get into a lather yet. What your friend heard was just talk or rumor. I don’t know any casino as of yet that has done this. Of course, I don’t go to every casino in the country so maybe somewhere some casino has slipped in this game.

Would the house edge be huge? Yes, definitely. It would be 7.69% if the game were exactly like the single-zero and double-zero games with no modifications in payouts and no special bets other than the imposition of the 000.

If you were to ever run into this, don’t play it, no matter how much you want to play roulette. 

Can such a bad game get into the casino? Yes. Just look at the 6-to-5 blackjack games that are being offered by the casinos. That game cannot match a regular blackjack game but some of the fans of blackjack are playing it. 

So, stay away if you see the 0, 00, and 000 game. No roulette player needs to face that house edge.

Wheel Wonders

QUESTION: Do you think there are really biased wheels in the casinos today or are they just memories of the past? I don’t go to any backwater casinos, but in the casinos where I play the roulette games are quite sophisticated in their equipment. I don’t think we are going to get wheels that are “off.” What do you think of this?

ANSWER: I agree with you. I also don’t think the modern roulette setups lend themselves to wheels that are “off.” Maybe somewhere out there in the world of casinos there might be an “off” wheel or two. I wouldn’t spend any time traveling and looking for them. 

Find a favorite casino with a good modern wheel and enjoy yourself. Hunting for a “biased wheel” or a fabulously skilled dealer who can control where the ball lands is the casino equivalent of the hunt for Bigfoot.

I do think we like to fantasize about such things and once (over 30 years ago) my wife, the Beautiful AP, and I actually did play a biased wheel in Las Vegas. Never saw one since. Was it fun? Oh, yes, yes, yes. The other players had no idea – no idea! – that the wheel was off. They just kept playing their regular game.

It took the casino pit boss some time to realize that the wheel was “off” and when he did, they closed the table and offered us another table. We went back to our room for a good nap!

All the best in and out of the casinos!

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.