Change is good. Do you believe that? I don’t. At least not all change.

Now, of course I don’t mean all change is bad but certainly some of it is. I am not completely happy with customer service where you wait, like, a 100 years to be taken care of on the phone or on your computer from medium to large companies. I was on the phone for three hours with social security and my health care plan. I could have been dead at the end of that.

The casino industry has seen many changes over the years, some good, some bad. 

Craps has been a better game now than ever before with multiple odds bets as high as 3X, 5X, 10X, 20X and 100X. The layouts look better too. Sprucy with plenty of eye-popping color. Change has been good for craps. But skip the new side bets. They don’t really help you win over even a somewhat short length of time. The Fire Bet, for example, has a house edge between 20 and 25 percent. That’s worse than the worst slot machines.

Blackjack is nowhere near as good as it used to be when I first started playing over three decades ago. I remember playing great single-deck games and double-deck games in the 1990s with great rules. Even Atlantic City had excellent four-deck games with surrender. 

I remember the great Maxim blackjack game in Las Vegas where they dealt out every card except one. My wife, the Beautiful AP and I spent eight weeks straight in Las Vegas playing that game. 

Looking Back

There was no such thing as a 6:5 blackjack or across the board restrictions of what and when you could double and how often you could split pairs. And automatic shufflers? Yuck! Come on, small breaks in play are good things for players. 

Traditional high-limit baccarat has basically disappeared from the casinos to be replaced by mini-baccarat, a fast, maxi-hit on the players’ bankrolls. It used to be that only high rollers played the game in fancy rooms with dealers dressed to the nines. The players were all (well, almost all) dressed to the nines as well.

Mini-baccarat still has low house edges (except for the tie bet) but the speed of the game is lightning-like and that even makes small edges dangerous.

Video poker is somewhat good at times but it used to have games that a savvy player could actually beat and some that were really close contests. Now, what attracts many players are video-poker games whose names sound quite cool but really aren’t so hot to play. From my vantage point the video-poker games actually seem somewhat stagnant now. I could be wrong here. I also could be right here.

Roulette Table

Changes at the Roulette Table

Roulette wheels have come into their own by being computerized, with highly colorized layouts and table areas, and they look (how shall I say this?) snappy! The best roulette games are right now. But (maybe sadly) those old-time advantage plays against biased-wheels are over; those wheels have been buried in the graveyard of the lost world; dinosaur bones of the olden times. 

A perfect wheel for some roulette players looking to get an edge over the game is an imperfect wheel for the casino. Come on, casinos don’t want anything that can go wrong with their games.  Perfect wheels for the casino are not perfect for players, well, some few players looking and praying for an edge. 

Today’s amazingly perfect wheels now rule the “little wheel” world that was created by Blaise Pascal in the 1600s. Today’s wheels are fun to play, yes, and they do look great. The massive scoreboards and the crossover table results that I’ve seen at some casinos are just terrific. Any chance of beating those wheels?

Nah. Most roulette players are not concerned with biased wheels or the like. They enjoy the play on today’s wheels.

And we do have a lot of new games, that we always called carnival games, that often require more than one bet – not usually a good deal. And we now have a whole host of side bets at many of the traditional games that can drain a player’s funds. I’m not so in love with these. Casinos want to win more and more money but players want to lose less and less money. That is a conflict of interest. 

I like casino games that you can play for a while without always getting clobbered. I like the back-and-forth in those games. They always give me some hope that I will win this session. Hope is a key emotion and a key concept in casino play. Yep, therefore I love Pai Gow Poker, a new old game, which is a great game in the casino scheme of things. If you haven’t played it, give it a try. 

And now to slot machines and something new that has started to take over the palaces of Lady Luck with which I am not in love. Here goes.

The Brave New Casino World 

I have nothing against slot machines per se, nothing at all. They are the kings and queens of the casino world and there wouldn’t be a casino world (as in worldwide) without them. Yes, slot play rules. Slot players are the godlike beings of the casino world even if most of them do not know this fact. 

My favorite slot machines? Old timers with real coins. That’s just me. Even with metal discoloration of my hands by the coins when you play those oldies but goodies, it was a fun exercise that did, in fact, need hand-scrubbing when you were finished playing.

But now things are starting to get wacky. How so? Here is a saying that all casino management and players should sing loudly: “Table games are not slot machines!”
Listen, I prefer the casino to keep its table games as table games and its slot machines as slot machines. I like the line between the two types of games. I like one area where it is people and people and live dealers with the other area being people and machines. Keep these areas as two separate areas of casino play.

That’s just me. Or is it just me?

I like the ins and outs between casino players and dealers. Human to human contact. I like the ability to reach across the table and lay a tip down for the dealers too. I like to see good dealers handle bad players and bad dealers dealing with everyone at the table. The human story truly exists on real table games. You are playing a game but you are playing a game with real people around you.

Here's my beef. Many more casinos are bringing in machine-games based on table games. In my old neighborhood, there were casinos that had no table games at all; instead the casinos had mechanical or slot versions of just about every table game players might want to play. Some of these even looked like table games as they took up table-game space but there were no dealers; everything was automatic. 

The new table-slot-machine games are not table games. They are just big slot machines. People can sit around a roulette-slot-machine-table-game and have no interaction with other players and since there is no dealer then there is no interesting player and dealer give and take. (If you are cheap, however, you can save on tips!)

Machines replacing people and animals has become the rule of civilization. There aren’t too many blacksmiths anymore and even those old-time automobile mechanics now must understand computers to really understand today’s cars and trucks. In my local supermarkets, fewer and fewer checkout people are needed because the buyers do their own “automatic” checkouts.

That I don’t particularly like. 

The contrapoint to my dislike of machines taking people’s occupations are those web casinos that have real dealers dealing their games. Yes, if you are going to play a table game on the web then make it as real as possible. Some online casinos do that perfectly. 

These games are sometimes filmed as if they are really happening when you are watching and playing them. Some are really happening. That’s a close call between a real table game and a computerized one. Real dealers involved? I like that.

Roulette Table

Slot Roulette Table Games

You want your “virtual” roulette game to be exactly what a real game is like – or at least as close as possible. Can you really capture a real roulette game playing this way? I’ll leave that up to you.

What follows is what you should be doing in the virtual game or, again, as close as possible.

The Odds of Winning and Losing and the House Edges

There are two types of roulette games, the American double-zero wheel (0, 00) and the European/French single-zero wheel (0). The American game has 38 pockets, numbered 1-36 with the 0 and 00. The European/French game has 37 pockets numbered 1-36 and 0. 

The payout for a winning pocket is 35-to-1. The real payout in a fair game where the casino did not have an edge would be 37-to-1 on the American game. On the European/French game the payout is the same, 35-to-1, but with only one 0, the true payout would be 36-to-1. 

The American game has a house edge of 5.26%, while the European/French game has a much lower house edge of 2.7%. Chances are that any mechanized slot version of the game would be the American version. Still, some online casinos will offer the French game and if the betting limits are the same as the American game, well there is no doubt which game to play.

[Please note: Here is the first big caution. If the mechanized version is not paying 35-to-1 but something like 34- or 33-to-1 then do not play that game. Of course, if it is paying 36-to-1, jump on it!]

Those of you betting directly or straight up on the numbers, put your chips on the numbers. Obviously, the game would give you how to do this direct-style of betting. 

If you are betting any of the proposition bets the payouts will reflect what the proposition is. For example, the even-money bets of red/black (French: Rouge et Noir), odd/even (French: Impair et Pair), high/low (French: Passe et Manque) you place these bets right on one or two of the three propositions. 

These all pay 1-to-1. They are called even-money bets because they pay even money, meaning 1-to-1. They are not 50/50 bets with the casino. The casino wins 20 times and the player wins 18 times. The house edge is 5.26%. The European/French version is better for the player in terms of the house edge with the casino winning 19 times and the player winning 18 times. These propositions lose if a 0 or 00 is the number. 

On the first, second or third dozen (French: Douzaine), or the first, second or third column (French: Colonne), you will again place your wager exactly on the proposition however the machine indicates how to do this. These bets pay 2-to-1. All lose if a 0 or 00 is the winning number. House edges are the same, 5.26% and 2.7%.

More Possible Bets

Split Bet (French: A Cheval): If you want to bet two numbers next to each other, place your chips on the line between the two numbers. The win is 17 units per 1 unit wagered. 

The Street Bet, or Three Number Bet or “Side Bet” or The Trio (French: Transversal): If you wish to bet on three numbers, place your wager on the outside border of the three numbers. A win pays off at 11 to 1. 

The Corner, the Square, the Four Number Bet (French: Carre):  After three numbers comes? Yes, of course, four numbers! The numbers must form a square. Place the bet at the intersection where all four numbers meet. A win pays 8 to 1. 

The Five Number Bet:  This bet on the 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3 stinks because its house edge is 7.89% – only found on the American game. A win pays 6 to 1. 

The Line Bet, or Six Number Bet, or Six-line Bet (French: Sixain): Split Bet
(French: A Cheval):
This wager is placed on the outside borders of six numbers. A win pays 5 to 1. 

[Please note: A word to the wise. Make sure the payouts are the equal to or better than the real payouts at the game. And side bets? I’d skip those.]

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.