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Better Roulette Betting

A reader writes: “I read where you recommend playing a
single zero rather than double zero roulette game because
the casino edge is lower. I normally bet $5 to $10 per spin
but my local casino only offers $25 minimum single zero
games. Should I increase my betting level to take
advantage of the better odds?”

In order to answer the reader’s question, you need to
consider not only the difference in the casino’s edge but
also the amount bet. It’s a fact that the casino’s edge is
higher on a double 0 wheel rather than a single 0 wheel.
The casino’s edge is 5.26% on the American wheel for all
roulette bets (except the bet on 0, 00, 1, 2, 3, which is
higher). On a single 0 wheel (also known as a European
wheel), the lack of one 0 reduces the casino’s edge on all
bets to 2.63%. At first glance making a bet on a single 0
wheel appears to be the better choice than betting on a
double 0 wheel because the casino’s edge is lower.

However, comparing the casino’s edge of one bet to
another without considering the amount of the bet is
dangerous. What you must do is factor the amount of the
bet to calculate your average cost per bet. The latter is
simply the amount bet times the casino’s edge.

Let’s take the example of betting $5 per spin on the double
0 wheel. For our calculations it doesn’t matter whether you
make one single $5 straight up bet on the inside or outside
of the layout, or make five different $1 bets on the inside of
the layout. The result is the same. If your total bet per spin
is $5 and the bet has a casino advantage of 5.26% then
your average cost to make that bet is 26 cents ($5 times
5.26%). Likewise, if you had a total of $10 bet per spin,
your average cost is 52 cents ($10 times 5.26%).

What does the “average cost mean?” It’s simply a measure
of how much money the casino expects to win on every $5
(or $10) bet in roulette over time. Obviously on any one
spin you will either win more than $5 or lose the entire $5,
but over time you can expect to lose an amount of money
equal to the total amount bet times the casino’s edge (i.e.,
your cost for playing). In the short term, you could be
ahead (due to volatility), but if you continue to play roulette
on an unbiased wheel, the casino’s edge will eventually
overtake the short-term volatility. The casinos bank on this
fact every day that they are in business.

Let’s calculate the average cost for making a $25 bet on a
single 0 wheel (casino edge is 2.7%). If you do the math,
the average cost is 66 cents. This is 40 cents more
expensive than making the $5 bet on double 0 wheel and
14 cents more expensive than betting $10 per spin.
The bottom line is that on a per bet basis it will cost you
less money over the long haul if you bet $5 (or even $10)
per spin on a double 0 wheel compared to betting $25 per
spin on the single 0 wheel, even with its lower casino
edge. The comparison gets even worse when you
consider the number of spins per hour. Normally at a
crowded $5 (or $10) minimum bet double 0 table you will
average about 30 spins per hour. On less crowded $25
minimum single 0 tables, you are more likely to average 40
to 50 spins per hour. If we use 45 spins per hour as an
average, a player’s average hourly cost to play roulette for
the $5 bettor on double 0 wheel compared to a $25 per
spin bettor on single 0 wheel is: $5 per spin X 5.26%
casino edge X 30 spins per hour equals $7.89 per hour
cost; $25 X 2.7% casino edge X 45 spins per hour equals
$30.37 per hour cost

Notice the cost per hour on the single 0 wheel is 2.8 times
more than double 0 wheel. The reason is the more spins
per hour and the higher betting level. These two factors
more than compensate for the lower casino edge on the
single 0 game. Therefore, when comparing the merits of
making one bet to another in a casino don’t just compare
the casino’s edge. Factor in also the bet size and the
number of decisions per hour to get the true picture of
what the bet will cost you.

Henry Tamburin, Ph.D. is the author of the Ultimate
Blackjack Strategy Guide, editor of the Blackjack
Insider e-Newsletter (www.bjinsider.com), lead
instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course, and
host of smartgaming.com. For a free three-month
subscription to his blackjack newsletter, go to www.
bjinsider.com/freetrial. To receive his free Casino
Gambling Catalog, call 1-888-353-3234 or visit www.
smartgaming.com.