Taking the Wheel: Five Easy Ways to Beat Roulette


No lie, roulette is a tough game to beat. Not only has it got a steep house edge, but the advantage players once got from “clocking” wheels is non-existent in online casinos. So what exactly are fans of this classic game to do? Certainly, nobody expects them to forget about playing roulette altogether. But without any viable means of winning, aren’t online-roulette players just making sucker bets?

Well, sort of.

You see, there are a few rules of thumb that work no matter what kind of wheel you're playing on. And, in the service of saving online roulette from utter oblivion, we here at Gambling Planet have decided it’s time we share them with you. Sure, none of them will make you a millionaire overnight. Nor are they nearly as exciting as discovering a biased wheel. But, considering that the goal of every online casino is to take your money as quickly and painlessly as possible, getting a good ten hours of play in and walking away $1,000 up can stand as an accomplishment. 

Your Five Best Bets for Beating Roulette

Tip No. 5 for Beating Roulette: Avoid (Most) System Play - Stay away from crazy wagering systems, methods that involve guesswork and basically any “surefire” scheme you have to pay to learn. Simply put, most of these theories are just scams, and few will actually get you any closer to beating roulette. Many a swindler has written “the book” on roulette, claiming that only he knows the truth to beating the wheel. The strange thing about these guys is that they want you to pay for their advice. Why, after all, would they need to sell a book if they could just go win more money anytime they wanted to? And why would a gambler with an inside track share his secrets with the public when doing so would inevitably lead to casinos shutting down (thus killing his golden goose)?

The truth is, winning strategies – things like card counting for blackjack and clocking and the Labouchere system for roulette – were the brainchildren of geniuses and worked so well that their inventors were permanently banned from entering every casino on the planet. These folks, in turn, could only continue to profit from their ideas by writing them down. Otherwise, they would have never done so. What’s more, these discoveries are rare. On average, there’s a 50-year gap between them, and if a game is too easily won, casinos either tweek it to make it harder of find something else to stock their floors with. All things considered, then, it’s absurd to imagine 50 contemporary gamblers all knowing the secrets of a game. Such books became popular because of Ed Thorpe's “Beat the Dealer,” which started the whole card-counting craze. But a majority of gambling authors are actually just inveterate gamblers looking to recoup their losses. They know their systems don’t pay off, so they write books and hope some poor sucker (that is, you) will buy them. Wheels don’t know or understand your cute, new betting patterns. No matter how much you bet, when you bet or how high you hop while placing your bets, a roulette wheel’s outcomes will always be random. If there is ever any truth to these so-called "guides" it lies in the systems the authors ripped off from others - and you can just as easily read about those for free here at GP.

Our five tips will have you beating roulette in no time!!

Tip No. 2 for Beating Roulette: Simplify Your Bets – Diversification might work on Wall Street, but in the world of roulette, the “Keep It Simple, Stupid” rule always applies. You see, while you might be tempted to cover every outside bet on the board, the house edge prevents playing them all from being profitable. Sure you might be a big Peyton Manning fan and, therefore, utterly in love with the number 18. But betting every single prop surrounding the number is a sure-fire way to lose your shirt: Sometimes you’ll lose all your bet, most times you’ll recoup about half your losses and a very, very small fraction of the time you’ll hit all of them at once. The thing is, this fraction of the time is, by definition, just as rare as hitting the number itself because, well, it is hitting the number itself. But even worse, all the intersecting outside bets together only yield one-sixth the payoff of a “straight-up” (or single-number) bet. Essentially, then, you could lose less and stand to win more just by betting the number alone. With a multi-prop wager, it's true, you'll win more often. But can you really call yourself a winner if you lose $700 and only win back $350?

Tip No. 3 for Beating Roulette: Only play Single-Zero Roulette A majority of European casinos and a handful of American casinos have Single-Zero Roulette (or "French Roulette") wheels. French wheels boast a house edge of 2.7 percent, about half that of their American cousins. Consequently, your chances of using a few select systems successfully go up with these wheels, and the amount you lose per dollar bet decreases by 2 cents. What’s more, many French wheels in Europe have what’s called “En Prison.” This rule dictates that if the ball lands in the zero pocket while you’re playing an even-money proposition, you can choose between losing only half your bet or letting the house imprison it for the next spin. If you choose the latter, the house returns your chips in full – with no additional winnings – if you win the next bet and keeps it if you lose.

This rule is hellova advantageous for players in that it drops the house edge even further: to 1.39 percent. However, it only exists in European casinos as the few American houses who have French wheels for their "whales" (or high rollers) never allow it or anything like it (e.g., “La Partage” or “Surrender”) at their Single-Zero tables. If you can find yourself a French wheel with “En Prison” and a relatively wide margin between its minimum and outside maximum – the rule is for the maximum to be 100-200 times the minimum – you’re set. But even if you can’t get “En Prison,” never play a Double-Zero wheel. Remembering this is perhaps the key to beating roulette, so if you can’t find one, just don’t play.

Tip No. 4 for Beating Roulette: Tracking online roulette wheels is a waste of time and effort – The best roulette invention (besides the Single-Zero wheel) was the board that shows players the previous spins’ results. This is because it allows players to clock more easily and efficiently. To clarify, clocking does not mean seeing a number hit an unlikely number of times (say, five times in a row), then assuming the next spin will yield the same result. Occasionally numbers will hit in a consecutive chain, and this is all still entirely probable for random events. Therefore, like it or not, assuming that betting a chain constitutes a mathematical edge and will yield big winnings is wrong. Clocking, in contrast, is a study of a wheel’s statistical variance over hundreds, if not thousands, of spins. It is the only sure way to beat roulette, but is also time-consuming because casinos are often on the lookout for faulty wheels too.

Case studies of folks like the method’s inventor, Joseph Jagger, and Bill Walters – who used it as late as 1986 to literally close down the original Golden Nugget in Atlantic City – are a testament to its power. However, as we mentioned above this method is also absolutely worthless when playing with online wheels because online wheels aren’t mechanical. Biases don’t exist in them unless a software developer or hacker inserts them, and if you ever get a popup window with an online wheel that says the wheel needs rotating or calibrating, it is just a cutesy play at verisimilitude. Online wheels are, in fact, no more than 37- or 38-number Keno with even-money lines, and the only feasible means of beating them is to play a system called the "Labouchere."

For its part, the Labouchere isn't perfect and is by no means a winner every time. As a progressive system (i.e., a system in which you increase your bet after a loss or win), it can run into a the table's outside maximum and go haywire. But unlike other progressive systems like the D'Alembert and Martingale your bets in a Labouchere only increase by fractional increments, not through doubling. Using the Labouchere successfully, then, is simply a matter of practicing good money management, which we'll cover below. Before we get into that, though, we should first give you an idea of how the system works:

To play a Labouchere, get yourself a piece of paper and write the following string of numbers (divided by commas as shown): "1, 2, 1." Assuming you've found a wheel that fits the specifications we set down above, choose an even-money outside bet and place your first wager so that the number of chips you bet is equal to the sum of the first and last numbers written on your paper. Also, if you are in a brick-and-mortar casino always ask that the croupier set your check value at the outside minimum. If you are playing online, on the other hand, either use the denomination of chip equal to the house minimum, or if none exists, use the smallest denomination of chip available to you and treat each set of chips equalling the minimum as a single chip.

Now sit back and let the wheel do its thing. If you win, cross out the first and last numbers. If you lose, write the total you lost at the end of the chain. Once you get to one number, assume the other number is a zero and add them to get your bet. Once all the numbers are crossed out, you will have won the sum of the first three numbers in chips - in our example, you'd win four times the house minimum. Finally, whether you are playing En Prison or not always treat a zero as a loss.

Tip No. 5 for Beating Roulette: Use Good Money Management – This advice sounds simple enough, but about 90 percent of gamblers consistently lose their money because they don’t know what to do with it when they have it. Managing you bankroll in a casino is key to playing every game on the floor. And in the case of roulette it’s especially helpful. The house advantage will always be there. If you’re playing an American wheel (i.e., Double-Zero Roulette), you can expect to loose an average of 5 cents per $1 bet – that is, over a long period of play – while if you’re playing a French wheel (i.e., Single-Zero roulette), you’ll lose an average of 2-3 cents on the dollar. Meanwhile, every table has a minimum, or the least amount you may bet at one time. Doing a little basic arithmetic, then, it’s obvious that at a $25-minimum table the house expects to win at least $25 cents off you for every spin you bet on.

Though it’s a different game entirely, poker often inspires some darned good sayings. One of these, “Never play scared,” could apply to just about anything: your career, your life or even the table games you play during your poker downtime. Many players disregard the scope of their bankroll, a classic beginner mistake that can make roulette foolish instead of fun. By playing above your comfort level and risking your financial stability outside the casino, your adrenal glands will start pumping, and then…. Well, then you’re thinking more fight-or-flight, making it awfully hard to concentrate on your play strategy. What was once a fun game turns into a crushing nightmare as you watch your house, car and kid’s college tuition go straight into the casino’s coffers.

But besides this basic advice, the thing about money management is that it won’t only keep you from losing, but will also help you win. You see, the Labouchere system works as long as you don't start out with absurdly large bets. It basically allows you to plan out how much money you want to take from a roulette wheel then actually allows you to take it. The only hang-up is that you have to understand a little bit about money to use it properly. As we said before, all tables have a minimum, but they also have an outside maximum (or the most you can bet on an outside, even-money prop at one time).

Casinos set this rate at about 100 times the table minimum to limit the number of times a player can increase his bet and, therefore, make progressive systems more difficult. And yet, realizing that most people have poor money-management skills, some casinos – especially online casinos – have relaxed these limits. They reason that you, John Q. Bettor, can’t just settle for making $100-200 per hour. If you realize you can win consistently, they figure, you’ll turn as greedy as a mouse looking for an extra piece of cheese – and that’s when they’ll spring their trap. Some online casinos, for instance, offer French wheels with $10 outside minimums and $2,000 outside maximums. Greedy Labouchere players will inevitably try to play using $100 chips and will end up losing $2,000-$3,000 when they hit an improbable, but still likely, 10-loss streak. If, on the other hand, they’d just stick to $10 chips, they’d have to lose over over 100 times in a row before running into trouble on these wheels. And this, while it happens, is so unlikely that worrying about it is about as sensible as worrying that this past season’s Detroit Lions might win the Super Bowl.

Finally, the other part of successful Labouchere play that involves money management is making sure your bankroll is large enough to sustain those improbable losses. Over 10 hours, you should be able to rack up $1,000 in profits playing the Labouchere. But even though 100 straight losses only happens once every bajillion years, 99 straight losses is slightly more probable, and 98 straight losses is more probable still. This idea might seem like common sense, but tons of folks run to ruin because they simply didn’t bring more than a pittance to the table. The rule of thumb, then, is to bring about one-fifth of the table’s inside maximum. If, for instance, a table’s inside max (or maximum you can bet on all your inside propositions combined) is $25,000, you should bring about $5,000 for the whole session.

- Staff