It’s only fair to start this article by quoting non other than the great Albert Einstein, who supposedly once said: “The only way to beat a roulette table is to steal money from it while the croupier isn't looking”. Whether this is true or not, one thing is clear – there is no proven betting system that is able to beat any casino game with a house edge. In the long run, the house edge means that the more you bet, the more you can expect to lose. There are, however, different betting systems that are commonly put into use at a roulette table, and though their success, as well as their mathematical logic, is heavily disputable, they can be very enjoyable, and may yield a profit in the short run.
The Martingale is the basis for most roulette betting systems. This betting strategy is widely used in any casino game that pays even money, i.e. you stand to win the same amount that you stand to lose (payout is 1:1). In the game of roulette, even money bets are wagers on groups of 18 numbers, such as black/red, low/high (1-18 or 19-36) and even/odd bets. The technique is simple – you start your betting at a certain amount, and double the bet after every loss. This way the first time you win covers all previous losses, and wins you a profit equal to the initial bet.
The martingale method was popular in France during the 18th century, but can’t be fully implemented in modern casinos, where there is a fixed table limit. Even if there were no betting limit in place, the fact that players don’t possess infinite wealth is what limits them from carrying out this method to completion. Doubling your bet every round means that your bet grows exponentially, and will reach very big numbers very fast. Take, for example, an initial bet of $2. After only 10 rounds the amount being wagered is $1024, while all you stand to win, after covering your losses, is the initial $2 bet. This is how the Martingale has been the downfall of many gamblers. Still, it’s a fun system to check out if you know your limits, and can yield profits in the short run.
Instead of making bigger bets after losses, this approach increases bets after wins, and reduces them after loses. The logic behind the system is that a player should benefit from a winning streak, and cut his losses when he’s ‘cold’. The anti-martingale has no mathematical reasoning in a game like roulette, since the wheel has no ‘memory’ of past outcome, and the outcome of each roll is totally independent. Therefore, there is no such thing as a winning streak or a ‘cold hand’, and these are considered a classic gambler's fallacy.
Betting on Red
A simple strategy would be to bet on red (or black, or even/odd) for a fixed number of spins, with a fixed amount. For example, using an American wheel (with 2 green ‘zero’ slots – the 0 and the 00) you can bet $5 on red for 38 spins. Since there are 18 red spaces on a wheel with 38 slots, each spin has a probability of 47.37% to land on red. To break even, you would need the ball to land on red 19 times, but the probability of this happening is only 37%, which illustrates how hard it is to win using this technique.
This system is a combination of ‘Betting on Red’ and ‘The Martingale’ systems. You place two separate bets, one on red and one on even (or one on black and one on odd). Each bet is treated as a separate Martingale bet. When it loses, it is doubled. When it wins, you go back to the initial bet. Though it suffers from the same problems the Martingale has, the Combo has the advantage of possibly keeping players at the table for a long time. There is almost a 25% chance of winning both bets (the red and the even), while there is almost a 50% chance of breaking even with every round – by winning one out of two bets. Since each bet is independent, there is no mathematical advantage to be gained by using this method, but its highly entertaining potential and eventful nature draws many players to try the Combo.