Turning the Tables - Section III: Wheel of the People


As the oldest version of roulette and the form most English speakers are familiar with, we’ll want to cover Double-Zero (or “American Roulette”) first. This version includes 36 “inside numbers” (i.e., the black and red numbers from one to 36) and two green pockets on opposite sides of the wheelhead that represent the house numbers, zero and double zero. Its “number sequence” (or the order in which the numbers appear on the wheelhead) rarely varies from casino to casino and is standard for all Double-Zero wheels outside the U.S.: 0, 28, 9, 26, 30, 11, 7, 20, 32, 17, 5, 22, 34, 15, 3, 24, 36, 13, 1, 00, 27, 10, 25, 29, 12, 8, 19, 31, 18, 6, 21, 33, 16, 4, 23, 35, 14 and 2.

The original intention of the Double-Zero wheel’s inventors was that no “inside bets” (or bets placed on the inside portion of a layout) would result in an uninterrupted series of wagered numbers on the wheelhead. Because of this, the numbers on an American Roulette wheel do not follow each other in numerical order. Yet the designers were by no means mathematical geniuses, and as a result, you can cover two whole quadrants on the wheel by making only three “double-street” bets (See: American Roulette bets chart below).

The following pictures depict scaled representations of an American Roulette table and the wheelhead itself. Take a moment to look them over and see if you can pick out the three double-street bets mentioned above:

am roulette layoutAm_Roulette_Wheel

As you can see, there are three inside bets on an American Roulette layout that, if placed at the same time, cover two uninterrupted segments of eight numbers on the wheelhead. These three bets are the special double-street on the 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3; the double-street covering 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12; and the double-street covering 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. This type of betting is called contiguous betting, and we will explain it in fuller detail in “Section VI: Breaking the Wheel.” Suffice it to say, however, American wheels do have their week points, and for some systems players, that 5.26 house advantage can work in their favor.

As for the bets on an American Roulette layout, there are essentially 10 types with several propositions for each. In general, all American Roulette bets have a 5.26 percent house vig, except the special double-street or “Basket,” which gives the house a whopping 7.9-percent edge. For this reason, it is generally called the “Sucker Bet.” (But as we’ll see, it can have its uses).

Other things to note about American Roulette include the use of “checks” and “buy-in minimums.” For its part, a check is a non-value token used only at a roulette table in place of regular casino chips, with each player receiving a different colored stack to help delineate his bets from the other players’. Often, there is a minimum amount of money you can spend on checks at one time (i.e., the “buy-in minimum”), but you can assign your checks whatever individual worth you want as long as you bet the “table minimum” (or the least amount of money you are allowed to bet on one proposition). You could very feasibly, for instance, buy in for checks worth a penny each. The only determining factor is whether the table has enough checks of one color to accept that denomination.

If you do decide to buy in for checks at a lower or higher denomination than the basic table minimum, the dealer will take one unused check of you color and a “lammer” (a small metal or plastic disk with a value printed on one side) and stack them on a rack on or near the wheel. This lets him know how much your checks are worth when you cash out, which you must always do because checks have no monetary value away from the table that issued them.

Some American Roulette tables will also allow you to bet regular casino chips or cash as long as no other player is betting with the same bill or chip denomination. Essentially, this is only a matter of crowd control because American casinos don’t want a fight erupting over whose money’s whose. If there are no more check colors to go around, you must always ask the dealer if you can bet this way so he can make sure no one else is using $5 bills or $25 casino chips. However, we highly advise you don’t do this so since many systems require a ratio of bets on multiple propositions and high-value denominations tend to make maintaining these ratios difficult.

Finally, some American Roulette tables in Atlantic City (and only in Atlantic City) have what’s called “Surrender.” This rule dictates that whenever a player loses an “even-money outside bet” (i.e., those that pay 1-1) because the ball landed on zero or double zero, he only loses half his bet. This reduces the house advantage on even-money bets to 2.63 percent, and gives many systems a decided edge over the house. However, before you go praising the Donald for his magnanimity, keep in mind that most boardwalk casinos have higher minimums than anywhere else in the U.S., making some betting systems nearly impossible.

- Phill Provance