If there is one phrase that puts the fear into most gamblers it's this one: "the house always wins". But is that true? Does the house always win?
Well, no- the house wins some, and loses some. Some players win, some player lose. What I think the phrase is meant to say is: "the house always wins in the end". And here, we are sorry to say, that there is some truth in this statement. If you played an infinite number of spins, the house would win in the end. And that's because of the roulette edge. If you average out all of the bets made by all of people at the roulette table at a casino like The Venetian in Las Vegas, on average, the house would be up. When you see people winning big at the table, they are in fact taking other player's money in effect. The casino will suffer some losses and will rake in some player's losses. When they do the numbers at the end of the week, the losing players will have lost (on average) more than the winning player will have won.
So how do you work out the edge in roulette?
Let's look at American Roulette first, which has the highest edge of any variant you can play. If you make a single number bet, the ball can land in one of 38 pockets. In 36 you could win. In 2 (the zero pockets), you can't.
But, the house only pays out 35:1 if you do win.
Let's say you cover the whole table: you bet £1 on each and every number including the zeros for the sake of argument (this would be a bit of a silly bet by the way). You risk £38. You would get £36 back (£35 plus your winning bet back). The casino's profit after this "cover whole table" exercise is £2. This is the roulette edge.
In American Roulette, it is 2/38 x 100 = 5.26 %
The house edge is the same for most of the other bets in American Roulette except for one.
Let's look at the Corner Bet or Square Bet.
Here, is any one of 4 numbers come up you win. If one of the other 34 com up, you lose. So your odds are 4:34, but the casino pays 8:1 on this particular bet.
Let's say you made the bet 38 times and each number came up once (again highly unlikely, but run with us on this one). You'd win 4 bets and lose 34 bets. You'd end up winning £8 four times (plus you'd get your winning bets back), so you would have £36 and the casino would have £2. Again 5.26%
But beware, because although this works for most of the bets in American Roulette, there is one bet called the Five Number Bet, in which it doesn't.
In the 5 number bet, you'll win if the ball lands in one of 5 numbers (0,00,1,2,3) and you'll lose if the ball lands in the other 33. So your odds are 5:33 or 1:6.6. The pay off for this bet is 6:1 (casinos don't pay out in fractions unfortunately- only whole numbers). So for your 38 spins which you have paid £38 for the privilege of, you will net £7 for each win (with your winning bet back). So if you managed 5 wins in 38, you'll have £35. The casino would have £3 profit which gives a house edge of 7.89 %.
The moral of the story? Don't play the 5 Number Bet! If the casino paid out 7;1 instead of 6:1, the player would have the edge. Once the word was out, all the players would play this bet and the casinos would all be bust at the end of the year!
Let's quickly take a look at European Roulette. Remember, the European game works on a single zero roulette wheel. There are only 37 pockets instead of 38. If you bet on every single number and cover the whole table for what you think is a "risk free bet", you bet £1 on each and every number including the zero, - so you bet £37. You would get £36 back (£35 plus your winning bet back). The casino's profit in this case is only £1. So the roulette edge in the European game is 1/37 or 0.27%.
Put it another way. If you cover the whole table, the casino makes less profit on a European Wheel that it does on an American Wheel. The moral of the story? Always play European Roulette!
Extra Tip. Have you heard of "La Partage Rule". If you can find a casino that plays it (look for French Roulette tables), you can get the roulette edge down even more- to 1.3%. Just saying. Some Land Based casinos like the Manchester235 roulette tables offer La Partage on their European roulette tables. If you see one, always choose that over standard roulette, particularly if you are a fan of playing even money bets.