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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Getting the Odds on Your Side at Roulette

14 July 1997

You can get favorable odds at roulette. Lots of ways. I'll show you several, along with the associated probabilities. Over 50 percent means you can expect a result more than half the time. And the higher the percentage, the greater the chance you'll win.

Approaches fall into two general groups. Multiple-bet methods give you a greater chance to win than lose on every spin. Sequential-bet techniques offer more chance to win than lose on a series of spins that comprise a round of play.

Multiple-bet #1: Drop $12 on "red" and $1 each on any 12 black numbers. If the ball lands in red, you win $12 and lose $12 - a push. The other 20 possibilities offer 60 percent chance to win $12; this, when one of your 12 selected black spots hits since the winner pays $35 but you lose $11 on the other numbers and $12 on "red." The downside is a 10 percent chance to lose $18 - $6 of the $12 on "red" and $12 on the selected black numbers - when the call is a green 0 or 00, and a 30 percent chance to lose all $24 when the result is one of the six unselected black numbers.


Multiple-bet #2: Bet $5 on "1-12" and $5 on "13-24." You have 63 percent chance to win $5; this occurs when the result is from 1 to 24, since you win $10 and lose $5. You have 37 percent chance to lose $10 if the ball stops in any of the 14 other grooves.

Multiple-bet #3: Bet $10 on "1-12," $10 on "13-24," and $1 each on any 10 numbers from 25 to 36. If the result is between 1 and 24, you win $20 and lose 20 -- a push. The remaining 14 possibilities afford a 71 percent chance to win $6; this, when one of the 10 selected numbers hits because the winner pays $35 but you lose $9 on the other numbers and $10 each on "1-12" and "13-24." You have a 29 percent chance to lose $30; this, when the ball lands in one of the four non-selected grooves outside the 1-24 range.

Sequential-bet #1: A round is three spins. Bet $1 on each of 10 numbers. End the round profitably if you win; repeat the bet for the next spin if you lose. You have 60 percent chance of $6 to $26 profit per round, depending on which spin is successful. You have 40 percent chance to lose $30 with no hits in three spins.

Sequential-bet #2: A round is seven spins. Bet $1 on each of five numbers. End the round profitably if you win; repeat the bet for the next spin if you lose. You have 63 percent chance of $1 to $31 profit per round, depending on which spin is successful. You have 37 percent chance of losing $35 with no hits in seven spins.

Sequential-bet #3: A round is 35 spins. Bet $5 on a single number. End the round if you win; repeat the bet if you lose. You have a 61 percent chance of $5 to $175 profit, depending on which spin is successful. You have a 39 percent chance of losing $175 with no hits in 35 spins.

With these techniques, you can expect to win 60 percent or more of your bets. The catch? Your losses on individual spins or rounds when you fail generally exceed your wins when you succeed.

Strategies to get favorable odds at roulette should appeal to solid citizens who enjoy frequent small wins and are content to quit with modest profits. Within this framework, multiple-bet approaches keep amounts and chances uniform while sequential methods preserve a slim shot at a moderately large payoff balanced by a greater chance at correspondingly smaller returns. What if your motivation for gambling is a shot at a big payday and you know you won't quit with a modest profit? Then accept having to fight the odds with bets the house is favored to win, knowing that a few hits can send you over the top.

Take your pick. Many modest wins, a few sizable setbacks. Or intermittent triumphs, frequent small defeats. Either way, or in between, disparities between chances and payoffs ensure that the house has an edge on every bet. As Sumner A Ingmark, a poet considered odd for considering odds, once wrote:

Systems minor, systems major,
Let you switch the ways you wager,
But not change the laws of nature.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.