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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Should You Be Watching for New Wrinkles in Roulette?

1 March 2006

Say your idea of the casino experience includes a classically elegant gamble, relaxed, and not requiring advanced math to choose between long shots at reasonably rich returns and good chances of modest payoffs. Roulette may be the game for you.

Of course, some people think otherwise. Perhaps they consider roulette too slow. Or maybe they relish the thrill of a ticket to Easy Street being ever so close, with the mere 35-to-1 payoff for a "straight-up" hit far too low to qualify. And there are folks who like to play hands-on, not just watch dealers do it all.

Factors like these have kept inventors dreaming up new variations on roulette. They hope to preserve the élan of the game, while increasing its appeal to a broader base of solid citizens. And, naturally, want casinos to buy their brainchildren for big bucks.

An example that would offer more betting options and the prospect of higher payouts is embodied in US Patent number 5,636,838. This game uses two independently-spinning numbered rings, one on either side of a track containing the pockets in which the ball stops. Each spin therefore yields two sets of numbers and colors on which to wager, along with bets on combinations based on the two rings simultaneously. Were each ring to have 38 positions, as on a conventional double-zero wheel, the chance of both settling at the same selected number would be one out of 1,444. Betting $1 that some number will score a double hit could pay $1,367 while giving the house its usual usurious 5.26 percent edge. Lost of other two-ring bets are also possible.

Ways to add progressive jackpots to the standard game, using chip sensors and computers, are disclosed separately in Patents 5,743,798 and 6,059,659. These proposals differ in detail, but share the notion of side bets that a specified number will win on successive spins. The chance of triumph in a double-zero game is one out of 54,872 for three in a row and one out of 2,085,136 for four running. For reference, the probability of a progressive with a royal at Caribbean Stud is one out of 649,740.

Another type of progressive play is covered by Patent number 6,776,714. Here, the jackpot hinges on three consecutive winning spins forming a tic-tac-toe line or "V" on any three-by-three square of the layout. In this, as opposed to the previous two progressive implementations, new side bets are needed on each spin to move up the ladder of success.

An entirely different variant of roulette received Patent 6,520,503. The wheel has 36 pockets corresponding to the rolls of a pair of dice. That is, one pocket numbered "2," two numbered "3," six numbered "7," and so forth. The layout has provision for conventional one-roll roulette type bets, although with numbers only up to 12, and also for all the standard craps wagers.

If none of these novelties turns you on, consider Patent number 6,302,395. Among the alternate modes of play is a game using a roulette wheel operated by the dealer, a deck of cards from which the dealer draws one, and a pair of dice with faces having spot patterns and distinct colors thrown by the players. Bets are on the sums of what each of the three elements shows, as well as on color effects. The number bets include specific values and groups analogous to the rows, columns, outside, and other combinations in conventional roulette. An interesting feature is a set of "triple," "quadruple," and "quintuple" boxes. These take two, three, and four chips and multiply any payouts by three, four, and five, respectively.

Will any of these innovations appear soon at your favorite casino? The answer hinges on whether the bosses think you'd be more apt to play roulette, or to stretch your sessions, were they available. And, in such a case, whether this would be in addition to or instead of the games you already know and love. Lacking practical means to poll you personally, they could do worse than look for guidance to the insightful inkster, Sumner A Ingmark:

Add enough complexity,
And gamblers to the exit flee.
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.