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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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This Elegant Roulette Bet Has Good Prospects for Fun and Profit

25 March 2001

Roulette has flocks of faithful fans in the ranks of casino regulars. It's also popular among conventioneers, vacationers, and other civilians who gamble on special occasions. The latter groups particularly like table games that seem elegant yet unintimidatingly straightforward. And it's from this quarter that I'm often queried about "the best ways to bet."

Of course, no way is best for everybody. Perception of what's "best" hinges on factors ranging from the size of an individual's stake and the range of bets allowed at a table, to the relative importance each person attaches to a longshot at big bucks versus a good chance at a small profit. Still, folks for whom gambling is an exceptional activity often want to minimize the risk that the normal downswings of the game will wipe them out -- and would be content with modest earnings (or, anyway, say they would be).

A roulette strategy I suggest to meet such criteria is to make three equal overlapping "outside" bets simultaneously. That is, one bet each on even or odd, high or low (usually labelled "1 to 18" or "19 to 36" on the layout), and red or black. There are eight possible combinations of these three bets, falling into two slightly different categories, as shown in the accompanying list.

Possible combinations of
three outside bets at roulette
Bet
Category
low-even-red
A
low-even-black
B
low-odd-red
B
low-odd-black
A
high-even-red
A
high-even-black
B
high-odd-red
B
high-odd-black
A

In some casinos, players lose outside bets when the ball stops on 0 or 00. In others, they forfeit only half their outside wagers when this occurs. Chances of various net profits and losses are enumerated in the next table for category A and B combinations, per dollar on each of the three component propositions, under these two rules. Chances are given as fractions -- interpret a figure such as 5/38 as "five ways out of 38 possibilities."

Chances of winning and losing various amounts
with three simultaneous $1 outside bets

net win (+) or
net loss (-)

lose all on green
lose half on green
A
B
A
B
+$3.00
4/38
5/38
4/38
5/38
+$1.00
14/38
13/38
14/38
13/38
-$1.00
14/38
13/38
14/38
13/38
-$1.50
0/38
0/38
2/38
2/38
-$3.00
6/38
7/38
4/38
5/38
total
38/38
38/38
38/38
38/38

The table of chances shows that risking $3 total, Category A bettors expect more wins and losses at $1 and fewer at $3 than their Category B counterparts. The data also show where the house gets its edge, and the moderating effect of 0 and 00 recovery. In all cases, $1 wins and losses balance. When 0 and 00 lose fully, six and seven ways to lose $3 offset four and five ways to win $3, respectively. When 0 and 00 lose half, $3 wins and losses balance but the casino has two ways out of 38 to collect $1.50.

Casinos that take it all on 0 or 00 earn a theoretical 5.26 percent of every bet. Those that return half of the outside wagers to players on 0 or 00 have 2.63 percent edge on these bets. Edge is independent of category. Between categories, though, the shift in frequencies of one- and three-unit decisions modifies session performance characteristics to a small degree.

Pretend a solid citizen has a $100 stake and bets a total of $15 per spin. Assume $7.50 recovery on 0 or 00. With Category A wagers, this bettor has over 62 percent chance of surviving 100 spins -- around 2 hours, and is somewhat less apt to win $50 as to lose $100. With Category B wagers, the bettor has just under 60 percent chance of lasting for the 100 spins, but almost equal likelihood of winning $50 as losing $100. Session prospects all deteriorate a bit when 0 and 00 are $15 losses.

Nobody'll get rich playing this way. But these wagers offer the promise of a sophisticated gaming experience with low downside risk, a fair shot at a modest gain, and lots of action. Are these the bets for you? Well, weigh the words of the poet, Sumner A Ingmark, then make the momentous decision for yourself:

Gamblers urbane, sane and not vain,
Take a small gain, rarely complain.

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.