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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Triple-Zero Roulette: More Ways to Win?

5 October 2005

On the way to the fabulous Beachcomber, your favorite casino, you see an ad for the posh Shangri La. It announces a new version of a table game you may have long enjoyed or wanted to try. "Triple-Zero Roulette, More Ways to Win." Would you be tempted to give it a whirl, or at least stop by and check out the details?

Anyone who believes, with the philosopher George Santayana, that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," would stay away. The new table games introduced into casinos during the past 10 or 15 years, by and large, have comprised what the gambling gurus call "sucker bets." Wagers on which the bosses have a high mathematical edge and therefore make a lot of money.

In some instances, when analyzed critically, such games give players no real incentive to bother. Most in this category appear today and are gone tomorrow. A few gain just enough following that the casinos maintain them for a while.

In other cases, new offerings have features solid citizens like, despite the usurious house advantage. Many casino patrons, after all, are out for recreation with a shot at a profit, and don't want to make too much work out of having fun. The most notable examples of these games provide opportunities for high payoffs on either the regular wager or a special dollar or other low level side bet, rules based on the poker paradigm, or both.

So. What about triple zero roulette and more ways to win? In fact, there is no such game now, nor is it likely to appear in the future. But the reasoning that might get you to try or avoid it can be extended to any new wrinkle you might think about.

For the sake of argument, make believe you do go to the posh Shangri La and find the triple-zero table. You check the brochure -- the casinos often provide one for new games -- or ask the pit boss and find that the rules and payoffs are exactly like those at double-zero roulette. The only salient distinction, the only reason you might want to play this rather than the conventional version, is the contention that there are more ways to win.

Does this claim have any real meaning? True, there's an added proposition on which to bet because the wheel has 39 rather than 38 positions. Were you wagering only on individual spots, you would accordingly have 39 and not 38 choices. One more way to bet and win, in a manner of speaking. However, you don't want more "ways" to win, you want more chances of winning. And this game doesn't give you more chance; it gives you less. In the standard implementation, the probability you'll hit any one number is one out of 38 or 2.63 percent. Here it's one out of 39, 2.56 percent.

What about the house advantage? It's bad enough in double-zero roulette. Bets on individual numbers, singly or in sets, give the house a 5.26 percent edge. Wager a total of $100 over a period of time and the casino expects to keep $5.26 of your money on the average. At triple-zero roulette, if the payoff on a hit is still 35-to-1, the casino's theoretical take is 7.69 percent. Wager $100 overall and the casino figures you for $7.69.

Maybe, just maybe, the casino bosses realize that their valued patrons aren't quite naive enough to play triple-zero roulette under these conditions. So they advertise the game as not only having more ways to win (which you now know is monkey-doodle), but has higher payoffs as well 36-to-1 on a winning spot.

Now, what's the edge? It's 5.13 percent -- $0.13 per $100 of handle less onerous for you than the double-zero game. Still not nearly as small a commission as the joint is willing to take at blackjack, wisely selected bets at craps, or even single-zero roulette. But a reason to play. Probably not attractive enough to players for the casino to gain in volume what it loses on each individual bettor, though. And, casinos not being easily confused with great philanthropic trusts, the reason you won't be apt to see the game set up this way. More proof of the perspicacity of the punters' poet, Sumner A Ingmark, in penning:

An assertion that offers too much of a bargain,
May be hiding the truth behind muddling jargon.

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.