Everyone who is into gambling knows the story of the MIT Blackjack Team. Using card counting, they beat the casinos and walked away with millions of dollars. Blackjack has the reputation of being the single ‘beatable’ table game at a casino, despite the house edge.
But what about roulette? It has spawned dozens if not hundreds of different techniques to beat the casino. But when it comes down to it, there are only a few limited ways that you can improve your odds. And they’re all based on mathematics.
European vs. American Wheel
There are two types of roulette wheels: the American and European versions. They are pretty much the same, except for one small difference. The American wheel has an additional 0.
This ‘small’ difference is actually quite significant, and we can use math to explain it. The additional 0 essentially doubles the house edge. The European wheel has a house edge of 2.7%, still a palatable proposition. On American wheels, on the other hand, the house edge is 5.26%.
Before you place a bet, whether it’s live or virtual roulette, check the version of the game you’re playing. Reputable casinos will usually offer the European wheel, which we recommend you go for.
Of course, if you only place a couple of bets on a night out with your friends, an extra 2.7% isn’t that significant. But if you’re a serious player, that can be the difference between big winnings and walking away with an empty bank balance.
Percentage points matter. Think about it. The house only has a roughly 1% edge on blackjack. Yet casinos make millions of dollars per year on blackjack alone. And that’s with people trying to count cards, using perfect strategy. If you can instantly improve your odds by 2.7%, do it.
There’s one way you can guarantee winning at roulette. And that’s using the Martingale Method. The idea is simple. You bet $1 to begin with. Win? Bet $1 until you lose. Once that happens, double your bet (i.e. your second bet is $2). If you win, stop. Lose again? Keep doubling until you win.
Probability dictates that you will walk away a winner. There are just two major problems:
- Infinite bankroll. You don’t have it. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible to run against a long string of losses. Eventually, you won’t have enough money to double your bet. The math says you’ll win, but your wallet says it’s impossible.
- Maximum bet. Casinos know about the Martingale Method. And that’s why they put a maximum bet on tables. It means that even if you have enough money to double your bet, the casino won’t let you do it.
The Bold Method
Published in 1960 by two academics at Berkeley and the University of Michigan, the Bold Method doesn’t have much fanfare. But it’s definitely worth checking out. The method is built on an undeniable truth: you can’t beat the house edge. It just doesn’t work. The math doesn’t allow it.
Instead of cupping your head in your hands, this knowledge can help you win. The Bold Method states that you need to minimise the number of bets you place to attain your goal, as in the long run, you’ll always lose.
What you need to do first is figure out how much you want to win. Let’s say you have $75. If you want to reach $100, bet $25 on a single bet. If you get to $100 on your first bet, walk away. Similarly, if you want to reach $200 from that same $75, you must bet $75 on a single spin. Bet on a near 50/50 bet, e.g. black or red. The goal is to limit the number of bets you make before attaining your goal.
Math Is Helpful, But Not a Sure Thing
We hate to break it to you, but math can’t guarantee you the big bucks. You can spin it any way you want, you can throw complicated formulae at it, but it just doesn’t work. Roulette itself was built on math, ensuring the house edge stays intact no matter what strategy you come up with.
However, math does provide some help to the player. The Bold Method, for example, is essentially the best mathematical strategy to win. Math will also give you a greater appreciation of the game, a deeper understanding of the house edge and why it cannot be beaten. It will help extend your gameplay if you choose a strategy that minimises the house edge (like the Martingale), and if you do hit a lucky streak, you’ll be able to identify that moment when it’s best to walk away.