In part one of our roulette masterclass we explain how the right strategy can help you win more than you lose
When I wrote my book, Roulette – Playing to Win, people asked whether I would be banned from playing in casinos, as I was explaining how to beat them. I could see what they meant. If everyone started winning, then bailiffs rather than moguls would rule the Las Vegas Strip. However, I know life isn’t like that. Of the many people who have spoken to me or who have listened to me talking about Playing to Win, most will prefer to have fun at the roulette table and will lack the iron discipline needed to play well.
Roulette odds, especially outside UK casinos, can be tough, yet I still win; not every time, but every year I win more than I lose. This isn’t because I have some magic bullet. Neither do I use one of those allegedly super-powered winning systems sold on the internet at huge expense – I have been there, done that and been burned rotten. Generally, in my experience, they’re mutton dressed as lamb – timeworn systems containing no potion as virile as Viagra. They tend to depend on increasing stakes while losing, which is the reverse of best play – but more on that later.
Primarily, I win because I have two assets: discipline and a true understanding of the game. I can’t give you discipline; I can only tell you that it’s essential. With ready access to extra cash from credit cards, good money can turn to bad all too easily. However, I can give you a better grasp on the subtleties of roulette.
Know your Roulette Odds
Many newcomers will think winning is as easy as putting a chip on red or black or on your lucky number. If only!
There are 18 reds, 18 blacks, 18 high numbers (19-36) and 18 low numbers (1-18). There are 18 odds and 18 evens – all between 1 and 36 – and there will always be a 0. On websites, cruise ships and in the US, there are often both 0 and 00 slots, coloured green. On any wheel with a 00, the odds are less attractive, but that doesn’t prevent me from winning; it just makes it that much harder. InterCasino.co.uk offers even-chance bets at a 50% loss only if 0 or 00 strike (the so-called Atlantic City rules).
UK casinos have only the single 0 and also return half on even-chance bets, which are the best odds anywhere in the world. Whether there are 37 or 38 numbers on the wheel, the casino only pays out 35/1 on the winning number. With a single 0, on an even-chance bet such as a low number (1-18) or red, there are 19 losing numbers to 18 winning. If there’s also 00, then there are 20 losing numbers to 18.
Say, for example, you bet on 14, your birthday. You may win first time. Mostly, you’ll lose with either 36 or 37 losing numbers stacked against you. However, sometimes the chances of 14 winning can be better, even though the odds against remain the same. Turning this to your advantage is advanced play involving the neighbour bet concept – there’s no better or easier way to win big money at roulette. But before you can play like that, you must know the basics, which is what this article is all about. (Don’t worry, we’ll look at the more advanced stuff next month.)
Knowledge is power
In poker, if you don’t know whether four of a kind beats a full house, then you wouldn’t have a prayer against the likes of 2005 world champion Joseph Hachem. Roulette is no different: you must know the game. Most players have no interest in where the numbers are on the wheel. They should! Number position varies on the 37- and 38-number wheels. You need to know that on the single-0 wheel, 27 is red and lies between 6 black and 13 black. On the 00 wheel, it lies next to 00. This know-how can mean the difference between the occasional win (the amateur) and the steady winners (the pros).
As the golfing adage goes, the more I practise, the luckier I get! With websites such as InterCasino.co.uk offering the chance to play roulette without having to gamble your hard cash, it has never been easier to learn the essential skills – and find out if you have the iron will needed to quit whether you’re losing or winning.
For beginners, the easiest bets to understand are the even chances – that is, betting on red or black, odd or even, and so on. The main strategic decision is whether to follow the wheel or to bet against it. When you’re following, if the last winning number was an odd, red and low number – say, 3 – then you would bet on all or some of those positions again. In casinos with a human hand spinning the ball, following the wheel is probably better, although I’ve managed to win either way. If you’re betting against the wheel, you would back one or some or all of the even chances for high, black and even numbers after the number 3.
When I’m betting against the wheel, if I wait for, say, six red numbers in a row, then I’m closer to hitting a black than if I bet on black straight away, although there’s no mathematical logic in this. Waiting for ten reds would be even better, but runs of ten aren’t as frequent.
Nevertheless, the longest recorded run is said to be 27 of the same colour, so that whoever was following the wheel that day cleaned up. The world record for the same number hitting is seven times running and happened in Bristol many years ago. I’ve seen the same number hit four times in a row – long, long odds.
With online casinos, the software records the previous numbers, making it easier to know what numbers have recently hit. In many real casinos, a number board will display the past 15 or so numbers behind the wheel.
Besides understanding the game better than most, the other reason I win is that I work to preconceived plans. I set modest win targets and tight loss limits. Winning consistently is the only true goal. Anyone can win sometimes, but usually they’ll lose overall. In Las Vegas, the average visitor loses $400 or so. They expect to lose – and, without wishing to be unkind, they deserve to lose because they don’t care enough about winning. Most will say they had a great time. Great time? Losing money? Come on!
Stick to your budget
There are two aspects to money management. First, fix a budget you can afford and stick to it. Don’t carry cash you don’t really want to risk. Don’t top up your lost money with visits to cashpoints. Set a modest loss limit in advance. If you have £400 to play with, divide it into four chunks of £100 and play with one at a time. If you lose one chunk, then stop for a while before starting again – but without expecting to win back the entire £100 lost (a 100% win target is just plain greedy). Reach your next win target of, say, 20-30% and stop. Take a break. Relax with a beer or a meal, or log off for a while, and then start again with another modest win target. You may well win back what you lost over a session or two more.
Have a staking plan
The second aspect of money management is system play – in other words, what you stake. I don’t have the space here to explain all the different approaches, but the simplest advice is to:
- Keep stakes low
- Keep stakes at the same level while you’re losing (or even reduce them)
- Increase the stakes when winning.
Play the table-minimum stakes until you get ahead. It’s no crime to be a small player: you’re not playing to impress the girlfriend, wife or casino boss. You’re playing to win! Most players lose because they run out of money by betting too much, too quickly.
Take a tip from the casinos: they don’t lose, and they don’t expect to win more than a small percentage on each spin. At roulette, at worst the odds are just over 5% in the casino’s favour. If you bet £100, casinos expect to win only between £5 and £6 at most each spin. In reality, most people arriving with £100 will lose it all for ignoring the guidelines I’ve set out. The casinos’ edge chips away relentlessly. Casinos shrug off the hard knocks when the high rollers win their millions because they have the resources to carry this type of loss. Your approach must be the same: the more money you have available, the greater the chance that you can manage it successfully by being modest in your goals and patient in your plans to get there.
Playing roulette to win is hard work. It’s also enormous fun. I guarantee that taking time to learn to play properly will bring rewards. In the long run, no matter how exciting the action on the internet or in the casino, it’s far more fun to win than lose. Don’t be a moose – play to win!
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