“What?!?” you say. Roulette? Why the heck would you play roulette? It carries a ridiculous house edge – in excess of 5% on the American wheel. Mathematically it cannot be beaten over the long run. “True,” I reply. And though I’ll get grief from some folks for proposing this – at the end of the day, for the short-run session player, mathematics and gambling have very little to do with each other. Math is a very exact science. Casino gambling is not. Oh, I know. Over the long run the casinos’ gross profit from gaming will come very close to the statistically expected result. But it won’t be exact – even for the long run. And over the short run just about anything can happen.
The fact is, our game of choice – casino craps – is a stand-up game. Some of us, as we age or suffer from diseases like diabetes or arthritis, find it increasingly difficult to stand at the table for hours upon end, waiting for that magic moment when the table gets hot and we can turn a quick profit. Some of us need a sit-down break from time to time, and for my money the roulette table isn’t a bad place to chill.
When playing roulette and looking at the house edge you have to take in mind the number of decisions per hour. Roulette is a very slow paced game, so even though it carries a high vig, that vig is applied to a relatively small number of bets per hour. Especially when compared to games like Blackjack, which can be dealt very quickly, resulting in a large number of decisions per hour. A 5% vig at Roulette where you’re making $100 per hour in bets will cost you $25. A 1.5% vig at a shoe game where the dealer hits five times as many decisions as the Roulette table kicks off that same $25 for the house. Personally, I’d rather hang out with all of those attractive gals at the roulette wheel. And there you have just two of the reasons I like to hang out at the Roulette wheel. The third? As I mentioned before, unlike the craps pit, at the roulette table there are chairs you can sit on. And at my age taking a load off your feet is always a good decision.
Another reason I like Roulette is that it’s another of those “coin flip” type games that lends itself to systematic betting. You’ll see streaks of red or black or odd or even. Sometimes you’ll even see a single number roll time after time after time. And those streaks are where you make your money.
Now, according to the math of the game no “system” can give us a positive expectation at the game. I agree with that position. So what sort of strategy should we use? Well, you have a couple of different ways to go. There are negative progressions and positive progressions – either of which can work quite nicely in the short run. Then there are hedge systems – also losing strategies but they smooth out some of the bumps in the roulette road by decreasing volatility. Then there’s the biggie – finding a dealer with a signature OR a biased wheel. Either are extremely rare.
You could play my old favorites – the Fibonacci or the Paroli. But if you want a little more action and like betting streaks – particularly streaks of black – you can bet the outside numbers utilizing a strategy I refer to as Heavy’s Maximum Ass-Time Grind. It’s a slow grind system designed to maximize your table time while limiting your exposure. Here’s how it works:
Heavy’s Maximum Ass-Time Grind: This strategy is designed to give you a lot of playing time for a relatively low investment. You play only the outside, which means you can take advantage of any favorable rules such as Surrender or En Prison in the European game, which we’ll talk about later. Here’s the play.
Chart a wheel for a “Black” trend, then play 3 Units on Black and 2 Units on the Third (3-26) Column. The Black bet pays 1-1 and the Third Column pays 2-1. We choose the third column because there is an imbalance in red-to-black numbers in that column. There are 8 red numbers in that column. This wager give you action on 26 of 36 numbers for a total of five units. Let’s look at the payout and you’ll see the beauty of it.
Black wins – Columns lose – Win 3 Lose 2 – Net 1 Unit win
Black loses – Columns win – Win 4 Lose 3 – Net 1 Unit win
Black AND Columns win – Win 7 – Net 7 Unit win
Black and Columns Lose – Lose 5 Units
There are other options off this play using the Dozens Bet as opposed to the Columns Bet. I prefer the Columns Bet due to the imbalance of red-to-black numbers, which give you more opportunities to grind out a single unit win. This strategy will generate a win roughly 68% of the time it’s played.
Of course, if the vig at the American Wheel frightens you off and you have access to the bankroll and the right game – try this one. The European version of the roulette wheel has 37 slots with a single 0; the American version has an extra slot, a 00 to make 38. That results in a house advantage is 2.7% for the European game vs 5.26% for the American game. Hence, the European game is definitely better.
With that said, there are some bets you should avoid. In particular, avoid all single number bets. I recommend this on the American wheel as well, by the way. The worst bet on the American Wheel is the “five number bet,” sometimes referred to as the “basket bet.” That’s a wager on the 0 – 00 – 1 -2 – 3. The house edge on this bet is 7.9%. The “first four” bet on the European wheel consists of the 0 – 1 – 2 – 3, and the odds are the same as they are on any four-number bet on the wheel.
If you can stumble onto a wheel with the en prison rule you can reduce the odds even farther. If you make an even money bet on a table with the en prison rule and the ball lands on zero, the croupier doesn’t rake in your wager. Instead, your bet is ‘imprisoned’ or held hostage, and you are forced to keep it on the table until the next spin. If your bet wins, you can remove it from the table. This bet cuts the house edge on even money bets in half, down to just 1.35%.
So that gets us to the point of deciding which bets to place. Clearly you want even money bets because of the en prison rule. Seriously. This is a better bet than placing the six and eight at craps. The “even money” bets include betting on Even, Odd, Low, (numbers 1 through 18), High, (numbers 19 through 36), Red, or Black.
My preference would be to chart for a streak of black and bet black and the right (or top – depending on where your sitting) column. Yes, it’s the old Maximum Ass Time Grind once again. Another approach – somewhat counter to my thinking – would be to bet red and the right (top) row when red is streaking. You’d do this because you get double coverage on many of the red slots this way. However, I prefer to combine black with the top row so I’ll get coverage over more numbers overall. At the end of the day it’s probably all a wash. Remember, I’m playing a grind strategy and looking to catch a streak of Black, so this approach is more in line with my temperament.
As with any game, remember the Heavy rule. If it ain’t fun – it’s time to run. Fact is, winning is fun and losing is not. When it comes to money management – that’s really about all you need to know.