The ‘Double Zero’ is No Hero! 

American & European Roulette Are Similar But So, So Different

It would take a keen eye to spot it. The difference between the two games is hard to notice at first glance. They are very much the same venture, similar in both appearance and layout, but look again. Look closely at the wheel, the numbers, and it’ll come to you. Do you see it?

American and European roulette share many of the same characteristics. Bets are made, the ball is dropped and the wheel spins round and round. Enthused gamblers watch on with fingers crossed, cheering and hoping the ball lands on their chosen number. Roulette is one of the most popular games in the casino but odds are most recreational gamblers are unaware of how the two versions vary. One has been modified. A minor change with major ramifications.

The Extra Pocket

Top down illustration of an American Roulette wheel.

Did you know American roulette has an extra pocket? The dreaded ’Double Zero’ pocket. While both games have the green zero pocket, the American version also features a green double zero pocket. Of all the numbers around the edge of the wheel, 36 of them and the single zero, this is the most ominous of the bunch. It sits directly opposite the single and when the ball rolls into that hole, your money goes right along with it.

Interestingly, the French first introduced the double zero pocket in the late 18th century. It was later adapted by American casino owners. In the 19th century, roulette spread rapidly, all over Europe and the United States, becoming one of the most famous and popular casino games the world has ever seen. In Monte Carlo, a mainstay hub for high rollers in Europe, the single zero variation became the premiere game. Roulette in the United States, when the French, double zero game was introduced, it moved west up the Mississippi, quickly took hold everywhere, and to this day is still prominent in Las Vegas.

Two Slots Are Better Than One

Lets be honest, the extra zero was added for one obvious reason; to mathematically increase the house edge. Mission accomplished. In a game of American roulette, when a single number is bet, the player has a 1-in-38 chance of winning but is only paid out 35 times the wager. So, the house advantage is 5.26 per cent. Compare that to European roulette, where the player has a 1-in-37 chance of winning, which reduces the house edge dramatically, by almost half, to 2.7 per cent.

House Edge

This is the advantage that the “house” or the casino has over you, the player, in any given game.

The attitudes in Europe are staunch. They do not endorse or accept the American wheel and, in fact, many deem it disgraceful. Just imagine what they thought of the Venetian Las Vegas, when in 2016 it perverted the game even more with the advent of the ‘Triple Zero.’ With even better margins for the bank, a number of casinos have since followed suit.

Educated gamblers will make a point of only playing on a single zero wheel and, the good news is, most online casinos in America, Canada and the Caribbean, offer both versions of the game as part of their mix.

Another Difference?

In roulette, you can bet on a single number, a combination or any row of numbers. You can also wager on red or black and odd or even numbers, always a thrilling option for the coin toss types. Again, that type of bet wouldn’t actually be 50-50 because of the green pockets. When the ball lands on zero all bets are lost.

There is another difference between American and European roulette. In European roulette, only half a player’s money will be lost on ‘evens’ bets when the zero is landed. It’s called the ‘en prison’ rule and it states that the other half is to remain on the table, in position, for the ensuing spin, effectively giving players a second chance.

When the House Edge Doesn’t Matter

Have you heard the story of Ashley Revell? In 2004, at the age of 33, the English gamer sold all his possessions, even his clothes, and gambled his life savings on a single spin of roulette at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Not Europe? He put all $135,300 (USD) of it on the line for about 15-20 seconds of pure emotion. Incredibly, as history has it, he changed his bet from black to red at the last minute and, when the ball landed on a red seven, he doubled his money. Good thing it didn’t find that extra zero bucket, right?

The event was filmed by the UK network Sky One, as part of a mini-series called Double or Nothing. The television show Las Vegas produced an episode loosely based on his exploits. His next move wasn’t so profitable. Revell invested his winnings into an online poker company, which went out of business in 2012.

Budget for the Beast

Double and triple zero’s aside, the fact there is even a single zero on the wheel means the house always wins. It’s mathematically engrained. Over the years, a number of systems have been designed to beat roulette. Several have tried and just as many have failed, the infamous Martingale betting strategy included. This technique involves gamblers doubling their even-money bets after every loss in belief their first win will recover all previous losses while securing a tiny profit for the original bet. The problem with this is obvious. The risk. Since past results do not affect the future, there is always the chance the player could just keep losing and losing until there’s no money left.

Consider this; if you add up all the numbers on a roulette wheel, 1 through 36, you get 666. That’s the mark of the beast. Have fun, enjoy yourself and don’t let the Devil destroy your bankroll. Play responsibly.


Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio, and has interviewed a number of the world’s top poker players including Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer and Barbara Enright. A former, long-time radio and television broadcaster, Derrick has always had a passion for all things gambling (and darts too). He has even played at the World Series of Poker and other cash games all around the world.

To see more of Derrick is up to on a day-to-day basis, go follow him on Twitter @HighRollerRadio


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