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16 April 2015
By John Grochowski
When I play roulette, I stick to the low-roller tables and don’t bet much above the minimum. The house edge of 5.26 percent on nearly all bets on a double-zero wheel is too steep for my liking, so I use roulette as a little diversion, an interlude between blackjack or video poker sessions.
Still, I get a lot of entertainment value out of watching other players. I see a lot of players with systems, using the same patterns over and over again. Mostly they’re harmless. The house edge on nearly all combinations is that same 5.26 percent as we see on all wagers except the five-number bet on 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3, where it’s 7.89 percent.
(Note: Atlantic City rules bring an exception. There, the house edge drops to 2.63 percent on red/black, odd/even and first 18/second 18.)
One of those mostly harmless systems I’ve see recently came when the man next to me spread split bets all down the center column. He placed on $1 chip each on the lines separating 2 and 5; 5 and 8; 8 and 11; 11 and 14; 14 and 17; 17 and 20; 20 and 23; 23 and 26; 26 and 29; 29 and 32; and 32 and 35.
That meant he had 11 bets on the table, and any winner would bring a 17-1 payoff. If the ball landed in 2 or 35, he would win one split and lose the other 10 bets. If any of the other 10 middle-column numbers hit, he would collect two 17-1 payoffs while nine wagers lost. For example, if the ball landed on 5, he would collect both the 2-5 split and the 5-8 split.
I watched him for several spins while I played a few family birthdays and anniversaries, but I finally asked, “Why don’t you just bet on the center column?” That would give him all the numbers he was betting in one fell swoop, and if any hit, he’d get a 2-1 payoff.
He shrugged and said, “I win more money this way.”
The next spin brought a 20, he collected two 17-1 payoffs, looked over at me and grinned.
“See? You should try it.”
I congratulated him, kept playing my own way and left shortly afterward. Over lunch, I got out a pen and paper and did the arithmetic.
Per 38 spins of the wheel – one for every number – at $11 per spin, he was risking $418. If the ball landed in 2 or 35, he would keep his $1 bet and collect $17 in winnings. That would give him $36 for those two results.
If the ball landed in 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, 29 or 32, he would keep two $1 bets and collect two 17—1 payoffs, meaning he’d get $36 on each of those 10 numbers. That’s $360. Add that to the $36 on 2 and 35, and he’d have $396 of his original $418 at the end of the trial.
The other $22 would be in house coffers. Divide that $22 by the $418 risked, then multiply by 100 to convert to percent, and you get a 5.26 percent house edge – the same edge as if he had just wagered his $11 per spin on the middle column.
His method did bring him slightly bigger wins on 10 of the middle numbers than he’d get with a column bet, offset by smaller wins on 2 and 35. In the end, his combination winds up at that never-changing 5.26 percent.
Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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