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Best of John Grochowski

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A guaranteed way to lose at roulette

20 September 2011

Nearly every wager on a double-zero roulette table gives the house a 5.26% edge. It makes no difference whether you bet single numbers or 18-number combinations such as red or black, or anything in between. As long as you steer clear of the five-number bet on 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3, where the house edge soars to 7.89%, the house expects to keep $5.26 per $100 wagered.

That doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to hurt your chances of winning. In fact, players can wager in a way that makes it impossible to win, but leaves a chance of losing. A 5.26% chance, as it happens.

A reader named David e-mailed me an observation after a session on a multiplayer video roulette table.

"I was playing and watching the bets by other players on the screen," he wrote. "I noticed that someone was betting both red AND black or they bet on odd AND even on the same spin. And on occasion they were also betting on all three of the first 12, second 12 and third 12. For whatever reason they failed to understand if you bet on red AND black you're defeating the whole purpose of choosing red OR black.

"If these sorts of bets were made at a real roulette table, the dealer would slap them upside the head."

I don't know about slapping upside the head, but a friendly dealer might at least warn players off those combinations. Both are situations in which you can lose, but can't win.

In the case of betting both red and black, whenever one wins, the other loses. If you bet equal amounts on both, the wins and losses offset, unless a green 0 and 00 pops up. Then both bets lose. If you wager $5 on each per spin, you'd risk $380 per 38 spins, and lose an average of $20 — $10 each on 0 and 00. That's 5.26% of your total wagers.

The bad part here isn't the 5.26%. That's just the normal roulette house edge. It's that you give yourself no chance to win, no chance at a streak that gives you a winning session despite the odds. The losses are guaranteed. Might as well just write a check to the house.

It's the same deal on the 12-number dozens. Dozens pay 2-1, so a win on one covers the losses on the other two. But if you're betting equal amounts on all three, you never win. Bet $5 on each dozen, and you risk $15. If the ball lands in No. 1, you lose the second and third dozens, keep your $5 wager on the first dozen, and get $10 in winnings. It's $15 in and $15 out.

But when the zeroes come up, all three bets lose.

You could do the same exercise for any combination in which every win is accompanied by offsetting losses. If you bet both even and odd, or 1-18 and 19-36, or all three columns, you can do no better than break even. And you lose everything you've wagered whenever one of the zeroes comes up.

It's the equivalent of making single-number bets on all numbers from 1-36. Every winner at a 35-1 payoff is balanced against 35 losers. You lose on the zeroes. And the house edge is 5.26%.

All of those combos give the house its percentage without giving you any chance to win. In his e-mail, Mike called that kind of wagering pointless. It's worse than that. It guarantees that any session with a zero is a loser.

No gain. All pain.

MORE ROULETTE MANIA: David's e-mail brought a second observation about roulette players: "Someone will grab a stack of chips and just sprinkle bets all over the table, straight up bets, corner bets, splits, street etc. Then they hit one of their bets and get all excited about winning a stack of chips. But what they fail to notice is that that their winning stack of chips is much shorter than what they bet.

"It would seem to be self-evident that if the maximum you can win on a spin is $75, then don't bet more than that. But a lot of people don't even think about that when they are betting. And then they wonder why their money disappeared so quickly."

I like to spread a few chips around the layout as much as the next guy, but I limit it so that any one wager will at least get my money back. Sometimes I'll bet a chip on my birthday number, then bet a chip each on the surrounding four corners. Five wagers, four of which pay 8-to-1 and one of which pays 35-to-1. I can lose them all, or I can make money, but I'm never in position where I'll lose money even if I have a winning bet.

Mind you, the bottom line is still a 5.26% house edge, and that'll hold up over the long haul. But in a short session, anything can happen, and I want a shot to win, not guaranteed losses.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski