Friday, February 25, 2005

Spin That Wheel!--Gambling: Roulette

Roulette's simple. There's a wheel with 38 numbers on it--1-36, 0, and 00. Some numbers are black and some are red. The zeros are green. They spin the wheel, drop in a little ball, and it lands below one of those numbers.

They let you bet any way you want. You can bet on an individual number, and if you're right, you get 35 bucks back for every one you bet. You can bet on odd or even, red or black, 1-18 or 19-36 and get a buck back for even money. They even have "groups" of numbers you can bet on.

I usually talk about the house PC--the "Percent to Casino." On this game, it's 5 5/19 percent on every bet but one.

How's that possible? If you can bet on red or black, your odds are as good as the casino's, right?

Nope. Those two little green spots with the zeros on them are where the casino makes all their money. Those zeros aren't red, aren't black, aren't odd, and aren't even. They're the sinkhole that makes sure that one out of every 18 spins doesn't pay off on any of those bets. Sure, you can bet on one of them as an individual bet, same as any other number, but that would only pay off 1 out of every 38 spins. And you'd only be making 35 bucks back--leaving you three bucks shy of breaking even. Betting on both would bring it back down to 1 in every 18 spins, but since two number bets only pay at 17 to 1, you'd still come up a buck short.

But wait! What about the bigger group? Those two green squares are also in one of the groups--0, 00, 1, 2, and 3. Should we bet here? Would that plug the loop?

Actually, this is that one bet that has a different house PC than all the others. For this bet, the house PC actually goes up to 7 17/19.

Like last week, there's a moral to the story. Will you win? You betcha. Especially on those even money bets, you can hit them. Will you walk away from the table with more than you started with?

Nope. To win any real money, you have to make single number bets, and the single number bets will swallow your money faster than a hungry rattlesnake landing on a crippled bunny. And by the time your number finally comes up, you've already put down as much as you win.

If, even worse, you chase the numbers, your odds get even worse.

Is there any strategy at all to roulette?

Sure. First, if you can find a European wheel, the house percentage goes down to 2.7%. This is because it only has one 0.

Second, like all machines, roulette wheels are sometimes imperfect. Watch a wheel for a while before you start betting, to see if its favoring one area of the wheel. Betting in that area might slightly increase your chances.

Is either of these strategies going to make you rich?

Does making a hole in your gas tank smaller make it fill itself back up?

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