Let’s start off by clearly stating that, like most other casino games, the casino has the mathematical edge over the player, and that no betting strategy or playing system can overcome those odds unless the wheel is biased—which we’ll cover. That edge is 5.26% in American roulette, with the exception of even-money bets in Atlantic City where the edge is 2.63%; and 2.70% in European roulette, unless the even-money wagers are made, where the house edge drops to 1.35%.
Based on the above facts, you must develop a clear picture on how to approach a winning strategy. The key words here are casino edge.
You must understand that in the long haul, the casino’s edge will grind out the players—but that doesn’t mean that you can’t show a profit in the short run. Fluctuations are normal to gambling, whatever the game, and with a little luck, you can ride a hot streak into some healthy profits.
Many betting systems have been devised to overcome the casino’s edge in roulette, but you must keep these systems in perspective. Systems cannot alter or change the reality of the house edge any more than constantly calling a tree a river will change that tree to a river, or calling blue red will change that blue to a red. Irrefutable facts are cemented in reality and only a distortion or departure from that reality will change the appearance of what one perceives—but it will not change the reality.
This is not to say that some of the betting strategies don’t look good—some of them are brilliant in concept so that they appear to be nearly foolproof. (Note the key word “appear.”) However, these systems don’t change the short or long term house edge at roulette, so you should view them as no more than a fun approach.
The beauty of these systems is that they entrance some people with such beautiful, though tainted logic, that one actually sees how they can work and how they can beat the odds. And they can work—in the short run—and provide the player with that age-old smoke cloud attempt that makes him feel like he’s beating the odds. But again, don’t become entranced with the fun ideas of these systems—the house edge is the house edge.
Man will never give up attempting to overcome the odds; that is one of the beauties of life. And that is why we are so attracted to gambling.
Let’s look at one of the most classic systems first, the Martingale.
This dangerous system can dig you into a deep hole quickly if you suffer a long string of losses—if not, like other systems, you’ll be sitting pretty.
The Martingale is easy. You attempt to win $1.00 on every sequence of the dice, a sequence being defined as either one spin when you have won, or a number of spins, ending when there is a winner.
Your first bet is $1.00. If the bet is won, you start again, betting $1.00. If you lose, the bet is doubled to $2.00. If that bet wins, you have won $1.00 on the sequence—a $1.00 loss on the first spin but a $2.00 win on the second spin. If the second bet is lost, the next bet is again doubled, making it $4.00. A winner here again brings a $1.00 profit, $1.00 plus $2.00 in losers for $3.00, and a $4.00 winner—still $1.00 over the top.
And so the system works. Every won bet is followed by a $1.00 wager, the beginning of a fresh cycle. Every lost bet is followed by doubling that bet. Here is the danger of the Martingale: As consecutive losses mount, so does the size of your bet, where the end result is only a $1.00 win!
This is what happens if you lose seven in a row.
|LOSS||INITAL BET||TOTAL LOSS|
Suddenly, you are faced with a $128.00 bet with $127.00 worth of losses behind you. That’s a lot of sweat and aggravation just to win $1.00 on the sequence. And seven losses in a row is not that strange an occurrence.
What happens on the next spin?
Surely you’re due for a winner after seven consecutive losses. If you are pregnant or are expecting a raise or some such thing, you may be due. In gambling, you’re never due for anything. There are expectations based on the odds, but the fact that seven times the wheel spun black when you’ve been betting red, has no bearing on the eighth spin. The odds don’t change—it’s still an 18 out of 37 (European wheel) or 38 (American wheel) shot for your winning red on the next spin, roughly one out of two.
Remember, it’s only a wheel. It has no memory, no brain. It doesn’t know who you are, what you’re betting, or that black has come up seven times in a row. It really doesn’t. Back to the game—heaven forbid that two more spins go against you, because then you will be faced with the following:
|Martingale Progression Continued|
|LOSS||INITIAL BET||TOTAL LOSS|
Add up these numbers, and then get out the Pepto-Bismol. Think twice before using this classic system. Do you really want to risk a situation where you’ll need to bet over $500 just to win $1.00?
If you liked the above system, you’ll love this one. The rallying point of the Grand Martingale is to attempt to win more than $1.00 on a losing progression by adding $1.00 to the bet after each loss. We’ll spare ourselves the anguish of adding up these numbers, but you can see that they’ll add up even faster than the Martingale. And seriously, who needs that?
This system is far more appealing to some players because its winning approach doesn’t entail the kind of deep ditch digging that the Martingale and Grand Martingale require.
Let’s look at each bet in the Pyramid System, also called the D’Alembert, in terms of units. To make life easy, we’ll use $1.00 as our unit bet. The first bet is $1.00. If we win, the sequence is ended, and we’ll begin a new one.
If the bet is lost, our next bet becomes $2.00. Each subsequent loss adds $1.00 to the bet, so that five consecutive losses would produce a $6.00 bet on the following play. (Compare this to the Martingale, where you’d be watching a $32.00 bet gracing the tables for your $1.00 win, and the first tinges of a headache beginning to pound your skull.)
This system is interesting because after every win, you decrease your bet by one unit. The end result is that every win (as opposed to every progression) produces a win of $1.00; or if you prefer to think in terms of units, every win produces a one-unit gain.
Every won bet is $1.00 more than the previous lost bet. Let’s follow a progression to see how this works.
|TOTAL - 14 Plays: 6 Wins, 8 Losses.|
You can see the attraction of this system: Despite sustaining five straight losses, and eight overall against only six wins, the sequence where we left off shows us as being dead even. A win on the next play would forge a profit of $4.00, with the next bet being $3.00, so the bettor’s position looks pretty good overall.
This is all well and good in the short run. However, like all other systems that try to fight a game where the house has an edge, the pyramid system will ultimately lose in the long run. As the progression continues, there will be more losses than wins and the downward dips will be deeper and more frequent than wins.
As long as you keep the immovable house edge in mind, you might play this system with great enjoyment and maybe even some profit in the short run.
Roulette is a fun way to relax and try your luck at calling and betting the numbers that will come up winners on the wheel. We’ve presented some basic winning systems for beginning players that you can try at the tables, plus the interesting biased-wheel strategy.
All sorts of betting systems are available—different number parlays, single and multiple number cycle plays, alternate betting systems, jump plays and more. Many of these systems are quite creative, and some are very good.*
With a run of luck, you can make money at roulette if your numbers come up winners and your other wagers ride a streak. However, no matter what bets you make or what system you use, always keep sound money management principles in mind. That is the key to winning at roulette.
*For serious players, Gambling Research Institute has developed advanced winning systems designed for winning at roulette (including advanced multiple number cycle plays and other systems). Go to www.cardozabooks.com to find out more.
About the Writer
Avery Cardoza has written twenty-one books on beating the casino and is the world’s largest publisher of gaming and gambling titles (www.cardozabooks.com). Cardoza is also the owner of the legendary Gambler’s Book Club (www.gamblersbookclub.com), home to the world’s largest selection of gaming books. His novel, Lost in Las Vegas, is a critically acclaimed dark comedy about two hapless vacationers who find themselves hunted by the mob, FBI, six killers, and the Rat in a world where nothing is as it seems—and then things go downhill for them. “A fantastic read… The Vegas underbelly as if presented by the Coen brothers.”—Kevin Pollak.