While roulette first became popular in Paris of the late 1700’s, the game wasn’t popular in the United States until nearly 50 years later. Often called American roulette, the game offered in most North American casinos is very similar to that found elsewhere in the world, but the American roulette wheel has both a single and double zero, unlike most European casinos that offer a wheel with just a single zero.
In the 1800’s, New Orleans was the most popular place to find sophisticated gambling, and zero and double zero wheels were used in casinos. However, since the game was new to most Americans, the operators took advantage of the players by introducing wheels with as few as 28 numbers plus a zero and a double zero. In the mining towns of Nevada and California during the late 1800’s, the American roulette wheels often had an additional slot which carried the symbol of an American eagle. These wheels offered the same outside wagers of odd/even and red/black, but with just the numbers 1-28 and a zero, double zero, and eagle slot, the house had an impressive 9.7% advantage over players making even-money wagers.
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Today’s American Roulette
Unlike French and European roulette, American roulette is more of a self-service game. Dealers are not trained to place sections bets, neighbor bets, or complete and full wagers. Instead, the dealer will place only wagers (such as the basket) that players can’t reach themselves. Therefore announce bets and call bets, except for the instance mentioned above, are not available. In addition, table limits, even in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, are considerably lower than those found in places like Monte Carlo.
Small casinos are likely to offer a maximum wager of $25 straight up (for a payoff of $875) and $1000 on outside bets. Larger casinos in Las Vegas cater to more high-rollers and limits are generally higher. In addition, several casinos such as Bellagio, Wynn and Caesars Palace do offer single-zero roulette.
The best American roulette games can be found at Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Mirage, Rio, and the Wynn, which also employ La Partage, so outside wagers have just a 1.35% house edge. The single zero wheels without En Prison or La Partage rules have a house edge of 2.70%.
Atlantic City casinos offer predominantly double –zero wheels, however, La Partage is also offered on them, so any even-money bets (red/black, odd/even, 1-18,/19-36) follow the rules for a return of half the wager, which lowers the house edge to 2.63% on these bets. This rule does not apply on single zero wheels.
American roulette that offers games with a zero and double zero have a house edge of 5.26% on all wagers except for a wager on Top Line (0, 00, 1, 2, 3) which pays 6 to 1 and carries a house edge of 7.89%.
What to Expect
If you are new to the game and are unsure how to play American roulette, you can expect the game to move very quickly. Efficient dealers will clean the layout, pay the outside winning wagers, stack the inside payoffs and pay them one at a time, and then spin the ball while stacking (mucking) the losing chips they have swept into their work area. Busy games will have a check racker and may even have automatic chip sorters. The spin is likely to be between 28 and 32 revolutions, and the dealer will wave off any more bets with a revolution or two to go. As soon as the ball lands in a pocket the dealer will step back, view the winner, and place a marker on the number while verbally announcing it.
Many American games also have a reader board, with the last dozen or so numbers listed. Scorecards are available in most casinos, but American players rarely use them. System players are not as common, as in European casinos, although many do enjoy an evening employing Labouchere or a variation of the 6 Pence Roulette System.
Occasionally, because there are so many small casinos in the US, especially in tiny Nevada towns, players may encounter an American roulette wheel that hasn’t been serviced as often as those in larger casinos. These games will sometimes offer a nice bonus to players who clock the wheel and look for any bias in the frets or the balance of the wheel. Those who play American roulette and get greedy will kill the Golden Goose, but casual players may be able to take advantage of a good thing for days and sometimes weeks, as few Floor Supervisors are well-trained about roulette wheel issues.
For those interested in credit, many casinos offer check-cashing, ATM machines, and casino credit. It is always wise to plan in advance, and casinos do offer links on their websites to arrange advance credit. However, many states (such as Arizona, which as 25 casinos) do not allow credit, and check cashing is restricted for new players to a small amount. Money orders and cashier’s checks are not accepted at most casinos.
American Roulette Online
For those who want to play American roulette online, the game comes in two different formats. The first one is a “Flash” or HTML5 based game that uses a random number generator to determine the outcome of each spin. This format is extremely fast and runs seamlessly.
The second format which is growing increasingly popular uses a live dealer. In live dealer roulette, you can actually play the game in real time in a live casino or gaming studio. Here you can see the croupier throwing the ball around the American roulette wheel and watch the whole thing via live video feed. It is essentially the exact same as going to a real world casino. One thing to note is these games are considerably slower than Flash based casino games.