American vs European Roulette – Which Is Better?
When roulette was born in France sometime in the 18th Century, wheels had numbered pockets from 1-36 as well as a '0' and '00' pockets (making 38 in total).
This format was considered the standard as the game gained popularity throughout Western Europe, but in 1843 the game's originators - the Blanc brothers - got rid of the '00' pocket. This change significantly improved a player's odds of winning. Educated players subsequently began demanding single-zero roulette wheels at casinos across Europe, who duly obliged by dropping the '00'.
When roulette found its way to the New World, casino managers in North America wanted to leverage the high house edge of the original double-zero design. By implementing a wheel with two zeros they could increase their revenues - but also offer big potential wins for gambling-hungry visitors.
Today, double-zero wheels are still the most common roulette wheels in North America, the Caribbean, and South America, but in major gambling cities like Las Vegas, single-zero games can also be found.
Which Variant is Better?
Before we can say which version of the game is better, we need to take a look at the one difference between the wheels: the '00' pocket.
In general, the numbered pockets (1-36) pay out 35/1 for straight up bets. Now, this would be fair (35+1=36) if there weren't any zero pockets, which have no chance of yielding a win for the players. As you add either one or two zeros to the wheel, the house gets more opportunities to win but the players do not. Therefore, the zeros represent the house's edge in roulette.
Based on this connection between the zeros and the house edge, you may have already guessed that European wheels are better for the gambler! Let's run the numbers to see exactly how different these two situations are:
|Roulette Version||Number of Pockets||Payout||House Edge|
|American Roulette (double zero)||38||35/1||5.26%|
|European Roulette (single zero)||37||35/1||2.63%|
As you can see, the difference between the house edges in both games is 2.63 percent. This might sound pretty minuscule, and it really isn't a huge difference, but in the long run it does make an impact.
To put this in real terms, for every $100 you put on the table, your decision to play at a single-zero, European roulette wheel will save you $2.52 on average.
In a standard casino setting over a day (even at low limits), you'll be saving enough to get a few drinks or a meal; at higher limits, the savings can become pretty noticeable.
En prison is a special rule that can be applied to roulette. Although it can be used with either American wheels or European wheels, En Prison is much more common outside of North America.
Basically, En prison protects your even-money, outside bets (Even/Odd, Red/Black, High/Low) from losing, but only when a zero is shown. Let's look at an example to see how this works in your favour.
Let's say you have a $50 bet on 'Even' but the ball comes to rest in the '0' pocket. Normally, you would lose all $50, and that would be it, but if the casino is employing En Prison rules, you get an option: you can cut your losses and request that $25 be returned to you, or you can ask the dealer to put your bet ‘in prison'. Once in prison, your bet remains on the table with an En Prison marker. The following can now occur:
- If the next spin is a zero (or '00') the casino rules may dictate that you lose your wager or your bet may remain on the table.
- If an odd number is shown, you lose all $50.
- If an even number appears, your stake is returned to you (with no winnings).
Finding a casino that offers en prison rules with a European Roulette wheel is probably one of the best things you can do to improve your odds. When you can find a table that meets both of these requirements, the house edge drops to a measly 1.35 percent.
"The only thing worse than zero is two of them. 'Zero in' on European roulette wheels to increase you odds of winning online roulette."
Putting it All Together
Here's what we've learned. European, or single-zero, roulette wheels are mathematically better than their American (double-zero) counterparts. While American wheels are the norm in much the western hemisphere - including many Canadian casinos, European roulette wheels are often used to draw players to some of the smaller casinos in big gambling cities like Las Vegas.
If you are serious about playing roulette and protecting your bankroll, you owe it to yourself to search for these single-zero wheels, particularly if they are allowing En Prison rules. So, kick off your roulette journey now online by choosing one of our great Canuck gambling links. We recommend dozens of top sites for PC, Mac or mobile phone.