Dispelling Roulette Myths

There is something glamorous and even hypnotic about the roulette wheel that makes this game an appealing choice for both landbased and online casino gamblers. The numerous depictions of the game in Hollywood films combined with people’s superstitions and cognitive fallacies have helped enshroud roulette in many myths.

Inexperienced players often fall into the traps of such misconceptions due to sheer lack of basic knowledge of how roulette and its odds work. This game is governed by pure chance and the sooner you realize this truth, the better.

In the following article, we identify 8 of the most common roulette myths that need dispelling. Read on to learn why these misconceptions hold no truth so that you can avoid them when you take your action to the roulette tables.

The Most Common Roulette Myths

Past Trials' Results Affect Future Probabilities
You Can Beat the Game with System Play
Hedge Betting Decreases the House Edge
All Roulette Wheels Are Created Equal
Online Roulette Games Are Rigged
Casinos Use Magnets to Cheat You out of Your Winnings
Roulette Dealers Affect Results through Ball Steering
Only High Rollers Play Roulette

Past Trials' Results Affect Future Probabilities

Many roulette players base their betting decisions on the results of previous trials because they believe past outcomes affect the probabilities of future outcomes. Such players can be classified into two main groups.

Some think a given result is due because it has not occurred in a while; others look for streaks and continue betting on frequently occurring numbers or propositions because they are “hot”. Worse of all, casinos do nothing to dissuade players from such faulty thinking.

Quite the contrary. Huge scoreboards are installed on each roulette table so that players always have readily-available information about the past ten to twenty results. This further perpetuates ideas like “Red has occurred five times in a row so the odds of black winning on the next spin are higher”.

Unfortunately, there is no grain of truth to such statements because roulette is based on sheer chance. The odds are reset after each spin of the wheel, with all numbers having an equal probability of hitting on the next round.

It is irrelevant when a given number has last shown or how many times the ball has previously chosen it, the odds are always 1 to 36 for single-zero wheels and 1 to 37 on double-zero wheels. There is no point in attributing undue weight to streaks because they are meaningless in games of chance like roulette.

Casinos go to extreme lengths to ensure absolute randomness at their roulette tables. They achieve it through frequent wheel inspections, maintenance, and data collection. This guarantees the games always yield completely unpredictable results.

You Can Beat the Game with System Play

This is easily one of the faultiest conceptions of roulette players, who frequently resort to the use of betting strategies in an attempt to beat the game. Some level of strategy is indeed required when it comes to choosing your roulette bets and the tables you play.

For example, a gambler is better off playing under the European or French rules because they lead to a significant house edge reduction. Similarly, outside bets give you stronger chances at turning a profit in the short term because they stand better odds of winning.

However, the betting strategies many players are inclined to use involve adjusting one’s bets depending on past results. This technique is flawed because each outcome the roulette wheel produces is an independent event which has no influence whatsoever on the following results. No matter what betting system one is using, the house edge built into the game is inevitably the same.

The most commonly used roulette system is the Martingale where bets are doubled after each loss. It relies on the idea that the player would eventually register a win after a losing streak. Since the win would be at a significantly higher stake, it will suffice to recoup previous losses, leaving the player with a profit of one betting unit.

Indeed such systems may yield some results with even-money bets in the short term but prove ineffective in the long run. They do nothing to increase your actual odds of winning not to mention they require a large bankroll and very high table maximums.

Also, a long string of losing outcomes is not that uncommon with even-money bets in roulette. A streak of 8 losses happens once per every 170 ball spins on average. With the standard roulette wheel producing roughly 80 to 100 spins each hour, you can expect to encounter one such losing streak once every couple of hours or so on average.

It is because of this most system players either run out of money to continue with their betting progression or reach the table maximum, at which point they are unable to recover from their previous massive losses. So do yourself a favor and avoid system play – it is a dangerous tactic in games of chance like roulette.

Hedge Betting Decreases the House Edge

Some roulette players prefer to hedge their bets so that they cover a larger group of numbers on a single spin of the wheel. But what is the “logic” behind this approach? The main premise here is that hedge betting enables the player to boost their winning chances and reduce their losses. Let’s explore the following example to demonstrate how hedging your roulette bets works.

  • The player bets $20 on the high numbers (19-36) for the chance to win an even-money payout.
  • The player then bets another $20 on the first dozen (1-12) which pays at casino odds of 2 to 1.
  • 30 out of 37 numbers are covered on this spin, which gives the player an 81.08% probability of winning.

This course of action may indeed seem reasonable as the player stands decent chances of collecting a payout with one such hedge bet. Let’s now examine some of the possible scenarios for this situation.

  • Number 24 hits, the player wins $20 with their high bet on top of their initial $20 but loses the $20 they have bet on the first dozen. In effect, they break even on this spin.
  • Number 9 hits so that the player wins $40 with their bet on the first dozen, loses their $20 on high, and registers net profits of $20 for this spin.
  • Number 13 hits and the player loses both their first-dozen and high bet, ending the round with net losses of -$40.

It becomes obvious that the player relies on the dozen bet with its 2 to 1 odds to register some profits. Winnings from the high wager are pretty much canceled out because of the even-money payout. Both bets lose when numbers 13 through 18 occur.

The problem here is that one is still playing at a disadvantage no matter how smartly they try to hedge their bets. The game still offers you negative expectation and you are facing the same house edge (2.70% in this case) regardless of how many numbers per spin you cover on the wheel.

All Roulette Wheels Are Created Equal

Some people are quick to assume all roulette wheels are completely identical, which they are not. There are three main types of wheels, with the two most common options being the European single-zero wheel with 37 pockets in total and the American double-zero wheel with 38 pockets. Each type of wheel has its distinct number sequence.

Despite what inexperienced players might believe, the number of zeros on the roulette wheel is important. The green pockets have been added for the sole purpose of giving the house its edge in roulette.

The zeros dilute one’s odds of winning, yielding a 2.70% house advantage in European roulette and 5.26% house edge in American roulette. This percentage decreases to 1.35% at single-zero tables with either the En Prison or the La Partage rule.

Some landbased casinos, like The Venetian in Las Vegas, even offer triple-zero roulette where the wheels have three green pockets for a total of 39 possible results. The addition of the third zero dramatically decreases the players’ probabilities of winning with any of the available bets. Below are the probabilities for the popular red/black, dozen, column, and straight-up bets on triple-zero wheels.

  • Red/black wins 18 out of 39 times on average, with a probability of 46.15%.
  • Dozens and columns win 12 out of 39 times on average, with a probability of 30.77%.
  • Straight up bets on any individual number would win 1 out of 39 times and have a probability of 2.56%.

Just by way of comparison, the winning probabilities for bets on red/black, dozens/columns, and single numbers on a single-zero wheel with 37 pockets are 48.65%, 32.43%, and 2.70%, respectively.

The short pays for winning bets are the same as those in American and European roulette. Here is what happens to the house edge for red/black wagers on triple-zero wheels, just to give you an example: (21/18 – 1/1) x 18/39 = (1.166 – 1) x 18/39 = 0.166 x 18/39 = 0.769 x 100 = 7.69%.

It becomes obvious roulette wheels are indeed not created equal. The third zero almost triples the disadvantage one is facing, so it makes no sense for a player to chose triple-zero roulette. A smart player would never laugh off these percentage differences as small as they appear. The bottom line is you are at a disadvantage at the roulette table and should always choose the games that cause you to lose at the lowest rate in the long term.

Online Roulette Games Are Rigged

Many disgruntled players are quick to jump to hasty conclusions after a bad run at the online roulette tables. Some would accuse online gambling operators of rigging their games to cheat unsuspecting players out of their money.

Often you would hear such players complain “This online wheel produced eight blacks in a row while I was betting on red, so the casino’s software is surely rigged”. This, however, is rarely the case, at least if you are playing the game at a trusted and licensed online casino.

Such accusations are groundless for several reasons. First off, you cannot draw any accurate conclusions with a sample size as small as eight or ten spins. As we explained earlier, such streaks are bound to happen in games of chance, especially when one is betting the even-money propositions where the odds of winning and losing are almost equal.

And second, why would a trusted casino resort to cheating when it already has a legal edge over players? All trusted gambling operators subject their games to independent audits that involve hundreds of thousands of roulette spins.

This large sample size enables the auditors to establish with great accuracy whether or not a given online roulette variation really yields its expected return (-2.70% and -5.26% per every dollar wagered in the long run). The test results are usually posted for all roulette players to see right on the casino’s website.

But let’s consider things from yet another perspective. It makes no sense for an online casino to risk losing its reputation, customer base, and license, when auditors can easily find out the software has been tampered with. With the shortened roulette payouts already working to their advantage, there is no need for a licensed and well-regulated operator to rig their roulette games.

Casinos Use Magnets to Cheat You out of Your Winnings

Similarly, some people playing roulette at landbased casinos suspect foul play after a bad streak, assuming the wheel has been magnetically gaffed to produce non-random results. So is magnetic wheel gaffing possible and if yes, how does it work?

One of the easiest ways to gaff a wheel is to replace some of the brass frets of its pockets with steel ones. As you know, brass is a non-magnetic compound made of zinc and copper. Steel, on the other hand, is highly magnetic.

A ball with a magnet in its center also needs to be in play, in which case it will show a strong inclination toward the pockets with the steel frets. The gaffed pockets are picked in advance, with the zeros being the most frequent choice at unregulated casinos. The dealer can control the game by introducing the magnetic ball into the gameplay.

It is true some operators have indeed resorted to such methods to cheat players in the past. This usually happens at illegal casinos operating in unregulated jurisdictions where such lack of ethics may go unnoticed.

There is no need to worry about gaffed wheels when playing with licensed gambling operators that have a reputation and license to protect. As previously noted, regulated casinos guarantee their profits by paying you at shorter odds when you do win. It would be nonsensical for them to risk license suspension for using magnets to cheat.

Roulette Dealers Affect Results through Ball Steering

Some players are proponents of the idea roulette dealers can control the outcome of the spins with a technique called “ball steering”. This method involves the dealer spinning the ball at a consistent speed so that it shows tendencies toward specific wheel sectors.

This is easier said than done, however, since it calls for particular conditions such as a wheel with dominant diamond deflectors and consistent wheel and ball speed. Setting the ball in a manner that causes it to avoid or favor certain wheel sectors is a skill that requires painstaking practice and persistence, both on behalf of the player and the dealer.

Some proponents of this technique claim that it helps improve the players’ odds but there are no recorded cases of someone actually exploiting such dealer signatures with great success. Try it for fun if interested, but there is a good chance you will simply be losing your time. It is impossible to perform ball steering with sufficient accuracy on modern wheels.

Only High Rollers Play Roulette

Roulette has the reputation of one of the most sophisticated games on the casino floor, which causes some players to assume it is reserved exclusively for high rollers. However, such assumptions could not be further from the truth. You do not need a fat bankroll to play this game.

Of course, it depends on where do you plan to play. If you are planning a trip to Las Vegas, you can find tables with minimums that start at as little as $1 or $3. Things are even better for players who decide to take their roulette action online.

Many licensed gambling sites offer variations with minimum bets as low as $0.10. Some of these games closely replicate the experience in landbased casinos. The tables are operated by live dealers while the betting action is captured and streamed in real time with the help of multiple high-definition cameras.

Throw in the fact the game offers a low house edge and good odds to even-money bettors, and roulette becomes one of the most desirable options on the casino floor.

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