THE DECLINE OF ROULETTE
Casino executives, like all other businessmen, focus on the bottom line. Each game on the casino floor is expected to stand on its own. Complicated formulas tell executives how much each game is worth to the bottom line. Included in the equation are the costs for employees and equipment. In this context, slot machines are the best choice for the casino executives, with blackjack a distant second.
Other table games, such as roulette and craps, barely register. A casino can generally make more money from three slot machines than from one roulette table. If promoted and managed properly, roulette could be a casino’s most profitable game. To attract more action per hour to a roulette table, the casino must attract more players.
But players in the US are staying away from the tables in increasing numbers. Because of the high house advantage in the US, experts have often described roulette as a “sucker’s game”. And because nobody wants to be thought of as a sucker, roulette is ignored by serious players in the US. Casino executives often disdain roulette players because they are thought to be uneducated customers who don’t understand how to play.
This is not so in Europe. Because of the reasonable house advantage and because it isn’t sneered at, roulette is often the most popular game in the casino. These players are, therefore, valued customers who are treated with respect and deference, no matter their level of knowledge or skill at the game. Consequently, if you, as a beginner, are in the enviable position of being able to play in the US or in Europe, choose Europe every time.
The disciplined non-professional player can expect to play with only a minor disadvantage in both craps and blackjack, but there is no escaping the 5.26 per cent house advantage in “00” roulette (or even the seemingly less harsh 2.7 per cent at the “0” wheel).
But the vast majority of casino gamblers are playing for entertainment or excitement. Few are using a disciplined strategy that takes full advantage of any game. They are “hunch” bettors paying a big price.
In blackjack, the hunch bettor will fall victim to a high house advantage. Since basic strategy can cut the house advantage to a very attractive level, the opposite is also true. Players who bet with their hearts can raise the house advantage to seven per cent or more. Craps players are the same. Betting the field, the hardways, or the any seven bet may feel right at the time but, in the long run, you’re damaging the overall appeal of craps. Because both of these games are touted as “player friendly”, casino customers may not even realize they’ve dramatically increased the disadvantage they are facing by not playing intelligently. But despite that, these same players will avoid the roulette game, purely because they’ve heard of its high house advantage.
Roulette is unique in that no matter how bets are placed, the house advantage remains constant: 5.26 per cent. This is still very high for even-money bets, but is a relative bargain for long-shot play. There is no other game in the casino which can offer up to a 35-1 payout with only a 5.26 per cent “vig”.
There is also no other game which does not penalize for hunch play. If you like to be entertained by hunch betting, and/or like to play for long odds on your hunches, then roulette is actually a much better deal than you’ll find with either craps or blackjack.
FINDING THE RIGHT GAME
As you see, the only way to reduce the house advantage is to find a game that offers either en prison or a single “0” wheel. In the US, casinos go through phases of trying to attract the roulette player by replacing the double “00” tables with some single “0” wheels. Whether it is Las Vegas or Atlantic City, those are the games you want to find. Hunt around.
In Europe, since all games are “right” games, the decision is much easier. A European would be offended to find a “00” wheel installed where their beloved “0” wheels were located. Once again, however, be aware of your bets. Since all players use the same chips, it is important that you know how much and where you bet.