The Base of American Or European Roulette
Roulette is considered to be one of the oldest games of chance, although spirits are still divided over its origins. The name “Roulette” is of course French and means “Little Wheel”, but the game is said to have first originated in Italy around 400 years ago and to have developed from the medieval game of chance “Wheel of Fortuna”.
In the meantime, various game variants exist, whereby “European” and “American” roulette are the most widespread forms of the game. But how do they differ, and which roulette has the higher chances of winning? This question is particularly relevant since the development of online roulette, the American variant can also be played in Europe.
From the beginning until today
In the 18th-century roulette was played mainly in France and at that time it was not to be suppressed even by the royal houses. King Louis XV had tried to ban it, and Napoleon Bonaparte allowed the game only in the official gambling houses of the Palais Royal, Louis-Philippe banned it again in 1837, but by then the game had already spread to other countries in Europe, especially Germany. The popular game also quickly gained great popularity in the USA, after immigrants from Europe had first brought it to the paddle steamers of the Mississippi and to New Orleans.
The roulette table in its original form had 38 number compartments, including zero and a double zero – amazingly, the form known today as “American roulette” and one of the most important distinguishing features from the European form.
The way of playing and the elements of the roulette table have not changed significantly since the beginning of the game. The wheel called a roulette wheel in German-speaking countries, has numbers in black and red, as well as one or two zeros in green. Next to the wheel on the roulette table is the betting field, also called the tableau, which is covered with green cloth in most European countries. The numbers 1 to 36 of the roulette wheel are reflected on this tableau and the casino chips are placed on it. There are inside bets and outside bets – inside the number field on the corresponding value, or outside, on number combination, red/black, columns of a dozen numbers, certain rows, even/odd and more. Of course, the higher the probability of winning, the lower the payout ratio. In roulette, this payout ratio ranges from 35:1 when betting on a single number and decreases accordingly, to 17:1 when betting on two numbers, to 1:1 when betting on a colour or even/odd.
Especially with regard to winning chances, the question of the most promising roulette variant becomes relevant, as this is also the main difference between American and European roulette.
1. A question of zero
Historically, the first roulette wheels had 36 numbers, plus zero and double zero – although these can be bet on just like any other numbers. However, zeros are excluded from betting on most number combinations, which in turn leads to a different evaluation of the house advantage.
The European variant of roulette today has 37 number slots – 36 numbers plus a zero. The American variant, on the other hand, still has 38 number slots including zero and double zero.
Historically interesting is that European roulette with only one zero originated in 1843 in a Hamburg casino: there they wanted to provide customers with a more attractive offer compared to the competition, so they decided to change the roulette wheel in favor of the players, but at the same time still create sufficient profit for the casino. Why American casino operators stuck to double zero is self-explanatory: they simply didn’t want to reduce their house edge.
2. Arrangement of the numbers
Furthermore, European, and American roulette differ in the arrangement of the numbers in the roulette wheel. In the European version, the zero is located between the black 26 and the red 32. In American roulette, the zero is located between the black 2 and the black 28, and the double zero is located between the red 1 and the red 27. However, this has no effect on the total number of black and red pockets; both versions have 18 black and 18 red number pockets.
Play roulette offline and online
While roulette used to differ in land-based casinos primarily in terms of the continent on which it was played, these boundaries are of course blurring today in the wake of the increasing popularity of online roulette. Even in Germany, American roulette can be played comfortably and even from home on the computer or via a mobile app, whereby the question of speed is no longer relevant. Internet-based casinos, instead of the croupier announcing, “nothing works anymore” or “rien ne va plus,” usually have a countdown timer where players have to place their bets.
More roulette variants
Although European and American roulette are the best-known variants of the game, one occasionally hears about French roulette. The difference from European roulette is not huge, but the tableau is usually arranged differently, although this makes no difference to placing outside bets – they can be placed in exactly the same way, just in a different place on the tableau.