Roulette: how much is Luck?

Roulette and Luck – What are your chances of beating it?

By Twinty Karat

Roulette wheel

A Roulette Wheel. Can you beat the roulette wheel?


How often have you heard someone that gambles or visits a casino say they had a lucky day or they were lucky and won some sizable amount of money? Do those statements have any real meaning when it comes to luck? Does luck have a part in any of the games in casinos? What are your chances in roulette?

Yes it does. Just by the very nature of how casinos operate means that for the player to come out ahead requires some, or even a lot of luck in some cases. The longer you play the more luck you need to come out ahead. As far as we know casinos are a moneymaking business. Certainly they could not keep up the lavish look, the expensive buildings and the oftentimes huge payoffs if they didn’t have the odds on their side.

The odds* – just what are your odds of winning at a game of roulette? It depends on whether you are at a game that has a European roulette wheel numbers or if it’s an American wheel. In roulette, the ball eventually loses its momentum and falls on to the wheel and into one of 37 (in French/European roulette) or 38 (in American roulette) colored and numbered pockets on the wheel.

The house average or house edge (also called the expected value) is the amount the player loses relative to any bet made, on average. If a player bets on a single number in the American game there is a probability of 1/38 that the player wins 35 times the bet, and a 37/38 chance that the player loses their bet. The house edge is 5.26%. That is, they have that percent advantage over the player. For European roulette, a single roulette wheel number wins 1/37 and loses 36/37 or a lesser 2.70% house edge.

These percentages are low compared to many other casino games, but if one plays roulette long enough even this low percentage loss could wipe you out at worse, or make you wonder where all your money went if you play lots of roulette. Yes you could win any spin, or number of spins of the roulette wheel, but it is a losing game overall for the player.

Over the years, many people have tried to beat the casino, and turn roulette – a game designed to turn a profit for the house – into one on which the player expects to win. Most of the time this comes down to the use of betting systems, strategies which say that the house edge can be beaten by simply employing a special pattern of bets, often relying on the “Gambler’s fallacy”, the idea that past results are a guide to the future.

Of course that doesn’t stop players and doesn’t mean large sums of money cannot be won playing roulette. There have been famous players and huge wins in roulette games. Amounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars have been won by individual players.

Albert Einstein is reputed to have stated, “You cannot beat a roulette table unless you steal money from it.” As with all common casino games each bet placed reduces the player’s chances of winning exponentially.

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Systems have been devised to take advantage of unbalanced wheels and other mathematical methods have been devised to enable a player to win his roulette wheel selection. But those methods were not for the ordinary gambler. That being said there are numerous roulette systems available that supposedly enable a player to win at roulette. But just think about it – if such systems actually worked, one would not need luck to win at roulette.

Since the actual mathematical odds are against the player, no system will win roulette over the long run. But it does take some luck to win if the odds are against you in anything. But as anyone knows, people do win at roulette. They win generally because they are lucky. The longer you play, the inevitable odds against you work away at eating up your money, and the less likely you are to come out a winner overall.

Now if the roulette wheel is not accurate, is unbalanced, the game is crooked in any way, anything goes, and the odds against you may not be as predicted or calculated. That’s how some of those big winners walked away with large payoffs in some of the famous roulette wins over the years.

All betting systems when employed on games the casino has a positive edge in will result, on average, in the player losing money. In practice, players employing betting systems may win, and may well win very large amounts of money, but the losses will outweigh the wins.

Certain systems, such as the Martingale, are extremely risky, because the worst case scenario (which is mathematically certain to happen eventually) may see the player chasing losses with ever larger bets until he runs out of money or he reaches the bet limit of the casino. In such a case following a Martingale progression, the losing player must automatically lose if he ever reaches the house betting limit and loses that bet because he cannot bet the higher bet needed to come out a winner.

If you play roulette, either the French / European, or the American game, at some point in time, playing a specific system may be profitable for some players. This however, does not guarantee that the wins are the result of the system itself and not due to luck.

So yes, luck plays a part in winning in roulette or being able to beat the roulette wheel. Your chances of beating the roulette wheel – well the odds are mathematically against that happening, but over any particular spin of the wheel or even many spins of the wheel, it is possible to win that bet or series of bets, even though over a long period of time playing the game you are almost certainly bound to lose.

If your luck goes the wrong way or against you, that and the natural odds of the game against you will add up to a very unpleasant evening of roulette.

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* Some information taken from Wikipedia


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