Roulette: what’s the difference?

There’s nothing like the thrill of a roulette wheel to get your heart pumping.

New casino players are often attracted by just how easy it is to master the fundamentals of the game. But perhaps what’s a bit trickier to get your head around is the subtle differences between the three main variations – that’s American, European and French.

It’s good, however, for a player to understand these differences before rushing to stake their chips at a table. Here, we give you a brief breakdown of what you need to know. . .

European Roulette

Despite the name, European Roulette is played worldwide. Though not as popular on the other side of the Atlantic as it’s American cousin, look around hard enough and you’ll even find it in some US casinos too.

First things first, let’s talk about what a European wheel looks like. You’ll see 37 pockets: alternating black and red pockets are numbered 1 – 36, and there’s a single green pocket numbered as 0.

Having only a single 0 pocket is good news for you as a player. It gives you more favourable odds than the American alternative because it lowers the ‘house edge’ – if you’re not sure what that is, don’t worry, we’ll explain.

The house edge is perhaps the most important factor for a player to consider before picking which variation to play. Essentially, it’s the built-in advantage that the casino has over you. For example, the 2.7% house edge on a European table means that for every £100 staked by players, the casino typically makes £2.70 in profit (compared to the £5.26 they make off an American roulette table).

American Roulette

As you can probably imagine, the American version of roulette is often favoured by casinos for having this higher 5.26% house edge. In fact, the game’s spreading from the States and being adopted by more and more gambling venues across the globe, becoming one of the most popular casino offerings.

‘But why is the house edge higher?’ you ask. This is because of the presence of not just 1, but 2 green pockets on the wheel: a single 0 and a double 0. It’s the most distinctive feature of an American table and creates a wheel with 38 (rather than just 37) total pockets. The types of bets you can place are mostly like those available in European Roulette; however, there is a bet exclusive to the American version to watch out for: the 5 Number Bet. It’s an inside bet (which already marks it as a riskier chance than an outside bet) on the 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3 pockets, often dubbed by experts as the ‘worst bet you can place in Roulette’. It further increases the house edge against the player (up to 7.9%!) and is therefore best avoided.

French Roulette

If you’re planning a trip to Monte Carlo, you’ll want to know all about French Roulette. Though not as popular now as European and American Roulette, it’s widely regarded as one of the oldest casino games in history.

It’s very similar to the European variant, with a matching 2.7% house edge. However, you’ll find two rules unique to the French table – ‘La Partage’ and ‘En Prison’ – which can reduce the house edge even further and increase your chances of winning.

With La Partage, which roughly translates to the ‘sharing’ or ‘dividing’ rule, if the ball lands on the 0 pocket, cash from even money bets will be divided between house and player. In other words, you get back half your stake. This cuts the house advantage down to 1.35%.

The En Prison rule can also apply to even money bets. However, this time when the ball lands in the 0 pocket, players are given the choice of whether to stick with their bet for another spin (imprison it) or get back half their stake.

Which variation do I play?

Based on house edge alone, we’d recommend playing the European or French variations of the game where possible. Nevertheless, all roulette variations are, ultimately, games of chance and it’s up to a player to find out which version best suits the way they like to play. A good way to discover your preference is to try out the many variations available in online casinos.