What are the Technical Differences between European and American Roulette?

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The roulette wheel is one of the most fascinating pieces of casino technology.

Partly conceived by mathematician, Blaise Pascal, who sought to find a way of building the world’s first perpetual motion machine, the wheel as we know it today has remained largely unchanged through the last century – except for one considerable alteration.

The original roulette wheel is used for French roulette and European roulette games. These games are also known in the trade as ‘single-zero’ roulette games. That’s because there’s only one green zero pocket on the wheel. This was introduced to give the casinos a thin house edge over every spin of the wheel.

In recent decades, a new variant has reared its head both online via browsers and native apps and offline in brick-and-mortar casinos. There’s now a popular American alternative that’s typically offered as a roulette option online, alongside European roulette and games with higher maximum bets targeting high-rollers.

The American roulette tables are also designed to deliver exhilarating game experiences, but what are the technical differences between European and American roulette? Should you be abandoning European – and even French – roulette tables in favour of American versions?

The addition of the double zero (00)

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American roulette wheels have one extra pocket than their European roulette counterparts. This was conceived by casino game manufacturers as an opportunity to take advantage of roulette’s popularity by running games with a greater house edge.

You may be surprised but the addition of the double zero pocket on the standard roulette wheel makes quite a difference to the game’s house edge. European roulette games have 37 numbered pockets from zero to 36, plus a double zero. American roulette games have 38 numbered pockets, thanks to the 00 pocket. The odds of winning a straight-up bet on an individual number differ greatly between European and American roulette versions. There’s a one-in-36 chance of winning in European roulette, compared with one-in-37 on newer American variants. This increases the house edge from 2.70% in European versions to 5.26% in American alternatives.

This means that for every 100% of the value you wager on an American roulette wheel, you’re statistically likely to lose 5,26%. That’s compared with a loss of 2,70% for every 100% wagered on a European roulette wheel. Of course, this house edge is averaged out over an incredibly long timescale – sometimes thousands or even millions of spins. Therefore, there’s always the chance of having winning sessions on either variant of roulette. Nevertheless, if you’d rather play the probabilities, European roulette still has the edge over its newer American sibling.

Why would you consider playing American roulette?

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One of the main reasons why some players are drawn to the American roulette tables is out of sheer intrigue. The addition of a double zero on the reel creates a new layer of unpredictability for every spin, which is great for those who play solely for the entertainment factor.

There’s also an element of variety in the gameplay of American roulette. There’s one unique bet that can only be placed on an American roulette wheel. This is what’s known as the ‘Top Line’ bet, covering both the single and double zero pockets, as well as numbers one, two and three. Although the Top Line pays out just 6:1 if the ball lands on any of these five numbers. That’s a pretty poor return considering the probability of it happening is a mere 13.15%. ‘True’ odds for this bet would be closer to 7.6:1.

If you also have the option to play French roulette games, that’s a different decision altogether. French roulette tables are hugely popular in Monte Carlo and offer an even more competitive house edge than their European counterparts. With the addition of game rules like ‘En Prison’ and ‘La Partage’, the house edge is slashed to just 1.35%.

Closing Thoughts

Of course, there are times when some casinos only offer American roulette tables. However, if you have a choice between European and American games, we highly recommend you opt for the former.