Roulette is truly a remarkable game in terms of history. First entering Parisian casinos in 1796, roulette still has a fair amount of popularity today.
According to 2016 data from the UNLV Center for Gaming Research, roulette comprised 9.51% of all table game play on the Vegas Strip. This was up nearly 1% from 2015 figures (8.58%).
But while roulette is popular, I think that it sucks and retains most of its popularity because of history/nostalgia.
In this post, I’ll cover all of the reasons why I don’t like roulette, along with what casino games you should play instead.
Many Land-Based Casinos Feature the American Wheel
The basic premise of roulette hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. Players are still betting on which number, section, or color that a ball will land on.
But roulette does have variations that differ based on certain rules and how many numbers are on the wheel. These games include the following.
- 38 numbers
- House-friendly single zero and double zero
- 5.26% house edge
- 37 numbers
- House-friendly single zero
- 2.70% house edge
- 37 numbers
- House-friendly single zero
- La partage rule – You receive half your money back when the ball lands on zero
- 1.35% house edge
Based on the house edges alone, you’re better off playing European or French Roulette. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find either of these games in North American casinos.
Instead, what you’re left with is a bunch of American wheels throughout US and Canadian casinos. This means that you’re facing the worst-possible house advantage in the game.
American Roulette is actually one of the worst bets in all of gambling. Check the list below to see where it ranks among other popular casino games.
- Video poker = 0.46% house edge (9/6 Jacks or Better)
- Blackjack = 0.5% to 2.0% (varies based on table rules)
- Baccarat = 1.06% (banker bet)
- French Roulette = 1.35%
- Craps = 1.36% (lower with odds bets)
- European Roulette = 2.70%
- Let It Ride = 3.51%
- Caribbean Stud = 5.22%
- American Roulette = 5.26%
- Big Six = 11.11%
- Keno = 10% to 40% (depending on payouts)
Outside of keno and Big Six, American Roulette is worse than the vast majority of casino games. If your main goal is to win money, then you want to stay clear of roulette in brick-and-mortar casinos.
French Roulette Is Really Hard to Find
Obviously, French Roulette is the best game to play in terms of house edge.
French Roulette is not only played on a European wheel but has the added bonus of including the la partage rule. Considering that you get half back on losing even-money bets that land on zero, this cuts the regular European Roulette edge in half.
The only problem is that French Roulette is rare across the casino gambling world. Most casinos don’t like this game because of its 1.35% house edge and the slower game pace.
Of course, Mini-Baccarat has an even lower house edge than French Roulette, at 1.06%. But the difference is that many baccarat tables see an average of 150 hands per hour, while French Roulette only sees 50 spins an hour.
Given that casinos don’t make as much money with this game, they rarely offer the French variation. The best place to find French Roulette is in European countries like France, Germany, and Monaco (Monte Carlo).
Some Las Vegas casinos offer the French variation, but these are few and far between.
You might think that it’d be easy to find French Roulette at online casinos. After all, internet casinos can offer low house edge games at a cheaper rate than land-based establishments.
But most online gaming providers only offer European or American Roulette. The only two internet gaming providers that I know of with French Roulette include Microgaming and RealTime Gaming (RTG).
If you’re not playing at a casino supplied by either of these two companies, then you’ll have a difficult time finding online French Roulette.
Online Casinos Require $3 Bets
You can play most online casino table games for a $1 minimum bet. But online roulette differs by featuring a $3 minimum bet at most casinos.
This means that in addition to rarely finding the best game online, you’re also going to face a higher bet size.
Some players don’t mind wagering $3 or more per spin. But if you’re a low roller who likes sticking to $1 minimums, then you won’t appreciate internet roulette.
Compare this to online baccarat and blackjack, where you’re dealing with around a 1% house edge (or lower) and dollar minimum wagers.
I’m not sure why online casinos feel the need to charge a $3 wager for roulette. Perhaps it’s because the virtual roulette wheel takes longer to spin than the time required for a software-dealt baccarat or blackjack hand.
But the time difference isn’t so great that casinos should require a bet that’s 3x higher.
Maybe fewer people play online roulette than some of the other table games? But considering that roulette is one of the most popular land-based table games, I can’t see it being unpopular at internet casinos.
My overall conclusion is that there’s no real reason to jack up the minimum bet for online roulette games. This is especially the case when considering that the 2.70% European Roulette house edge isn’t anything special in online gambling.
Many Roulette Bets Have Long Odds
One good thing about roulette is that it offers plenty of betting variety. You can find a number of wagers on the inside and outside of the board.
Another perk is that you’ll be facing the same house advantage with most wagers. European Roulette features a 2.70% house edge on all bets, while American Roulette has a 5.26% edge on every wager except for one.
But just because most of these bets have the same house advantage doesn’t mean they have the same odds of winning. And this is confusing to beginners who don’t understand the odds behind each bet.
Allow me to explain by showing all the roulette wagers.
- Single number – 36:1 odds, 35:1 payout
- Split – 17.5:1 odds, 17:1 payout
- Street – 17.5:1 odds, 17:1 payout
- Corner – 8.25:1 odds, 8:1 payout
- Six line – 5.17:1 odds, 5:1 payout
- Column – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
- Dozen – 2.08:1 odds, 2:1 payout
- Odds/even – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
- Red/black – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
- High/low – 1.06 odds: 1:1 payout
As you can see, there’s quite a difference between the highest and lowest odds. And if you’re looking to make bets with the highest possible chance of winning, then you’re limited to 3-5 wagers.
Again, roulette’s betting variety is a good thing in most cases, but it’s important to understand all the wagers before you start laying down chips.
The last thing that players with small bankrolls want to do is place numerous long-odds bets on single numbers and split numbers. This is a recipe for walking away empty-handed.
Roulette Doesn’t Offer a Solid Advantage-Play Method
One of the fun things about playing games like blackjack, poker, sports betting, and video poker is that you can win long-term profits.
Card counters have been making a living through blackjack for decades. And you can achieve over 100% payback with the right video poker machines (e.g., Deuces Wild, Bonus Poker).
Poker sees you try to win money off human opponents, and sports betting involves trying to make successful wagers.
Roulette also has a couple of advantage-play methods that you can attempt to win long-term profits with. But I emphasize the word “attempt,” because dealer signatures and wheel bias aren’t viable in comparison to the above-mentioned games.
Dealer signatures involve watching a particular dealer to see if they spin the ball in a predictable manner. For example, the ball might always land 6-10 pockets away from where the dealer releases the ball.
When spotting a dealer signature, you bet on all of the numbers within the specific section that the ball might land on.
Admittedly, I haven’t become a master at spotting signatures myself. But I believe that some dealers may unconsciously spin the ball in a manner that produces consistent results.
However, there are two main problems with this.
- Spotting signatures is time-consuming
- Casinos often switch dealers if a player is winning a considerable amount of money
As for wheel bias, this involves recording numerous spins to potentially spot numbers that the wheel favors (a.k.a. bias). This happens when the frets (dividers between pockets) wear down.
Some gamblers have made millions of dollars/euros with wheel bias. However, I haven’t heard of a gambler doing this in decades.
The biggest roadblock is that modern casinos use Starburst wheels, which have metal frets. The metal frets don’t wear down very often, unlike the wooden frets of yesteryear.
Anybody who tries wheel bias today will likely spend countless hours recording spins, only to find that the wheel is perfectly unbiased.
Long story short, roulette doesn’t have a reasonable advantage-play method. And this is disappointing for players who dream of being a professional gambler someday.
Roulette Strategy Isn’t Stimulating
Aside from the obscure advantage-play techniques I covered above, roulette doesn’t require any serious strategy.
The main trick to beating roulette involves finding the best games. But once you’ve found either European or French Roulette, there’s little else to do besides play.
Perhaps this is why so many players turn to betting systems in hopes that they’ll win profits. What these players don’t realize, though, is that they’re merely manipulating bet sizes, rather than actually overcoming the house edge.
One betting system called the Martingale could work in theory. This gambling strategy calls on you to double bets following every loss.
The problem with the Martingale is that you’ll eventually hit a lengthy losing streak or the table limit. And if you can’t double your bet, then you take a big hit.
Allow me to explain with an example.
- The table limit is $2,000
- I start with the minimum $10 bet
- I lose seven straight bets
- My seventh bet becomes $1,280
- I can’t double my bet again – the best I can do is $2,000
I’m not trying to discourage you from using gambling systems to liven up roulette. But systems don’t take the place of legitimate strategy, and they won’t help you beat the game long term.
Roulette Offers Very Little Variation
One more downside to roulette is that its games don’t offer much variation from each other.
American and European Roulette are only separated by one number. European and French Roulette are played on the same wheel, but with one minor rule difference.
On one hand, it’s nice that roulette offers three main variations. But it’s not like you’re getting a completely different experience with each one – you’re just facing a different house edge.
I’ve seen some unique online roulette variations, such as multi-wheel and mini roulette. Mini roulette features a tiny wheel and only 13 numbers, while multi-wheel roulette has 8 wheels spinning at once.
But the issue here is that these games are found at a limited number of casinos.
What Casino Games Should You Play Instead?
My alternative recommendations are based on one or more of roulette’s deficiencies.
None of these games make up for every roulette shortcoming. But some excel in multiple areas where roulette doesn’t.
That said, here are some casino games you should choose over roulette.
Blackjack is my favorite alternative to roulette because it has more variations, features complex strategy, and offers a legitimate advantage-play method.
Some of the different blackjack games that you can play include Atlantic City rules, Double Attack, European, Pontoon, Spanish 21, Switch, and Vegas Strip rules.
Blackjack strategy consists of knowing what action to take based on your score and the dealer’s up card. And you can use a blackjack strategy chart to help you memorize what moves to make in each situation.
Understanding when to hit, stand, double down, and split in the right situations helps you drop the blackjack house edge to its lowest point.
What’s fun about blackjack is that you can take things even further by learning card counting. You need to study a counting system, then become adept at keeping the count amid casino distractions.
The only reasons I can see to choose roulette over blackjack is if you don’t like using strategy and/or you really appreciate the spinning wheel concept. But other than this, blackjack is a superior game.
Baccarat is much like roulette in that there’s no complicated strategy to master. All you need to do is bet on the banker hand winning to achieve a 1.06% house edge.
What separates baccarat is that you don’t have to search for any scarce game to achieve the lowest house advantage. Instead, baccarat games remain consistent across all casinos.
This means that you always have access to the top games. Contrast this to roulette, where finding French Roulette is a chore.
The one thing that roulette has going in its favor against baccarat is the betting variety. Roulette has well over a dozen bets, while baccarat only offers three.
But as long as you’re okay with limited betting variety, then I suggest choosing baccarat over roulette.
Craps and roulette are two of the best games with regard to how many bets you can choose from. In fact, craps has even more wagers.
But one area where these two games differ is the atmosphere and camaraderie. Craps is one of the most boisterous casino games because players often bet with the shooter (dice roller) through pass line and come bets.
This means that when the shooter is winning consistently, you’ll see most of the craps table celebrating together.
Craps is also like baccarat in that the best bets are always there for the taking. Pass line offers a 1.36% house edge, while don’t pass line has a 1.36% house advantage.
The one edge roulette has here is that it doesn’t feature risky prop bets with high house advantages like craps. However, as long as you know which wagers to avoid, then you don’t have to worry about this in craps.
Poker is different than the other games on this list because you’re competing against human opponents. The house, meanwhile, only takes a small cut of the action through rake.
If you can win enough money from opponents to overcome the rake, then you’ll collect long-term profits. Contrast this to most other casino games where you’re competing against a fixed house edge.
Poker enthusiasts would rather play this game than roulette, given that they have a chance to win serious profits and even become a pro someday.
The only problem is that becoming a successful poker player takes time and hard work. This differs from roulette, where any novice can use perfect strategy just by finding the right game.
But if you want a serious challenge with the potential for long-term gains, then poker is a good route to go.
Roulette gives players the chance to turn small wagers into big profits with long-shot bets. Nevertheless, some players want a chance to win even bigger prizes.
No casino game is better for this purpose than slot machines, which feature jackpots. And if you play the biggest progressive jackpots slots, then you have a chance to win seven- or even eight-figure payouts.
Slot machines are similar to roulette in that the only strategy involves finding the top games. In the case of slots, you want to look for machines with high payback.
The downside to slot machines is that they usually a feature a higher house edge than even American Roulette. But many online slots offer 96% payback (4% house edge) or better.
Roulette sucks for a number of reasons, including high online minimum bets, little strategy, no good advantage-play method, limited game variation, and the difficulty in finding French Roulette.
I still play roulette from time to time, despite all of these drawbacks. But I’d much rather play other casino games, like baccarat, blackjack, craps, poker, and slots.
These games offer so much more than roulette in a number of areas. And combined, they give me everything I look for in casino gambling.