U.S. vs. European Roulette: What You Need to Know

The European and American way of playing the game are totally different – as are your chances of winning.

European rules are considered more favorable to the player and your chances of winning are better, but if you educate yourself on the rules, both styles of play can be financially rewarding.

Here’s what you need to know the next time you play U.S. or European rule roulette.

United States Rules.

  • A U.S. roulette wheel consists of 38 numbered slots: numbers 1 to 36, a zero and a double zero. The betting layout consists of individual numbers plus combinations of numbers.
  • U.S. roulette rules pay even money (1 to 1) for bets on red, black, odd, even, 1 to 18 or 19 to 36, giving you a 47.37 percent probability of winning on those bets.For bets on 1 to 12, 13 to 24 or 25 to 36, U.S. rules pay 2 to 1, a 31.58 percent probability of winning. For any one number, the payout is 35 to 1, with a 2.63 percent probability.
  • The house edge on all bets is 1/19, or 5.26 percent, with the exception of one bet (the 0-00-1-2-3 combination, which carries a house edge of 7.89 percent).A few places in the U.S. offer single zero roulette, lowering the edge on every bet to 1/37, or 2.70 percent. The minimums on single zero wheels – normally found in high roller rooms - are usually higher than the double zero wheels.

European Rules

  • European roulette is played on a single wheel and also features a favorable “en prison” rule. Here’s how it works: if a player makes an even money bet (red, black, odd, even, 1-18, 19-36) and the ball lands in zero, the player gets either half the bet back or it becomes “imprisoned.” If an imprisoned bet wins on the next spin, it is released and the player gets it back without winnings. Subject to debate or rule variation depending on where you play is what happens to an imprisoned bet if the ball lands in zero on the next spin.

Keep this in mind: In Atlantic City, all even money bets (red, black, odd, even, 1-18, 19-36) follow a variation of the European imprisonment rule.

There are four rule variations.

  • Hamburg: Half of even money bets are returned if the ball lands in zero.
  • Berlin: Even money bets became imprisoned if the ball landed in zero, but are returned if you win on the next spin. If a zero occurs on the second spin, the bet is lost. In Berlin, the player may request to remove the imprisoned bet from one even money bet to another.
  • France: At some French casinos, the bet is put on an “even chances line.” If the player bets on red and the ball lands in zero, the bet is put on the line below the red diamond. If the next spin is red, the bet is freed; if black, it is lost. If the next spin or spins are green, the bet stays on the line until a red or black spin resolves it. The player may also choose to lose half.
  • Holland: If two zeros in a row occur in a Holland casino, the bet becomes double imprisoned. This requires two winning bets in a row to release it. If anything else occurs including more zeroes, the bet is lost. The player also has the option of getting half back immediately.

Single Zero “European Rules” in U.S. Casinos: Some United States casinos offer single zero roulette wheels that offer half back or even money bets if the ball lands on zero, thus lowering the house edge on bets to 1/37 or 2.7 percent.

They include in Las Vegas: The Tropicana, The Monte Carlo, The Stratosphere, The Mandalay Bay, The Aladdin, The Luxor and Nevada Palace.

In Atlanta City: The A.C. Hilton, the Tropicana , Caesar's , Bally's, Sand's, Taj, Harrah's, and Trump Marina and Borgata.

Also the Grand Tunica in Tunica, Miss. Most of the single wheels are in high-stakes playing areas and have minimum bets of $100 or more.

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