American Roulette vs European Roulette: what’s the difference?

Roulette in action

Roulette is synonymous with casinos: if you think of one, you’re bound to think of the other. But the kind of wheel you imagine will change based on whether it’s American and European roulette, as will many of the rules surrounding it.

Spinning a roulette wheel is a classic game of chance, and whether you’re playing in Monte Carlo or on your phone, it’s all down to luck. But some games are luckier than others…

Where it all started!

Roulette was invented in France in the 1700s, though an exact date isn’t known. There was a wheel in the Palais Royal in Paris certainly as far back as 1796, and it was explicitly banned in the regulations for Quebec all the way back in 1758.

The original roulette wheel had two spaces marked 0 and 00 to lengthen the odds of customers winning. The single-0 wheel style was first played in 1843, in the German town of Bad Homburg – and fewer house slots meant a higher chance for players to win. This was also probably the first wheel to use numbers 1 to 36 on the wheel.

Some of the first wheels in America went a step the other way, though: they took a wheel with two house spaces, and added another one. The Eagle slot was marked with an eagle as a sign of American liberty, and must have represented the freedom of Americans to lose all their money on roulette wheels!

American roulette

Despite its invention in Germany, American roulette nowadays refers to the kind of wheel that has both 0 and 00 on it. There are a total of 38 slots: 18 black, 18 red, and 2 green house spaces. All bets  placed when a spin lands on 0 or 00 are lost (unless those numbers have specifically been bet on).

The style of early roulette games in America has influenced much of how casinos play roulette today. The wheel is clearly visible, to prevent anyone placing cheat devices in it; the betting layout is simple to understand; and cash is handed out quickly.

The “five number bet” is unique to American roulette tables, because it involves betting on the lowest five pockets: 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. But it’s also by far the least favourable bet you can make. Unlike every other bet on the American wheel, which has a house edge of 5.26 percent, the edge on a five number bet is a staggering 7.89 percent.

But – unless you bet on it – if the wheel lands on a house space, you lose all your chips. After all, the house always wins.

European roulette

In contrast, European roulette uses a single 0 on its wheels. It’s therefore slightly more likely that gamers will win their bets, and the odds offered are also slightly closer to the true odds.

European roulette wheels also lets you place some different bets compared to American wheels. Rather than just wagering on numbers as they appear on the layout, you can make “call bets” on numbers in certain parts of the roulette wheel. “

Voisins du Zero” (“neighbours of zero”) covers the 17 numbers closest to 0, from 22 black to 25 red. “Tiers du Cylindre” (“thirds of the wheel”) is a bet on the 12 numbers directly opposite the voisins du zero bet numbers; and “les orphelins” – the orphans – is a bet on the remaining 8 numbers.

You can also make two kinds of variable call bets – “neighbours”, a bet on a specific number and its two physically-adjacent neighbours on each side on the wheel (so “28 and neighbours” would cover 29, 7, 28, 12 and 35), and “final”, which allows you to bet on the last digit of the winning number.

If you’ve ever got a choice, you should always bet on European roulette wheels. They have a house edge of 2.7 percent, meaning on average the house is expected to take in £2.70 from every £100 you bet. American-style roulette wheels, thanks to the second house pocket, have an edge of 5.26%: you’ll won’t win as much money playing American roulette, without also the benefit of reaping bigger wins.

Both American and European roulette wheels pay out at 35 to 1 for bets on a single number, giving you a profit of 35 times what you wagered. So, it’s worth always plumping for European wheels if you want the chance to win big.

Partage and prison

Many European roulette wheels play with an additional extra rule that helps minimise risk. La partage rules – or “sharing” – minimise the loss to gamers who placed an even-odds stake by returning half their stake on a 0 spin. So, if you’ve made a £10 bet on lows (1-18) and 0 comes up, you’d receive £5 back.

En prison is a variant, and somewhat resembles double or nothing. You can choose to place your even-odds stake “in prison” instead of receiving half back, and it remains on the table for a second spin. If this spin wins your bet, it is returned alongside your victory, while if you lose, the house takes it all.

Playing European roulette with the partage or prison rules cuts the house edge on even-money bets even lower, down from 2.7% to only 1.35%.

So European roulette is almost always a better bet for gamers looking to win. However, if you’re feeling lucky, there’s nothing to stop you trying out an American table either – you’re sure to have fun either way!