“Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?” Friedrich Nietzsche made a good point with this question. There’s nothing in life quite like choosing the fun, exciting, and even sometimes risky path, and roulette is a game that brings a sense of real excitement – that feeling that just maybe, today, Lady Luck will cast her favor on you.
Of course, like so many casino table games, there are hundreds of supposed strategies, cheating devices, and tips and tricks that promise to make you a winner. Are they legitimate, or are they just ruses delivered by con artists trying to separate you from your money? In this guide, we’re going to take a deep dive into the sometimes shady world of methodologies and technologies that might, maybe, help you be a better roulette player.
Pssst: If you’re new to roulette, we recommend starting with our How to Play Roulette guide, as many things will make a lot more sense that way.
There are literally hundreds of strategies for playing roulette. Some of these have been around for decades, while others make a brief blip on the screen as they are published, and then end up in a second-hand bookshop somewhere. Some of these strategies are total nonsense, as they focus on trying to control aspects you, the player, have zero control over.
Remember that even in brick-and-mortar casinos, many operators have switched to random number generator-based video wheels at their live table games. This completely negates any strategies that rely on, for example, watching the croupier to estimate where the ball will land.
The strategies that have reportedly shown some measure of success all focus on betting. They recommend certain patterns of betting that should help you maximize your wins and minimize losses. These strategies have remained popular over the years and are well known among seasoned players.
While we are going to cover some of these strategies in detail below, we can’t promise they’ll work. Roulette is, above all, a game of chance, and even the best strategies have let players down before.
Among the many strategies that have been developed over the years, these are some of the best known and most widely used:
There’s nothing quite like a good book on roulette to sink your teeth into. Monte Carlo Anecdotes and Systems of Play by Victor Bethell gives a charming account of the history of roulette in Monte Carlo while reviewing 18 of the more prominent betting systems with witty anecdotes of the successes and failures that occurred when employing said strategies.
We can also highly recommend reading any of these books if you’re serious about sinking your teeth into the roulette wheel:
The list of strategies we mentioned above is extensive, and you could find yourself lost and confused by conflicting information and tips. That’s why we’re taking a closer look at three of the most popular strategies:
John Henry Martingale owned a casino in London in the late 1700s. He was well known for encouraging players to double their bets whenever the casino was losing, as he firmly believed that the house would always win. Around a century later, this basic betting strategy had become the Martingale system and, in 1891, Charles Wells hit a historical streak, breaking the bank 12 times in just three days in Monte Carlo. From a comparatively small sum of 4000 francs, his riches grew to a cool million. His incredible wins inspired a song, ‘The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’.
How it works
Simplicity is key to the Martingale system. For a start, it recommends that you only place bets on black/red, odd/even, or low/high (1-18/19-36).
This type of strategy is known as a negative betting progression. You increase your bets if you lose, and decrease them if you win.
Oh, this mystical sequence of numbers, the life spiral, the key to art… and, as it turns out, a pretty good roulette strategy. Back in the 1200s, the famous Italian mathematician, Leonardo (not that one) of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci, wrote about an ancient sequence of numbers that today still bears his name. It’s a simple sequence that involves adding the last two numbers in the sequence to get the next one. If you start at 1, then, the sequence goes: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, and on and on.
How it works
Much like Martingale, Fibonacci also follows a negative betting progression. However, instead of simply doubling bets on losses and keeping or dropping them on wins, you follow the complex pattern of the Fibonacci sequence. To illustrate, let us assume you start with a $10 wager on evens, and you lose four times in a row. Your wagers will be:
Suddenly, on bet 5, you hit a win! Now, for your next bet, keep your winnings, and take two steps back in the sequence for the next wager amount:
The most challenging part of this betting strategy is keeping track of the sequence, and your wins vs losses. The mathematics of Fibonacci are somewhat more complicated than Martingale, although the wager increase increments are smaller.
Named after the roulette player who developed this betting system, Henry Labouchere (1831-1912), this method is designed to work with outside bets. However, it has also gained popularity as a betting strategy for games like baccarat and blackjack, and even in sports betting.
The maths in this system is more complicated than the previous two, so be prepared to keep careful track of your bets.
How it works
Labouchere is, at heart, a basic cancellation strategy. You begin with a sequence of numbers, selected by you. These numbers match up to wagering amounts, not numbers on which to place a bet; remember, this system works best on outside bets, not single numbers.
The first wager is equal to the sum of the first and last numbers in the sequence. If you lose that bet, you simply add the value of that wager to the end of the number sequence. If you win, you erase the two numbers you’ve just added together, and add your winning amount to the end of the sequence. Sound complicated? Let’s illustrate:
Sequence: 3, 4, 5
Bet 1: (3 + 5) = 8 on black (loses)
Sequence: 3, 4, 5, 8
Bet 2: (3 + 8) = 11 on black (wins)
Sequence: 4, 5, 22
Bet 3: (4 + 22) = 26 on black (loses)
Sequence: 4, 5, 22, 26
The illustration above is a very simplistic representation of how this system works. That’s mainly because it is imminently flexible. For example, your initial sequence of numbers doesn’t have to start at 1, it doesn’t need to be consecutive, and it doesn’t need to follow any progression. If you want, you can simply make your whole sequence 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, for instance.
The higher the numbers in your initial sequence, the faster the escalations and the higher the risk. That’s not to say it’s not viable, just that you need to bear in mind what type of play you’re after when choosing your numbers. Players have been known to play it safe, choosing a sequence like 0, 0, 0, 0, 1. A strategy like this keeps wagers low and allows for caution.
There are hundreds of betting strategies out there that help you control the flow of your money. While we have discussed the above strategies in terms of outside bets, many players do apply them to inside bets and single numbers, and many enjoy success this way. We remind you to bear in mind the gambler’s fallacy: roulette is a game of chance, and there’s no fundamental law of the universe that says any given number or colour is destined to come up.
Before you read this section, remember that cheating devices are illegal in most jurisdictions and definitely frowned upon everywhere. We do not, under any circumstances, advocate using these, and provide the following strictly for information purposes.
The tracker is a simple device that records the speed of the spinning wheel and the roulette ball and calculates their relative positions. It then uses this data to predict an outcome. Trackers are available as a smartphone app these days and can cost anywhere from $1 to $250.
Sadly for would-be cheats, many casinos nowadays have switched to electronic wheels, which are driven by random number generators. There is no way to estimate what the winning number will be based on the screen display, as the spinning is for effect only.
The calculator/computer & optional earpiece
Roulette ‘computers’ have gained in popularity recently. These are small devices, similar to trackers, that predict the ball’s landing spot based on the speed and trajectory of the wheel and ball. However, despite their considerably higher cost compared to the tracker apps, they are not much more effective. Again, these rely on a real wheel and ball, which are being phased out, as well as complex interaction with the device, which could get picked up by a sharp-eyed floor manager.
Whether you are playing live dealer or video roulette online, you will soon realise that it’s impossible to cheat the system. Online casino games are random number generator-driven, which means nobody can predict where the wheel will land. If you want to play live dealer roulette online, feel free to test out any of the betting strategies mentioned above. They are not illegal, and they work just as well online as they do in a brick-and-mortar casino.
We do not recommend employing any cheating devices or tips. However, we absolutely encourage you to try some of the betting strategies we’ve covered above. If you find one that seems to work for you, it can enhance the excitement of your game play. That said, we do have a few quick tips of our own that we believe will help you have a more enjoyable experience.
TIP 1: Play European Roulette
The odds are slightly more in your favour with European Roulette than in American Roulette. The American wheel includes that naughty little double zero, which is absent from other versions. The double zero increases the house edge, so your chances are not quite as good as with French or European versions.
TIP 2: Play the outside
Playing single numbers is, of course, a great way to win big. However, your odds are astronomical compared to outside bets. You stand a considerably higher chance of consistent, albeit smaller, wins by choosing colours, odds/evens, or groupings of numbers, than picking your favorite number.
TIP 3: Increase your odds on the inside
But what if you really want to play for the big win and choose a number? Well, there’s nothing stopping you from playing more than one individual number, or splitting a bet between two, three, or four numbers. Split bets have lower payouts, but better odds.
What’s your experience with roulette? Have you got any winning strategies or tips you’d like to share with the online gambling community? Share your thoughts and help your fellow gamblers have more fun at the wheel!