European and American roulette are the most prominent versions of the game. Although both follow the same play method in the same kind of setting, there are a few distinct differences between the two. The most prevalent difference is the fact that the former has only one zero pocket on its wheel, while the later has a zero pocket as well as a double zero pocket. This difference leads to further variances in roulette odds, bets, rules and layouts. These factors will ultimately affect your roulette strategy.
European wheels have 37 equally sized pockets or wheel dividers, while the American wheel has 38 equally sized pockets. The additional double zero pocket on the American wheel increases the house edge to 5.26%, thus making the odds of winning slimmer. Players have better odds in a European game with a house edge of 2.70% and an edge of 1/37.
The most obvious difference between European and American roulette is the table layout of each variation. The European roulette wheel has 37 pockets on its wheel, while the American roulette wheel has 38 pockets. The additional American roulette pocket is as a result of the additional zero pocket featured on the American wheel. The European wheel only has one pocket. This is the first major difference between the two. The second difference relates to the sequence of the numbers on both wheels. The American roulette wheel has numbers that run counter clockwise, while the numbers seen on the European wheel runs clockwise. The numbers are sequenced this way to ensure that odd and even numbers, as well as red and black numbers are evenly distributed on the wheel. Aside from this, both wheels have 18 red and black coloured pockets.
Differences in House Edge
The differences in wheel layout between the two affects the house edge found in each. The house edge, or level of advantage that the house has over the player is one of the deciding factors when choosing which variation to play. Generally, the house edge in European roulette is 2.70%. The single green zero on the European wheel gives the casino that 2.70% edge over you. We know that there are 18 red and 18 black pockets on the wheel. If you bet on red for example you might think that you have a 50% chance of winning, but in reality, that’s not the case. The zero pocket is green, which pushes the casinos edge to just over 50%.
The house edge in American roulette is 5.26%, this is nearly double the house edge in European roulette. The single and double zero pockets on this wheel gives the casino that 5.26% edge over you. Given this, you stand a much better chance at winning if your play European roulette.
Comparing the Rules
The basic rules of the game apply in both variations. But there are certain actions players can take in one, that isn’t allowed or offered in the other.
There are two rules that apply only around the European roulette table. First, the ‘en-prison rule’. When an even money bet is placed, but the ball lands in the zero pocket, the en-prison rule imprisons the bet until the next spin of the wheel in an all or nothing gamble. If the ball lands in the zero pocket again, or does not match the initial bet, all is lost. But if the outcome matches the initial bet, only the initial stake is returned, not the winnings.
Some casinos use a different variant of the en-prison rule that affords players a second chance to rescue all of their money. After the second spin is complete and the ball lands on the zero again, the bet remains imprisoned for another round. In the standard version of the en-prison rule, the player would have lost his money.
Secondly, European roulette allows for ‘call bets. These refer to verbal bets spoken to a dealer who will then place the respective bet on the roulette table on behalf of the player.
American roulette tables offer what we call a ‘five number bets’ which is a rule unique to this variation of roulette. This bet can be placed on the numbers 1,2,3,0 and 00. If the ball lands on any of these five numbers, you win.
Comparing Roulette Payouts
As mentioned earlier, the difference in the number of zero pocket each wheel has affects the odds and payouts of each variation. The odds of winning in a game of European roulette is 1 in 37 because this wheel has 37 pockets. The payout ratio for this version is 35 to1.
Similarly, the odds of winning in a game of American roulette is 1 in 38 because there are 38 individual pockets on the wheel. However, the payout ratio here is also 35 to 1. In other words, the payout ratio in American roulette matches the ratio in European roulette. But, the chances or odds of winning here are slimmer because the house advantage is higher.
Which One is Better?
The decision is ultimately yours. Some players might not mind the greater house edge found in American roulette, while other players do. But European has proven to be the more popular choice between the two. At the end of the day, despite these differences, roulette remains a game of chance so there’s no telling what may happen.