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Updated: January 1, 2013 6:13AM
Roulette is a game with an appeal for casino players making their first foray into table games. There are no strategies to learn, as in blackjack, nor is there a wide range of house edges that require knowledge to weed the good bets from the bad, as in blackjack.
It’s not as popular in the United States as blackjack or craps, and a woman who told me she and her husband were casino newbies were wondering why there aren’t more roulette tables in the pits.
Each casino sets its game mix to optimize its profits and keep players coming back. If there was a bigger demand for roulette at a high enough betting level, there would be more wheels.
The high enough betting level is a key. Roulette moves more slowly than most table games. It takes time for that wheel to spin and players to get their bets down, and it takes time for the dealer to clear away losing chips and pay the winners. Since each player at a roulette wheel gets his or her own color chips, the chips have to be sorted and stacked.
The result is that there are more rolls of the dice per hour in craps, more hands per hour in blackjack than there are spins of the roulette wheel. Roulette earns its place on the floor because most players make multiple bets per spin, and the house edge is higher than it is on blackjack or on the best bets at craps. But to expand its space, roulette would need more demand from players willing to make those multiple bets.
Why isn’t the demand there? Roulette isn’t really a “pretty even” bet. Payoffs are such that this would be an even game if there were 36 numbers on the wheel. But there aren’t. On the double-zero wheels common in the United States there are 38 — 1 through 36, plus 0 and 00. The house has a 5.26 edge — it’ll keep $5.26 of every $100 you wager in the long run. There is one exception. On the five-number combination bet on 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3, the house edge soars to 7.89 percent.
That’s higher than most table games, and it limits roulette’s place in the pits.
John Grochowski is a local freelance writer. Look for him on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.