The game of roulette had changed very little throughout the course of history; with only minor differences such as the house having a better edge. As far as the records are concerned, there are three major types of roulette. American roulette features 38 numbers total (1-36, 0 and 00). European and French roulette don’t have the extra house number ‘00’ – giving them a total of 37 numbers. If you think that these differences are miniscule and don’t really change the overall overtone of the game, think again. European casinos are much more lax when it comes to odds, having only a 2.7% house edge; whereas American casinos, having one more house number, have a whopping 5.26% house edge. Let us look at these separately, and see some of the key differences between these two branches of roulette.
This is practically where it all began. Roulette was played on the streets of Paris for nearly two centuries now, and the rules of the game haven’t changed much since. The key difference between French and European roulette is the layout. The most important thing to know when playing French Roulette is that there is only one house number – 0. You should look out for this number, for even if you didn’t bet on it, there are certain rules that can get you out of trouble.
En Prison – This is a special rule that applies to an even bet (bets that pay 1 to 1, like red/black, odd/even, high/low). If the ball lands on zero, you can ‘imprison’ your bet until the next spin. If you then guess correctly, you get to keep only half of your winnings. If you don’t win, the bet is gone. If by any chance the ball once again lands on zero, the bet can be ‘double imprisoned’ or lost, depending on the casino. Some high-end casinos might even let the bet ride until something else than zero comes up.
La Partage – This rule has very much to do with en prison. When an even bet is placed, and the ball lands on zero, the player gets half his bet back.
Surrender – This is the American equivalent of La Partage. This rule is very much suited for American style roulette, for it lowers the house edge from 5.26% to 2.7%.
As soon as the game was introduced outside France, its popularity and fandom jumped exponentially. European gambling aficionados liked this “little wheel” the French had invented, and soon enough establishments all over the continent joined it to share the fun. The original “French” design was revamped, giving it a more (English) universal visage. But even if the overall design of the layout had changed, the rules of the game stayed pretty much the same. European casinos outside France might be reluctant to give players La Partage, and sometimes even En Prison! This raises the overall house edge by about 1.3%, but again, this is more up to the casino than the roulette style itself.
If French and European roulette resemble identical twins; then American roulette would be like a distant cousin. And I am not talking about the rules alone; rather the whole manner by which the game is treated by casino enthusiasts, but first things first. American roulette differs from French and European roulette by having one extra house number – the infamous 00. This doubles the house edge, raising it to 5.26 %. This might not seem like much, but spread through the course of a decade, this extra number can save a casino millions. If you live in the United States, be sure to find a casino with French/European tables. You might want to try the Las Vegas Strip (and not Atlantic City). Another interesting fact surrounding American roulette, is that there is no tool by which to collect the chips. In European style roulette, the croupier would use a small, extendable spade/rake like tool to gather all the chips. In the United Stated, the dealer has to take all the chips by hand.
Differences in Game Style
Usually when the house has such a big chance of winning, playing risky is not the way to go. American players should be focusing on outside bets and low-paying inside bets. European style players have the benefit of a much lower house edge, so naturally a more daring approach would be advised.
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Of course with rules like La Partage, where the house edge % is dropped in half, betting on even numbers is too a great way to play. If we have to compare French and European roulette with American roulette, the main difference is in the probabilities.