Roulette wheels are usually grouped into two categories; the American wheel, and the French wheel, although hybrid wheels have been seen in countries like the United Kingdom. Below we will discuss some of the basic characteristics that make the individual roulette wheel, and their relation to the rules. In later chapters we will talk about each wheel’s individual construction and configuration, as well as some tricks as to how to spot a bias wheel. This segment will act as an introduction to the world of roulette wheels; generalizing some of the basic terms and concepts and wrapping them conveniently in a few short paragraphs.
The American Wheel
Even though we know that the original ‘American wheel’ was quite different from the ones we are used to seeing today; the fact still stands that among all 3 variations of the game, the American wheel is by far the most ‘unfair’. One of the two key differences between American wheels and their French/European counterparts, is that the American wheelhead (the spinning centrepiece) has one extra house number, known as the dreaded double-zero (ergo the wheel is also known as the Double-Zero Wheel). The wheelhead contains 36 number slots, and two house number slots (0, 00).
The other key difference is the sequence of the numbers themselves; which is referred to as the American number sequence, and it is completely different from the French/European number sequence. Other differences include swapping the French betting layout terminology with an English version, and the implementation of non-valued chips when placing a bet. The house edge on almost all bets played on a double-zero wheel are 5.26%. with the exception of the ‘basket’ bet, where the house edge can go up as much as 7.89%. Most of Atlantic City gambling halls have the ‘surrender’ option in play. This could bring the house edge down to 2.63% on all even number bets.
The French Wheel
If we can call the French wheel the ‘godfather’ of all gambling paraphernalia, we still won’t be doing the wheel any justice. The French wheelhead has 36 number slots a player can bet on; and only one house number. This type of wheel is referred to as the Single-Zero Wheel, as seen below.
Unlike the American wheel, where there are two number slots of the same dye positioned next to the two house numbers, in French roulette all the numbers continuously alternate between red and black. The number sequence of the French wheelhead is unique for this type of roulette, and it is thus referred to as the French number sequence.
French layouts really lack diversity when it comes to colouring chips, and differentiating the different bets (chips), while they are on the table. Because there isn’t a good way to tell the bets apart (aside from actually paying attention to who places which chips), sometimes problems may arise, as to who called what bet, and when.
Like we said, the French number sequence differs greatly from the American number sequence, in that it lacks the extra house number. This gives the house less than half the house edge of a regular American style roulette (2.7%, rather than the usual 5.25%). There is another rule however, that most American players don’t know about. It is called the en prison rule; which can further lower the house edge to the more than satisfying 1.35%, but only on even number bets.
Hybrid wheels exist to satisfy the needs of gambling enthusiasts, who are not quite pleased with the double-zero wheel (for all the aforementioned reasons listed above). The wheel is called a hybrid wheel on the account that it features; rather MUST feature, elements of both French and American style wheels. It is also the only kind of wheel that is currently allowed/legal in UK casinos.
There are as many variations of ‘hybrid wheels’ as there are starts in the night sky. First of all, the number sequence can be either French or American, but not an amalgamation of both. Where the house number is placed is also the subject of many interpretations. For example, in British casinos, it is customary to place the zero between 26 and 32 (just like a regular French roulette), but other times the zero can be between 1 and 27 (where the double-zero usually stands), or even between 2 and 28. But as long as the wheel has only one house number, and no French markings whatsoever; we can say that it is in fact a hybrid wheel.
Some British casinos have a rule, similar to the French en prison; called le partage. It too lowers the house edge 1.35%, but again only on even number bets. US players who enjoy the idea of playing on a hybrid wheel layout will be sad to hear, that none of America’s prestigious gambling establishments approve of ‘surrender’ or giving le partage when single-zero wheels are involved; not even in Atlantic City.
To avoid any confusion with the actual “American wheel”; from here on we will be referring to hybrid wheels either as such; or as single-zero wheels, but never American.
Where To Find The Wheels
Double-zero roulette wheels can be found throughout the North American continent; the Caribbean Islands and the Bahamas, and even as far as Asia. Casinos around Europe are still using the usual French/Hybrid single-zero wheels, although double-zero wheels are known to exist, with the tendency of becoming more and more popular. British players will be happy to hear that as far as the law is concerned, using double-zero roulette wheels is still considered an illegal practise.
Most gambling establishments in Canada and the United State, do not offer a single-zero variant of everyone’s favourite ‘little wheel’. You can find a detailed list at the end of this guide, of some of the casinos we know offer the single-zero layout and wheel game.
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Why play on a single-zero layout? Most professional players will tell you that whether the wheel has one house number or two, it really makes no difference. In this guide, we will be relying more on the various types of wheels, and how to recognize and exploit their various weaknesses. New players should stick to single-zero wheels, for it is the only way for them to lower the house edge, that or good strategy.