American v. European Roulette: The Ultimate Guide

Whether you visit a live casino in the UK or log on to one of the hundreds of gambling sites available online, you can expect to find more than one type of roulette.

While there are more than a dozen different roulette variants in existence, you’re most likely to encounter European or American roulette tables. That’s particularly true if you play at a live venue in the United Kingdom.

Keep reading this guide and you’ll learn about the fundamental differences between these roulette variants as well as the pro, cons, and payout percentages.

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Game Differences

Whether you play American or European roulette, the rules are effectively the same. Both variants revolve around a wheel with numbered pockets ranging from 0-36, but the American game adds an additional 00 pocket to the wheel.

While an extra number might not seem like a big deal, it reduces your chances of hitting any given number. That means you’ll have to deal with worse odds if you choose the American version.

We’ll discuss the math in greater detail below, but the main takeaway is that the house advantage is much worse for players who choose American rather than European roulette.

Although American and European roulette have similar rules, savvy players always choose the European game for its lower house edge.

As you might expect the 00 doesn’t just appear on the wheel, it’s also on the betting surface. You’ll find it besides the 0 on the betting area when playing American roulette. Since both the 0 and 00 are green, you won’t be covering either of these numbers if you bet on red or black. In fact, none of the outside bets cover these numbers.

American and European roulette wheels use different sequences. Here are the standard clockwise arrangements for each version:

0, 32, 15, 19, 4, 21, 2, 25, 17, 34, 6, 27, 13, 36, 11, 30, 8, 23, 10, 5, 24, 16, 33, 1, 20, 14, 31, 9, 22, 18, 29, 7, 28, 12, 35, 3, 26

0, 28, 9, 26, 30, 11, 7, 20, 32, 17, 5, 22, 34, 15, 3, 24, 36, 13, 1, 00, 27, 10, 25, 29, 12, 8, 19, 31, 18, 6, 21, 33, 16, 4, 23, 35, 14, 2

When playing European roulette, you can often make use of call bets. As the name suggests, you can announce your bet to the dealer rather than placing your chips on the table. You’ll want to take advantage of call bets when placing more complicated wagers like neighbours, which cover adjacent numbers on the wheel, black splits, and final bets.

American roulette also features a special wager known as the five-number bet, which covers 0, 00, 1, 2, and 3. This bet pays 6:1, but you should know that it has a high house edge of 7.9%.

Payout Percentage

Although the addition of an extra slot on the wheel might seem negligible at first glance, if you take the time to do the math, you’ll quickly discover how much better the European game is.

European and American roulette wheels feature 37 and 38 slots respectively, which means you have a 1 in 37 or 2.70% chance of hitting any single number in the European game. Compare that to a 1 in 38 or 2.63% chance of hitting any given single number in the American game.

Now consider that in both of the variants, you’ll get paid even money by betting on reds, blacks, evens, odds, lows, or highs. Since none of these even money bets cover the 0 or 00, having an extra losing spot on the wheel will reduce your odds considerably.

For example, the odds of landing on a red number are 18/37 or 48.65% in European roulette and 18/38 or 47.37% in American roulette. Given that 50% is the baseline for breaking even, you can get the payout percentages by doubling these figures.

So, European roulette has a payout percentage of 97.3% and American roulette has a payout percentage of 94.74%. That means the house advantage is 2.70% for European roulette and 5.26% for American roulette.

Generally speaking, the payout percentages are consistent no matter which bet you place. There is one exception if you play American roulette. In this game, the 5 number or top line bet has a whopping 7.89% house edge.

Why You’ll Want to Choose European Roulette

When you choose European roulette over its American counterpart, you’ll have a greater chance of winning. As we mentioned, the European game has a 2.7% house edge, which is vastly superior to the 5.26% house edge you’ll find at American tables. If you want to win more often, it’s wise to choose the European version.

European roulette really only has a couple of shortcomings. The first is that it’s not always available.

In an effort to increase their profits, some casinos only offer American roulette. The second has to do with the stakes. Some live casinos only offer European roulette to VIPs and players who are willing to gamble at higher stakes.

When you play online, you can generally expect to find all variants at stakes to meet every budget.

Why Play American Roulette

Given that European roulette has a lower house edge than its stateside counterpart, you might be wondering why anyone would bother playing the American version. While you certainly want to put yourself in the best position to win, there are a few reasons why players just like you find themselves at American roulette tables from time to time.

Although just about every online gambling site offers several versions of roulette, some live casinos might only offer American Roulette. At some UK casinos, European roulette is only available to VIPs or at high stakes. If you don’t feel like being pressured to increase the size of your bets, sometimes it’s worth playing the American game.

Are you planning on heading across the pond for a gambling adventure? Whether you play in Las Vegas, Detroit, or Atlantic City, you can expect to find American rather than European roulette.

In other words, American roulette might be the only game in town or at least the only variant available at the casinos you visit. If you want to get accustomed to American odds and betting strategies, you might want to consider playing online before your trip, especially since free games are available.

The French Connection

If you travel to France or play online, you can also take advantage of French roulette. This game is based on European roulette, but features French terms atop the table and adds house rules that improve your odds. Before playing, you’ll want to check whether the game uses la partage or en prison. Both of these house rules will cut the house edge in half on even money bets.

When la partage is in effect and the ball lands on zero, you’ll get half your money back. At tables that use en prison, your even money bets will remain on the table for the next spin should the ball land on zero. Either way, the house edge is just 1.35% in these situations.