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How to Win at Roulette

Finding the best roulette strategy is a dream for many punters. While there is no surefire strategy for how to win at roulette, there are ways to ensure you have fun while managing your bankroll.

Online Roulette Strategy

There are several methods of legitimately gaining an advantage over online roulette games. By and large, these involve the use of promotions, casino bonuses and comp point systems. But, if you're after a fool-proof way to win at roulette online, you might be disappointed. Due to Random Number Generator (RNG) technology, the outcomes of online roulette are truly random. Therefore, with online roulette, players can't count on traditional roulette strategies.

For instance, one can't count on a potential bias towards a particular section of the wheel, as in the offline roulette methods described further down in this guide. Where there may be live casino games available online where offline roulette strategy may be applicable, the game conditions available online are generally not conducive to gaining any sustainable level of advantage.

So, Can I Really Learn How to Win at Roulette?

Roulette does not really offer the opportunity for strategy decisions to make a difference to the cost of the game. The only decision really open to the player is the rules of the wheel they play at. This is because the rules very depending of whether you choose to play American Roulette, European Roulette, or French Roulette.

Expert roulette tip: the player should always choose a single 0 (European) Roulette wheel where available, and, if possible, one that uses the En Prison rule. This means that the player will only bet on the even money bets (Half, Even/Odd or Red/Black).

Other than the above, the difference between the available bets is variance, rather than cost. The cost of playing a straight up number is identical to that of any other bet on the wheel, but the chance of big wins or losses change. The only exception to this is the First 5 bet on a double 0 (American) wheel, which has a far higher cost to the player and should be avoided.

Popular Roulette Betting Systems

Online roulette is a very popular game among players who want to deploy progression betting systems. These systems raise or lower bets based on the recent results in the game and are normally deployed on the even money bets at the roulette table. A good example to cover is the Martingale System, which is often considered the best roulette strategy. We take a closer look at the facts behind this popular roulette betting system and whether it can truly help you win more at roulette.

A word of caution about roulette strategy and betting systems: While playing with the various betting systems may be fun, changing bets at the Roulette table will never by itself be enough to give the player any advantage over the house. If your main aim is to learn how to win at roulette to bank big and fast rather than just for fun and lucky wins, you're playing a losing game.

The Martingale System

The most popular of these is widely considered to be the Martingale system. This is what’s referred to as a Negative Betting Progression and sees the player double their bet after every losing result. To emphasize the dangers of using this system, below is a table displaying the number of losses, the amount of the next bet in the progression and the odds of a loss of this size occurring (this assumes a minimum bet of $1, where higher minimums are in force, this progression will escalate more rapidly);

121 in 1.95 1 in 1.85
241 in 3.79 1 in 3.61
381 in 7.38 1 in 6.86
4161 in 14.381 in 13.03
5321 in 28.011 in 24.76
6641 in 54.541 in 47.05
71281 in 106.201 in 89.39
82561 in 206.821 in 169.84
95121 in 402.751 in 322.69
1010241 in 784.301 in 613.11
1120481 in 1527.321 in 1164.90
1240961 in 2974.251 in 2213.31

The above table shows how quickly a player using the Martingale system can end up moving from very low wagers to very high wagers. In most instances the player will ultimately end up being ahead by one unit (in this case dollar) for every progression. The Martingale progression is good at creating frequent small wins. However the rare occurrence (which isn’t actually all that rare when you consider a Royal Flush in Jacks or Better Video Poker is due to occur approximately one in every 40k hands) will result in a catastrophic loss for the player.

Alongside these rare huge losses it has to be considered that the vast majority of casinos will not offer betting limits that allow this progression to move past 9 losses meaning that 1 in 400 progressions will result in a loss that cannot be recuperated on subsequent spins.

It’s also worth noting the substantial difference playing on a European single 0 wheel makes – a solid reason to always look for a European wheel even though this particular issue isn’t specific to progression betting systems.

Betting Systems and the Gambler's Fallacy

Regardless of which system is in play, progression betting systems rely on what is known as the Gambler’s Fallacy. This is the reasoning that past results will affect future ones. For example, if Red has come up 10 times in a row on a Roulette wheel many gamblers mistakenly believe that – as Black is equally likely to occur – Black must come out soon to ‘rebalance’ the odds. This is fundamentally untrue.

While it is true that in the long run the game will tend towards an equal number of Red and Black results, a bias to one colour or the other does not have to be balanced out by an equal bias of the other result and instead will be faded to insignificance simply by the large number of normal results.

Offline Roulette Strategy

A word of caution about using roulette strategies at casinos: it should be noted that while the roulette strategies discussed below are legal, the vast majority of casinos will restrict your access to their roulette tables/promotions (if not outright ban you from their establishment) if they think that you’re applying them.

While there are some legitimate playing strategies that can give the player the edge while playing roulette, the vast majority of the systems out there that purport to do this are completely bogus and devoid of any worth. Below are notes on some of the systems that can gain the player a mathematical advantage.

Regarding the legality of Card Counting and Shuffle Tracking: the strategies discussed below are legal within the US and UK as long the player can perform them without use of external aids (computers/calculators). The moment that a computer is used to keep track of the cards or perform calculations, this becomes a violation of gaming law. We strongly discourage anyone from engaging in any form of illegal activity.

Please be aware that the following roulette strategies are only valid where the game being played is not shuffled after every hand, or depend on a weak dealer providing the players with more information than they should have.

Comp Counting

Comp Counting is the practice of using the complimentary benefits that casinos reward players with to gain an edge over a game. This works if the value of the returned comps is greater than the cost of playing the game and is detailed in Max Rubin’s book ‘Comp City’. This book is well worth a read for anyone who holidays frequently in any of the gambling meccas.

The basic rules that Rubin suggests for those looking to gain an advantage from use of comps are;

  1. Play at a busy table (this will make your bets harder to track)

  2. Play at a slow table (this will decrease the amount you are betting)

  3. Look for a table where there are a good number of players using standard casino chips rather than the coloured wheel chips and play with standard chips rather than wheel chips (this will make it harder to track your bets)

  4. Place a large initial bet when the game supervisor is rating you and if possible remove some of the bet when the supervisor looks away, but before the ball has been spun.

The idea is to convince the game supervisor that you are betting more than you actually are resulting in comps being awarded at a higher than accurate level. The above is a very stripped down version of what Rubin advises and can be fine-tuned substantially if you are playing regularly.

It should also be possible for two players to bet on opposite results while playing for comps on the same wheel reducing the variance involved in obtaining the comps, however if the casino becomes aware of players working together in this fashion the players are likely to find their play and privileges restricted.

Bias Wheel

One of the earliest methods that could legitimately gain an edge over the game of Roulette was based on the identification of slight biases in individual wheels. This method requires a substantial amount of scouting time due to the slow rate of play and the substantial amount of data that needs to be collected on each wheel to successfully identify biases towards certain numbers/sections of the wheel.

With more primitive Roulette wheels this may still be possible, but due to sizable wins by players as late as the 1990s, modern casinos track normally track the results of their own wheels and rebalance the wheels regularly to ensure that biases do not occur.

While there may be occasional situations where a bias wheel could be identified and exploited the time involved in the identification of such opportunities alongside the likelihood that any bias will be short-lived makes the Bias Wheel effect primarily a play of the past.

Visual Ballistics and Acoustic Prediction

Several serious players – most specifically Laurance Scott - have claimed that it is possible, with extensive practice to predict where the ball will land by observing the speed of rotation of both the wheel and the ball.  This technique relies on the procedures that allow players to continue wagering for a short period of time after the Croupier has spun the ball. Other methods that are often packaged with Visual Ballistics include Acoustic Prediction which involves listening to the sound the ball makes while it travels round the wheel and using the change in pitch to judge when the ball is likely to drop from the track onto the wheel.

These techniques do not rely on precision when predicting where the ball will land, but rather look to exclude just small sections of the wheel where the ball won’t land. On a European Roulette wheel, excluding just three numbers from the possible results will give the player an advantage (a European Roulette wheel has 37, if it can be confirmed that the ball will not land on 2 of those numbers there are only 35 possibilities and given the straight up payout of 35 to 1, meaning the player gets 36x their bet returned, the game now returns a player advantage).

Interesting side note: historically, this premise has been used successfully by several teams deploying computers to track the ball and rotor speed to predict the section of the wheel that it will fall in, including one run by the Godfather of Card Counting, Edward O. Thorp. However, as the use of computer aides within the casino environment is now illegal in most major jurisdictions, use of these computers would now constitute cheating.

While the theory of these techniques is absolutely mathematically sound, the successful implementation of these techniques is far more controversial. Unlike other techniques to gain an edge over the house, like Card Counting at Blackjack, practicing for success cannot be confirmed by any means other than analysis of results. When Card Counting at home the practitioner can stop and check the count on the remaining cards to confirm that they’ve been accurate in their assessment of the shoe and confirm they have an advantage. With Visual Ballistics, no checks are reasonably possible and the successful or unsuccessful prediction of the result does not necessarily confirm or refute the player’s ability. Large sampling is required to confirm a player has achieved a working advantage, though the more precise the prediction (more number confirmed that will not come up) the smaller the sample needed to verify an advantage.

On top of this, while a deck of cards contains the same distribution everywhere, the specifics of Roulette wheels change from wheel to wheel and the environment in a casino (people and noise) can substantially alter the playing conditions, creating a situation where even someone who could successfully deploy Visual Ballistics at home may find their accuracy substantially diminished in the real casino environment.

All in all Visual Ballistics and Acoustic Prediction are difficult techniques to verify and even if they can be deployed successfully are likely to involve many years of practice to gain the necessary skills.

Ball Steering

A cheating technique rather than an Advantage Play technique, the premise of Ball Steering is that a Croupier can learn to spin a Roulette ball in such a way as to ensure the ball lands on a pre-determined sector of the wheel. This would allow the Croupier to review the bets placed before the spin and determine where to land the ball to either benefit the players or the casinos.

While there may be rare Croupiers that can achieve such accuracy, it’s highly unlikely that many players would ever come across a game where Ball Steering was being deployed and certainly not in a specific attempt to benefit the casino. There are two reasons for this;

  • A Croupier who could hit certain sectors of the wheel would quickly realise that their skills could be deployed far more profitably for themselves than for the house. By working with an accomplice playing at the table the Croupier could target the ball to allow their accomplice to win, then ensure that the table figures (profit made for the casino) remain consistent but causing other players to lose more frequently. A Croupier cheating for an accomplice is far more likely than one cheating for the house.

  • If a Croupier deploying Ball Steering was to be encountered, their skills could quickly be turned against them. By waiting until the ball was spun and subsequently betting on the sectors of the wheel that did not have substantial volumes of player bets the smart player could gain an edge themselves and as the player is waiting until after the Croupier releases the ball, there’s little the Croupier could do to prevent this other than targeting sectors of the wheel with other player bets.

It’s highly unlikely that Ball Steering represents any substantial threat to players, though several notable players, including Arnold Snyder, disagree.


  • ‘Comp City’ – Max Rubin