Roulette is one of the most popular casino games in the world, and almost as common is the debate on the difference between American and European Roulette. At first glance many casino players cannot tell the difference, but each Roulette variation has its own rules and odds, and a closer look at the tables and wheels of each game reveal even more differences. So we gathered in this article all the information you need for deciding which side of the Atlantic you take in the showdown between American Roulette vs European Roulette.
There is no unanimous agreement on the origins of Roulette. Some believe it is based on an ancient Chinese board game that required to arrange 37 animal figurines in a magic square. Closer to Roulette as we know it today, Roman and Greek soldiers in ancient times used to play betting games involving spinning a shield or a chariot wheel.
But it is most widely believed that Roulette was invented by French math wizard Blaise Pascal sometime in the 17th century. Although associated today with the American Roulette wheel, Pascal’s version of the game originally had two ‘zero’ pockets. As gambling became illegal in France, French brothers Fancois and Louis Blanc introduced in 1842 the first single-zero pocket Roulette game at a spa casino in Baden Hamburg, Germany. Several years later they brought Roulette back to France upon the request of Prince Charles of Monaco III, hence the origin of the name ‘French Roulette’.
European Roulette was introduced to America by European settlers that landed in Louisiana in the early 19th century. When casino proprietors there wanted to increase the house edge they reintroduced the double zero-pocket which is today the most distinct feature of the American Roulette wheel.
Fast forward to 1994 when Roulette was introduced to the internet with the launch of the first online casino. Taking technological innovation further, today many online casinos offer live-dealer Roulette games which enable to play Roulette at a real table from the comfort of your own home.
The aim in all roulette games is for the player to place bets on specific numbers and/or events (these are called ‘outside bets’ – for example betting on odd/even, black/red, 1-12, etc.). The dealer then spins the wheel and if the ball lands on a predicted number and/or event, the player wins the bet. Players cannot bet on the zero number/pocket, and this is where the differences between the two versions begin – a European Roulette wheel has one zero pocket and an American Roulette wheel has two (marked with ‘0’ and ‘00’). Whilst the basic rules across different game variations are similar, there are specific rules that are unique to European Roulette as opposed to American Roulette and vice versa.
When playing at the European Roulette table, players can ‘call bets’ which means they can place a bet by announcing it to the dealer instead of putting chips down on the table. Usually the option of calling a bet is reserved for more complex betting actions. At many European Roulette tables players can also make use of French Roulette rules, namely the ‘En Prison’ rule which allows you to spin again if you placed an even bet and the ball landed on the zero pocket, and the ‘La Partage’ rule which allows you to split and lose half your bet. We cover these rules in detail, including their RTPs and odds in the dedicated French Roulette section below.
If you are sat at an American Roulette table and the ball lands on a zero pocket (and remember: on an American Roulette wheel there is not one, but two of these!), all number and outside bets are lost. You can also place a five-number bet (also known as a ‘top line’ bet) which is a bet on the numbers 1, 2, 3, 0 and 00. Given there are two chances of losing due to the ball landing on zero pockets, this bet is pretty risky, with a house edge of a massive 7.89%!
The best way to immediately spot the difference between European and American Roulette is to look for the green pockets on the Roulette wheel. If there are two pockets, you are definitely standing in front of an American Roulette table. If however there is only one, it’s probably a European Roulette table you are looking at. Still, there are more differences between the two games.
The following table provides a comparison of the differences between European and American Roulette games:
|European Roulette||American Roulette|
|Invented||France, 17th century||America, 19th century|
|Number of Pockets||37||38|
|Average Payout for 100||97.3%||94.74%|
|Outside Bets Table Layout||Split between two long sides||On one long side|
|Dealers at Table||Two (croupier+ table umpire)||One|
Some players dismiss the difference between American and European Roulette, thinking “how much of a difference can one pocket on the Roulette wheel make?” but a quick look at the statistics show that the European Roulette odds and RTP (Return to Player) add up considerably to the benefit of the player. If you are interested in compering odds, RTP and other game rules and features, there are many other exciting Roulette game types which are definitely worth exploring!
We went through this already, but it is still worthwhile explaining in detail why one zero pocket on a European Roulette wheel makes such a huge difference compared to two zero pockets in American Roulette. The house advantage in European Roulette is 2.7% compared to American Roulette where the extra zero pocket pushes it up to 5.26%. This means that for every 1 coin you bet on European Roulette you are expected to lose 0.027 over 37 spins. And on every 1 coin you bet on American Roulette you are expected to lose 0.0526, which is almost twice as much!
Professional Roulette tables at casinos have a rectangular shape and are usually made of leather or polished wood for upscale tables, or synthetic upholstery for the larger, more casual gambling halls. Many tables still have drink and ashtray holders (remanence of the times when smoking was still allowed in the casino). The Roulette wheel itself sits on an independent, stabilized structure to prevent players from moving the table and indirectly affecting (deliberately or not) the movement of the wheel.
American Roulette tables are rectangular with the wheel based on the short side of the table. One dealer stands next to the wheel and players sit on both long sides of the table opposite the dealer. Outside bets are laid on one long side of the table.
European Roulette tables are a bit bigger in dimension, with the wheel positioned on the short side of the table where one dealer sits on a high chair (the table umpire), whilst a second dealer holds a croupier’s rake for collecting chips from the table. Outside bets are laid out on both long sides of the table.
Throughout history and to this day, Roulette games in France have been a main source of entertainment in large social gatherings. So it is common to find in French casinos and gambling salons large, double French Roulette tables with the wheel based in the centre and two betting layouts set, one on each side of the wheel.
Although looking similar at first glance, the European and American Roulette wheels have quite a few differences in design. The most obvious clue which we covered already is the single zero pocket on a European Roulette wheel vs two pockets on the American wheel. But the numbers are also ordered very differently on each version.
The following table gives a more detailed review of the types of bets available and the odds (which are your chances of winning) when comparing European vs American Roulette:
|Bet Type||Payout||American Roulette Odds||European Roulette Odds|
|6 Numbers (6 line)||5:1||15.79%||16.22%|
|5 Numbers (top line)||6:1||13.16%||-|
|4 Numbers (square)||8:1||10.53%||10.81%|
|3 Numbers (street)||11:1||7.89%||8.11%|
|2 Numbers (split)||17:1||5.26%||5.41%|
|1 Number (straight)||35:1||2.63%||2.70%|
The payout for bets is stated as the ratio between your bet and how much you will receive if you win. So for example a 1:1 payout means you will receive 1 chip plus your original bet, 2:1 means you will receive 2 chips plus your original bet and so on; all the way to winning a bet on a single number (straight), where you will receive 35 chips plus your original bet.
French Roulette is a sub category of the game which uses the same wheel and betting options of European Roulette. The games are almost identical, other than two game rules that can work to the advantage of French Roulette players. The first is the ‘En Prison’ rule, which allows you to have an additional spin when you place an even money bet and the ball lands on the zero pocket.
Second, is the ‘La Partage’ rule which means ‘splitting’. Following the ‘La Partage’ rule in French Roulette, if you lose on an outside bet you will receive half of your bet back in case the ball lands on the zero pocket. By taking advantage of these rules, players can actually reduce the house edge from the European Roulette standard of 2.6% to as low as 1.35%!
We really thought long and hard about a way to sound original and not state the obvious conclusion. But numbers don’t lie so when comparing between European and American Roulette, the odds are clearly in favour of European Roulette. It isn’t an opinion or assumption, it is fact – no matter which bet you place, your chances to win over time are considerably better at a European Roulette table.
So, what are the advantages of playing American Roulette and why is it so popular in the US? Possibly the thrill of having two zero pockets (if the fear of losing more thrills you…), and for those that are looking for excitement and action there is the top-line (5 numbers) bet which is available only in the American version of the game. Although it brings the House Edge up to a whopping 7.89%, the 6:1 payout is pretty attractive.
There are different strategies you can follow playing either American or European Roulette that can not only increase your chances to win, but also make the game more challenging, exciting and fun. So do some research about which variation is best for you and have a look at the rules. You can learn from players that developed great skills in the game and put your skills to the test at the best online Roulette sites in the country.
Whether you play American, European or any other version of Roulette, always keep in mind that it is a game of chance and luck plays a major part in every spin of the wheel. So always stick to your limits, play for fun and keep it safe. When the fun stops and you are about to lose more than you intended to, take a break and leave the table. So you can come back next time, all fresh and ready to land those winning spins.
Ziv Chen has been working in the online gambling industry for over two decades in senior marketing and business development roles. Ziv writes about a wide range of topics including slot and table games, casino and sportsbook reviews, American sports news, betting odds and game predictions. Leading a life full of conflict, Ziv constantly struggles between his two greatest loves: American football and US soccer.Read Full Bio