Roulette: Mesmeric appeal of the wheel

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The Independent Culture
AT HOLIDAY time many people may be tempted to have a flutter. Casinos all over Europe, East and West, have arms wide open for tourists. Roulette is the queen of casino games. The spin and glitter of the wheel have a mesmeric effect on all players, as Dostoyevsky's classic story The Gambler shows.

Roulette is also the system player's game par excellence. Around every roulette table you will find earnest gamblers, noting down the sequence of numbers. I have to say, sad as it is, that there is no system whatever which can predict what is coming up on the next spin. The reason is simple: the wheel has no memory]

But it is still important to understand the odds at roulette. First of all, avoid American roulette with two zeros. The odds against the punter are a ruinous 5.26 per cent, which means you might as well toss your money into the sea in the hope of catching a mermaid. The odds at French single zero roulette are 2.7 per cent on the numbers and 1.35 per cent on even money chances like red or black.

Even the debonair James Bond could get roulette wrong. In Casino Royale he backs two of the dozen columns (which are 1-12, 13-24, 25-36) with 100,000 francs on each, and thus covers 24 out of the 37 numbers (including zero) on the board. With odds of 2-1 he will clear 100,000 if one of his columns come up. But he could have had much better value.

Best is 150,000 francs on an even money chance, say manque (1-18), and 50,000 on the sixaine (19-24). If the latter comes up, at odds of 5-1, he still wins 100,000 francs (250,000 less his 150,000 on manque). If manque comes up he also wins 100,000 francs (150,000 less 50,000). And if, as bad luck would have it, zero comes up, he loses only half his stake on manque (under traditional French rules half the stake is lost and half is held en prison on even money chances), with the chance of saving his stake if the next spin is manque.

If you want just one fun bet, here is the most dramatic combination at roulette, which pays 135 for 9 if your number comes up.

1 x 35 on 32, 4 x 17 for 32-31, -29, -33, -35, 4 x 8 for 32-28, -30, -34 and -36.

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