Whether in the casino or online, Vegas roulette is a perennially popular game. However, many people don’t realize that they can find roulette varieties online with significantly more favorable odds: some of these cut the house edge by 50% or more! What’s the big difference, and how can you find these odds? Read on to learn more…
The Player's Guide to Vegas Roulette
This guide will discuss Vegas roulette and how it compares to other roulette varieties you can find online. We'll also compare differences in comps and in the overall playing experience between online options and Vegas.
How Most Vegas Roulette Tables Work
The real Vegas roulette experience begins with browsing around the casino floor looking for a table with stakes that suit you and space available. Vegas roulette tables generally only have four to seven seats. There is a limited amount of chips available as each player has to use a uniquely-colored set for the game.
If you're playing on the Strip itself, you also have to keep an eye out for “short pays.” Around the world, the standard payout for a roulette table is 35:1 for a straight-up bet, and 17:1 for a split bet. Any table that pays less is considered a short pay table. Unfortunately, while the Vegas Strip is still popular for its nightlife and shows, it is no longer a mecca for serious gamblers. The Strip generally offers some of the worst odds and pay tables anywhere, including roulette.
Internationally and at most online casinos, the roulette rules used in Vegas are referred to as “American rules.” The primary difference is that a 00 slot is added to the wheel, an invention that first appeared in Vegas. This change is an unpopular one because the presence of that added 00 doubles the house edge on just about all bets.
If you want better odds while playing roulette in Vegas, you'll have to go to the high-limit tables. Usually, the absolute minimum bet at these more favorable tables will be $25, though it’s realistic to expect to pay $50 or $100 minimum per spin. It will take a good dose of Vegas luck and some serious searching through multiple casino floors to find anything lower.
The Other Types of Roulette
The more favorable variant of roulette is known as “European roulette,” but it's actually played just about everywhere apart from the United States. European roulette is the traditional form where the house’s edge is set by just a lone 0 slot on the wheel.
Less common but with even better odds are variants called “en partage,” “surrender,” or “imprisonment.” These variants popularized in France enact special rules when the spin comes up as “0.” They either allow the player to recover half of certain losing bets right away or imprison the full bet in the hopes of recovering it with a win on the next spin.
Imprisonment tables are as rare as a blue moon in Las Vegas. A handful of casinos in Vegas do offer these tables from time to time, but they are exclusively reserved for high rollers. The high roller area is also the only place you'll find single 0 wheels in the city.
Fortunately, because online casinos cater to an international clientele, popular demand forces them to run European tables. They do offer “American rules,” but often have to sweeten the pot in some way to entice players to give it a try.
Vegas Roulette vs. Online Roulette–Comps
Vegas roulette tables have the highest house edge of all, but that still doesn't mean they are particularly generous with comps.
When you play slots or video poker at a Vegas casino, the comps system is generally simple and easy to understand: X comp points for Y coin-in at Z game. (For example, 1 comp point per $5 coin-in for slots at Caesar's properties). Not so with roulette tables, which use the old-school system of having a pit boss “rate” your play. You'll likely hand over your player’s card, but it's still up to the boss to decide how to rate you based on your betting patterns. (And that’s assuming the boss is even paying attention to your bets.)
Many players have had the slick idea of playing video roulette and wagering simultaneously on red and black to rack up comps. This is a poor solution. First of all, it’s not an even-money bet: hitting a 0 or 00 will usually set you back quite a bit. Second, even though the house still keeps its edge, they typically don't comp players who are betting this way. Some casinos have even eliminated comps on all of the most favorable outside bets.
Online casinos won't let you play the system either, but roulette players can expect a bit more favorable treatment. Without food or meal comps, the systems are more transparent. Most bonuses consist of free play, and the casino will tell you right up front whether or not they can be used at roulette.
Vegas Roulette vs. Online Roulette–The Experience
Comps aside, playing roulette in Vegas is a completely different experience from online play. Many people have found they prefer the latter.
First of all, there's the matter of getting to Vegas, which usually means either crowded and expensive flights or a long drive through the desert. The days of casino junket buses from various nearby cities are long gone. The only option now is commercial carriers like Greyhound and Megabus. While they’re affordable, they aren't the most pleasant or reliable experience.
Then there's the added cost of hotel stays and parking at your favorite casino. The gaming industry is trending away from offering free parking to everyone; you often have to be in one of the higher player's club tiers to get it now. If you plan to visit on a weekend or during a major convention, be prepared to pay about four times the regular rate for any given room (if they aren't already sold out).
And, as touched on before, there's the search for an open seat at a table with stakes you want. The downtown area is compact, but the rest of Vegas is very spread out, so this can be no small task.
Why go through all that trouble when the more favorable odds are available from the comfort of your own home? Some people enjoy the social experience, but that’s possible online too. Live streaming games are conducted by a live croupier over video. At some tables you can chat with the croupier or other players through a text window while still retaining your privacy–the croupier is the only one on camera.
Better-Than-Vegas Roulette From Home
Vegas is always an experience, but these days often not a good one. If you want more favorable odds and better potential rewards, playing roulette online is often the way to go.