The Difference Between European, American, and French Roulette

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Roulette is one of the most popular casino games in the world. Everyone recognizes the name, everyone can picture the roulette wheel and table, and most people know how to play. Even those that are unsure can have a reasonable understanding – place a bet on a potential outcome, see the wheel spin, and hope the ball lands on your selection. 

It won’t take long for a newcomer to begin to understand that different bets attract different odds. For example, the easy ones to master first are the 50/50 shots like selecting red or black, or odd or even. Then you have the column bets or dozens, and then the 36 numbers on the table. Bet on an individual number and get a 36/1 return if it comes in. 

However, even those 50/50 bets are not that simple, because the odds are not even. That’s because of the green zero segment. If the ball lands on the green zero, all bets are lost… unless you bet on the zero. The zero means there are 37 numbers on the roulette table, 1-36 and zero, so if you bet on red or black, or odd or even, you are actually betting 18/37, not 50/50. 

It’s not a casino industry secret that the green zero is what gives the casino its house edge in roulette. Although gamblers might moan about the house edge, without it no casinos would exist, because they may well all go bust within weeks. The house edge is the juice that pays the employees and keeps the lights on. 

But that is not where the influence of the green zero in roulette ends.

American Roulette 

The game we have described so far, with the single green zero segment, is European Roulette. It’s the most popular form of roulette you will find in brick and mortar and in online casinos. You can see that for yourself by heading to one of the many trusted gambling sites so you can play roulette online. 

However, you might also see something a little different: a roulette table with a green zero and a green double zero segment. This is American Roulette, and we would recommend you avoid playing on tables like this. 

Why? Because like in European Roulette, in American Roulette the green zero and the double green zero forfeits everyone’s bets if the ball lands there. Now, if you are making a red or black bet, for example, you have only an 18/38 shot of hitting, not 18/37. It might not sound like much of a difference, but over time it will eat into your profitability or lack of it. 

The net result is that the house edge is American Roulette is 5.26%, a significant rise from the 2.7% figure assumed for single zero-only tables. That means for every $100 you spend on American Roulette, you are expected to lose $5.26. Of course, anything can happen in the short term, and you might land a big win. But play continually over a substantial period, and the house will always win.

And Then There is the French 

The people of France like to be a little off the wall, so why should playing roulette be any different? They are said to have invented the game in France in 1720, after all. 

The good news is French Roulette, like the European version, has only one green zero, bringing the house edge down. The even better news is that players get a little extra help. When the ball lands in the green zero, players do not automatically lose all their bets, at least not those betting on the even-money bets like red or black or odd and even. Instead, one of two things happens. 

Either the En Prison rule is played, which means ‘in jail’. In this case, your even-money bets are not taken away; they remain in place for the next spin of the wheel. They get a second chance. They might lose the next spin; they might win. 

If the En Prison rule is not used on the table, then the La Partage rule will be. In this case, if the ball lands on zero, players lose half of their  50/50 bets, and the remainder is returned to you. What you do on the next spin is entirely up to you. 

The peculiar French variations give more chances to the player, and so if you can find a French Roulette table, which is increasingly rare (because casinos want to win more, right?), then give it a try.

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