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The House Edge In Roulette

By Charles D.

Level: Apr 26th 2010
When you engage in a game of online roulette, you are trying to overcome one factor and one factor only, and that is the house edge. It should be no shocker that the casino has a built-in advantage in this game, because that is naturally the way in which it continues to exist and serve customers.

What exactly IS the house edge? Well, very simply put, it constitutes the difference between what the casino collects from you in the way of a wager and what it pays out to you in the event you win. You could probably refer to it as the "vig" or the "vigorish." You'll probably hear that expression more when it refers to what sports bookmakers do. The customer lays 11-to-10 on many sporting events. It becomes the losers who are paying that "vig" out.

Understand that if you were to take wagers on something that had a 2-to-1 chance of happening but you only paid off at even money odds when somebody won, you would certainly be sitting with the luxury of a very big edge, derived from the considerable margin between what you're taking in and what you are paying out. Over the long haul, that adds up to a lot of profit.

In the game of online roulette, this particular margin is not nearly as dramatic, but don't kid yourself - there will be a house edge in this game, and it will work on every bet you make. Let's take a look at what that is, and where it comes from.

It's actually rather elementary when you break it down. The chance that any single number winning on an American roulette wheel (i.e., that which there is a zero and double zero) is one in 38. The payoff on any "straight bet," i.e., a bet on a single number, is 35-to-1, which means that you will recoup the amount of your original bet in addition to an amount equal to 35 times that bet.

The rudimentary formula you can use to calculate the house edge is

(Odds Against Winning - House Odds) x Probability of Winning

The odds against winning are 37/1. The house odds (the payoff) are 35/1. That much has already been established. The probability of winning is 1/38. You just have to plug those values into the equation.

When you make the calculations, you get:

(37/1 - 35/1) x 1/38 = 2/38 = .0526315

To convert this into a percentage, you simply move the decimal two places to the right. When it's rounded down, it converts to 5.26%. This is the house edge under which the game of roulette operates. It is rock solid; enough that with only one exception (where the edge is a little lower), it remains consistent. This 5.26% number represents steeper odds than what you'll find most of the time in craps, and it is more than the built-in house advantage in online blackjack, although we say that with the caveat that much depends on how badly you play.

Undoubtedly there are some things you can do to win in the short run; to reduce the house edge to some extent. And when we talk about the "long run" it is really just a succession of short runs. So keep your chin up, don't forget to manage your money correctly, and realize what you are up against.
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