Should I bet a few or many roulette numbers? Which approach is better? This is a very interesting and quite practical question. Short answer: It depends.
Each approach has its own pros and cons. One should not decide to bet many or few numbers without taking into account other aspects of his betting method. The bet selection is an integral part of a roulette system and can only be evaluated in relation to the other aspects of the roulette strategy one plans to follow.
Roulette is an exceptionally well balanced game. It is unbelievably hard, near impossible, to find and exploit “holes” in the construction of the game and diminish the house edge, let alone “gain an advantage” over the casino.
More numbers don’t mean necessarily betting more money
Back to the initial question of many vs few numbers. Most players think that betting few numbers is better. The are various way of reasoning for betting as few numbers as possible. The most common is that when you bet few numbers you are less exposed to the house edge than if you played many numbers.
Practically this argument has some merit, because usually when you bet few numbers your total bet value is lower than when you bet many numbers. Since the house edge (player disadvantage) is calculated based on your total bet value, the less you bet each spin, the better. But theoretically this has nothing to do with how many numbers you bet. You can perfectly bet 20 numbers with $1 on each number or just bet $100 on a single number. In this case the $100 single number bet has greater disadvantage than the 20 numbers bet. There is nothing inherently bad or disadvantageous in betting many numbers. You disadvantage is based solely on the total amount of your bet. The misconception is that people take as granted that when you bet more numbers you bet more money – which is not always the case.
Betting few roulette numbers
Let’s see the characteristics of a few numbers bet. I have explained thoroughly the 5 neighbor numbers bet, which is a great example of a “few numbers bet”. Technically, anything less than 18 numbers can be considered “few numbers”, but most players, when they say they bet few numbers they mean 5 or less numbers. The less numbers one bets the more powerful the characteristics of the “few numbers” bet. What are those characteristics?
When you bet few numbers you must be prepared for really long streak without a hit, which can be followed by short streaks with multiple hits. It is not very common for the hits to come in predetermined “normal” intervals. There are usually long waves of misses with short waves of multiple hits within a short period – not necessarily consecutive hits. This characteristic, combined with the high payouts of a few numbers bet, give this bet the feel of a roller-coaster with long lows and sharp heights. This is how you should expect your bankroll to fluctuate. There is great variance in this bet. To put is in layman’s terms: you won’t be lucky often, but when you are you win big.
Betting many numbers
Any thing more than 18 numbers can be considered “many numbers”. An example is my Kavouras bet system, which uses 20 numbers. Many people bet 24 numbers, by betting two dozens or columns. This type of bets have low variance, meaning you wont see long losing streaks too often. This does not necessarily mean that you will be in profit. Usually these type of bets usually have low payouts, thus it is possible that even if you have more wins than losses, the wins do not recoup your losses.
To put it simply. By betting many numbers you can be sure you wont have too many misses, you wont face too many long losing streaks – your numbers will hit often. Though when you win you don’t win much, therefore it still possible to be in the hole even if your numbers do go missing.
Which is better for me?
Should you bet more or less numbers? Like I wrote earlier, it depends. There are many factors to take into account when creating a strategy and these factors are inter-winded and create synergies. After all it up to your own playing style. Tell me what kind of strategy you want to create and play and then I can tell you what kind of bet you should chose. There are no easy answers and no obvious choices in roulette. Still I do have an opinion on when it is best to have a large or small bet selection.
Variance is big when playing few numbers, therefore I believe that it is best to bet few numbers with up as you win (positive) progressions, like the Paroli or reverse D’Alembert. Now add a follow the trend kind of bet selection, betting on what you perceive as hot numbers and you have the absolute “trend is your friend” strategy. When you catch the wave you win real big and when the sea is calm you lose moderately. These are the three characteristics that go well together, take great advantage of trends and form the best “go with the flow” method:
- hot numbers
- few numbers
- positive progression
On the other hand, when you play many numbers, it is like you are “forcing” a hit. This mentality of “forced hit” is related with up as you win (negative) progressions, like the Labouchere or Martingale. It is also related with cold numbers that are absent for many spins and due to hit sooner or later. So while the previous few numbers approach tries to take advantage of trends and temporary imbalances, strategies with many numbers are better for waiting out the results to eventually reverse the imbalance (reversal to the mean) and approach their average appearance expectation. Such a strategy would use:
- cold numbers
- many numbers
- negative progression
There are even more type of strategies than the two I described above. For example one can use many hot numbers and positive progression, or few hot numbers and a positive progression or… Well, the combinations are endless and each one has its own pros and cons and its own requirements. It is up to you, your bankroll, playing style and overall roulette philosophy what kind of system you will bet your money on. There are no easy answers and no easy winners. Study, think, risk, learn and decide for yourself.
Bayes explains betting few vs many numbers
Here is what Bayes said about the issue and I agree with him:
Everything else being equal (equal total value of the bet), what’s the difference between betting 1 number or 30?
In fact the average number of spins until the banks are depleted is the same whether you bet few or many numbers. What’s different is the maximum (and minimum) value of the bank during the betting.
Suppose you have two banks of $2000 each and with one bet $1 on each of 30 numbers, and the other bet $30 on one number. So the total outlay per spin is the same – $30.
On average both banks will last just under 2,500 spins, but in the case of betting one number, the bank can reach as much as $300,000, whereas betting 30 numbers the maximum (in my simulation of 1 million sessions) it only reached $3,500. It’s the increased variance of the one number bet which gives the player more opportunities to leave with an acceptable profit. Of course variance works both ways, so the potential losses betting one number are also much greater.
If betting a lot of numbers, you have to use progressions to achieve the same kind of variance, which means you end up paying more to the house edge.