The wheel is the battlefield. It is the court that judges the outcome (without possibility for an appeal). The fixed point of the horizon on which every roulette player has his eyes full of anticipation. A slight difference, a minor game of the wheel, one number left or right, can decide ruin from victory. It is unthinkable to call yourself a roulette player if you haven’t studied the physical and mechanical aspects of roulette. The wheel is the game.
The roulette cylinder was introduced in a primitive form, in the 17th century, by Blaise Pascal, a French physicist, philosopher and inventor, in his quest to create for a perpetual motion machine. The game of roulette as we know it today started being played a century later, around 1760, in France.
For the untrained eye, there is no difference between the different types of roulette wheels, but at a closer look, the differences become self-evident. One of the first decisions that roulette players need to make is whether to spin a European or American roulette, as these are the two main types of roulette wheels. One big difference between them is that the American version has two zeroes on the cylinder, which leads to a bigger advantage for the casino. This should have a deterring effect on prospective players, but there are still plenty who choose this type of wheel, mainly because in some countries like the USA there are no alternatives, as the vast majority of casinos houses only double zero wheels. Interestingly the first roulette introduced in France had two zeros, but that changed when the German casinos wanted to compete and introduced the single zero roulette to attract more clients.
Please note that except the different types of wheels there are also different types of tables and rules variations.
There are a total of 38 pockets on the American roulette wheel, ranging from 0 to 36, plus the additional 00 number. 18 of these pockets are red, the other 18 are black while the two slots featuring 0 and 00 are green. Speaking of these slots, they are placed at the opposite side of the cylinder, just like consecutive numbers while overall there are no adjacent numbers of the same color. This is how the counterclockwise sequence of numbers looks like on the American roulette wheel: 0, 2, 14, 35, 23, 4, 16, 33, 21, 6, 18, 31, 19, 8, 12, 29, 25, 10, 27, 00, 1, 13, 36, 24, 3, 15, 34, 22, 5, 17, 32, 20, 7, 11, 30, 26, 9, 28.
The European or French roulette wheel has a single zero, which makes it a better choice for those who want to offset the effect of variance. House edge is significantly decreased and on the long run, players will be winning significantly more, or at least mitigate loses. The zero slot is still green and the other 36 numbers are split in half, with 18 being black and the rest red. This is how the clockwise sequence of numbers looks like on the European roulette wheel , 26, 3, 35, 12, 28, 7, 29, 18, 22, 9, 31, 14, 20, 1, 33, 16, 24, 5, 10, 23, 8, 30, 11, 36, 13, 27, 6, 34, 17, 25, 2, 21, 4, 19, 15, and 32.
European wheel based bets
There are some specific bets that refer to the European wheel layout. These bets are placed by the dealer after a players orders him and gives him the chips. Then the dealer says the bet again, as to avoid any misunderstandings. The bets are:
Numbers covered: 12, 35, 3, 26, 0, 32, 15.
Bet: (4 chips) 1 chip on 0/3 split, 1 on 12-15 split, 1 on 26 straight up and 1 on 32-35 split.
Voisins de zero (neighbors of zero)
Numbers covered: 22, 18, 29, 7, 28, 12, 35, 3, 26, 0, 32, 15, 19, 4, 21, 2, 25
Bet: (9 chips) 2 chips on the 0-2-3 trio, 1 on each of the splits: 4-7, 12-15, 18-21, 19-22, 32-352 and 1 on 25-26-28-29 corner.
Numbers covered: 17, 34, 6, 1, 20, 14, 31, 9
Bet: (5 chips) 1 chip on 1 and 1 chip on each of the splits: 6-9, 14-17, 17-20, 31-34.
Numbers covered: 33, 16, 24, 5, 10, 23, 8, 30, 11, 36, 13, 27
Bet: (6 chips) 1 chip on each of the splits: 5-8, 10-11, 13-16, 23-24, 27-30, 33-36.
Numbers covered: five consecutive numbers on the wheel, the bettor indicates the middle number “and its neighbors”
Bet: 5 chips, 1 chip straight on each number
The logic of the wheel layout
In both American and European, the order of the numbers on the wheel-track is totally different than what their arithmetic value would suggest and totally different for each of the two types of wheels. This is one of the secrets why roulette is such an amazingly balanced game in theory. The succession of the numbers on the wheel is well thought out in order to accomplish four different things:
1. Confuse the player. It is very hard for the novice player to make a mental picture of the wheel and understand the relation of the numbers and sectors. This makes it very difficult to notice any bias or to bet on specific sectors. And the roulette table layout can add to the confusion. Experienced roulette players know the sequence of numbers on the wheel by heart. Often this happens naturally from experience, but you should try to get a pretty good idea, a mental image, where the numbers lay as soon as possible anyway.
2. The colors should alternate completely on the wheel. Two consecutive numbers should have different colors. This is an absolute condition for both types of wheels. Furthermore the color distribution on the table should be as balanced as possible, but this was a much lesser concern.
3. Low (1-18) and High (19-36) numbers should alternate as much as possible. In European roulette the only point where this condition is not met is the 5 next to 10. In the American wheel there are many sectors with adjacent Low numbers and adjacent high numbers. This is why the American wheel is not considered as perfectly balanced as the European.
4. Odd and Even numbers should be evenly distributed along the wheel with no more than two even or odd numbers adjacent to each other.
Two interesting asymmetries of the European layout:
If you split the circumference in two halves from the zero. On the left side you find all the black low numbers and all the red high numbers. On the right half are all the high black numbers with the low red numbers.
Furthermore, in the 9-number sector 29-7-28-12-35-3-26-0-32 there is no number from the second dozen.
Over the internet, there is a preference for European roulette and most online roulette games use this type of wheel, but in brick-and-mortar casinos, this is not necessarily the rule. The number of roulette wheel manufacturers is one the rise, but there are a handful who stand out from the crowd.
Cammegh is one of the market leaders and the most impressive part is that it acts as an independent manufacturer, with headquarters in Ashford, Kent. John Huxley is also a household name, but few know that following their acquisition by the TCS concern, the brand now goes by the name of TCS John Huxley. Last but definitely not least is Paul-Son, a company whose reputation precedes it and which was acquired by Gaming Partners. (ref.: roulette assembly diagrams)
Construction and trustworthiness
There are some basic requirements for the construction of a professional roulette wheel.
- The wheel should have its weight distributed evenly throughout.
- The wheel and ball must be constructed of non-magnetic substances to prevent interference from magnetic sources.
- The cylinder should rotate and move freely of its own accord but all affixed parts of the roulette wheel must be secure and free from movement.
- The ball pockets or compartments on the wheel track (wheel ring) must follow these rules:
- a. Each compartment (pocket) has precisely the same dimensions with every other compartment.
- b. They are evenly spaced.
- c. They allow the roulette ball to land and rest easily and smoothly within the compartment.
When one of these conditions is not met 100%, then we have either an intentionally rigged wheel, controlled by the casino or a biased, defective wheel, that has slipped the attention of the casino and can be taken advantage of by some expert players.
Below the ball track and above the number pockets there are usually 8 or 16 ball deflectors, also called canoe stops or diamonds, because of their shape. The ball hits them when it leaves the ball track. They change the speed and direction of the ball before it lands to a number. Their purpose is to make outcomes even more unpredictable.
Gammegh has recently developed a patented technology called Random Rotor Speed or RRS. RSS is an optional security upgrade for the Mercury 360 roulette wheel. It uses a contactless technique to randomly and imperceptibly change the speed of the rotor after a game has started. Theoretically, the point of RSS is to deter expert players from gaining an advantage by using roulette computers or dealer’s signature (metronomic dealers) techniques. Although it is described as a security feature, somehow affecting the rotor speed is viewed by many roulette players with suspicion. If the casino can change the speed of the rotor, what else could it do? We did a little research on the trustworthiness of Electronic Airball roulette wheels (automated rapid roulette).
It is interesting to note that it is possible to mix and match roulette parts from different manufacturers. For example, it has been reported, that casinos using the “suspicious” Gammegh RRS roulette wheel mechanism, have replaced the original roulette turret with one bearing the more reputable John Huxley name. The branded turret gives the impression that the wheel is made by John Huxley and hides the fact that it uses the RSS technology.
Types of pockets
Those who know the game of roulette inside-out go to great lengths to increase their profit margin and one way to do it is by finding the best roulette wheels. There are many theories regarding the methods to use to gain an (unfair) advantage over the house, but some conclusions are worth considering.
The big number of manufacturers explains why there is such a huge diversity of roulette wheels and why even the pockets are so different. A trend has emerged, with most casinos using roulette wheels that have shallow pocket pads, which leads to wide ball scatter. The pockets themselves can be either forged into a metal block or divided through the smart use of metal frets (separators).
- Most roulette wheels feature even frets that have the same height at both ends, but there are also wheels where the frets drop towards the center. It is harder to anticipate where the ball will eventually land, as it can easily jump the narrow gap to the next number.
Notice the fret decline towards the center of the wheel. One of the 1st wheels created in the roulette wheel history.
- Small yet even frets are even more common and this is a type of wheel that land based casino prefer because it make the game more intense. Balls jump easily and even if they initially hit a pocket, players would be wrong to assume that they will stay in place. The higher the frets, the more unlikely it is to have jumping balls, but casinos tend to cater more for adrenaline junkies.
The walls on the frets I would consider small allowing the ball to jump, sometime skipping numbers next to where the ball tried to land. I have also seen this same wheel but the tallness of the frets are twice as large, giving the wheel an almost “sticky” feeling. When the ball initially hits the pocket it will most likely not bounce out, if it does the ball can go flying out of the wheel.
- Another type of roulette wheel that doesn’t favor ball jumping is the one featuring curved frets. This is a compromise, because the balls easily move from one number to the other in a seamless manner, without sinking into the pocket where they first land on.
This is the TCS Huxley Starburst wheel. The ball doesn’t “jump” as high as with other wheels, though it bounces a great deal and does not stick where it initially hit the wheel pocket.
- A couple of roulette wheels don’t have curve frets, but instead feature curved pockets which have virtually the same impact. The main difference resides in the fact that players don’t see any sort of bouncing, while being just as powerless when it comes to predicting the ball’s final resting place. These sort of wheels are less numerous but are gaining traction quickly and we can expect more of them to mushroom in brick-and-mortar casinos.
This is a Cammegh Wheel with scalloped pockets. The ball “jumps” are minimal though the scatter is actually quite large. The wheel is in use at the Venetian and MGM.
Manufacturers are encouraged to find new ways of altering the roulette wheel without changing the game itself. Keeping it fair is mandatory, but they enjoy a lot of freedom when tinkering with the pockets size and shape as well as the frets. The visual effect is interesting but it represents only the tip of the iceberg, as each type of roulette wheel and each variation slightly changes the outcome. Roulette remains just as unpredictable as ever, but this won’t stop pundits from trying to find patterns.
Deceleration rates and the effect on gameplay
Roulette has been around for centuries and it is here to stay, which makes it only fair to assume that players will keep trying to beat the game. Over the course of time, there have been many attempts at finding patterns or at least exploit the game’s flaws.
Nowadays when manufacturers have high-tech instruments at their disposal, roulette wheels are equally precise tools that don’t age easily and don’t malfunction. Technology solved most of the inconveniences that kept casinos awake at night, but brought up new challenges such as dealing with roulette deceleration.
The name is self-explanatory and has to do with the ever decreasing speed at which the ball travels across the wheel, until it stops in its temporary resting place. Manufacturers are doing their best to come up with roulette wheels that have no slow down and their efforts are much appreciated by the dealers. Huge progress has been made in this direction and the latest wheels are virtually unaffected by deceleration.
Over the internet, this is not a concern for anyone as the wheels are in fact computer software at work, but land based casino owners have other ideas. Slow down makes it difficult for professional roulette players to extract the most from their systems, therefore casinos love it. Deceleration is inevitable as roulette wheels age, so as far as casinos are concerned, time is always on their side and against system players.
Roulette balls are proportional to the dimensions of the wheel and its number pockets. Serious casinos use large wheels with a diameter equal to 27, 30 or 32 inches. Accordingly, the balls used are 18mm and 21mm. Traditionally, in order to make the outcomes even more unpredictable, they alternate between one “small” (18mm) and one “big” (21mm) ball once a day, with the non-playing ball resting on top of the center of the roulette, patiently waiting for its turn. Casino quality balls are made of ivory, though Teflon is also considered appropriate material.
The material of the old roulette balls used to be ivory. Today’s balls are called “ivorine” and are not made by real ivory; they are actually synthetic and resemble the ivory look and feel. In recent years professional roulette balls are made also by other materials like resin, Teflon and even ceramic. The differences in dimensions, weight and material of the ball have noticeable impact on the game. A small, light ceramic ball makes more revolution on the wheel track and when it falls, jumps more unpredictably before it lands on a number, than say an big ivorine ball.
It is in the best interest of the casinos to use anti-magnetic and unpredictable balls in order to deter advantage players and cheaters. There have been some recent anecdotal reports about piezoelectric roulette balls used in rigged roulette games.