When the classic roulette wheel headed across the Atlantic and landed in the hands of the Americans it was time for a little redevelopment of the familiar and popular casino pastime. So how exactly does the American roulette wheel differ from the European wheel and more importantly what sets these two different versions of the game apart?
The most noticeable feature about the American roulette wheel is the number of pockets it has. The American wheel has an additional slot: a double zero slot which adds an extra betting option to the American game (on the single number bets, in any case). Of course having that extra well does mean that your chances of winning are actually decreased. With this pesky extra slot, the roulette edge actually increases from 2.7%, for the European version, to a 5.26%. It is mostly down to this fact that makes European roulette more popular around the world than its American counterpart.
The American wheel comes with 38 pockets compared to the Europeans’ 37 pockets and and the order of the numbers on the wheel differs in both games (check out our roulette layout page for a detailed view on this). Whilst the American wheel is always placed at one end of the roulette table you may find that some European wheels in certain casinos are positioned in the centre of the table with the betting sections placed at either side of the wheel. You may also come across variants with 38 pockets like this Key Bet roulette game that have an additional side bet pocket instead of the second zero.
Ok, so we have taken a quick look at the physical differences between the two roulette wheels but how does the actual ongoing game play differ? First of all, depending on where you are playing, some casinos will offer the ‘en prison rule', particularly on French Roulette tables (a sub set of European, like the country!). This effectively allows you to get a free repeat spin if you happened to place an even-money bet and the ball lands on the zero.
But if you really want to throw your money away then perhaps you can be enticed by the rather unappealing ‘Basket Bet’. Only offered on American roulette tables, due to its use of the double zero slot, the bet consists of a wager that includes a group of 5 numbers, namely the zero, double zero, 1, 2 and 3. The payout is 6 to 1, and is literally one of the worst bets around. Even though the house edge is already higher when playing an American table it increases substantially to a 7.89% house advantage when you play the ‘basket bet or 5 Number Bet’. Avoid it!