Roulette: Is betting more chips always a better strategy?
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Roulette: Is betting more chips always a better strategy?

Dear Jones,

I need some help when it comes to roulette. Is it better to just put as many chips as I can on the table to ensure that I hit at least one number, or is it better to be selective about things and play only a few key, “lucky” numbers and make a massive profit on a win? I’m confused.

I trust you, Jones, trust that you’ll give me the right information. Please help. I don’t want to lose more money than I have to. In fact I want to win some.

Sincerely

Caitlin Emily

Dear Caitlin,

How many times have you been idly walking past the roulette table and seen a player score really big? Because it must be said that the only really big winners in roulette or those who don’t punch a leak in their bankroll pockets just to hit some kind of number at the end of the round. You’ve seen the guys who do: they’re so mortified at the idea of losing around that they will far too generously spread their chips around the table, covering virtually every square they can find. Will they get a hit? Chances are… yes, absolutely. But the more important question to ask is what has their bet cost them?

Let’s do some good old mathematics

Let’s imagine that you placed $10 on every one of the inside bets on the roulette table. Now, if we’re  talking European roulette (and really, that’s the only roulette we’re willing to play, given that it gives such improved odds compared to its American cousin), we know that there are 37 squares on which one can bet. This includes zero. Now, $10 on each of those squares means we’ve outlaid at least $370 in order to be guaranteed a payout of $350. See what’s happened there? Our odds are 1 in 37, but we are paid out at 35 to 1 odds. So already, the casino has made many money even when it pays us money.

Let’s say we didn’t bet on every square, but that we bet on a majority of squares. Let’s use 25 squares as an example. Although there is a very good chance that we’ll get a hit, the cost of the bet will be very high, and could very well outweigh our potential winnings. You see, although we’ve covered most of the board, we’ve also substantially increased the (opportunity) cost of a loss. In other words, although on the face of it we seem to have reduced our risk, we actually just increased it. The difference is that we’ve done it from another end. Instead of wagering less, and over less squares, we have risked losing a chunk of chips on a seemingly good value bet. And if we lose out? All those 25 chips go away. Big loss.

Let’s get down to what I’m trying to tell you…

What we’re trying to say is this: don’t think that by wagering more chips you’re somehow bettering your chances of scoring a positive bankroll. Granted, betting more will definitely mean scoring more straight-up hits. But straight up hits don’t mean anything unless they mean a better bankroll, or profit.