The Difference Between French Roulette And American Roulette

Roulette Wheel
Source: Pixabay

During the early 20th century, even live casinos were far from common. So at this time the best-known roulette venues were Monte Carlo in Europe and Las Vegas in the USA. But from the 1970s onward, casino gambling became more popular and accessible which resulted in the gradual spread of live casino roulette all around the world. However, the emergence of the game as a truly widespread favourite had to wait on the arrival of the global Internet. With the first online casino appearing in 1996, internet gambling of all kinds, and roulette gaming in particular, entered a whole new dimension.

As with the introduction of any new technology, online casinos had a powerful influence on the way people took part in online roulette and other games. Now it was possible to play on demand at any time, because players no longer had to travel to casino venues and comply with their opening hours, dress codes etc. The digital age has also introduced some further new variants of the traditional game such as Multiball Roulette, Pinball Roulette, Multi Wheel Roulette etc.

But as technology continues to evolve, it is now becoming possible to participate in roulette games with a live dealer through VR technology. So one of the most popular and glamorous of casino games can once more be enjoyed in virtual surroundings which reflect and mimic something of the elegance of the game’s illustrious origins in land-based casinos.

Two major roulette variants

Throughout roulette’s long history it has been played in a variety of different formats and subject to a range of different rules and strategies. There are two principal versions of roulette which keen players are sure to encounter – French roulette and American roulette. While each of these game variants have a lot in common, especially for those who just take its initial appearance and similarities at face value, there are also some important differences between the two games. And it is these which have had a significant effect on the evolution of each version of roulette over time. Gaining an understanding of how these differences can influence game outcomes is an important issue for anyone who wants to progress as a player.

French roulette wheel

The French roulette wheel layout of the numbers 1-36, plus one single zero pocket, is the more popular version. Moving clockwise, the numbers run in the following sequence:

0, 32, 15, 19, 4, 21, 2, 25, 17, 34, 6, 27, 13, 36, 11, 30, 8, 23, 10,

5, 24, 16, 33, 1, 20, 14, 31, 9, 22, 18, 29, 7, 28, 12, 35, 3, 26

The way these roulette wheel numbers are ordered is not directly related to their arithmetical value. This sequence has been carefully devised to add elements of balance to the structure of the game. From a numeric perspective, it can be hard to gain any sense of pattern when looking at the layout, which can make it hard to think of a specific ‘sector’ when laying a bet.

But on closer inspection, some features become apparent:

So the design and layout of wheel numbers is anything but random, and tends to give a clear visual impression of balance and fairness which contributes to the game’s appeal.

American roulette wheel

The American roulette wheel features a layout of the numbers 1-36, plus both a single zero and a double zero pocket. Furthermore, the numbers are laid out according to a slightly different pattern which, reading clockwise, looks like this:

0, 28, 9, 26, 30, 11, 7, 20, 32, 17, 5, 22, 34, 15, 3, 24, 36, 13, 1,

00, 27, 10, 25, 29, 12, 8, 19, 31, 18, 6, 21, 33, 16, 4, 23, 35, 14, 2

This alternative sequence has slightly less visual balance in that there is a greater chance of both high and low numbers, as well as odd and even numbers, occurring on adjacent pockets.

Roulette table layout

Unlike the roulette wheel layouts, which can have an impact upon how the two versions of the game are played, the layout of the roulette table is more or less standard for each version of the game. Any differences which do occur, such as the use of French language for bet names on the French wheel, can be considered neutral as regards their ability to influence roulette game play outcomes.

Roulette wheel layouts influence the game odds

A French roulette wheel consists of 37 pockets: the number sequence 1-36, plus just one zero pocket. By contrast, the American roulette wheel is numbered 1-36 with the addition of two further pockets – a single zero pocket plus another double zero pocket. That means the house edge for French roulette is only 2.7%, while the house edge for American roulette is a much larger 5.26%.

Expressed as an RTP (return-to-player) average, that means playing on a French roulette wheel a player can expect to win back 97.3 % of the total amount staked. However, on an American roulette wheel, a player’s RTP average falls back to only 94.74% - producing a significant disadvantage which would persuade many players to opt for a game of French roulette whenever there is a choice between these two versions.

The roulette zero

One further difference players of French roulette may encounter is varying practice when a zero number comes up on the wheel. In some casinos, all bets are declared ‘en prison’ (i.e. frozen) with their outcome decided by a fresh spin. Elsewhere, what happens to bets is determined by ‘le partage’. Here, players can keep half of their frozen bet, while the other half goes to the casino.

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