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French (European) Roulette vs American Roulette: Key Differences

June 18, 2024

Roulette is a game where you spin the wheel. There are numbered pockets on the wheel. The game is all about predicting where the ball will land when the wheel stops. This suspense is the thrill of the game. But though that’s the general idea behind roulette, you have to understand that not all roulette wheels are created equal!

The basic premise being the same, there are two main variations of the game. The first is French (or European) roulette, and the second is American roulette. Both variations have some key differences such as different odds and gameplay experiences. This makes it very important for players to understand distinctions before they try their hand or place their bets on a new type of roulette!

In this guide, we’re going to provide a practical, in-depth guide to the differences between the two major types of roulette.

The Wheel Layout

So, the most obvious difference when you compare the wheels in both variations is the layout. The wheel layout is significantly different and offers different numbers of pockets, different positions for the numbers, and the special “00” pocket.

Let’s kick things off with the roulette wheel itself – the heart and soul of the game. Now, at first glance, both the French and American wheels might seem like twins separated at birth. But look closer, my friend, and you’ll spot some crucial differences.

  • French (European) Roulette: This wheel is a bit of a minimalist, sporting 37 pockets numbered from 0 to 36. The numbers are arranged in a seemingly random order, alternating between red and black, with the lone “0” pocket standing out in vibrant green.
  • American Roulette: This wheel, on the other hand, is a bit more…extravert. It boasts 38 pockets, thanks to the addition of a “00” pocket alongside its green “0” sibling. This double-zero mischief-maker is what sets American roulette apart and has a major impact on the odds, but more on that later!

So, there you have it – a tale of two zeros. Or should we say, a tale of one zero versus a double-trouble twist? This seemingly small difference in layout is the first clue that French and American roulette are not just variations of the same game but two distinct beasts with their own quirks and charms.

House Edge & Odds

The additional “00” pocket in American roulette affects the odds for players. Also, the concept of house edge needs a clearer understanding when we’re comparing the two variations of roulette.

Now, every casino game has something called a “house edge,” which is basically the casino’s built-in advantage – the tiny slice of the pie they take with each spin of the wheel. And let me tell you, that extra “00” pocket in American roulette is the casino’s secret weapon.

In French (European) roulette, with its single “0” pocket, the house edge is a relatively modest 2.7%. This means that, on average, the casino expects to keep 2.7 cents of every dollar you bet. Not too shabby, right?

But in American roulette, that pesky “00” pocket doubles the house edge to a whopping 5.26%! Yep, you heard me right – the casino’s cut just got twice as big. So, for every dollar you wager, the casino is licking its chops at the thought of pocketing 5.26 cents. Ouch!

Now, you might be thinking, “What’s a couple of percentage points here or there?” But trust me, in the long run, that difference can add up. It means that, over time, you’re more likely to lose money playing American roulette than French roulette.

So, why would anyone in their right mind play American roulette then? Well, some folks like to live on the edge (pun intended!). The higher house edge also means that the potential payouts can be bigger. So, if you’re feeling lucky and want to take a risk, American roulette might be your jam. But if you prefer to play the odds and stretch your bankroll further, French roulette is the way to go.

The bottom line: the house edge is the hidden hand that guides the game, and in roulette, the double zero is the casino’s ace up its sleeve. Choose your game wisely!

Special Rules

There are several special rules, such as “La Partage” and “En Prison”, that you can find in French or European roulette. Under certain circumstances, they can impact the gameplay considerably. American roulette lacks these special rules, and the resulting experience is faster.

Roughly speaking, French roulette has two secret weapons of sorts, two special rules that give players a fighting chance against the dreaded zero (and even the double zero in some cases!). These rules are like little safety nets.

  • La Partage: The French are quite generous. In French roulette, when the ball lands on zero, you don’t necessarily lose your entire bet if you placed an even-money wager (like red/black, odd/even, or high/low). Instead, the casino graciously returns half of your bet. It’s like getting a consolation prize for narrowly escaping disaster.
  • En Prison: This rule is like a second chance at redemption. If you place an even-money bet and the ball lands on zero, your bet gets “imprisoned” for the next spin. If you win the next spin, you get your original bet back (no additional winnings, though). If you lose, well, then it’s sayonara to your hard-earned cash. But hey, at least you had a shot!

Now, these special rules might seem like small potatoes, but they actually make a significant difference in the long run. They effectively cut the house edge in half for even-money bets, making French roulette a more attractive option for players who like to play it safe.

Unfortunately, American roulette doesn’t offer these lifelines. If the ball lands on zero or double zero, your bet is gone faster than you can say, “Au revoir!” So, if you’re looking for a bit of a safety net and a chance to recoup some of your losses, French roulette is the way to go. Just remember, those special rules only apply to even-money bets, so don’t get too cocky!

Betting Options

The betting options are slightly different between the two types of roulette you’ll find out there. Both, ultimately, offer various ways to wager. This is the reason why roulette is an amazing game for you, whether you are a seasoned high-roller or a complete newbie. But there are a few things that you should know about:

  • Inside Bets: These are the daredevils of the roulette world, where you bet on specific numbers or small groups of numbers. The payouts are juicy, but the odds are slimmer than a supermodel on a juice cleanse.
  • Outside Bets: These are the safer bets, where you wager on larger groups of numbers, like red/black, odd/even, or high/low. The payouts are smaller, but hey, sometimes slow and steady wins the race!

Both French and American roulette share the same basic inside and outside bets. However, French roulette has a couple of quirky cousins that you won’t find in American roulette:

  • Voisins du Zéro: This bet covers a group of numbers that are “neighbours” to the zero on the wheel. 
  • Tier du Cylindre: This bet covers a group of numbers that are roughly a third of the wheel.

These unique bets add a bit of spice to French roulette and give players more ways to mix up their betting strategies. Plus, they have some pretty fancy-sounding names, which always make you feel like a high-roller, even if you’re just betting a few bucks!

Which Version is Better?

The answer isn’t as simple as black or red. It all boils down to your personal style and what you’re looking for in a game.

If you’re a risk-taker with a thirst for adrenaline-pumping action and the potential for bigger payouts, American roulette might be your poison. That double zero might be a devilish little trickster, but it also opens the door to more lucrative wins.

But if you’re more of a calculated strategist who prefers to play the long game, French roulette is the clear winner. With its lower house edge and those handy-dandy special rules, it gives you a better chance of walking away a winner (or at least not losing your shirt!).

Of course, there’s no shame in playing both versions and seeing which one tickles your fancy. Variety is the spice of life, after all!

Wrapping Up

So, if you’re choosing between French and American roulette, remember that it ultimately boils down to personal preference and risk tolerance. If someone has grown acclimatised to French roulette, simply because that was the most available variation for them, they will keep enjoying it over any other variation. An introduction to American roulette isn’t very likely to suddenly make it their favourite roulette variation.

But if you’re making the switch, trying out a new game, or have to play a different variation for whatever reason, then we hope our guide helped you understand the basic differences in the game mechanics. 

Generally speaking, American roulette offers a slightly higher house edge and the possibility of bigger payouts due to the additional “00” pocket. On the other hand, French roulette, with its special rules and lower house edge, appeals to the more conservative folks who seek better odds.