Roulette has been around for more than two centuries, but the chance to play it online in Pennsylvania has existed for less than a year.
The latter has two special benefits for those who enjoy the allure of that little ball dancing around the spinning wheel, bouncing and jangling its way into a favored or despicable slot:
- No one has been able to play roulette or any other game physically in Pennsylvania, or in most casinos nationally, since mid-March due to COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.
- Most of the state’s 10 iCasino sites provide a version of the game that offers better odds than what you can typically get in a casino.
Those special opportunities don’t mean you’ll win, as the odds are still against you. The payback percentage for roulette, in whatever version, is far worse than in other popular casino table games such as blackjack and craps.
But with a measured approach, you may do better and have more fun than Julie Hagerty’s character in Lost America, who lost all of the family nest egg in a gambling trance repeatedly betting 22 in a Vegas casino. (Surely no coincidence, that’s the same number Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine favored on his rigged house wheel in Casablanca to help a newlywed couple cover the cost of exit visas to escape the Nazis.)
Roulette options vary by iCasino
While the 10 Pennsylvania online casinos all offer roulette, it’s not all of the same quantity or quality.
Most of the games can be played for a minimum bet of 10 cents, while some require a dollar to be wagered. The maximum wager is often $1,000 or more.
The differences among the games are subtle and relatively unimportant — mostly in the layout presentation or musical background — with one exception: the difference between American Roulette and the other versions that may be known as European Roulette, French Roulette, or sometimes just simply Roulette.
The latter all have one zero among 37 number slots, with the zero being a widespread loser for bettors.
The American version has a second loser, a double zero, among 38 slots. This is similar to what you’ll find available in most brick-and-mortar casinos in the U.S., as opposed to Europe (though high-limit areas of U.S. casinos may be more likely to offer single-zero roulette).
What the addition of that double zero means is the house edge on the game is increased from 2.7% to 5.26%. It is thus hard to find a good reason to play the American Roulette games online, whether offered by Hollywood, Parx, Play SugarHouse, BetRivers, Unibet, BetAmerica, FanDuel, or Caesars.
Don’t expect any ‘system’ to help win
So if you’re a player, head to the European Roulette or French Roulette or plain Roulette games to try your luck, while knowing there’s no real strategy or system that can enable you to win in the long run.
While some of the games advertise on screen both the “hot numbers” and “cold numbers” that have been drawn most and least frequently in hundreds of recent spins, players should not succumb to the “gambler’s fallacy” of believing that will influence future outcomes determined by a random number generator.
IGT’s Roulette game spells this out quite clearly under its pay table information:
“The odds do not vary based on prior outcomes, bet size, balance size, time of day, day of week, etc. …
“For this game, the long-term, theoretically expected payback is 97.29%. The results for any given player over a play session can vary widely from this long-term, expected average in either direction.”
If you’re a new player on one of the Pennsylvania sites, however, you can take advantage of many bonus incentives that provide extra funds to combine with your own money and create a good chance to come out ahead of the house odds when you get started.
All the usual betting options abound
Playing the game itself is not so different online from being in a casino, other than, of course, you’re alone rather than joining in cheers or groans with fellow gamblers in a live casino. There’s also typically a soundtrack of some light, jazzy music accompanying your online play (though you can mute it).
But basically, you’re clicking on buttons to place a chip denomination of your choice of wide-ranging betting options before you click on the “spin” button to set the wheel and ball moving.
You can opt for all of the standard “outside” bets such as red/black, even/odd, and high/low, all of which in the European/French version give you a 48.75% chance of winning (less than 50-50 due to the chance of that 0 number coming up) and get paid back even money.
Or you can bet small groups of numbers for a higher payback chance, or even just a single number, winning 35 times your wager if the latter hits.
Everyone has their own preference. There’s no real method for coming out ahead in the long run, though people are willing to put their faith in various systems.
A popular one is the “Martingale” strategy in which you keep doubling your bet when it loses, figuring you’ll make your money back on the next spin. The problem is that, inevitably, there can be a long streak of red numbers while you’re repeating and increasing bets on black — or vice versa — and the system can become very costly.
In general, as long as you intend going in to play for fun instead of profit, you should be able to avoid problems like those of Hagerty’s Linda Howard character (“Come on, 22 … One more time, 22… Come on back to me, 22!”).
Just keep in mind that the game of roulette is one time where being “un-American” is the right way to go.
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