Roulette is a much-loved casino game played in casinos all across the world. Its long history has led to the development of three main variations of this popular game: namely European, American and French roulette. In this article, we will focus on the similarities and differences between two of these variants: French and American roulette. We’ll also attempt to answer the age-old question of which one is the better game out of the two.
One of the biggest differences and perhaps the most obvious is in the layout of the roulette wheel. The French version of roulette uses the European wheel, which has 37 pockets, whilst the American version has 38. Pockets are the indents in the wheel where the ball can land. The American version has an extra green zero so there is both a ‘0’ and ’00’ pocket. The French only has one ‘0’ pocket. As we shall see, the addition of an extra zero has ramifications both for the game and the winning chances.
Otherwise, both versions have 18 red and 18 black pockets. In both cases, the odd and even numbers and the red and black pockets follow an alternating distribution. However the order of the numbers on the wheel is different in each version. The betting table layouts also differ mainly in the position of the outside bets (red/black, odds/evens etc.) and of course those green pocket bets. French roulette allows some additional ‘called’ bets – more on those later – and gain the French betting table layout accommodates these usually via a racetrack. Aside from this, everything is pretty much identical.
The additional zero pocket in American roulette makes its presence felt in terms of house edge, when players can really start to feel its effects. This is because that additional pocket tips the edge even further in favour of the house. In the French version of roulette, the house edge is 2.70%, however, this goes up to almost double at 5.26% in the American version of the game. This factor can be a deal-breaker for some players, since French roulette gives them a better chance of winning with that lower house edge.
It is also easy to assume that when playing roulette you have a 50:50 chance of winning, but this is not exactly the case. Those green zero pockets are what ultimately tip the scales towards the house and sets the two roulette versions apart. What this means is that you can expect an average payout of 94.7% when playing the American version with its 0 and 00 pockets. But you’re looking at a somewhat increased average payout of 97.3% when playing the French version – all thanks to it having one less green zero pocket.
Although the games play in pretty much the same way, there are a few different rules that apply to individual variants that can raise or lower your risk accordingly. For example, when playing the French version of roulette, you can invoke the En Prison rule. This allows you to have a re-spin should the ball land on 0 if you’ve placed an even money bet. Taking advantage of this rule can see the house edge lowered to as little as 1.35%. This is not at all bad when compared to the usual edge that the house holds.
When playing French roulette you can also make call bets. These are complex bets known as Voisins du Zero, Orphelins, Tiers du Cylindre etc, which you call out once the wheel has started spinning. When playing online, this is only possible when playing Live French Roulette games, but of course it’s an integral part of the game when playing in a land-based casino. In American roulette, it is permitted to place what is called a five number bet. This bet is quite risky, however, raising the house edge to almost 8%, so do be careful.