Step-by-step guide to 9 roulette strategies (for online casinos)
Every ambitious player wants to beat the odds and find a perfect betting system for each casino game. Roulette is no exception.
The question of how to win at casino roulette has occupied many analytical minds during the last four centuries of the game's existence.
As a result, you'll find many roulette systems circulating online. This step-by-step guide walks you through 8 well-known strategies, plus a system of our own devising.
- Reverse Martingale
- Reverse d'Alembert
- James Bond
- Oscar's Grind
- Fibonacci Dozens (Bojoko's own system)
Do roulette strategies work?
The honest answer to this is that there are no flawless gambling systems that are purely based on roulette statistics and betting progressions.
If such a thing as an infallible betting system for how to make money from roulette in online casinos existed, everybody would have pounced on it, and roulette wouldn't be as exciting and challenging anymore.
To be sure, there are successful roulette players who make sizeable profits from the game. However, they generally attribute their wins to observing and exploiting the wheel bias and other physical giveaways of roulette.
Why do roulette systems fail?
The major pitfall of all roulette systems is gambler's fallacy. Gamblers tend to believe that if an outcome of a game has occurred before, the opposite is bound to happen soon to balance things out (especially if the game keeps producing the same outcome).
What gamblers fail to realise is that there's no scientific basis for this, so they're led into making the wrong assumptions and decisions.
CASE IN POINT – MONTE CARLO IN 1913
Let's take a classic example from over a century ago. On the 18th of August in 1913, the Monte Carlo Casino witnessed one of the most epic streaks in gambling history. The ball landed on black 26 times in a row.
The odds for hitting 26 black numbers in a row are 1:67,108,863. Does that mean the odds for the 27th number being red are better than the standard 18:37? Absolutely not.
Unlike blackjack, where you can count cards to determine the likelihood of getting winning hands, every spin of the roulette wheel is a random event, unrelated to the previous outcomes. The ball has no memory, conscience or shame; the previous spins or statistics don't make a dent in the odds of an individual spin, nor do they lower the house edge.
The unlucky bettors in Monte Carlo thought that a red number was bound to come up soon, and eventually, it obliged. However, those who started betting and raising their stakes early on in the losing streaks for a red number painfully found out just how painfully random the roulette wheel can be.
Fittingly enough, gambler's fallacy is also known as Monte Carlo fallacy.
PROGRESSIONS DON'T OVERCOME THE ODDS
The majority of roulette betting systems are negative progressions, meaning you raise your bet after a loss. The core idea is that by betting more on the next spin, you need a smaller number of winning rounds to square your losses.
Roulette, however, is the most unpredictable of casino table games with potentially long losing and winning streaks. Even if you have the budget to keep raising your bets, there are table limits to take into account.
The statistics of roulette reflect the odds in the long run, but the same doesn't apply to a single session, let alone one spin. Proponents of roulette strategies see things differently: raising the bet gives you enough time for the stats to work their magic, provided that an extremely unlucky losing streak doesn't strike and clean out your bankroll.
If you're playing the standard European roulette, the house edge is 2.3%. That won't budge by changing the bet size. You might get lucky many times, even within a single session. You also need to be prepared to encounter some really bad runs.
Why use a roulette system?
Playing with a strategy is thrilling. Ian Fleming put it well in the very first James Bond novel Casino Royale in 1953:
This is the essence of roulette strategies, and it applies to the whole gamut of gambling styles. You can immerse yourself in a complicated system and slowly grind the night away, or take big risks and expect instant big rewards … or losses.
Whatever your taste, enjoy the game, know your odds and don't risk money you can't afford to lose.
9 tips for applying roulette strategies
- Go for French roulette. If you hit zero, you get back half of your even-money bet. Thanks to this la partage rule, the house edge is only 1.35%.
- Your second best option is European roulette, with a 2.3% house edge.
- Don't play American roulette because the house edge is 5.26% due to two different zeros: 0 and 00.
- Practice without betting real money first to better understand the strategy and its potential outcomes.
- Set yourself limits and stick to them: a session and loss limit plus a maximum single bet are a must.
- Select a table with a low minimum and high maximum to get the best possible range for progressive bets.
- If you're relying on statistics and waiting for long streaks of a specific number group, choose a live casino where you can play multiple tables simultaneously.
- Alternatively, you can play in two or more casinos at the same time. Keep it manageable though!
- Have fun. If playing starts to feel like work or an obsession, take a long break.
And finally, here are our 9 roulette strategies with detailed instructions for applying them. One of the key differences between the systems is whether they're a negative or positive progression (i.e., whether you increase or decrease your bet after a loss).
Some of the strategies let you recoup all your losses with one glorious stroke of good fortune; others take a bit longer. The instant win strategies are naturally riskier.
Most of the systems are applied to even-money bets, where the payout is 1:1. In a roulette table, these bet pairs are red/black, odd/even, and 1-18/19-36. We use red and black in the examples for simplicity, but you can choose any even-money bet instead.
In this guide, we often talk about betting units. This simply means the smallest amount of money you wish to bet on most strategies, i.e. your starting bet. It's also the smallest increase or decrease you should make to your bets when following a system like d'Alembert.
Choosing the size of your betting unit is up to you. Most of us will do well by sticking to the table minimum. That leaves a lot of room to take the progressions further without exceeding the gaming budget or table limits.
High rollers should keep this in mind too: if you want to try out the roulette systems with some serious cash, choose a table with a high minimum and an even bigger maximum bet.
Remember that in addition to table limits, casinos impose a maximum bet when you're playing with a casino bonus. In order not to have your winnings impounded, don't go over the maximum bet specified in bonus T&Cs.
1. Martingale – well-known and very risky
Martingale is the quintessential negative progression roulette strategy. Very simply, you raise your bet after a loss and lower it after a win. It's also the first roulette strategy most of us come across.
The appeal is understandable: the winning number will come eventually. When it does, you'll get ahead with just one lucky spin.
Martingale is very easy to use but asks for deep pockets, nerves of steel and the ability to call it quits in time. Here's how it goes:
- Bet 1 unit on an even-money bet (on red or black).
- If you lose, double your bet to 2 units. Repeat if necessary.
- If you win, start from the beginning (1 unit).
There are two obvious shortcomings in the martingale strategy. Doubling your bet over and over will eventually make you hit the table limit or go over your budget.
EXAMPLE: If you have to double 10 times, your bet will be 1,024 times the original amount. Even if you win on the next spin, the reward for a successful betting sequence remains only 1 unit.
There's nothing you can do about the limited gains of the martingale, but you can cut your losses by not upping your bet after you've reached your limit. You'll be kicking yourself if the next spin is a winner, but 19 out of 36 times you'll be patting yourself on the back.
Alternatively, you can apply the martingale strategy to games where the previous rounds have at least some bearing on the future. Baccarat, blackjack and other card games dealt out of a shoe are perfect examples, although the next hand to be dealt is still far from predictable.
Nobody wants to run into a long losing streak. You can wait for several similar results in a row and only then start betting on the opposite outcome. It won't affect the odds of an individual round, but statistically, you do see less losing streaks of 10 rounds than 5. Still, this isn't a foolproof system and you'll need to be able to stop in time to recoup your money.
2. Reverse martingale – when you win, let it ride
If an unlikely streak of losing numbers can make you lose an exponential amount of money, a winning streak can earn you an exponential pile of chips, right?
This is the idea behind the reverse martingale system, also known as paroli. As the name suggests, this is the opposite of martingale:
- Bet 1 unit on even-money bet, e.g. red or black.
- If you win, double your bet. Repeat as long as you dare.
- If you lose, start from the beginning.
The key to a successful reverse martingale lies in knowing when to take your wins instead of trying to double them further. No matter how many chips you win during your run, betting and losing them all on the next spin will leave you in the red.
However, if you quit while you're ahead, you can start hunting for that next winning streak with a bankroll big enough to endure a few losses on the way.
So how does reverse martingale compare to the original version? Whereas the standard martingale will bring you slow but steady gains (until you hit a bad streak that busts your bankroll), the reverse version works the other way around: you'll steadily lose 1 unit every time you miss, and only win when you have a sufficiently long winning streak.
How long a winning streak do you need? This is down to personal preference. The odds for winning remain the same for each turn. Ideally, you'd win enough to cover the previous losses, and then some. But if you keep waiting for this perfect run, you might miss out on opportunities to take your wins before you end up losing.
3. D'Alembert – simple, slow and relatively safe
The d'Alembert system is a very simple roulette strategy named after the 18th-century French mathematician, Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert.
As with martingale, d'Alembert also has a negative progression:
- Start with a bet with room to increase and decrease, say 5 units
- With every loss, increase your bet by 1 unit.
- With every win, decrease it by 1 unit.
How much can you win with the d'Alembert strategy? If you win exactly half of the bets you place, d'Alembert nets you the total amount of winning rounds played times your betting unit.
With d'Alembert, you can get ahead when you're losing more rounds than you're winning, although the odds don't allow for much of a difference. On the other hand, a long session with plenty of losing rounds can push the bet amount to an extreme high, although this won't happen as quickly as with martingale.
Unlike martingale, d'Alembert doesn't enable you to recoup all your losses at once. If you've had a bad run, climbing out of the hole will take some lucky bets that might have to be many times higher than what you started with.
Still, d'Alembert is one of the safer roulette strategies. You might not win big, but a nasty streak with tragic losses is also quite unlikely.
4. Reverse d'Alembert – enhance your winning spree
Surprise, surprise, d'Alembert comes with a reverse twin too. There's a very significant weakness to this system, however. You need more winning than losing rounds to break even. You have to achieve this with flat bets too.
It's also more difficult to apply than most strategies. But if you're having a good day with roulette, the reverse d'Alembert can boost your winnings even further. Give it a go if you're up to it:
- Start with a bet with room to increase and decrease, say 5 units.
- With every win, increase your bet by 1 unit.
- With every loss, decrease it by 1 unit.
Just like other positive progressions where you increase your bet after a win, you need to have an instinct for when to grab your money and step away from the system.
5. Labouchère – grab a pen and paper
The Labouchère system, also known as the cancellation system, requires a bit more effort than the strategies we've covered. It takes its name from its inventor Henry Du Pré Labouchère, an English politician from the Victorian and Edwardian eras who put this system to practice across all of his gambling pursuits.
To apply the Labouchère strategy, start out by writing down a list of numbers. At the end of a successful betting sequence, the sum of these numbers is your net gain. The list can be as simple as 1-2-3-4-5, but you can select any numbers you like.
This makes the Labouchère system a truly customisable strategy. You can adjust the risk and reward according to your preference by going for a more or less aggressive progression.
Here's how the betting system unfolds:
- Bet the sum of the first and last number on your list on an even-money bet.
- If you win, cross out the first and the last number.
- If you lose, add your bet amount to the end of the list.
- Continue betting the sum of the first and the last number on your list (ignore the ones you've crossed out).
- When you've crossed out all the numbers, the betting sequence is complete.
- Your profit is the sum of the numbers on your original list.
The strength of the Labouchère system is that you only need to win 33.34% of the rounds to make it work for you. Playing even-money bets should, on average, see you winning 47.37% of the time, so what could go wrong?
The problem here is that roulette is an unpredictable game with long streaks of wins and losses. The average win ratios are just that – averages that happen over a long time, not necessarily during a single session. With an unlucky streak, your bet will grow speedily and exceed either your budget or table limits. Then you'll have to stop before completing the list.
You can have some great sessions playing with the Labouchère system. In the long run, the big losses of really bad runs will probably eat away the smaller gains of the successful betting sequences.
6. James Bond – cover the roulette table and sip your martini
James Bond, agent 007 of Her Majesty's Secret Service, is no doubt the most famous fictional gambler of all time. The man himself has even spawned a betting system that has been doing the rounds online.
Although there's no official source for this strategy in any of the Bond movies or the original literature by Ian Fleming, let's delve into the James Bond roulette strategy step by step.
The oft-quoted version of the James Bond system uses a total starting bet of £200. Everyone can adjust this to suit their budget. Instead of the total of £200, you can go as low as £20 on most live dealer roulette tables with a £1 minimum.
The total £200 is spread over three bets to cover more than two-thirds of the table:
- $140 on 19–36, i.e. the big numbers bet
- $50 on 13–18 line bet
- $10 on 0
The net gains for successful bets are as follows:
- 19–36: $80
- 13–18: $100
- 0: $160
- 1–12: -$200
There are two schools of thought on what you need to do if the ball lands on 1–12 and the original £200 bet is lost. Some say the James Bond system should be only applied to flat bets; others claim that you need to increase your bets according to a progressive system like martingale, d'Alembert or Fibonacci for it to be successful.
The issue with increasing your bet is that the progressions mentioned above are usually applied to even-money bets; not a system that covers two-thirds of the table with various payouts.
EXAMPLE: Let's say you use the martingale system and double your bets to a total of £400. You'll only get ahead by hitting a zero; with 13–18 you break even; with 19–36 you'll actually still be £40 down.
If you really want to play a progression to its full potential and cover two-thirds of the roulette table, you might want to check out a strategy developed exclusively on Bojoko, called Fibonacci Dozens.
7. Oscar's grind – win one unit at a time
Oscar's grind is a roulette system that first appeared in Allan Wilson's 1956 book Casino Gambler's Guide. In the story, Wilson interviewed a disciplined and patient gambler called Oscar, who revealed the secret of his slow but steady winning system.
In Oscar's grind, the gameplay is divided into sessions that result in you winning exactly the amount you bet initially. It works like this:
- Start by betting 1 unit.
- Increase the bet amount after a loss AND a win.
- Continue playing with this increased bet amount until there's another loss AND a win.
- If your next bet would gain you a net win of more than 1 unit, decrease the bet amount accordingly.
Oscar's grind is one of the safest roulette systems you can try, and also one of the slowest. It withstands bad losing streaks with panache, but with quickly alternating win-loss sequences, the bet amount can quickly reach undesirable highs. To get out of this, you need a decent winning streak.
8. Fibonacci – betting sequence of nature
The Fibonacci strategy is not just one roulette system but a collection of different betting strategies. The unifying theme is the attempt to get an edge over the house by upping the bets according to the Fibonacci numbers – a mathematical sequence that manifests itself when the next number is the sum of two previous ones.
The first 10 numbers of the Fibonacci sequence are 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21-34-55-89.
Here's how you can apply the Fibonacci system:
- Start betting from the beginning of the sequence.
- After every loss, raise your bet to the next number in the sequence.
- After every win, lower your bet by the sum of the two previous numbers.
Because you're switching between positive and negative progression, this version of the Fibonacci betting system promises neat gains even when you win only 33.34% of your bets.
The only stumbling block is the usual long losing streaks. Even if the statistics balance themselves out eventually, your bet amount might inflate above your budget or table limits during a bad run.
You can limit – but not entirely eliminate – these occurrences by starting small, having a big bankroll and settling for small gains in relation to your overall budget.
Just remember that the odds for an individual round don't ever change and supersizing your bet might be just another way to dig your hole even deeper.
9. Fibonacci dozens – Bojoko's own strategy
The Fibonacci dozens roulette system combines the alluring instant wins of the martingale with the better payouts of dozen/column bets, the constantly increasing rewards for the higher risks taken and the relatively moderate bet progression of the Fibonacci sequence.
Here's how to apply it in practice:
- Select a dozen or a column and start betting from the beginning of the Fibonacci sequence.
- After every loss, raise your bet to the next number on the sequence.
- Repeat until you win or the bet exceeds your comfort zone.
- When you win, start at the beginning of the sequence.
That's the simple version. Here are some ideas for making things more interesting:
- Play a dozen and a column at the same time. You'll cover 20 out of all 37 numbers.
- Wait for a good number of misses on a certain column or dozen and start betting only after that.
The only problem with this system is that it doesn't really work. Here's why:
- The house edge doesn't go away with betting progressions.
- The roulette wheel has no memory. Each spin is a random event where the previous rounds play no part, so the odds of hitting the right number stay the same (12/37) from one spin to another.
We've dedicated an entire guide to exploring the Fibonacci dozens roulette system. Have fun!