Roulette Odds Blackjack

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Blackjack and roulette are the 2 most popular table games in any casino. Both seem to offer bets that are more-or-less 50/50 shots. After all, if you beat the dealer in blackjack, you win the amount you bet. The same is true for the even-money bets at the roulette table.
But which game has better odds?

Blackjack or roulette?

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How Do You Measure a Casino Game’s Odds?

Roulette Odds Blackjack Game

But you can also express the payout for a bet in terms of odds. That’s easily understood, too. If I tell you that you’re going to get paid at odds of 2 to 1 if you win, you understand that for every $1 you bet, you win $2 if you win.

And, if you’re betting on something with a probability of 2 to 1 and a payout of 2 to 1, in the long run you’ll break even.

That’s not how casino games work, though.

The casino guarantees itself a profit by paying off bets at odds that are lower than the odds of winning. The difference between those odds is the house edge, and it’s usually expressed as a percentage.

For Example:

If you’re playing a game where you blindly pick a marble from a bucket, and you win if you draw the red marble, you can easily calculate the odds of winning. All you need to know is how many marbles are red and how many marbles aren’t.

If you have 3 white marbles and a single red marble, your odds of winning that bet are 3 to 1. (You have 3 white marbles versus 1 red marble.) If that bet pays off at 2 to 1, what’s the house edge? Let’s say you bet $100 in a theoretically perfect set of 4 trials.

You’ll lose 3 times, at $100 each, for a total of $300 lost. You’ll win once, and you’ll get a profit of $200. Your net loss is $300 minus $200, or $100. You divide that by the number of bets (4) to get an average loss of $25.

This means that the house edge for this hypothetical game is 25%. Over the long run, you’ll expect to lose 25 cents for every dollar you bet on it.

Generally, casino games with a lower house edge are better than casino games with a higher house edge. But not always.

What Are the Odds of Winning in Blackjack?

The probability of actually winning a blackjack hand — even if you play perfectly — is only 42%.

In a fair game, your probability would be 50%.

In spite of this, the house edge for the game is only about 0.5% if you play with perfect strategy.

Why is the house edge so low when the odds of winning a hand are so low?

It’s because once in a while you get a blackjack, or natural — a 2-card hand that totals 21. In that event, you get paid off at 3 to 2 odds.

Blackjack
Blackjack

You only get that hand about 5% of the time, though, but it’s enough to shave some of that massive house edge off the game.

What Are the Odds of Winning in Roulette?

Since almost half the numbers on the wheel are red and almost half are black, it would seem like this is a fair bet. The same for even/odd.

The gimmick in this case is the inclusion on the wheel of 2 additional numbers which are neither even nor odds, neither red nor black.

The standard American roulette wheel has a green 0 and another green 00.

You have a total of 38 numbers on the wheel. 18 of them are red, 18 are black, and 2 of them are green.

So you don’t really have an even chance of winning by betting on red, or by betting on black. The probability is actually 47.37%.

It doesn’t take a math professor to figure out that winning a bet 47.37% when you’re getting paid even-money doesn’t turn out to be a break-even bet.

In fact, it results in the house having an edge of 5.26%.

How does that compare to the house edge of 0.5% in blackjack?

Poorly, obviously.

Bet $100 on a game with a 5.26% edge, and you’ll lose an average of $5.26 over the long run every time you place that bet.

Roulette
Roulette

Bet $100 on a game with a 0.5% edge, and you’ll lose an average of 50 cents over the long run every time you place the bet.

Here’s the question:

Would you rather lose $5.26 in that situation, or would you prefer to lose 50 cents?

The answer seems obvious, but there’s more to this little math problem than you might think.

The Concept of Average Hourly Losses in Casino Gambling

When you multiply the average hourly action by the house edge, you get the expected loss per hour for the game.

The average blackjack player makes 100 bets per hour. (This varies based on how many other players are at the table, how fast the dealer is, and how fast the player makes decisions.)

If you assume a $5 bet per hand, the average hourly action for that player is $500.

With a house edge of 0.5%, that’s an expected loss per hour of $2.50.

The average roulette player makes 50 bets per hour, but this also varies based on how fast the croupier is and how many players are at the table.

If you assume a $5 per spin of the wheel, the average hourly action for that player is $250.

With a house edge of 5.26% the average expected hourly loss for roulette is $13.15.

You’d expect the average loss to be 10 times as much because the house edge is 10 times higher.

But it’s not 10 times higher because the average hourly action is lower. It’s not so low as to make the games the same kind of deal.

Blackjack still has better odds than roulette even when you adjust for the slower pace of the game.

What About Different Roulette Variations?

But you can also find roulette games — called “European” roulette — which only have a single 0 on the wheel.

This reduces the house edge to 2.7%.

The average hourly loss goes down to $6.75.

That’s still not comparable to the expected loss of $2.50 at the blackjack table, but it’s closer.

You find further variations, though. In some European roulette games, you have an option called “en prison.” This is only available on the even-money bets, and here’s how en prison works:

If you bet on black and the ball lands on red or green instead, you don’t lose your bet immediately. It goes into prison until the next bet. If it loses on the 2nd bet, you lose your bet. Otherwise, it’s returned to you with no winnings.

This cuts the house edge in half again, to 1.35%.

The average hourly loss drops in half, too — to $3.38.

That’s still a lot close to $2.50 than it was, but blackjack still has better odds.

What About Blackjack Rules Variations?

That’s because blackjack’s house edge assumes that you’re making the mathematically optimal decision on every hand.

If you don’t understand the basic strategy for blackjack, you might as well play roulette.

Also, some blackjack tables only pay off at 6 to 5 for a natural.

In that case, the casino adds more than 1.5% to its edge.

You should pass on 6/5 blackjack games, but if you play them, you might as well play roulette.

Also, keep in mind that roulette doesn’t require you to make good decisions to achieve that edge. You just risk your money and take your chances.

Conclusion

This doesn’t mean you should never play roulette. You might have your own reasons for preferring roulette to blackjack.

It just means you should consider the difference in odds from one game to the other.

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If you wanted to, you could spend all day ruminating about the concept of what makes something better than something else. Here’s a Stanford University page on the philosophy that explains “value theory” if you’re curious about “what is better.”

Asking if blackjack is better than roulette is a lot like asking what a best-selling beer does for you. Some people will scream it “tastes great” while others will argue it’s “less filling.” It’s pretty subjective. The comparison for blackjack and roulette is a lot similar.

It’s all about context, isn’t it?

I’m sure the old adage about sauce for gooses and ganders only works for the casino. They don’t care where the player loses money as long as everyone is having fun.

Since gambling is best enjoyed as entertainment, comparing blackjack and roulette feels like comparing a 5-course meal to an elite buffet. As long as the food is good in both places, everyone should be happy.

Everyone has his or her own preferences. So, when a beginning gambler is trying to decide between the meal of blackjack or the roulette buffet, they’ll have to decide which suits their diet best.

The rules for deciding which game is best in gambling should be simple.

  • Where do I consistently lose the most money?
  • Where do I enjoy the most wins?
  • Am I having fun?

But what is the best way to explain the pros and cons of both games to a beginner?

Imagine taking your kids to the casino on their 21st birthday. They finally get to enjoy a night with the adults. Here’s how I would compare the two games to my kids:

Blackjack Is More Quietly Social Than Roulette

For someone who is taking it all in for the first time, blackjack is a good game where you can explain odds and probabilities. You can’t sit there and count cards out loud for a newbie gambler, but you can explain the game patiently.

I’ve stood next to more than one roulette table where some young guy screamed loudly every time the ball landed in his zone. It’s hard to hold a conversation like that.

Other times the casino may be running slow. You can stand at the roulette table and explain the game to someone because there are no other players. The croupiers are efficient and professional.

Roulette Odds Blackjack Poker

Blackjack Is Less Likely to Take Your Money

You can bet the table limit in blackjack and burn through a small bankroll quickly. But comparatively speaking, blackjack players are more conservative than single-number roulette players.

You’re not at the blackjack table to get rich. You’re there to play a game that requires skill. Any fool can drop $100 on a single number in roulette.

The player is responsible for his wagers. I’ve watched people drop a couple thousand dollars on blackjack. I’ve lost as much as $500 myself.

It’s not a safe game, but the player is less likely to play blackjack unsafely.

Odds
Odds

If you take the time to think about the game, you become more cautious. Deciding whether to split 5s is much harder than deciding not to split 10s. (You should never split either, by the way.)

In roulette, I quickly grow bored with placing all my money in 2-for-1 zones. Sometimes I bet $25 on a single number. I’ve never won that bet, but it was fun while it lasted.

Roulette Is Designed to Give You an Adrenaline Rush

A seasoned blackjack player may catch on quickly when someone else is running the table. Maybe the guy is only lucky, but he wins a lot of hands. There’s a certain quiet excitement in watching someone play so well.

In roulette, if there’s a crowd around the table, everyone may give a shout when a person wins a risky bet. The excitement grows as the croupier pushes a stack of chips toward a player.

Although the gameplay in blackjack can proceed faster than a slow roulette table, roulette seems to take less time to resolve. That adrenaline rush can go on for a while when the crowd is hot, and the table is paying.

With enough players betting on the wheel, roulette looks a lot like the way it’s shown in the movies. Someone is always getting chips, even if it’s not the same player. The crowd loves a winner.

Crowds are drawn to excitement. If people are hanging around a table, there is a reason. I see groups converge on roulette more often than for blackjack. If your newbie gambler likes attention, this may be the game for them.

Players Have More Control Over Risk in Roulette

The game is entirely passive, but players can choose from a wider variety of options than in blackjack.

How often do you get four or five splits in a single hand of blackjack?

Players who want to throw caution to the winds and challenge the luck gods prefer roulette to blackjack. It’s easier to try a different idea every game. In blackjack, the draw of the cards limits the players’ choices.

Blackjack
Blackjack

Players can also balance their risk in roulette. Place a low-risk outside bet in a 2-for-1 zone and then place a couple of higher-risk inside bets on 4-number points.

More People Can Play a Roulette Table Than a Blackjack Table

Blackjack tables max out at seven players, no matter what. Chance royal flush texas holdemexas hold em. If there is sufficient demand and available staff, the casino will open more blackjack tables.

The same is true for roulette. As the day shifts into evening, more people gravitate toward the roulette tables. Only one wheel may have been active in the slow afternoon, but if a casino has extra, they certainly will open up several more in the evening.

Yet, there is usually no specified limit on the number of players for a roulette table. If 12 people can stand around the table and keep their chips separate, that should be okay.

In a busy casino, roulette may be the easier game to get into. Availability always varies by venue, but it’s been my experience that even on busy nights there’s always room for one more at a roulette table.

And that is where all the yelling and screaming comes from. The bigger the crowd at a table, the more likely they get excited. All they are waiting for is someone to score a nice win.

Conclusion

The edge is one way to compare games.

But what is the chance you’ll split five times versus scoring a blackjack on a single draw?

There are multiple edges within each game. The chance of the ball landing on any 1 number ranges from 1-in-37 to 1-in-39, depending on the roulette variation you’re playing. The chance of the ball landing on either black or red is just under 50%.

The payoff odds in both games are adjusted to ensure the house makes a profit in the long run. The real question for me has always been about where I think I have a shot at getting my money back.

That is most often blackjack.

But roulette is a decent fallback game for conservative players who want to take on a little more risk. It’s best to set a limit on how much risk you take before you begin placing your chips.

Roulette Odds Black

Roulette Odds Blackjack Odds