Why I Love American Roulette

I bet you won’t agree with me when I say this – I love American roulette.

When I go on a casino trip, I head immediately for double-zero roulette games.

I’ve long been a defender of this casino classic.

After all, I’m an American.

So what is it about double-zero roulette that gets me excited?

First – an explanation of the main difference between American and European game rules.

American vs. European Roulette
The most important difference between American and European rules roulette is the number of spaces in the wheel where the ball might land. American wheels have 38 slots (1-36 plus one green zero and one green double-zero space) and European wheels have 37 slots (1-36 plus one green zero space).

The impact this extra space has on the American game’s odds is pretty significant. All wagers on American roulette games have a 5.26% house edge – while all wagers on single-zero games have a 2.7% house edge. The house edge on the American game is almost double that for single-zero or European tables.

But wait – I haven’t told you the whole story yet. True European roulette games include a special rule that reduces the house’s edge even more in certain game situations. At Euro tables, if the ball lands in the green zero space, bettors get half their wager back. With that rule in place, all even-money bets have a house edge of just 1.3%. Those are excellent odds by anyone’s definition, right?

So why do I love American roulette so much?

It’s Accessible
Only seven Las Vegas casinos host a single-zero roulette game. The Palazzo and the Venetian are the only two that host true American rules roulette – the other five have one European rules table each.

If you don’t do your gambling in Las Vegas, rest assured that your Euro game options are limited, too. The few Atlantic City casinos still in business aren’t eager to hand out money with low-odds games taking up floor space – I don’t know a single AC casino offering single-zero tables outside of a VIP room. You won’t find any single-zero tables in any property in Mississippi or Louisiana that’s run by one of the major operators like Harrah’s. Basically, if you’re in America, American rules games are by far the most common and the most budget-friendly. You may not even have the option of playing single-zero games, especially if you aren’t a high roller.

It’s Familiar
Because I’ve lived my entire life in the United States, I’ve only ever really known or played the single-zero game. I remember getting a casino play-set when I was a kid (with playing cards, a plastic roulette wheel, a ball bearing, some poker chips, and a set of dice), and sure enough, that game’s wheel was set up in imitation of good old USA rules.

I admit – the rules of European roulette are a lot better for the player. The “en prison” rule (the one that will pay you back half your even-money wager on a zero result) is so popular that a few casinos in America adapted it for use on double-zero wheels. Unfortunately, that game never caught on, probably because it cut the house’s edge from 5.26% to 2.63%. I also appreciate that the stupid “five numbers” bet isn’t available on single zero tables – I think that’s a terrible move by the casino to cheat ignorant people out of their money, and I wish it wasn’t available in American games.

But it all comes down to familiarity, for me. When I play the game, I expect a wheel with two green zero spaces. I don’t expect to get half my wager back thanks to “imprisonment rules.” I grew up risking way more of money than you can risk on European tables, and it’s just not familiar to me.

It’s Affordable
If single-zero roulette offers way better odds, why shouldn’t I just stick to those seven casinos when I visit Vegas? Because the vast majority of those single-zero games are in the VIP rooms, with $100 bet minimums. The most affordable single-zero games in town are at the Mirage, and the MGM Grand, where you can play on a single-zero table for a $25 minimum bet.

Most of the American-style roulette games in Las Vegas allow me to bet $5 or $10 per spin. Basically, I can’t afford to play singe-zero roulette. I’m used to seeing about one outcome per minute at a full Las Vegas table – if I wanted to step up to the VIP games, I’d be betting my mortgage four times over each hour. That’s not the kind of action that I (or my wife) can live with. Heck, it’s expensive enough at $600 an hour.

Atlantic City casinos hosted single-zero games years before Las Vegas did – at a time when Atlantic City gambling houses were playgrounds for the well-to-do. In America, European-anything is code for elite and uppity, and that seems to be the case with this European import. Though I consider myself an intellectual, someone able to overcome the trappings of his cultural heritage, I still can’t help but see the double-zero game as comfortable and familiar.

Conclusion
How little do casinos want Americans to play on single-zero wheels? It’s common for online casinos to restrict bets on Euro roulette from counting towards bonus requirements or loyalty points. The tables are practically gone from US casino floors. When you can find them, they’re restricted by high betting minimums or by requiring special permission to enter the VIP room where the games are kept. For all those reasons, I much prefer to play American-rules roulette games. I’m hoping that, after reading this, a few of you will feel the same way, and give the game a second chance.

How Will the Smoking Ban Affect New Orleans Casinos?

The city of New Orleans implemented a full ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, casinos, and other public spaces in April of 2014.

The purpose of the law was to extend existing statewide smoking bans within the city limits. The new law means it is illegal to smoke within five feet of everything from public parks to colleges and even the city’s jails and prisons.

The use of e-cigarettes and vaporizers is also considered smoking. So that’s banned too.

How do the operators of gambling venues in New Orleans feel about it?

They’re upset.

The Louisiana State Police, which oversees gambling in Louisiana, predicted that the state could lose $104 million in tax revenue and fees from the implementation of this ban. That number came from the Gaming Enforcement Commission’s notes on a study done on smoking bans in Atlantic City and Delaware gaming properties.

That study, which you can read as a PDF file here, accurately predicted a 12% decrease in revenue for the state of Delaware after a smoking ban in gambling halls in that state. Another arm of that study predicted a huge decrease of 20% in Atlantic City’s profits across a two-year period after a smoking ban in South Jersey, though that prediction hasn’t been tested yet.

Their argument is simple enough. As the New Orleans advocate puts it, “[Casinos, restaurants, and bars] argue that tourists come to New Orleans because they like to gamble and drink. The city is one of the last to allow smoking in some public places.” To take that away will change people’s attitude about New Orleans.

How many will simply decide not to come back?

What have they done about it?

Opponents of the ban have been active.

First, Harrah’s tried to delay the ban, claiming they needed more time to help their employees and customers adjust to the new rules. New Orleans City Council saw through that smokescreen (pun totally intended), shaming Harrah’s for trying to amend city law to benefit their own interests. For their part, Harrah’s is currently involving New Orleans in a difficult and costly lease renegotiation which has to be seen as an attempt at revenge on the part of the casino.

What Harrah’s did next was brilliant. Before the ban went into effect, the property made a huge show of becoming “the first smoke-free casino in Louisiana.” At midnight two days before the ban went into effect, they ceremonially removed ashtrays, handed out lollipops for frustrated smokers, and made a big to-do of their early adoption.

It was a brilliant move because they were planning a counter-attack the entire time.

Next, Harrah’s joined forces with many other local businesses affected by the ban and filed a lawsuit in civil court to strike it down. This action was more effective. It included several large local businesses (including Pat O Brien’s, Broussard’s, and several other New Orleans landmarks) and focused on the potential loss of revenue facing the city.

The hearing was scheduled for May 21. That lease negotiation Harrah’s is forcing on the city? It could cost New Orleans anywhere from $4 – $30 million dollars, which Harrah’s says is the cost of forcing the smoking ban on their successful gaming enterprise.

Who benefits from the New Orleans smoking ban?

I’m cynical, but not too cynical. This might smarmy, too.

I’m okay with that.

Here’s who benefits from the New Orleans smoking ban:

The people who visit bars, hotels, restaurants, casinos, and other public spaces all benefit.

We know secondhand smoke is dangerous. The American Cancer Society says secondhand smoke kills 42,000 people a year. It’s bad and you probably agree that it should be banned, unless you’re a libertarian or anarchist or something.

But beyond that – people these days don’t like to go places where smoking takes place. Times have changed – gone are the days when going home from your waitressing job smelling like a cigarette was no big deal because everybody smoked. These days, fewer people smoke, and the ones who don’t simply don’t want to be around it.

City Council Member Latoya Cantrell, who sponsored the law and has been vocal about her support for it, points out that secondhand smoke exposure costs the state millions of dollars a year in healthcare costs. That’s another angle to consider. It might be fiscally irresponsible to continue to allow smoking in public, at least according to the ban’s proponents.

So what’s going to happen?

Harrah’s is trying to put its money where its mouth is, threatening to shrink its state-mandated work force from 2,400 to 1,500. They’ve got legislation under consideration which would allow them to do just that.

With pressure on the city council from judges more than ready to rule in favor of existing liberties, it’s not totally clear that the city will be able to maintain the ban as it exists now.

Bartenders and business owners continue to make the same point – you’ll read it in this article from VICE and in this from the Guardian. What is going to happen when neighboring businesses get sick of the smokers pouring out of bars, casinos, and restaurants every few minutes? That seems to be the real threat to shop owners concerned about their customers getting up and leaving to satisfy their nicotine habit.

If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that the ban is here to stay. I can’t find a single example of a city getting rid of a smoking ban once it’s been put in place. It just doesn’t happen. As for how the city will be affected, I’d predict that Harrah’s is going to continue making a stink until they earn an exemption from the New Orleans City Council.

That means the city will rule in favor of the civil rights of customers at a single business. That will be a weird day, indeed.

5 Things All Casino Gambling Fans Are Sick of Hearing

The life of a casino gambling fan is filled with peaks and valleys. On one hand there are the good days, when chips seem to rain from the heavens and all the cocktail servers are part-time models.

Then there are the bad days, when the old lady with the oxygen tank blows smoke in your face and every game seems out to get you. Of course, that just comes with the territory.

What doesn’t come with the territory, however, are some of the stupid comments you have to listen to while trying to win a few extra bucks. The ones heard in the background are irritating enough, but when the moronic chatter is directed right to your face it’s enough to make you choke someone.

This post details 5 things that all casino gambling fans are sick of hearing. If you’ve already been bombarded with these clichés over the years, then you have my sympathy.

For those who are just starting their gambling careers, get ready to hear these phrases until you’re blue in the face.

1. “This game is rigged.”
Let’s get something straight: casino games are not rigged. Sure, the rules may ultimately favor the house, but they’re also clearly printed for the customer to read.

The idea that the casino would cheat in the middle of play is ridiculous, and it’s one of the most common things that losing gamblers tell themselves. This allows them to take the blame off themselves for their perceived misfortunes.

If you do nothing else, don’t delude yourself into thinking that you’re being cheated. Just admit your role in the process and take your losses like a man (or woman).

2. “The drinks are free around here. Yes!”
Whenever I hear this, I try to get away as soon as possible. These words are usually spoken by someone who loves alcohol, and those free drinks will soon leave them sloppy drunk and wanting to strike up a conversation with their neighbor (in this case, you).

They don’t seem to realize that everything the casino does is for a purpose. When you have too much to drink, your brain ceases to work as effectively. When that happens, your ability to make decisions is adversely affected.

All of these factors add up to an advantage for the house. While you’re chugging down imported beer, the casino is lifting your wallet and quietly removing the contents.

3. “Hey, pal, can I borrow $5? I’ll pay you back after I win.”
No matter how bad your losing streak gets, you should never, ever ask a stranger to lend you money. Not only is it rude, it also puts the other person in an extremely uncomfortable position.

Still, I bet this has happened to me at least six times over the last decade, and I still remember every one of those cringe-worthy moments. At least you can turn down a homeless person while walking in a particular direction. In this kind of situation, you’re a sitting duck with nowhere to run to.

The only time I broke down and floated a loan was to an attractive thirtysomething female, and I still kick myself for that decision. As you might have guessed, I never got reimbursed.

It’s like feeding monkeys at the zoo. Give food to one, and the other will come running. The best policy is not to do it. After all, it’s a casino and not a soup kitchen.

4. “The smoke doesn’t bother you, does it?”
I always cringe when I’m playing slots and a blue-haired old lady sits down next to me. It’s not because I have some beef with seniors, it’s just that I’m fearful they’re a smoker. If they are, you can bet they’ll be fishing out a cancer stick within minutes of their arrival.

I’ve dealt with asthma ever since I was a child. I’ve got a minor case, but it can be aggravated by exposure to certain types of chemicals. Cigarette smoke is definitely on that list.

While I hate for someone to ask if smoke bothers me while I’m obviously turning blue, at least they have the courtesy to inquire. The people I really hate are the ones who sit down and intentionally blow it in my direction.

Here are just some of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke, as well as other places these same ingredients are located:

Butane – rubber cement
Tar – used to pave roads
Arsenic – rat poison
Ammonia – household cleaning products
Methanol – rocket fuel
Acetone – nail polish remover
5. “Time for another trip to the ATM.”
If I had a quarter for every time I’d heard this phrase uttered in casinos…well, I’d have a helluva lot of quarters.

Some players approach the casinos like maniacs, betting outrageous sums of money without even understanding the proper strategy for their game of choice. When they inevitably run out of money, their solution is simple: head back to the ATM machine.

Not only is this stupid, but it’s also a good way to end up with a drained bank account. This is exactly the reason why casinos place ATM machines around in the first place.

It’s also a total slap in the face to the concept of bankroll management. The objective is to play only with the money you can afford to lose, not dip into savings that are being held aside for food, rent, and your child’s college education.

Conclusion
Gambling at the casino can be tough, as a winning streak can quickly turn into a living nightmare. It’s all part of the game, though, and experienced gamblers learn to take the good with the bad.

While players can get used to the ups and downs of gaming, there are some phrases and clichés that are likely to set off even the most seasoned pro. Yell one of these at Doyle Brunson the next time he putters by on his scooter, and he’s likely to try and run you over.