Online Casino Roulette – Random or Not?

roulette graphicEver since it was first introduced in 18th-century France, roulette has been an inseparable part of brick-and-mortar casinos and is the game many people associate gambling with. The game of roulette was allegedly invented by French inventor and mathematician Blaise Pascal while he was attempting to create a perpetual motion machine in the 17th century. This was followed by the introduction of the game across Europe and roulette quickly established itself as a favourite among the aristocracy at the Continent. The game travelled across the ocean to reach the New World where an important change was introduced to the wheel – the addition of the zero pocket which nearly doubled its house edge.

A couple of centuries later, roulette continues to enjoy a status of one of the most iconic casino games in the world and has made it onto the catalogues of hundreds of online casinos. Online roulette variations are indeed impressive in terms of authenticity but many players are put off by the fact they cannot see a physical ball spinning across a physical wheel. This causes them to question the fairness of online roulette games. Many ask themselves the question “Is online roulette rigged or is it indeed random like it is supposed to be?”. If you are one of these players, read on to find the answers to your questions and understand how online roulette actually works.

The Randomness of Results in Roulette

One of the key traits of roulette is that it is subject to the so-called law of independent trials. This is not the case with other iconic casino games like blackjack where each hand you play (as well as your decisions how to play it) affects the outcome of subsequent hands. For instance, imagine you are dealt two Aces in a single-deck game. The chances of receiving another Ace if you hit are somehow reduced by the fact you are already holding two out of four Aces.

This, however, is not the case in roulette where all outcomes are actually independent of one another. This means that each outcome is neither affected by previous results nor does it influence any results that follow. That is to say, there is no way for players to obtain any handy information from previous spins that would enable them to predict correctly the results on subsequent spins.

The randomness of outcomes in landbased roulette results from the random arrangement of the numbers on the wheel, which are not ordered sequentially. Such is the case in online roulette as well. The conclusion is that each of the 37 numbers on a European roulette wheel has equal chances of being spun as the rest. The odds of hitting any individual number would always be 36 to 1 as there are 36 ways to lose the bet and only a single number which guarantees a win. Similarly, if you have won with Black on the last round, the probability of hitting black again on the very next spin will remain the same despite this – 19 to 18.

Meanwhile, it is of equally great importance for players to understand that the spins in roulette are statistically related to a certain extent. While it is not impossible for Black to hit a thousand times in a row, this is highly unlikely to happen from statistical point of view. It all has to do with how much you play and how many outcomes are factored in.

This is called the Law of Large Numbers (also known as the Law of Averages) and it dictates that the frequencies of events, which have the same probability of occurring, tend to even out provided that enough trials are at hand. When it comes to probability, enough trials equals millions of times, though. Thus, if you play one million spins betting on Red/Black, roughly half of the time, you will get Red while the other half, you will hit Black. This will not be the case if you play only ten spins in roulette.

Some people tend to mistakenly use an insignificant number of trials to illustrate the Law of Averages, which is known as the Gambler’s Fallacy. For instance, one such person would win with an Odd number bet four times in a row which would lead them to believe they are supposed to bet on Even next time because an even number is “due” to come. They falsely assume the frequencies of Odd/Even outcomes have evened out. This is far from being true because each spin of the ball is an independent event and therefore, the actual probability of the Odd/Even outcomes will remain equal for the next spin and the spins to follow.

However, if that person bets on Odd/Even enough times (say one or two million times), the Law of Averages would have its say and the number of the two outcomes will become very close to equal, but not entirely, because of the additional zero pocket. Unfortunately, one will need quite a sizeable bankroll to undertake this experiment.

roulette zero highlight

Biased Wheels

In landbased games of roulette, there are instances where players may come across what are called “biased” or “crooked” wheels. Such wheels are known to affect the randomness of the spins’ outcomes. This is to say certain numbers are more likely to be spun than others. In most cases, this bias results from a defect during the process of manufacturing. On occasions, the wheel may become biased as it wears out due to prolonged use.

It is possible to differentiate between two types of biased wheels. Some appear to favour specific individual numbers, while on others, the ball “prefers” entire sectors covering greater clusters of pockets. There are different factors which might contribute to a wheel displaying bias over time. This might be a result of uneven deceleration and greater tilt, damaged balls, dissimilarities in pocket size, damaged or high pocket frets, and even minute scratches on the pockets’ surface.

After several days of play on one such wheel, it is possible for players to detect the bias and attempt to use it to their advantage. That being said, it is worth mentioning that casino personnel also observes closely for these tendencies and such wheels are usually replaced immediately after a casino employee notices the defect.

Some players go as far as to accuse the house of cheating on purpose with biased wheels or even using hidden magnets to navigate where the ball lands. Both notions are nonsensical for a number of reasons, and the first one is that such defects are actually beneficial to players – the house is quick to get rid of these wheels as soon as their bias becomes apparent.

Second of all, if you happen to lose money at a rapid pace, you most likely are not cheated out of your profits by the casino but simply lack a proper understanding of the bet types in the game and adequate bankroll management. Finally, the notion of casinos using magnets to influence the course of the ball is indeed ludicrous for the simple reason the balls used in the game are actually plastic.

electric roulette

House Edge in the Game of Roulette

The house edge in online roulette coincides with that of the games played in brick-and-mortar gambling venues. Understanding the house edge is of essential importance for any successful roulette player, regardless of whether they are betting online or offline. In simpler terms, the house edge is the advantage the house or the casino holds over players. This is actually built in the payout percentages and in roulette, it is impossible to avoid or reduce, chiefly because this is a game of independent trials and players cannot predict the outcomes of the spins on the basis of previous results.

If you inspect the different types of bets in roulette and how much they return, you will notice there is a discrepancy between the payouts and the actual probability of winning with each bet type. For instance, the true odds of hitting any individual number amount to 36 to 1 in European roulette where there are 37 pockets and only one zero. The casino odds, however, are smaller as Straight bets return at a rate of 35 to 1.

The same applies to all other bets and their payouts. With outside bets like Red or Black, there are 18 ways to win out of 37, which corresponds to a probability of 46.37% because of the additional zero pocket that causes such wagers to lose. Despite that, players receive an even-money payout as if the chances of winning and losing with such bets are equal, while in fact the probability of losing exceeds that of succeeding and stands at 52.63%.

It becomes apparent the addition of the zero pocket on the roulette wheel is anything but a coincidence. On European, single-zero roulette wheels, this tiny green pocket accounts for a house edge of 2.70% which is to say on average, you will lose £2,70 per every £100 wagered. Meanwhile, the wheels in American roulette have an additional double-zero and 38 pockets overall. This almost doubles the house edge in this variation to 5.26% and players are generally recommended to avoid such games.

The house edge of all roulette bets is the same, the only exception being the Five Number bet, which is typical for the American variant and covers numbers 1, 2, 3, 0, and 00. This must be one of the absolute worst bets to make in a casino save for some bets in the game of craps which come with an even higher house edge. There are only five ways to win with this roulette bet as opposed to the 32 ways to lose. Yet, if you do happen to win, you will be paid out at casino odds of 6 to 1 which is ludicrous, to say the least. This corresponds to a house edge of 7.89% and suffices to explain why roulette experts consider placing the Five Number bet masochistic and a total waste of money.

Roulette House Edge
Roulette TypeHouse Edge /%/
French Roulette1.35 / 2.70
European Roulette2.70
American Roulette5.26 / 7.89

What are RNGs and How They Work?

The outcome of the spins in landbased roulette is sometimes influenced by physical factors such as the amount of force the dealer applies when tossing the ball, the friction, and the air resistance. In online roulette games, randomness and therefore, fairness, is ensured through the use of bespoke pieces of software, called Random Number Generators (RNGs).

It is important to mention these programmes are used to create what is known as “pseudo” randomness because there is no need for external input in order for them to generate any output. Output in this context is used synonymously to “outcome” or “result”. The software starts with an initial seed value as a reference point and then uses it to produce exceptionally long sequences of random numbers, based on series of complicated mathematical calculations or algorithms. Each long sequence of numbers itself becomes a seed and generates yet another sequence using the same algorithm as the first.

The interesting thing is that this elaborate piece of software never ceases to spurt out number sequences even when no one is there to play the game. Once a player loads a given game of online roulette, the outcome is pretty much determined the very instant they hit the spin button. It depends on the number that is generated at the precise moment when the button is clicked on. However, as this also sends the ball rotating around the virtual wheel, players are left with the deceptive impression the result is yet to be decided.

Random Number Generators are incapable of ensuring absolute randomness, but they create this impression due to the fact that the algorithms they use to generate the results are extremely complex and impossible to understand by laymen. However, if one manages to find a powerful enough computer and the necessary software, they may be able to accurately compute the sequence of numbers as long as they know the algorithm that is used and the initial seed number – the one it all started from. The downside is that such information is kept top secret by casinos to prevent people from exploiting the games as well as to ensure all players have equal chances of winning.

Random Number Generator

The RNG in Online Casino Roulette

Random Number Generators determine the outcomes of every single virtual casino game and roulette is hardly an exception to this rule. Unlike other casino games, roulette requires only one number per spin to be produced, therefore the work of the RNG there is far less complicated. The specifics of this game of chance require simplified output in order for the outcomes of the spins to be generated. Let us use the game of European roulette as an example, where the pockets on the wheel contain numbers 0 through 36.

To determine the random result, the piece of software is required to generate an integer between 0 and 36. This integer is generated on the basis of an input which could range between zero and a billion. For example, this could be a 32-bit number such as 2,356,548,475. This needs to be reduced to a simplified value corresponding to one of the pockets on the virtual wheel. The software would then reduce the long number to a shorter one using its complex algorithms.

Imagine the result is anything like 9.8543. This decimal will then be rounded up by the software to 10, which, in its turn, will be reduced by one unit in value in order to give it parity with the numbers, displayed on the wheel. Therefore, the winning number on this spin would be 9 Red.

Can Online Roulette Games be Rigged?

Since the RNG utilises formulae to generate outcomes, the question arises whether or not it is possible for casinos to rig the available games, roulette included, by messing with the algorithms. To be frank, it is possible for anyone to do so as long as they have a correct information about the algorithm and the initial seed, the one that was used to generate the very first long sequence of numbers. Without this information, it would not be possible to rig the games. More often than not, the software developers who have created the virtual roulette games are among the few blessed individuals who know what the seed number is.

In addition, messing with the games’ RNG is not in the interest of the online gambling operators themselves. If they are caught, and they most certainly will because the games are audited for fairness regularly, they risk having their licenses revoked, not to mention their reputation among players will be permanently damaged – and once that happens, there is no going back.

online roulette fairness

Fairness of Online Roulette RNGs

Major software developers such as Playtech and Microgaming have created bespoke variants of online roulette and while these companies bear a certain degree of responsibility for their games’ testing, the auditing and verification of the Random Number Generators and the average player return percentages are performed by impartial testing agencies, the likes of eCOGRA and Technical Systems Testing (TST).

The task of these external companies is to check whether the RNGs are rigged so as to favour certain cards, roulette numbers, or symbols on the slots’ reels. If the auditors establish no such bias exists, they will provide the online casino with a certificate to post on its website so that all players know the games on offer are fair and the outcomes are determined on the basis of a random principle. That is to say, all players who bet on a given roulette variant or video slot will have equal chances of winning.

The third-party testing agencies will also conduct tests to verify whether the payout percentages of the games are correct. From a player’s perspective, this is the most important statistics because it indicates how much money one can potentially collect over time per every 100 units they wager on a given game. In order to verify a game’s theoretical return, the agency would need its full set of rules whereby a team of professional mathematicians would perform various mathematical evaluations to obtain accurate results. Renowned casino operators would update the payout percentages of their games on a monthly basis so that both new and existing players can see what return they can expect from any given title in the gaming collection.

When searching for an online casino to play roulette at, players are recommended to first ensure they are registering with a licensed operator that is audited by a respected third-party organisation like TST or eCOGRA. This will enable them to enjoy their online roulette experience to the fullest and will give them the confidence they have just as much chance of hitting their lucky number as anyone else.

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