Winning at roulette doesn’t take a magic formula or a secret system. It’s purely a game of luck. So if you’re looking for a secret strategy or surefire way to win, you’ll probably be disappointed by the information on this page. On the other hand, if you’re interested in learning the real odds of winning and what you need to do in order to be a winner, you’ll be thrilled by the info on this page.

An America roulette wheel has 38 numbers on it—the numbers 1-36 (inclusive), a 0, and a 00. Calculating the odds of winning a bet on any single number is simplicity itself—you have one way to win out of 38 possible outcomes, which makes the odds of winning 37 to 1. This bet pays out at 35 to 1 odds.

Of course, the single number bet isn’t the only way to win at the roulette table. A plethora of betting options await the roulette player, in fact. These betting options have different odds of winning, but they also offer different payouts.

Another easy example of roulette odds are the even money bets. 18 of the numbers on the roulette wheel are red. 18 of them are black, and two of them, the 0 and the 00, are green. So if you bet on black (or red), then you have 18 ways to win and 20 ways to lose. Your odds of winning are slightly less than 50%. 18/38 is 47.36%. This bet pays out at even odds.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that in both of these scenarios, your odds of winning are less than the payout odds. This is what gives the house an edge over the player. In the short run, anyone can walk away from the roulette table a winner. But in the long run, the house is always going to come out ahead.

So how do you become a winner at roulette?

Let’s assume that your goal is to just double your money. How do you maximize your chances of doing that?

The correct mathematical strategy is to make one bet of your entire bankroll, cross your fingers, and hope you get lucky. If you lose, you’re out of money, but if you win, then you’ve succeeded in your goal.

The maximum boldness strategy entails placing a single even money bet and hoping to get lucky. You’ll have a 47.36% chance of doubling your money.

Suppose, on the other hand, that you’re going to place two bets with half your bankroll. You’ll have to win both bets in order to double your money. What’s the likelihood of that happening?

That isn’t hard to calculate either. When you’re calculating the probability of two events happening, you multiple the probability of each event happening. So you would simply multiply 47.36% by 47.36%.

The result?

22.42%

Your chances of doubling your bankroll drop dramatically in that case, don’t they?

Suppose you divided your bankroll into four separate bets. Your chances of doubling your money would drop even further.

47.36% X 47.36% X 47.36% X 47.36% = 5.03%

So if your goal is to double your money, the best strategy is to place a single bet. The more bets you place on any negative expectation wager, the more likely the house edge is to catch up with you.

You might still walk away a winner in this situation, but it will be a smaller win. And you’ll be less likely to double your money.

Roulette systems don’t work. Most of them involve increasing or decreasing your bet based on the outcome of your previous bet. The idea is that the odds of losing several bets in a row is smaller than the odds of losing a single bet, and vice versa.

The problem with this line of thinking is that you’re not placing a single wager on a series of bets. You’re placing multiple wagers on multiple events, and the odds of each event are independent of each other.

The house’s edge over the player doesn’t change based on the previous spin of the wheel. If you bet on black and lose, then the odds of black hitting on the next spin are still 47.36%. The probability doesn’t change because of what happened previously.

The most common of these bogus systems is the Martingale system, which requires you to double your bet every time you lose. The idea is that you’ll eventually win back your previous losses plus a single unit.

Here’s an example. Suppose you bet $5 on black and lose. On your next bet, you wager $10 on black. You lose again, so your next bet is $20. This time you win, so you’ve won back the $15 you lose on the first two bets, plus $5.

At first glance, this seems like a pretty good system. But it has two problems.

The first is that you’ll eventually hit a losing streak where your next bet will be too high for your bankroll. It only takes eight losing bets in a row to get to the point where you’ll need $1280 to place your next bet. (The progression looks like this: $5, $10, $20, $40, $80, $160, $320, $640, $1280.) And remember—you don’t just need $1280 for the last bet. You’ve already lost $1275 by this point in your betting progression.

If you do win this $1280 bet, you’ll only be up $5, which means you’re making a large wager for a very small return.

The other problem is that even if you do have a sufficient bankroll to cover this kind of progression, all casinos have maximum bets. If you’re playing at a $5 roulette table, the maximum bet is probably $500 or $1000. So you’ll be unable to continue your progression.

You might be thinking, how often will I have a losing streak of eight in a row, though?

That answer is not often, but it will happen often enough to make sure that you’re not a long term winner at roulette.

In the short run, the only way to win at roulette is to get lucky and walk away. In the long run, the only way to win at roulette is to get even luckier and quit while you’re ahead. The more you play a negative expectation gambling game, the more likely you are to become a net loser.

Does this mean you shouldn’t play roulette?

That’s not our point at all. If you enjoy roulette, then play. Just don’t think you can make a living at it by using some mathematically bogus system or strategy. Earmark your roulette money as an entertainment expense. Then play as much as your bankroll allows until you’re no longer having fun.