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Chinese Roulette

In the world of roulette games, two varieties dominate worldwide. In the United States and some other parts of the Americas, American Roulette is the game of choice, featuring a wheel that contains two zeroes and a rather high house edge. Most of the rest of the world (along with some higher-end games in American casinos) play the European version of the game, which only features one zero while offering the same payouts. That game does have some variants – French Roulette offers even more player-friendly rules – but for the most part, the world’s most famous table game of chance comes on those two varieties.

But the American and European designations leave out a big part of the world, most notably one of the largest gambling markets on the planet. China is perhaps the most lucrative gaming market in the world, so why shouldn’t it have its own form of this popular game? That, perhaps, is the idea behind Chinese Roulette, a game now available at some online casinos. It’s very similar to the game you know and love, but with a few differences that definitely make this a unique experience.

What’s Your Sign?

At its heart, Chinese Roulette is the same as the European version of the game. You’ll be playing with a wheel that has 37 pockets, and all bets pay out fairly for a 36-pocket layout, meaning there is just one extra result that gives the casino their advantage. But the betting layout is entirely different, making the play take on an entirely different look and feel.

Gone are the numbers from 1-36. Instead, they are replaced by the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each of these animals covers three consecutive spaces on the wheel; there is no other designation making the individual spaces within a given animal sign unique, so all three offer the same result. The final spot on the wheel – traditionally given to the 0 – is taken up by an 8, the luckiest number in Chinese culture.

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Chinese Roulette

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As in any roulette game, players must place their bets before each spin. The betting areas are large and clear, making it easy to place whatever bet you like. Unlike in traditional forms of the game, there is no divide between inside and outside bets; you can bet whatever you like in whatever amount you like, as long as you stay between the table minimum and maximum.

Given the unusual layout, you won’t be surprised to find that the bets you can make are rather different in this form of the game. The following is a list of every possible wager. When possible, we’ve tried to give them names that match as close as possible to similar bets in the better-known versions of this game, though they are usually not exactly equivalent.

The possible bets include:

  • Straight: bet on a single animal sign. This wager pays out at 11-1 odds.
  • 8: A bet on the 8 spot, which only covers one pocket on the wheel. The bet is like betting on a single number on a more standard table, and pays 35-1 as a result.
  • Split: This bet will cover any two adjoining animals on the layout, winning if the ball lands on either. This bet pays 5-1.
  • Square: This wager is made by placing chips at the intersection of any four signs, and wins if any of the associated animals are spun next, paying out at 2-1.
  • Seasons: These four spots – Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter – each cover three animals, winning if any of them are hit next. They each pay out at 3-1.
  • Elements: Like the Seasons, these options – Fire, Earth, Air, and Water – are each associated with three signs, covering them all for the next spin. They also offer 3-1 odds.
  • Rows: These spots cover four zodiac signs each (a full row on the layout), paying out at 2-1 if any of them win.
  • Positive/Negative: This is the equivalent to the Red/Black options seen on more traditional wheels. Each cover six signs, or half the wheel (excepting the 8). They pay out at even money.
  • Basket: This bet covers the 8 and two signs (either Tiger/Rabbit or Rabbit/Dragon). If any of the covered results win, players are paid out at 4-1.

Once you’ve placed all the chips you wish to, you can hit the spin button to trigger the next round. You’ll watch the ball fall somewhere on the inner ring; all losing bets will then be forfeit, while all winning bets will be paid out.

A few additional buttons are also offered to make gameplay just a bit easier. By default, your last bets will be repeated and are left on the layout for your next spin. However, you can clear any one pile of chips with the “clear single” button, or reset your wagering entirely by using the “clear all bets” option.

Familiar Strategy

If you’re a veteran of other roulette games, you probably already know what is going to be said here. Most of this game comes down to pure luck, with almost all of the bets offering the same house edge: 1/37, or 2.7%. That’s not bad at all, and is exactly equivalent to European games, making this a fine option for those who want a different aesthetic without sacrificing anything in terms of odds.

However, there is one bet we want to warn you about – and if you’ve studied American games, you may know where we’re going with this. The “basket” bet here is bad for the same reasons the similar wager shouldn’t be made on American wheels: the odds simply aren’t good enough to justify it (you can blame that on greed, but it is also a mathematical issue, as while 4-1 isn’t good enough, 5-1 would be too generous). The house edge for this bet is 5.41%, or double that of any other bet in this game.

A Great Localization of a Casino Classic

Essentially, this is just another roulette game – but leaving it at that would sell Chinese Roulette short. Often, localized versions of popular titles are done sloppily, or are made in such a way as to take advantage of players by increasing the house edge while hoping local players won’t notice. That’s not the case here, where the resulting creation is just as good as any other version you might play, only with a different look, feel, and betting style for players to enjoy. While the gameplay is only different in a very minor way, this variation truly feels both different and welcome, making it an excellent option if you want a slightly different take on roulette, or if for any reason you’re more comfortable playing with the Chinese zodiac instead of a set of numbers.

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