Today I returned to the US after a week aboard the Oasis of the Seas gambling at the single zero roulette table. I finished ~$2500 ahead Martingaling for a week.
I wanted to vacation in Vegas this fall, my wife wanted to cruise again, so I spent a few months searching cruise lines, looking for a single zero roulette table with at least an 8-bet min/max spread. As it turns out, there are thirteen cruise ships in the world that fit that profile (that I discovered), and after checking all of them against November/December departure dates from CONUS, I downselected to the Oasis of the Seas from Royal Caribbean for a 7-Day Caribbean cruise, booked it, and thus it was so!
For the duration of this cruise, I played single zero roulette and nothing else. The casino on board the Oasis of the Seas has four roulette tables; two American roulette tables on the smoking side, and one each American/European on the non-smoking side. I use the word "European" loosely because while it was single-zero, it had no European rules on it. All four tables were $5 - $100 on the inside, and $5 - $1000 on the outside. I attempted to make arrangements before the cruise as well as with the casino manager during the cruise to raise the limits for my gambling to no avail since I didn't have an established play history with Club Royale. I also requested La Partage be put into effect during my session play without luck - but that was a long shot anyway; the only single zero table I know of in the US with a minimum bet lower than $25 is the $10 - $3000 La Partage table at the Soaring Eagle in Michigan (sorry guys, terminal games don't count!)
Single zero roulette tables have a 2.7% house edge; down from the scandalous 5.4% house edge of American roulette (let alone the scammy triple zero crap that Carnival Cruise lines and the Venetian in Vegas are doing); La Partage lowers it to a magnificent 1.35%, but alas - I was destined to go without.
Most of you are probably familiar with a martingale) series bet. For anyone else; on a $5 - $1000 table, $2,000 can bankroll a 8-bet sequence where I double my bet each time I lose, restarting my bet sequence each win. Due to chip denominations, my martingale progression is $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1000, which I find more reasonable than 5/10/20/40/80/160/320/640 due to the typical chip denominations 1/5/25/100/500/1000. In a tip of my hat to superstition, my increases from $10 to $25, $100 to $250, and $1000 to $2500 where applicable are my way of "punishing" the casino for making me leave the comfort zone of the outside minimum bet. Mock me if you must; its my personal flair - if my bets grow that high I "deserve" to win more than my base bet for the stress of having to bankroll the roll.
The chances of heads or tails on a coin flip are 50% for either outcome. On a single-zero table without La Partage, the equivalent bets - black/red, even/odd, 1-18/19-36 is ~48.6%, with the other 2.7% representing the green zero, or house edge - creating a theoretical loss probability of 2.7% of your bet per bet over time.
While the probability of an individual spin being black or red in my case is ~48.6%, the martingale betting progression ties your bets into a session, such that on the table I'm playing on, as long as I don't guess wrong 8 times in a row, I always win. On the off-chance that any newbs are reading this, this is NOT a "strategy" or "guaranteed way to make money." Martingale betting is a low risk, low reward means of using a large sum of money to win a little sum of money - pretty much the opposite of what people go into casinos to do. In statistical terms, the chances of me guessing wrong 8 times in a row in an 8 spin series is three tenths of one percent...but no one sits down for 8 spins and leaves - so my gambling is that when the house spins my losing sequence...I'm not there. =D Such is gambling.
I've learned over the years that if I don't sit at a table with a fixed goal of when to leave, I will get bored and start making side bets (other even money bets or thirds) - more ways to win also mean more ways to lose, and when I am gambling, I am heavily socializing and drinking; I can't keep track of all of it at the same time. My goal is thus to always leave with 120% of my bankroll.
This trip was a bit confusing for me because I couldn't reconcile what my bankroll was. Not knowing whether the table limit would be fixed to $1000, or be able to be raised to $10,000 I brought $5,000 in cash with another $35,000 available as credit - I'd wrongly assumed the casino would at least double the table min/max to $10-$2000, and had been hoping they would leave the minimum and double the maximum, adding a one-bet buffer to my 8-spin series. With a $1,000 bet maximum, I stopped bringing more than $2,000 to the casino. If my bankroll is $2,000, I aim to leave with $2400. If my bankroll is $5,000, I aim to leave with $6,000. With $10,000, I aim to leave with $12,000.
I initially hoped to turn $2,000 into $2,400, but after doing that the first night gambling and the prospect of the rest of the cruise being bereft of gambling, I decided that since I'd brought $5,000 to gamble with, even if I could only play with $2,000 of it, my 120% goal meant I wanted $1,000 in winnings or bust.
On day two when I realized how stingy Club Royale was, and that I'd be buying my own drinks, I shelled out $360 for the liquor package, and adjusted my winning threshold to also cover the liquor package. Then there was a $300 spa treatment. Then an $1800 studio photography session since my wife wanted some nice pictures - something we've not done in a decade.
With these confusing inputs leaving me unsure of how to decide if I was up or down, it came down to the fact that while the casino was generally open 8-12 hours a day, the lone roulette table with the single zero didn't open until 8:00 PM - about when the cruise shows started. I did some begging and pleading to have it opened earlier every day to mixed success - a bit on the first day and on the last day, with nothing in the middle. They really wanted people on the American tables - which I had to resist, since for much of the cruise, it was American roulette or nothing. I contented myself during those periods with drinking, socializing with other gamblers, watching, drinking, and trying to find people who didn't have the booze package so I could buy them drinks.
Over 6 days of gambling, averaging 4 hours per day, I hit the $1,000 table maximum bet twice. Both were heart-attack inducing. The first was at 0100 on day 5, I was the last gambler at the table, $1,000 on red didn't screw me, and I took it as a sign to go to bed. The second happened on Day 6; since a $2,000 loss would have left me break even at that point, I took a short break, stretched my legs, and came back.
In the same period, I hit the $250 bet mark in my progression 4 times (resetting from $250 back to $5), and the $500 bet limit zero times. $100 and below bets were too numerous to count.
Total winnings were probably closer to $2800, but I tip freely when its free money.
Despite my "follow the house" betting method of deciding to bet red or black (which capitalizes on streaks), and I never choose which to bet on, there was one dealer would occasionally call a color, and she was only wrong once. I started switching bets when she'd call a color because it was spooky. If I asked her, most of the time she'd say, "I don't know" - but out of 20-30 "calls" over a week that I saw her spinning for me, she missed one.
If I had the balls to play numbers or neighbor bets, I'd have made tens of thousands; I don't believe in ball control; not on modern wheels, but one dealer put out four 28s in 8 spins, three of them in a row, 7 of the others were neighbor bet winners, and he just kept doing it. He's been a casino dealer 44 years...and kept telling people what number to bet on, and no one would listen to him. God, I wish I had.
I learned to play craps as a backup in case the single zero table was closed, but the craps tables were $5 - $300 with 1x odds, shifting to 3-4-5x with $50 minimum bets. I need to ease into craps, and didn't want to have to track different odds systems, nor did I want to play on a $300 limit table - all my practicing on craps was with 3-4-5x odds on a $5 - $2,000 table, and I have a tendency to double down on everything in every game. And in life too; Losing a 5/15 bet makes me put $20 on the pass line. It gets expensive quickly, so I'm not playing craps with less than $5k, $10k to be comfortable, and I need at least a $2k table.
Actually, all the games were a bit ...less competitive. 6:5 blackjack, 1x craps odds, no Euro rules on the Euro table, crappy slots payouts - I get it; I really do. Captive audience, no need to compete with other casinos. Once they're on board, you've got 'em for a week; they're gonna gamble or they're not.
Club Royale has terrible comps compared to Casinos at Sea with NCL. It takes 2500 points with Club Royale to earn comped drinks while gambling. Not only did Club Royale not buy my drinks this cruise, at the rate of my point earnings, it will take me 4 more cruises gambling at the same rate to earn free drinks. That's right; $10,000+ to get free drinks. I did however come away with an amazing $100 off my next cruise voucher.
Assuming total winnings of $2,800 (before tips), being right 48.6% of the time, I gambled through ~1200 roulette spins in a week.
Anyway; it was a blast - but I'll probably go to Vegas for my next vacation instead of cruising. I want to gamble during the day, and go to shows in the evening, not wander around during the day, then have to decide whether I want to gamble or watch shows in the evening.
I did send some feedback to RCCL, which looked like this:
The crew were amazing; every single one of them. The Oasis probably needs a refit; a lot of the public spaces are worn - torn basketball netting, broken flowriders, chairs in the dining room are scuffed, old, have broken hand guards, elevator buttons (especially on the 4th floor by the Opal Lounge) are non-functional. My biggest grievance is that I cruise to gamble. Instead of vacationing in Las Vegas this year, we elected to cruise again, and I spent three months researching cruise lines looking for a single zero roulette table on a cruise ship. There are 13 of them in the world; RCCL has 11 of them in its fleet. I booked my cruise based on our vacation time (early November) and ships departing in that window from the US - which landed me on the Oasis.
I learned in advance that the roulette table outside min/max limits were $5 - $1000, so I only brought $5,000 to gamble. Once onboard, I learned that without a play history, the casino wouldn't raise the limits for me. I'm used to the MGM Grand and having $25 - $20,000 limits, with "La Partage" in play to protect even money bettors against zero spins. Club Royale has a $1,000 table, which I only need $2,000 to bankroll with how I gamble, and wouldn't budge the limits, nor put La Partage into effect. The other tables were similarly handicapped...6:5 blackjack tables instead of 3:2, and 1x odds in craps instead of 3x-4x-5x unless I had a $50 minimum bet...which would be alright, except the table maximum was $300. I'd play on that table with a max bet of $2,000 or $5,000, but not $300.
And the comps are atrocious. Absolutely terrible. I felt like a beggar. I bought the deluxe beverage package because as a new player, I was entitled to nothing; not even alcohol in the casino. Club Royale could take a lesson from NCL's Casinos at Sea. Your floor supervisors can't even buy drinks for gambling players unless they've reached prime status - which is incredibly tight-fisted. I spent 3-4 hours a day in the casino gambling; ending my trip ~$2600 ahead - ONLY playing roulette. And I earned ~600 comp points. $100 off my next cruise. So I can expect to continue to buy my own drinks.
Beyond that, the Oasis casino has four roulette tables; three American and one single-zero; I booked this cruise because of its single zero roulette table. While the casino might open at 10:00 AM or 2:00 PM, the single zero table wouldn't open until 8:00 PM, which is when shows were starting after dinner - so I had to choose every night between going to entertainment shows or gambling, since I won't ever sit down at a double zero American roulette table. That's why I'm unsure about booking another cruise. I want to gamble during the day and go to entertainment in the evening....not wander around the casino during the day watching people gamble and begging them to open "my" single zero roulette table so that *I* can gamble too.
Between the single zero roulette table being closed most of the time, the table limits being so low, and the fact that I had to buy my own drinks, my wife thinks I should confine my gambling to Las Vegas, where none of those things are a problem. I tried talking to Club Royale via e-mail before my cruise; e-mailed the casino manager asking about raising table limits...at the end of the day, if I'm going to cruise to gamble, it needs to feel like Las Vegas on a ship, not a stingy bolt-on addition to a cruise ship. I paid $2200 or $2400 to get on the boat, spent another $3,000 on the boat for drinks, spa, and photos....all the while wishing I could gamble more often and for more money.
If RCCL wants me on another cruise, Club Royale is going to have to do better than give me a $100 voucher towards a future cruise and make me buy my own drinks....it is absolutely atrocious compared to all of your competitors.
That being said - the crew I interacted with were all friendly, memorable, competent, and I wish to give a few special acknowledgements to people who made a special impression:
1. My main dining room waiter Kingsley was amazing; competent, quiet, and left nothing amiss.
2. Kingsley's assistant waiter Enrique was awesome! My wife and I wish we could take him him and adopt him. He has a charming smile, an easy manner, and during one dinner, a spanish-speaking couple from Puerto Rico had their table near us taken by another couple, and were standing around trying to figure out where they were supposed to sit and eat. I waved them over to us and they joined my wife and I to eat; but they speak almost no English and I speak almost no Spanish. Enrique is fluent in both Spanish and English and he helped us communicate with each other a little bit when he had a spare moment between his other duties. I really, REALLY appreciate that.
3. Our stateroom attendant Jason is someone I wish I could be friends with for life. He was friendly, charming, and attentive. On the first day of the trip I had brought some fruit back to my room and didn't eat the kiwi I had brought with me, and asked if he wanted it. He told me that he loved kiwis, and that he and his wife (who also works on the ship) like to share a kiwi when they can find one, but that the crew mess doesn't always have kiwis. So every day, I would raid the Windjammer cafe for kiwis and bring him some because he was so nice that I wanted to do something nice back.
4. Yusuf is a dealer in the casino from South Africa. Since I spent so much time in the casino wandering around wishing I could gamble, but without the single-zero table being open, I would go visit tables with dealers on them with no players to chat and pass the time. Yusuf filled my week with stories about his 19 years as a dealer, and all the things he has seen around the world. Please tell Yusuf that his stories made my cruise memorable. I wished I could have bought him a drink or two in comraderie, but he doesn't drink alcohol - and while I did a good bit of tipping in the casino, it is all shared communally, so I went and asked his wife Kristy at the cashier cage if there was something I could do to say thank you for him helping me pass the time while I waited for a chance to gamble; she said he liked chocolates! So I went up to the candy shop on the boardwalk and bought a $20 box of chocolates and gave it to him. Sadly, he was never the dealer for my roulette table, so I never got to see him across a table while playing - his experience was needed at the craps tables. Yusuf really made me feel welcome in the casino.
5. Tricia is one of the casino bartenders, and she was amazing! Somehow, every week, she memorizes the names and favorite drinks of 6,000 new passengers and their favorite drinks. Every time I walk by the bar, she would call out, "Justin!! How are you?!?" And she knew what I wanted to drink. Denys(?) was friendly as well, and the two servers in the casino from China were super nice too, but Tricia is the best, most competent bartender I've ever met.
6. John - another dealer from the Philippines - who I also never got to have as a dealer, also spent time telling me stories of being a dealer, about his wife and kid back home, and kept me entertained while I was wandering around the casino waiting for the single-zero table to open. Thanks John!! I hope you get home to visit your wife and child safely.
7. Roland from Costa Rica was another dealer that I really enjoyed meeting. He's been dealing for 44 years and had some great stories. I don't play the numbers in roulette, just the even money bets, but he would spin the same number over and over and I kept wishing I had the balls to bet the spins he was landing, or that someone else would, but no one ever did. Roland was awesome!!!
8. Vikas was the floor supervisor in the pit with the single zero roulette table more often than not; he was friendly, engaging, and made me feel welcome. Anytime I was betting $250 or $500 or $1000 in one spin, he'd wish me luck and I never lost. I know it's superstitious, but I was always glad to see him when he showed up; made me feel lucky.
9. Lorena, another floor supervisor was my favorite floor supervisor; she made me feel lucky too, and she always smiled and had a nice word to say. It *is* superstitious, but having dealers and floor supervisors who wish you luck and share a smile make a gambler feel like they're rooting for you, which makes the stress involved with gambling much less. She would keep telling me that she thinks I tell all the floor supervisors that they were my favorites, but I didn't - she was my favorite. =D I hope you tell her for me.
10. Lai Wan from Malaysia; another dealer - was really fun and helpful. She speaks Mandarin and English. I made friends with a Chinese woman traveling with her parents, who didn't speak any English; they would follow Lai Wan around to whatever table she was dealing so that they had someone to talk to in Mandarin, and she helped my new friends and I talk to each other! My new friends got my address and when they get home to China, they are going to send me some Oolong tea from their farm, where they grow their own tea leaves. Lai Wan was amazing; she really helped us out, and when she was my dealer, I felt lucky too.
11. Kevin, a dealer from Italy was another dealer that I'd chat with to pass the time. I made him tell me the story about how a man from Italy comes to be named something un-Italian like Kevin. Apparently, it has to do with having a mother from Morocco and a father from Italy. Kevin, thanks for not taking all my money; Grazie!! Ciao ciao ciao!
12. Mykola ended up being my dealer for single zero roulette the most. He took a little bit of warming up because of his slavic origins, or because English is his second language, but he was fun to chat with and always encouraging once we got to know each other a bit, and I was always glad to see him show up to deal at my table.
13. Dragos. Dragos, warlord of Club Royale. His name must be pronounced with the deepest possible voice, and full of respect; DRAGOS. Aside from having the most incredibly awesome name that I've ever heard (except perhaps Rasputin or Darth Vader) Dragos was super friendly, always helpful, and every time I went to gamble, I went looking for Dragos in whatever pit he was in to shake his hand and he'd wish me good luck. I hope to see him again.
14. And finally, Taras - another floor supervisor - I suspect that if crew members were allowed to compete in the ship's "Sexiest man aboard" he'd win with those rugged good looks. Taras has an air of quiet authority that makes people around him listen. I watched him de-escalate two situations where players thought they had been cheated or paid out incorrectly, and the way he handles guests is amazing. Add a genuine well-meaning and caring attitude on top of that, and I hope this is someone who ends up being in charge of something somewhere.
Edwin (the assistant manager) and the casino manager (Iounts?) whose name I am probably mangling, but whom I tried to remember as "Unootz" were friendly as well - and apologetic that they didn't have the authority to do anything I wanted - from raising table limits, to putting "La Partage" rules onto the roulette table, to buying me drinks before I was prime - they were hospitable as well.
At the end of the day, I'm torn. The staff were amazing - I wrote most of my feedback about them. I wouldn't have gotten to know most of them at all if the casino had opened the single-zero roulette table all the time; I'd have been gambling instead of wandering around the casino for hours making friends. I'm glad I *did* make friends, but I'm resentful that I had to choose to either watch Cats or gamble. While the single zero table might open at 8 PM and stay open until 2 AM, reasonable people have to go to bed, and be up in the morning ready to get off the ship and visit the ports the ship is stopping in - since the casino isn't open during port calls anyway. That's where I'm stuck. The staff were wonderful, the people IN the casino were absolutely amazing....but the Club Royal experience is just pretty bad compared to Casinos at Sea, or anywhere in Vegas. NCL's Casinos at Sea lets their floor supervisors buy drinks for new players if they're gambling. They'd send me free cruise offers all the time, and I felt like they WANTED me on their boats. I don't get that feeling from Club Royale. Granted, I won enough money to buy another cruise for free, but casinos are supposed to be vying for the interest of gamblers - even little things like free drinks.
I ended up on RCCL because on my last cruise with NCL, I only gambled on the first day. I was martingale betting black and red on a roulette table, doubling my bets when I lost. The table maximum was $2,000. I didn't have a series of wins and losses, I lost at the very start. $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1000, $2000; nine spins in a row I was wrong on color. Then I was angry and put another $2000 on red and lost again when it went black. Then I put my last $1000 on black and lost again. I lost $7,000 in 10 minutes. I quit, and went to the host to see where I ended up, and they hadn't rated me because I hadn't been in the casino long enough. Now...that was only one bad casino experience with NCL and CAS, but it was enough for me to take a break, look around, and see what other options were out there - which is how I ended up on the Oasis of the Seas.
I was hoping to be courted, wooed, plied with booze, invited back to gamble - NCL is always telling me what a valued casino patron I am. Instead...nothing. I am beneath the notice of Club Royale, they won't bring the Vegas experience to the ship casinos - and while I "get" that the onboard casinos can do 6:5 blackjack, american roulette, and have terrible 70-80% slot payouts because gamblers can't leave and go to another casino...the least they could do is try luring gamblers INTO those terrible gambling situations. If you know how to gamble, and you know the math behind what you're doing, and you're still willing to gamble and lose money, you definitely know not to gamble on ships, where the house odds are even worse on everything. I would think ship casinos would be trying to go out of their way to get players into the ship casinos to compete with the likes of Vegas, Atlantic City, and the famous European and African casinos. Instead...no comps, no rewards, and here's a $100 ticket towards your next cruise.
It's fine, I made ~$2500 in winnings. Better to have money than comp points. But you know what's even better than winning? Feeling appreciated. The staff were great - the best I've ever met - better than my NCL cruises - but Club Royale is inflexible, stingy, and unwelcoming. I want to cruise, and I want to gamble, but I don't want to feel unappreciated, unworthy of a drink, and be made to choose between gambling and shows because the tables with less house edge are only open during limited times.
I'm open to feedback from RCCL and Club Royale here. If I'm having to pay for my own cruises, pay for my own drinks, and pay my own way, the casino should accommodate my play, when I want to play, for how much I want to play. If I'm on a free cruise, and you're buying my drinks...alright, I can't complain that you don't want to open a single-zero roulette table all the time just for me, and that the casino has worse odds than land-based casinos.
But if you are going to make me buy everything AND have the worst odds AND not be open when I want to play...then I probably need to keep my gambling to Las Vegas. The casino staff told me that they Symphony of the Seas and the Harmony of the Seas might have higher limits, so I made a note that I need to look into it before I write off RCCL, but the loyalty program is unappealing compared to your sailing competitors.