Credit card roulette is a popular way for poker players to simplify the process of splitting a tab, with a heavy dose of gambling mixed in.
The game can be played at restaurants, bars, nightclubs, or any situation that calls for a check to be split among multiple people. Instead of everyone in a party paying their fair share, credit card roulette obliges the unlucky loser to pay the entire bill.
In this article we’ll cover:
- How to Play Credit Card Roulette
- Notable Credit Card Roulette Bad Beats
- Tips for Credit Card Roulette
Let’s take a look at how credit card roulette is played.
How to Play Credit Card Roulette
Credit card roulette is usually played in a couple of ways. Both involve everyone at the table putting their credit card into a drawing, with the owner of a randomly selected card obliged to pay the entire bill.
One common version of the game keeps it simple, with all involved parties putting their credit card into a hat, billfold or any other kind of receptacle. An outside party, often the waiter or waitress, then selects a card at random. Whoever owns the selected card has to pay the bill.
A second version of the game plays the same way, except the picked cards are eliminated one by one until a final card remains. The owner of last remaining card is then required to pay the bill. This version of credit card roulette really ups the ante on the drama, and playing with a large group can push the anticipation and the stakes even higher.
Credit Card Roulette Bad Beats
Several threads on poker forum TwoPlusTwo detail some of the worst/best stories from the history of credit card roulette. One particular thread asks forum users about the biggest credit card roulette tab they’ve ever seen.
Some of the posts from this thread play out like the worst poker bad beat stories. A 2008 post from user “PartyGirlUK” details an account of a $10 salad turning into a $4,000 bill for one unlucky patron at a New York steakhouse:
Just a few posts later, “jkeats” tells the story of “Jim”, who lost the credit card roulette battle on a tab that involved multiple bottles of expensive wine at a Las Vegas restaurant.
“Jim” got hammered even further after taking over/under bets on the amount of the tab, making an expensive situation even worse:
Credit card roulette tabs among groups of high rollers can get unfathomably expensive, particularly at high-end restaurants and clubs.
NBA star and recreational poker player Draymond Green explains credit card roulette to Conan O’Brien in the video below. Green’s credit card roulette explanation starts at the 1:59 mark:
And here’s a video of poker players retelling their credit card roulette stories:
Tips for Credit Card Roulette
Know your odds
If you’re in a circle of friends that frequently engages in credit card roulette, be sure to understand probability and variance before you go out with this group.
If your small group of three or four friends regularly plays credit card roulette, it’s relatively easy for one person to get stuck with the tab three or four times in a row. If your bankroll can’t withstand this, try to opt-out of credit card roulette, or avoid meeting the group at high-end restaurants and bars.
Play With Large Groups
The more people involved, the less chance you’ll get stuck with the tab. This tip is just an extension of the first suggestion above, but be sure to understand that you have a better chance of avoiding a loss in a group of ten than you do in a group of four.
Use a Credit Card, Avoid Debit Cards
If you and your friends frequent expensive steakhouses, strip clubs, or fancy Las Vegas bars, be sure to use a credit card instead of a debit card to play credit card roulette.
When you get stuck with a painfully large tab, you’ll at least be able to put it on a credit card and have some time to pay it off, in increments if needed. Playing with a debit card exposes you to a higher risk of ruin.
Pay Up When You Lose
Trying to weasel out of paying up on a credit card roulette loss can ruin your reputation among your circle of high-rolling friends. Avoid being that person and graciously pay the bill when the credit card roulette bell tolls for you.
If you know you can’t afford to lose, buy out of the game by paying your share of the bill. Or, don’t go out in the first place.
For more on what not to do when hanging out with friends, or playing any form of roulette, check out the article below: