Trying to Beat the Wheel – Roulette
Roulette poses a real challenge for players
By Frank Scoblete
Dice and Wheels
Dice is probably the oldest form of gambling. Dice could be made from animal bones decorated with symbols and, yes, that’s why we call dice “bones” to this day, even though today’s dice are made from cellulose acetate.
Primitive man used those dice extensively and some of the dicers were even buried with them. You could ask the gods what you wanted, roll dem bones, and the gods would tell you whether this was the fortuitous time to attack your neighbors over the hill and lay waste their village or, earlier in time, lay waste their caves.
But following right up on dice is the wheel, which took a little longer to invent then simply taking the bones from sheep or a relative. Although roulette as a “casino” game started in the 17th century, we know that those wily Roman soldiers played a wheel game with their shields—even their oval ones. Spin the shield; ask the gods a question and how the shield stopped gave you your answer. For the ancient Romans most of the answers were usually consistent: “Yes, Augophilium, invade immediately. Wipe out yon village.”
We certainly know that pure gambling goes way back in time. If we define “pure” as gambling strictly for financial or material gain, as opposed to something to do with the gods’ will in human affairs, we have examples of such pure gambling even in the Bible. The Roman soldiers played a game for Christ’s robes and in the movie The Ten Commandments we have Moses’ erstwhile love, Neferteri, playing a gambling game called “hounds and jackals.”
Roulette was a favorite game of the British and French nobles until about 100 years ago when they woke up—those who still had beds to wake up in—and said, “If we keep playing this game for large stakes, we’ll go broke!” Sadly, many a nobleman became a peasant because of roulette as all of them tried to come up with ways to beat this seemingly unbeatable game.
As most casino gamblers know, there are two types of roulette wheels in today’s casinos: the American Wheel which has red and black pockets numbered 1 through 36 and two other green pockets numbered 0 and 00. Then there is the European wheel, or French wheel, with red and black pockets also numbered 1 through 36 and one green pocket labeled 0. Thus, there are 38 pockets in the American wheel and 37 pockets in the European or French wheel. In a strictly random game, the French wheel (which was, strangely enough, developed in America) is better than the American wheel (which was, stranger still, developed in France).
Since a direct hit on a number pays $35 to $1, you are only losing $1 per win on the French wheel (the real odds are 36 to one but it pays 35) while you lose $2 per win on the American wheel (the real odds are 37 to 1 but it pays 35). The house edge on the American wheel is 5.26 percent, which means you will lose $5.36 for every $100 you bet in the long run. On the French wheel, the house edge is 2.7 percent or $2.70 per $100 wagered.
The Classic Betting Systems
Roulette is the game that helped to create most of the classic betting systems you read about in books and articles on casino gambling. Unfortunately all these betting systems, however clever they seem, ultimately fail to beat the game as no betting system can overcome a negative edge.
The first—and most frequently discovered betting system by novices—is called the Martingale. While the origin of this system of betting is not clearly known, what is known is that the Martingale has a certain compelling logic to it; quite simply, you double up after every bet you lose. This is to be used against the even-money bets of red/black, odd/even, and big/little. If you bet $10, lose that bet, your next bet is $20; if you lose that, you bet $40 and so on.
The inherent logic of the system is that you must win one bet. If you do win one bet, you get all the money you wagered back, plus a win on the first amount wagered. Most Martingale players win most of their sequences, but when they finally do lose, as I did way back at the start of my gambling career in the mid 1980s at the Sands in Atlantic City, the loss is devastating, because you are betting a lot of money and losing a lot of money: $10, $20, $40, $80, $160, $320, $640 and you usually can’t make the next bet of the series because you have hit the house limit. Your loss is a staggering $1270 in your pursuit of a $10 win.
The Labouchere System was named after Henry Labouchere who lifted the idea of the system from a French mathematician, the Marquis de Cordorcet. It is a cancellation system. If you are betting this sequence 1-2-3-4-5, you wager $6—the 1 and 5 combined. If you lose that, you add a 6 to the sequence and keep doing this until you ultimately win. Like the Martingale system, you will have a lot of little wins and then that one devastating session where you get blasted and hit the house limit for bets.
The d’Alembert system is a favorite among gamblers because it sounds right and is right…kind of. It postulates that if events have an equal likelihood of happening, given enough time, they will happen equally. A coin flip is a 50-50 proposition. Therefore, given enough time, you will get 50 percent heads and 50 percent tails. This is simultaneously true and not true. Theoretically, you can have as much time as you need to get that 50-50 proposition to come out even, but in the real world, and the real universe, there probably isn’t enough time for that to happen—and even if there were, our gambler isn’t going to be around to see it! So betting either side of a 50-50 proposition, where the house takes a cut of all your wins, is—you guessed it, a losing proposition.
The most frequently used systems by roulette players, after they have exhausted large parts of their bankrolls on birthday dates, anniversary dates, favorite numbers, mystic visualizations and the like, are trend-finding or trend-opposing systems. You see red come up four times in a row and you figure that black is coming up so you bet black, or you figure red is hot and will continue to come up, so you bet red. Doesn’t really matter what you do; the sad fact is that the house edge will take your gold.
Getting a Real Edge at Roulette
There are three ways to get a real edge at roulette: finding biased wheels, finding dealers who have signatures, and visually tracking the ball and accurately predicting where it will land.
The first one, finding biased wheels, has been used since the early part of the 1900s when wheels weren’t quite as perfect as they are today. In short, if a wheel is “off,” certain numbers will come up more often than probability dictates. A wheel watcher will record thousands of spins, analyze the results, and if the wheel has been hitting a truly disproportionate group of numbers, he will bet those numbers. Some of the greatest wins in Monte Carlo and Vegas are attributed to wheel watchers.
Unfortunately, while biased wheels do exist in the modern casinos, they are much harder to find. Today’s wheels are tested extensively to prevent them from becoming biased. Most of the wheels also have much more shallow pockets than wheels did in the past and the roulette ball tends to bounce much more than in the past – making it harder for a wheel to develop a bias in the first place. So while biased wheels exist, they are more on the order of Bigfoot than they are on the order of, say, a pigeon.
The dealer signature is a controversial area of advantage play at roulette, which means that some gaming writers believe it is real and some don’t. In a nutshell it is said that some dealers either consciously or unconsciously spin the ball in such a way that the ball lands a certain number of pockets away from the last pocket hit. A dealer who lands the ball in such a fashion has a “signature” that can be read by an astute roulette player who will then bet the numbers in the area where the ball will most likely land after the next spin.
Of course, any slight change in how the dealer delivers the ball will end his signature and return the game to its normal randomness.
The God of Roulette
The single greatest feat of designing a method for beating roulette must be attributed to Laurance Scott, known as the “God of Roulette” in advantage-play circles, who began investigating the concept of visual tracking back in 1988. Inspired by the book The Eudaemonic Pie by Thomas A Bass, which describes the exploits of a team of college students who set out to beat the wheel using a computer-timing device, Scott felt that a human visual tracker could accomplish the same thing. He spent the next two years developing the visual tracking techniques that he published in his landmark How to Beat Roulette system.
Scott’s original techniques were focused on predicting three events: Where the ball would fall from the track, the position of the wheel when the ball fell, and how far the ball would bounce when it struck the wheel.
Scouting for a tilted or biased wheel solved the fall-off problem. With even the slightest tilt, the ball favors falling off at the apex of this tilt, which is enough to render a wheel beatable. Visual patterns, called “crossover patterns,” were analyzed to determine where the ball would strike the wheel when it fell, and the bounce of the ball on the old-style, deep pocket wheels was manageable. A large edge on such wheels was therefore attainable.
According to Scott, the most effective countermeasure employed by the casinos has been the introduction of the “low profile” wheel. Scott states: “The golden age of roulette prediction was when the older Huxley Mark III and Tramble deep-pocket wheels were common. The casinos have learned that the most effective way to counter roulette prediction is to randomize the bounce of the ball via low-profile technology, commonly known as shallow pockets. Predicting where the ball will strike the wheel is really not all that difficult. But, if the result is randomized by the bounce of the ball, then even 100 percent accuracy of the strike will not do you any good.”
Since 1995, Scott has been intensely developing refined techniques for his Advanced Method that can work on these low-profile wheels. According to him, “Low-profile wheels can be defeated because the bounce is manageable and predictable under certain conditions. The trick is to correlate the available conditions versus the outcome of the game and spot beatable situations via statistical analysis.”
Scott continued: “In the old days, you could identify a beatable wheel just by observing its behavior. A wheel that was behaving in a certain, predictable way could yield up to a 40 percent edge over the house for the visual tracker. Such wheels still exist today, but they are much harder to find than they used to be. With low-profile wheels, you need to know what characteristics correlate to the final outcome. These characteristics include several ingredients. Then, you need to have a methodology to sort out what set of characteristics correlate to a statistically significant edge.”
Scott’s new Advanced Method identifies what characteristics you need to look for in roulette games and how to record them. A computer software program has been created to help spot statistically significant situations where you have an edge. Once the situations are identified, the player then has to be patient and wait for the right conditions to occur, much like waiting for the count of a shoe to go positive in blackjack.
States Scott: “When you find an edge on a low-profile wheel, it tends to be in the 15 percent range and is usually very consistent. The visual player of today has no problem staying under the radar because a 15 percent edge is almost impossible for the casino to detect if the player bets correctly.”
For example, while a three-number bet should win approximately one out of every 12 spins, if you can predict the outcome well enough to win one of every 10 spins, you have a 20 percent edge. Scott claims, “It is very difficult for the casino to detect if someone is winning at the rate of one out of 12 vs. one out of 10.”
Almost 1.5 million casino players are roulette devotees but most will never develop the skill necessary to beat the game. As the Roman soldiers were won’t to say, “Scis quod dicunt id quod circumiret, circumveniat.” That’s a fact!
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best-selling gaming author in America. He is executive director of the Golden Touch advantage-play seminars in craps and blackjack. Looking for great gambling products and gifts? Go to www.gamblersoutpost.com. Frank’s websites are www.goldentouchcraps.com, www.goldentouchblackjack.com, and www.scoblete.com in association with CasinoCity.com. His newest book is The Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution! For more information or a brochure, call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565.
Roulette poses a real challenge for players.