If you’ve ever played roulette in a casino then you’ll know that it feels like one of the most random games out there. The ball spins around the wheel and hits any number of obstacles on its way down before finally coming to rest in one of the pockets that represents a corresponding number. If you’ve bet on the number, the row or column that the number is in or correctly identified which colour the number will represent or whether it will be an odd or an even number, you’ll end up winning. How much you’ll win will depend on the odds of what you’ve bet on, as well as your stake.
Whilst it is a relatively simplistic game, it is also one that seems entirely random and impossible to control. The question is, is there anything that the croupier can do in order to control where it is on the wheel that the ball will end up? It seems as though it would be all but impossible for the person releasing the ball to control its outcome, but is that actually true? If a croupier could have some control over where the ball landed, anyone in the casino that was working in cahoots with them could find themselves on the end of a large payout.
Dealers Have No Real Control
The reality about roulette is that it is a game with too many variables for people to have any real control over where the ball is likely to land. Not only is the wheel itself travelling at one speed, the ball then gets added to the mix travelling at a different speed. Whilst gravity remains constant and the pull that it will have on the ball never changes, the rivets and such like on the wheel that the ball is likely to strike will send it off in any number of different directions that are impossible to predict, let alone have any control over. That is to say nothing of each roulette wheel’s imperfections.
Neither the ball nor the wheel can be manipulated thanks to the use of magnets. When you consider how tough it is for the outcome to be influenced using such a method, it becomes all but impossible to imagine a scenario in which a croupier can influence the outcome of a spin when the methods that they’re employing are going to be entirely fair. Each wheel and ball have their own intricacies and imperfections, which is part of what adds to the randomness of the outcome, but it also means that it is virtually a dead cert that a croupier won’t be able to control where the ball lands.
Roulette Is a Game of Chance
The entire purpose of roulette in a casino is that it is a game of chance. The people that run casinos aren’t stupid and if anything were found to be influencing the outcome of one of the games played in a casino then they would move to stop that from happening. Casinos set up each and every game played within their confines to be ensure that they return their margin, so they obviously need to move to stop anything that might result in that margin being harmed in any way. If there was any likelihood that roulette’s outcome could be influenced it would be removed from the casino’s roster of games on offer.
That isn’t the same as saying that nefarious means can’t be used to try to control something like the outcome of the spin of a ball in roulette. Indeed, there have been many over the years that have tried to do just that. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that, when played fairly, the game is one of chance that sees the casinos that allow it to be played gain a certain return over a given period of time. In order to ensure a particular outcome, croupiers would have to move to actively try to ensure an outcome somehow and that would almost certainly be picked up by the casinos.
The Mechanics of the Game Are Designed to Prevent It
When it comes to roulette, the mechanics of the game are such that it is all but impossible for a croupier or dealer to actively try to get the ball to land in one specific number. The wheel travels counter-clockwise, with the speed of its travel dictated by a spin from the croupier. The ball, meanwhile, travels clockwise and is again speed-dependent on what the croupier does. Whilst both of these factors could be influenced in theory, in practice it would be all but impossible for a croupier to figure out how fast or slow to spin the wheel or ball to get a consistent outcome.
Once the ball has started its journey, the ‘bumps’ on the slope, which are diamond shaped and sit both horizontally and vertically on the wheel, are used to ensure that the ball’s trajectory is disturbed at least once on its journey to the pockets. The frets for each number also cause it to bounce and stray off its intended path, adding further complexity to anyone hoping to find some sort of pattern in what the dealer is doing. Something that not everyone will know is that there are also several balls in use at most roulette wheels, being different sizes and weighing various amounts.
Muscle Memory Can Be a Factor
For all that casinos set up roulette in order to ensure that the mechanics work in their favour, there are only three real factors that influence where the ball will land. They are:
- Timing of ball release
- Force of ball release
- Action when ball is released
The longer someone does one particular action, the more likely it is that their body will essentially ‘learn’ to do it in the same way over and over again. This muscle memory can have an impact on the outcome of something like a roulette wheel spinning, on account of the fact that a dealer is likely to do the same thing with their muscles when carrying out the same action multiple times. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be able to control where the ball lands, but it does mean that you might be able to figure out where the ball is likely to end up if you pay attention.
Certainly there is some anecdotal evidence that people have spent time observing croupiers in order to learn that the ball released at one part of the wheel is likely to land in a certain section of it. Nothing is guaranteed, but by covering a lot of numbers on the table you can put yourself in a position to see a return on your bet. Should the croupier decide to vary the strength with which they spin the wheel or throw the ball, however, your ‘system’ will soon fall apart and you stand to lose a large amount of money as a result. As always in gambling, there are never any guarantees.
Specificity Is the Enemy of Prediction
If you were to somehow manage to work with a croupier who had a job in a casino and get them to help you win a load of money, the thing you would be silly to try to do would be to be too specific in what you were betting on. The reality is that even the most skilled dealer, having spent months training, would be extremely unlikely to be able to get the ball to land in an exact number. On the other hand, what they would be able to with enough practice is to get the ball to land in a specific section of the wheel. A section of, say, six numbers would still allow a bettor to get a net win.
A dealer with muscle memory releasing the ball at the same point each time would soon be able to hone their skills enough to ensure that the ball could land at roughly the same spot on the wheel. That isn’t a promise, however, so the bettor working with them would be foolish to invest too much money in the ball hitting the exact spot of the wheel each time they were placing their wager. Opting for a six-number section of the board would still present them with a good chance of making some money without the need to be too focussed in the end result of where the ball lands.
Anti-Ball Control Methods
For casinos, the desire to stop a croupier from being able to get the ball to land in a specific section of the wheel is clear. They want to protect the casino’s margin as best they can, to say nothing of the fact that they would almost certainly lose their gambling licence if it emerged that a dealer was essentially ‘fixing’ where the ball landed on a spin. As a result, there are some anti-ball control methods that tend to be taught by table games experts. Here are the main ones:
No Looking into the Wheel
In most casinos, croupiers are banned from being allowed to look at the wheel as they position the ball before spinning it. This means that it is all but impossible for them set up the same way, which reduces the chance of them being able to hit a specific target with the ball that they’re spinning.
Croupiers should work hard to ensure that there is no consistency in the speed that the wheel is spinning at. On top of this, altering the speed of the ball as it begins its journey is also an important way of stopping any sort of specific target being hit by the dealer when they spin the ball around the wheel.
If casinos have different size, shapes and weights of balls used on the roulette wheel, it would be all but impossible for a dealer to get up any sort of consistency in their spinning of the ball. This constant rotation of the ball being used will stop punters from being able to keep track of what’s going on.
If You’re Obeying the Rules, It Probably Can’t Be Done
Elsewhere on this site you can read about people that have managed to cheat the casinos by using technology, often including people that have taken on the roulette wheel. Whilst that is definitely a thing, which has to be acknowledged when discussing dealers influencing where the ball lands, the reality is that it is all but impossible to do so whilst following the actual laws and rules of casinos. That doesn’t stop people from claiming that they can specify where the ball lands on a roulette wheel without breaking any rules or laws, of course, as a quick internet search will show.
There might well be some accuracy to claims from the past. In years gone by, neither the roulette wheel nor the ball could be guaranteed to be impartial. In the modern world of casinos, however, that is extremely unlikely to be case any more. The technology that exists is such that casinos know exactly whether any wheels or balls are showing a bias, to say nothing of the dealers themselves also being under constant watch. In other words, the reality of the roulette wheel is such that there is unlikely to be anyone that can control what happens, unless they are, for want of a better word, cheating.