On the face of it, roulette appears to be an entirely random thing in which it is all but impossible to predict where the ball will land. Indeed, casinos depend on this randomness in order to make their money, given the fact that if it was easy to predict then they would not only fail to make money but would lose quite a lot of it. That, of course, hasn’t stopped people from trying to devise ways to take on the roulette wheel, up to and including coming up with a way of prediction the sector of the wheel that the ball will end up falling into.
The truth of the matter is that there is no failsafe way of predicting where the ball is going to land, but there have been people that have used technology to help them try to beat the casino. From devices that fit into shoes through to the use of laser scanners, the history of casinos is littered with crazy ways to take on the House. The manner of the casino wheel means that it is pretty much impossible to get the exactly location the ball will land, but is finding a sector that it may well end up something that can be done?
Basic Ways to Take on Roulette
First played in France in the 18th century, roulette is one of the most popular games at casinos all around the world. That is because it is a relatively simple concept for punters get their heads around: you guess where the ball will land and win money if you’re right. For the casino, the different versions of the game allow them to make more or less money depending on which one is played and what the House Edge is for the one in question. The invention of the Triple Zero game was created to give a larger House Edge than ever before.
When it comes to taking on the roulette wheel, punters need to have a decent grasp of mathematics. Even if you only use a basic strategy, which will be important for most considering the fact that maths isn’t everyone’s favourite subject, you’re going to be better placed than if you just turn up and bet money willy-nilly. Turning to the likes of the Fibonacci technique or the Martingale is possible, though neither can guarantee success unless you have limitless funds available to you for the duration of your time betting.
Another basic thing to look out for is the croupier’s ‘signature’. In essence, this depends on the theory of muscle memory, which says that someone that does something regularly will begin to do it in the same way each time. If you can see where a croupier releases the ball and then where it lands, a pattern might start to emerge as you look at the data. If a dealer appears to hit the same number more than once this might well because their ‘signature’ is having an effect on the ball that they didn’t intend.
The Bias Wheel
Something that is worth looking out for in the casinos that you head to is whether or not there might be a bias in the wheel that is being used. In truth, the technology is such nowadays that such biases are usually dealt with in a way that stops that from showing up, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t at least worth looking for. Over time, the wear and tear that takes place to a roulette wheel is such that the ball lands in some pockets more than others thanks to the natural course that it takes as it spins around the wheel.
As you might well imagine, a roulette wheel sees thousands or even tens of thousands of spins take place on it across the course of a day. This can lead do damage being caused to the likes of the frets that is invisible to the naked eye, but that influences the direction that the ball takes on its journey. If you’re watching a croupier spin the ball and feeling as though it is landing in the same area more than others, it might not be entirely coincidental and could be due to a bias wheel showing you its bias on a regular basis.
The Physics of the Roulette Wheel
There are numerous factors that can influence the outcome of a roulette spin. The point at which the croupier releases the ball is the first one, whilst the initial speed with which they release it also matters. The influence of gravity is an obvious one that the entire game is based around, whilst the initial spin of the wheel is also important. Finally, what is known as the bounce coefficient comes into play, being the number of times that the ball will bounce before it comes to rest in one of the slots available to it on the wheel.
Whilst each of these factors is important if you’re looking to take on the roulette wheel, the reality is that the vast majority of human beings have no chance of being able to understand them, let alone compute them in the amount of time needed to place a bet that ends up winnings. Even if you know where the ball was released and could understand the velocity at which the croupier set it off spinning, calculating those factors alongside the speed of the wheel and the influence of gravity is something no one can do.
If, though, you’ve decided to try your hand at working out where on the wheel the ball is going to land, the bounce coefficient is probably going to be the thing that ends up doing you out of a win. This is how many times the ball bounces before it comes to rest in one of the pockets and it is going to be different every time. All of the other factors influence this one, so the slightest change in them will make a big difference in terms of where the ball is going to end up at the end of the spin, hence why so few people succeed in taking on the casino.
The People That Used Technology to Take on the Casino
Whilst human beings are always going to struggle to do complicated mathematical calculations, the same cannot be said for technology. With that in mind, there have been a number of people over the years that have made attempts to use tech in order to give themselves an advantage over the casino. Obviously this is something that is not allowed by casinos, which is why they have either given up or else found themselves on the end of a ban by the venues that they would like to spend their time in placing their bets.
Born in Houston, Texas in the United States of America, Doyne Farmer grew up in New Mexico and was inspired to have an interest in science and adventure by his boy scout leader. He attended Stanford University to study physics, then attended graduate school at the University of California, Santa Cruz. During graduate school, Doyne and his childhood friend, Norman Packard, formed a group that they called Eudaemonic Enterprises, setting it the aim of betting the game of roulette by using physics and technology, using the money that they won to set up a scientific commune.
The pair bought a roulette wheel and began carrying out experiments to study the physics of how it worked. They also designed a wearable digital computer, which was three-kilobytes in size and Farmer hand-coded in machine language. Initially hiding his computer under his armpits, it was eventually concealed in a shoe and required one person to use their big toe to click a switch when the ball began its journey and then again when it had completed a full rotation. The computer then worked out the likely position that the ball would land in.
In casinos, there is a period of time after the croupier has released the ball and before it lands when bettors can still place their money on a chosen number before the betting is closed. Farmer and Packard used this time to place their bets, achieving a 20% advantage over the house during a period of 11 trips to the likes of Las Vegas, Tahoe and Reno.The device suffered consistent hardware problems, however, and that, combined with the fear of physical reprisals from casinos that found out what they were doing, meant that they never bet with large stakes.
The Ritz Laser Gang
At the Ritz in London, there is a casino that is based in the hotel’s former ballroom. It is all Edwardian glamour and a sense of living in a now long gone era. This feeling of the old-fashioned might well seem entirely at odds with a scam that allegedly took place there in the early 2000s, when a gang used a laser scanner that was hidden in a mobile phone and linked to a computer in order help them beat the casino and win at roulette. The group was made up of two men and a woman, but whether they were actually guilty of committing a crime wasn’t clear.
The laws that covered gambling at the time dated back to the mid 19th century, when the very notion of computers didn’t exist, let alone ones that could be used to correctly predict where on a roulette wheel the ball was likely to land. The two Serbian men and a Hungarian woman visited the Ritz in March of 2004 first leaving with £100,000 and then returning to walk out with £1.2 million. The casino, suspecting that something might be up, paid them £300,000 in cash and wrote a cheque for the balance before calling the police.
The trio used a process known as ‘sector targeting’, whereby they chose a part of the wheel that it seemed the ball was likely to land in, thereby swaying the odds well in their favour. The use of a laser scanner allowed them to calculate the ball’s speed more accurately. Section 17 of the Gaming Act of 1845 said that ‘unlawful devices’ weren’t allowed, but previously it had been argued that such devices weren’t interfering with the outcome of the ball’s spin, just creating a system whereby they could win.
It wouldn’t be right to talk about trying to beat the casino without mentioning Derren Brown, the illusionist who did just that by taking on the game of roulette. Brown took £5,000 from a member of the public with the promise that he would bet it on roulette and give them £175,000 in return. Before heading to the casino, the mentalist tried to predict the speed of cars on a motorway and where a squash ball would land in the court. He then went to the casino and ‘predicted’ that the ball would land in the number 8 slot.
As millions of people watched at home, Brown’s guess proved to be just one away from correct, landing in the number 30, next door to the 8. Whether it was all misdirection and nonsense from one of the country’s great showmen or Brown really did come within an inch of beating the casino isn’t clear, but the man himself said in the wake of the stunt’s failure that the member of the public would get their £5,000 back. He has also said that he gets kicked out of casino, which perhaps isn’t all that surprising all things considered.