How to Win at the Roulette Table
I Watched Him Make $80,000
on the Roulette Wheel
By Steve Gillman
One thing I realized quickly when I first worked at a casino,
is that people want to believe there is a system they can easily
use to beat the "house." The other thing I soon realized,
is that there are ways to get the statistical edge
over the casino. Unfortunately, they are not easy.
Card counting, for example, really can give you the edge at
blackjack. The problem is that it is often a small advantage,
and there is a lot of work and self discipline required. I remember
one "regular" who I think made money consistently at
the blackjack tables, but even he wasn't getting rich.
You see, you may only get a 1/2 percent edge over the casino.
If your average bet is just twenty dollars, and the dealer deals
out sixty hands per hour, you will make about $6 per hour in
the "long run." In the short run you will lose or win
hundreds on different days. That's with perfect play and $20
Do you have the stomach for $100 bets, meaning on some days
you'll lose thousands of dollars? By the way, if your eyes glazed
over from this little bit of math, you don't have what it takes
to beat the house. It's all about the math.
Okay, there are great books out there if you want to count
cards. This, however, is a story about roulette. One of my favorite
players used to win regularly. When I ran the table, we would
talk philosophy while he patiently made his simple bets all night.
I knew he was winning, but not how much. After I quit the job,
I met him for coffee and discovered that he had made over $80,000
in sixteen months of part-time play. That made it more interesting.
In case you aren't familiar with roulette, here's how it works.
The dealer or "croupier" spins the wheel in one direction,
and the ball in the other. There are 38 "pockets" on
an American wheel (1 through 36, plus 0 and 00). Players place
their bets, and when the ball falls, they are paid according
to the number of that pocket. We'll ignore all the various bets
and concentrate just on the "straight up" bets. These
are when you bet on one number. You get paid 35 to 1 if your
number comes up.
There are 38 pockets, and you get get just $35 for each dollar
bet, plus you keep the bet. You can see that the house has an
edge (5.6 percent, to be precise), but what if certain numbers
came up more often than they should - more often than 1-in-38
spins? That's when you can make money.
Let's suppose, for example, that number 5 is coming up an
average of once every 29 spins. If you bet ten dollars on it
every time, you would lose 28 times, or $280, every 29 spins,
but win once which would pay you $350. In other words, in the
long run, you would be making $70 for each 29 spins. ($350 minus
$280) When there weren't many customers, I sometimes did 60 or
more spins per hour, so you can see that this could be very lucrative.
So why would that number or any other come up more often?
The short answer is Who Cares! The longer explanation has to
do with the nature of the wheels. The pockets could be manufactured
imperfectly, with one or more slightly larger than the others,
therefore catching the ball more often. One or more of the dividers
between the pockets could be loose, meaning it absorbs the force
of the ball instead of bouncing the ball away. The ball would
therefore tend to drop into that pocket more often.
There are other reasons, including more temporary ones, like
a drop of sticky pop in one of the pockets, or a build-up of
dust. The important point isn't what causes a "biased"
wheel, though. The important point is that biased wheels exist,
and can be taken advantage of.
Why would a casino let this happen? Roulette wheels are expensive,
and so they are not often replaced, unlike cards and dice, which
casinos replace daily. This means that if there is a bias, it
sometimes remains for months. I know for a fact that managers
where I worked were aware of the problem, but as long as the
table made money overall, they were too lazy to worry about one
guy making money on it.
Charting a Roulette Wheel
John (not his real name) came in initially with two friends,
as he explained to me. They took turns "charting" the
wheel. This is nothing more than writing down the number that
comes up on every spin. They did this for weeks on both roulette
wheels in the casino. It is an incredibly boring and crucial
part of the process, often amounting to nothing, since there
may not be a bias.
You see, if the number eighteen comes up ten times in a hundred
spins, it is meaningless. The sample is too small. You need to
know if the bias is real, and therefore will continue, or is
just a statistical fluke. Without getting into probability theory
and a discussion of standard deviations, suffice it to say that
if you want to be fairly certain the bias is "real,"
you need a sample of about 5,000 spins or more. They eventually
had 15,000 spins recorded in a little notebook.
As it turned out, the number "0" was coming in 1-in-28
spins. This surpassed the 1-in-33 threshold they needed to make
it safe and worth their while. Only John had the patience, though,
to continue sitting there night after night, placing one bet
on one number, over and over. Within a couple weeks, his friends
quit. They didn't have the patience required, and probably also
didn't like the fact that even with the odds in their favor,
they had nights when they lost as much as $700.
So night after night John sat there discussing politics and
philosophy with me and the other dealers, placing one bet on
0 for each spin of the wheel. He was making between $50 and $100
per hour depending on the number of spins per hour, and assuming
the bias was consistent in the long run. Eventually, after more
than a year, and $80,000 in profits for John, the casino got
a new wheel.
To try this yourself, here is the formula:
1. Find a roulette wheel.
2. Watch ...
Get the rest in my ebook:
Aren't Supposed to Know - A Book of Secrets."
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