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stylish game with its Monte Carlo image synonymous
with casinos, is a perennial favourite. Whilst not
recommending it because of its 2.7% loss on turnover
compared to 0.5% for basic strategy blackjack, it
is one of the better no-brainers, provided you only
play the one zero variety. Some European casinos offer
a special "in prison" rule on even money
bets that reduces the house edge on these bets to
1.35%. The nefarious American double zero game doubles
the loss on turnover to 5.4%. Tell them where to go!
The main thing to know about roulette is that you
cannot affect the percentage return by your betting
strategy. Please absorb and accept that statement,
it has been proven mathematically, philosophically,
practically and every other 'ally' by people possessing
formidable intellects. No matter what your gut instinct
or what your mate told you or what "superstitious
certainty" you are deferring to, that is fact.
There are numerous articles, commercial systems and
books that contradict this fact, but they are misguided.
One of the most famous books about an "infallible"
staking system is Norman Leigh's, "Thirteen against
the dealer", published in 1975. It is an entertaining
piece of writing that tells the story of a English
roulette syndicate that was banned from all government
owned casinos in France because of substantial winnings
over a two week period using a system known as the
"Reverse Labouchere". The interesting thing
is that according to at least one internet site there
are press clippings from the English newspapers of
that time referring to the incident, so it really
I discussed this with an Australian professional
gambler and we came up with several hypotheses. Firstly,
it could have been luck. If a thousand roulette syndicates
all launched such an attack over the years, statistically
speaking some of them would be likely to win just
through the vagaries of chance. The syndicates who
won would of course be more likely to write a book
about it. This kind of explanation invokes what is
known as the anthropic principle.
The second possibility is that back in the late sixties
in France when the incident occurred, the wheels were
either less perfectly machined than nowadays or less
regularly changed. There may have been excessive wear
that produced a bias. The Reverse Labouchere is a
good system as systems go, because if such a bias
exists the system exploits that bias by the increasing
of stakes on a winning run. I doubt this could be
the entire reason though, because 1.35% is a massive
disadvantage to overcome just by pocket wear.
The theory preferred by our professional gambler
is that the syndicate was using the only method that
can really beat roulette, some sort of mechanical
attack. The casino realised this and that is why the
Leigh syndicate was banned (something unlikely to
occur if the casino thought they were using a staking
system only). To cover their tracks so they could
potentially still play elsewhere and to cash in a
bit on their notoriety, Norman Leigh then writes a
book which attributes their winnings to a spurious
system. Brilliant! Ironically the book then comes
to be regarded as a classic. I also like this theory,
mostly for its sheer ingenuity and intrigue value.
In case you are still tempted to think that our assertion
about staking systems is wrong, there is an excellent
site you should visit. A roulette
simulator which generates millions of random
numbers very quickly allows the user to test a couple
of popular systems and see for themselves what happens.
The creator of the simulator was inspired by the book
mentioned above and wanted to see if there was any
validity to Leigh's claim of a winning mathematical
system so one of the systems you can test is the exact
same Reverse Labouchere as described in his book.
It will come as no surprise to most of you that the
Reverse Labouchere played under European conditions
with the "in prison" rule produces on average
a 1.35% loss for the player, exactly that predicted
by probability theory.
So forget about mathematical or staking systems.
Throw away the little writing pad that the casino
kindly gave you to record the previous numbers that
came up. You are just wasting trees. It is utterly
irrelevant to future spins. Chance has no memory and
owes no favours. (See our Probability
In the long run, for every $100 you place on the Roulette table, whether it
be on single numbers or on red and black, you will lose around $2.70 on the
Australian single zero game. The only real advice we can offer for Roulette
other than, 'don't play', is to be disciplined and bet small amounts, minimizing
your theoretical loss.
People who lose large amounts on Roulette have usually been seduced by one
of these spurious mathematical or staking 'systems' like the Martingale doubling
system and have ended up betting recklessly because they felt they were 'owed'
a win. Even though their theoretical loss is still only 2.7% on turnover, they
have bet much larger amounts than their total bank would indicate as being responsible,
raising their turnover, and thereby made the actual amount lost correspondingly
Another drawback of overly aggressive betting is 'tapping out' (i.e. exhausting
your bank) in the short term, before the long term
probabilities have a chance to even out at -2.7% In
the short term you may be ahead of the odds (you should
quit!) but the casino will not run out of money and
as you play on the probabilities will slowly grind
you down. If however, you bet aggressively and have
an unlucky streak you may run out of money early on
and find that you have received some horribly anomalous
return on money wagered, like 37.9%, instead of 97.3%.
To summarise, mechanical and 'bias' attacks appear
to offer the best possibility for gaining an edge
against roulette, though there are also cases of people
who claim to have gained an edge using the naked eye.
If you are serious about beating roulette then you
should search the internet for websites that discuss
one of these methods and not waste your time (and
definitely not your money) on any mathematical 'systems'.
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