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Roulette

This 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 did occur.

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 Theory section)

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 bigger.

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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