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Roulette Systems: Which Ones Work? Which Ones Don't?
by Eric Nielsen, co-author -- Casino Gambling

Casino Roulette has been around longer, perhaps, than any other game of chance. And, because there are so many different ways to place wagers in the game, hundreds of different playing systems have been created. Now, add to this a myriad of betting tactics along with hundreds of additional permutations, and we wind up with an infinite number of possible ways to play the game.

Playing the game and beating the game are two entirely different animals however. While there are countless ways to play, there are only a handful of ways to truly beat casino Roulette.

In this feature, I will first walk you through the four known ways to really beat the game. Then I will critique a few of the methods currently on the market.

Progression Betting

The great Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, "The only way to beat Roulette is to steal the money when the dealer's not looking." In a sense, he was correct. His point was that there is no way to employ some mathematical configuration of bets to overcome the house edge. Absolutely true.

However, in his fascinating book, Thirteen Against the Bank, the late Norman Leigh shows us in precise detail how he successfully used an aggressive up-as-you-win betting progression to systematically beat Monte Carlo out of $160,000. This coup took place in 1966 over a ten-day period before Mr. Leigh was tossed out of the casino and out of the country!

Albert Einstein had not considered this type of purely mathematical approach in his assessment.

The fact is that Roulette can be beaten with an appropriate betting progression. However, beating the game with this type approach in today's game is impractical and perhaps even impossible.

Norman Leigh was playing in Monte Carlo in the mid 1960's. He was allowed to play without interference or heat (until he was eventually barred from play). He was also playing in games with huge min-to-max betting spreads that were necessary to make his approach work.

Here's how he did it:

He first trained a team of twelve players (thirteen including himself) to work a reverse Labouchere betting progression while placing wagers on all six outside, even-money bets at the same time; odd, even, red, black, high and low. When a natural "win streak" would occur on any one of these betting positions, the Labouchere would dictate increased wagers. When the streak successfully culminated in a table maximum bet, the player would take down the final winning bet and start over again at table minimum - realizing a huge profit (around 6,000 units).

As you may suspect, these successful win streaks were few and far between. Most of the time, the team experienced lots of small loses. However, the occasional big wins more than offset the small loses to net a consistent and handsome profit.

I have tested this approach against a huge database of real-world spin results and found that it still works. But... to work consistently, a casino needs to allow betting spreads of up to 1:2,000 (for example; $5 minimum, $10,000 maximum). Drawdowns can approach $15,000; players are very obvious to casino personnel (inviting serious heat) and incredible perseverance is required. Not a very attractive proposition.

Norman Leigh and his team could play with starting units of only twenty-five cents. Today, we must start with $5 in most casinos. Additionally, most casinos today will not allow a betting spread large enough to take down a huge win when a streak occurs.

I've heard about a few teams operating today trying to duplicate Norman Leigh's performance, but I've not heard of anyone succeeding. I believe that these teams have not done all their homework and are destined to fail from the start.

Famous Roulette Betting Systems

Any discussion on progression betting would not be complete without addressing some of the more famous systems such as the Martingale, the Grand Martingale, the d'Alembert, the Labouchere, Fibonacci or Oscar's Grind. With the exception of Fibonacci, these systems are up-as-you-lose, negative betting progression techniques. And each has been directly responsible for the financial ruin and even suicides of many unknowing gamblers. Generally, these systems are touted as ways to consistently beat the casino with simple wager manipulations. What happens in actual practice is this: Players will indeed accumulate lots of small wins. But occasionally, a huge loss wipes out all the profit ... and more. In the long run, the player always loses.

To be an overall winner using progression betting alone (without some kind of valid player-favorable bias), a player must use a positive, up-as-you-win betting progression in playing conditions similar to Norman Leigh's. A player must also be very well bankrolled, disciplined and willing to take the enormous risk associated with this type of approach. I don't recommend it.

Biased Wheel Play

It has been theorized that no Roulette wheel is mechanically perfect and all are therefore subject to biases in certain sectors or towards certain pockets. Roulette history is filled with stories of players who detected such biases and successfully exploited them for huge wins.

A few of the more famous coups include a 19th century English mechanic named Jaggers who took Monte Carlo for $250,000. Al Hibbs and Roy Walford, two college students, who in the late 1940's took Reno casinos for $25,000, became national celebrities. Most recently, between 1986 and 1989, a noted high roller named Billy Walters took Atlantic City casinos for over $4,000,000! These were fantastic accomplishments and certainly worthy of the fame they generated.

Each of these coups involved a lot of up-front work. Teams of "clockers" would spend weeks recording spin results on dozens of wheels trying to find strong biases. When one was identified, a player would sit and wager on the biased number(s) round the clock until some objective was reached or until casino management stopped the action.

Biased wheel play has been accepted by most modern gambling experts as a viable way to beat Roulette and several recent books teach precisely how to do it - most notably Beating the Wheel by Russell Barnhart.

I'm sorry to say, however, that this information and way of thinking is about eight years too late.

By the end of the 1980's, casino management became increasingly concerned with biased wheels. They began making wholesale changes in the equipment used. Prior to this time, most all wheels featured deep pocket separators (high frets) that were fastened as individual components. These high frets were a major contributor to wheel biases. Between 1989 and 1991, most casinos completely changed their old high fret wheels with new, single component, low profile fret wheels -- far less likely to cause biases. Additionally, casinos began installing electronic display boards (tote boards) that monitor for biased sectors/numbers.

Today, it is nearly impossible to find/exploit mechanically biased wheels.

Authors who are a bit behind the times, are unknowingly misleading players into believing we can still win by playing against biased wheels. They have spent time preparing well written books with all the mathematical, bankroll, and table play criteria one would need to exploit biased wheels. But it simply will not work today. Yes, there are still a few old fashioned high fret wheels around operating without electronic tote boards. You can bet they are being watched very carefully. In fact, most of these casinos have standing policies that disallow anyone from recording spin results while standing in the aisle (remember it takes days/weeks of clocking to determine a valid bias).

If/When a casino detects a biased wheel, they can simply change the equipment. And there goes any possibility of winning.

Bottom line? Biased wheel play in most of today's casinos is not viable.

Sector Targeting

Here's a really creative use of high technology to beat the wheel. Nearly thirty years ago, computer technology had advanced to a point where small, concealed computers could be used in a casino. Edward O. Thorp and others devised a way to calculate the decaying orbit of a roulette ball as it slows and descends into a pocket. With two determinant points, they could successfully calculate the sector into which the ball was most likely to drop. And with good enough frequency to gain a huge edge over the house. The chronicles of this work are brilliantly written in an interesting book, The Eudaemonic Pie by Thomas Bass.

The process is fairly straight forward. One simply determines the dealer's release point, determines a second traverse point after one or two rotations of the wheel, then inputs the data into a computer and the targeted sector is instantly calculated. Chips are wagered on the appropriate numbers and that's it! Sounds nice and easy. But think about the actual execution. Two points must be accurately determined while the wheel is in full motion. The points must be input into a computer. An answer must be read out. And chips must be placed on the roulette layout. All in sequential order and all in the heat of action.

As you might imagine, this method worked fine in the lab but failed miserably in the casino.

Today, I am sure that there are teams of players successfully using this concept with modern computer equipment to exploit the game. But it is illegal and therefore not suggested as a viable winning method. In Nevada, players can be jailed if caught using electronic devices. In other casino locations , penalties are not quite so severe. But players may be escorted out and barred from future play.

In 1983, Scott Lang published a book describing his patented Targeting Sectoring method. Similar in concept, his method involved using only a digital stop watch to determine the targeted sector. At the time of publication, Jerry got enthused. He and good friend Gil Stead went out, bought a Roulette wheel, practiced the technique and played it in Atlantic City. It worked! At first anyhow. Casinos quickly caught on and implemented simple countermeasures to stop the winning. With Scott Lang's method, a relatively slow rotating wheel was necessary for success. Dealers were instructed to simply increase the speed of the wheel. The winning was over.

Unfortunately, this method is now obsolete. Today, stop watches in table play are a definite taboo.

Dealer Signatures

Here's a winning method that we can use in today's casinos.

The dealer signature phenomenon is nothing all that new. When I first started work on Signature Series (SS) Roulette in 1989, I thought many of my discoveries were novel. I thought that my relative number concept was unique. But as I got more deeply involved in the research, I found that relative numbers and the concept of a dealer signature had been worked with before and even published in a brief 1979 Gambling Times article. While I was a bit disappointed that my ideas were not unique, I was excited to learn that the concept was right on.

I found that this early work on dealer signatures was no longer viable in today's game. I intensified my efforts and succeeded in developing some truly unique techniques to successfully exploit a dealer's signature.

My Signature Series I resembles some of the early work (with several notable exceptions). But SS II and SS III are completely unique. The discovery of H Factor release dealers and the playing techniques developed to exploit them are also unique. All aspects of SS Roulette are perfectly suited to today's game.

SS Roulette is proprietary and cannot be found in any of the popular literature. Some authors are now coming around to the fact that roulette can be consistently beaten with a signature type approach. But, so far, they haven't come close to suggesting a workable method.

I truly believe that we have done a pretty good job keeping things under wrap for the last few years.

Mail Order Roulette Systems

An example of mail order systems are those that are sold through the mail by a outfit out of Brooklyn, New York. If you've managed to somehow get on their mailing list, you are undoubtedly familiar with their stuff. Periodically, you get a plain envelope containing a four-page two-color brochure promising to make you financially independent with their unique casino roulette system, thoroughbred handicapping method or something else. The cost of each magic system is usually around $30, with a full money back guarantee, of course.

Here's the spin: These people are running something very close to a scam operation. You order the information by sending a check to the appropriate address. The product is shipped promptly. It comes usually in the form of a 12 - 25 page booklet. The envelope it is shipped in along with the booklet itself has no return address or phone number. So if you opt for a refund, you don't know where to go (pretty slick, eh?). The information contained in the booklet is always worthless. It describes some variation of a negative up-as-you-lose betting progression. Unknowing players will use the method with typical short term success, followed by long term failure.

I recommend never ordering anything from a mail order outfit with the expectation of winning. But their advertising literature and bold claims are fun to read.

Internet-marketed Systems

Here are a handful of the Roulette systems currently being hawked on the World Wide Web or through gambling related newsgroups. Some of them are being sold as cheaply as $10. Others, a bit more. One bold system is being offered for $15,000 to the first ten lucky buyers. Only ten will be sold! (Incidentally, no one has bitten at this particular offer yet).

Most of these systems offer basic instruction on working the Labouchere betting progression or some variation of it. Some address biases. Some are so confusing I am not quite sure what they are trying to say. Be very cautious in ordering a system off the Internet (except through our recommended link below).

The bottom line on all other Roulette systems is to be cautiously optimistic. Undoubtedly, Roulette systems are going to be offered for sale as long as the game exists. A select few will have merit, the vast majority will not. Before investing time or money, talk with the developer, talk with a few long-term users, and insist on a clearly defined money back satisfaction guarantee. With these assurances, you'll never get burned.

Good Luck!