This article will take a look at different roulette monitoring methods that were used throughout history by players attempting to gain an edge over the casino. These methods can be divided into three main categories, corresponding to the three building blocks of the game – the wheel, the dealer and the ball.
Exploiting Biased Wheels
One way to gain an edge at the roulette table is to seek out biased wheels, and monitor their action. Little imperfections in the wheel itself can make certain numbers come up more often that others. If a wheel watcher comes to the conclusion that a wheel is ‘off’, he or she can bet on these numbers, and gain a considerable edge over the casino. Though the system sounds simple enough, modern casinos take action to ensure that their wheels are completely random. Casinos regularly monitor their roulette wheels using sophisticated cameras and advanced computer programs. If a wheel does become biased, they switch it immediately. Modern casinos take such action mainly due to the legend of Joseph Jagger, AKA ‘The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo’.
Joseph Jagger was a British engineer who lived in the 19th century. He used his mechanical knowledge to study the behavior of the roulette wheel after he realized that the outcome may not be entirely random, but rather influenced by mechanical imbalances.
In 1873 Jagger put his theory to the test. He traveled to the Beaux-Arts Casino at Monte Carlo, Monaco, where there were six roulette wheels at the time. He hired six clerks, one for each wheel, and asked them to secretly record the outcome of each wheel. When he went over the results, Jagger was thrilled to find that one of the wheels showed a clear bias. Nine of the numbers – 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 19, 22, 28 and 29 – came up more frequently than others. After nearly two years of monitoring, Jagger was ready to make his move.
Jagger placed his bets according to his findings, and won £14,000 during the first day, which is the equivalent of approximately £750,000 nowadays. Over the next three days, Jagger won a total of £60,000 in earnings. Other gamblers in town started imitating his bets, and the casino was hit hard. In response, the casino switched between the wheels, and Jagger’s winning streak came to a halt. He later remembered that the biased wheel had a scratch on its surface, and once he relocated it he resumed his winnings. The casino finally rearranged the wheel completely, and even went as far as switching the numbers of the slots daily. Jagger took his winnings, around £3,250,000 in current value, and left Monte Carlo never to return.
Though modern casinos have eliminated biased wheels (or at least they think they have), the human factor of the game still exists. Some gamblers believe that there are dealers who spin the wheel in such a way that makes it more likely for some numbers to come up. They do this either consciously or unconsciously, and these ‘patterns’ or ‘signatures can be read by astute gamblers, who can then place their bets around a certain area of the wheel.
This final method concentrates mostly on the ball, closely monitoring it to accurately predict where it will land. The technique focuses on three events: Predicting where the ball falls from the track, predicting the position of the wheel when the ball falls, and predicting how far the ball would bounce when it finally strikes the wheel. Laurance Scott, who is known in some circles as ‘the God of Roulette’, is the person who is usually associated with inventing and capitalizing on this technique. Though he has reportedly been using these methods for over 15 years, there is no accurate account of his winnings to date. Scott put out a series of books titled ‘Professional Roulette Prediction’ which explain his methods in great detail.
Modern enthusiasts have been using hidden cameras, sophisticated lasers and small computers to better track and monitor roulette behavior. Most notably, Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo used a computer to model the tendencies of the roulette wheels at the Casino de Madrid in Madrid, Spain during the early 1990s. Over a period of several years and with the help of his family he reportedly won over $1 million US dollars. After the casino sued him for using illegal methods to beat the casino, the court ruled in his favor and Gonzalo kept his winnings.