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I just stumbled across the following article: http://genuinewinner.com/science.html, which makes the following claim:

There's no way of knowing exactly which number will spin next. And there's no way of knowing exactly which AREA of the wheel will spin next. However, you can determine, with enough accuracy to beat the house edge, which areas of the wheel is most likely to spin next. This is achieved by understanding the physics of roulette wheels, what patterns are likely to occur over the long term, and how to identify and exploit those patterns.

Is it true that if you are astute enough, you can gain enough of a rough idea of where the roulette ball will land, that you can overcome the house edge?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

With computers, yes:

By applying this techniques [sic] to a standard casino-grade European roulette wheel we demonstrate an expected return of at least 18%, well above the -2.7% expected of a random bet.

Predicting the Outcomes of Roulette, Michael Small, Chi Kong Tse

According to the authors, there are two phases of the roulette spin: the first is rather predictable, as the ball rolls around the rim before it drops, at which point the second, highly chaotic phase starts. The authors say that by determining the state of the table when the ball is thrown and by timing the speed of the ball in its initial rotations, they had a statistical advantage in predicting where the ball would drop in to the second, more chaotic, state. This translated into a statistical edge predicting in which half of the wheel the ball would end up.

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18% is massive. That's a lot better than card counting at blackjack. –  Christian Dec 22 '12 at 18:19
I'm guessing that it breaks the rules and you would be thrown out if you tried it. I remember reading that some geeks have tried this by building the hardware into their shoes, but I haven't searched for the reference. I don't know whether they got away with it. –  matt_black Dec 22 '12 at 19:05
Oh, heck yeah it's breaking the rules! There's a good book telling the story of the first group to try it: thomasbass.com/the_eudaemonic_pie_1360.htm –  Larry OBrien Dec 22 '12 at 19:20
Allegedly in response to such techniques, casinos added additional fins to the roulette wheels to increase the bouncing. The referenced paper is recent, so I am not sure if that's a difference between European and US roulette wheels, though. It's easy enough for the casinos to require betting prior to the ball circling the wheel, as well. So I think the window for Vegas-busting with roulette is closing quickly, but who knows? –  Larry OBrien Dec 22 '12 at 19:24
Wikipedia gives a history of real life exploits. To @Larry's point: "In 1986, when a professional gambling team headed by Billy Walters won $3.8 million using the system on an old wheel at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, every casino in the world took notice, and within one year had switched to the new low-profile wheel." No citation to support that statement is provided. –  Oddthinking Dec 23 '12 at 11:19

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