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Do roulette strategies work?

Roulette systems have been around for as long as the game itself.

Roulette has been around for 300 years since Blaise Pascal stumbled upon the game while trying to create one of science’s impossible dreams, the perpetual motion machine. And for as long as there has been roulette, there also have been roulette strategies and theories claiming to help you beat the bank. But let’s get one thing straight from the start: you never will.

While there are plenty of famous stories about roulette winners, such as Charles Wells, the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo, or Ashley Revell, who sold everything he owned to play a single spin, this is fundamentally a random game. The rules of roulette are simple and, except for a few minor variances in the wheels themselves, every number has an equal shot of winning, and the outside bets, such as red/black and odd/even, are as likely to win as they are to lose. That means that averaged out over time, the best you can hope for is to be level on your original cash pot, whatever system you choose to use.

The House Edge

Of course, if everyone ended up a level on average, there would be no reason for casinos to offer the game. After all, casinos are business people who want to be sure of a certain level of profit. That’s why the green zero was introduced: to give the house an edge. With the zero being neither red or black, odd or even, everyone loses, except the house, and this occurs on an average 2.7 percent of the time. Add in a second zero, the double zero found in American casinos, and the house edge rises to 5.4 percent, which means that you will lose on average one in 20 bets, wherever you lay your chips.

Famous Roulette Systems

The most famous roulette strategies acknowledge the random nature of the game and use mathematical progressions to even out your wins and losses over time. For example, in the Martingale system, you double your stake on even bets after each loss and keep doubling it until you win. The Paroli, however, uses the opposite approach, doubling your stake after each win. And the Grand Martingale system aims to help you get even more by adding a unit stake to the doubled bet while the D’Alembert variation increases each bet by a single unit.

The problem with all these systems is their base on a fallacy. That is the mistaken belief that previous random events somehow influence current random events. For example, if you toss a coin and get five heads in a row, the fallacy is that there is now an increased liklihood of getting a tail the next time when the fact is that the outcomes are still equally likely.

The stakes rise rapidly when you use the Martingale system.

The second issue with this strategy is the math behind it. If you play the Martingale system, doubling your stake each time, after only five losing spins, you end up betting 32 times your original stake. You can quickly either run out of funds to bet with or bump up against the casino’s maximum table limit, leaving you out of the game before your system has a real likelihood to pay off. You also need nerves of steel to keep doubling your bet when you are on a losing streak.

Exploiting Wheel Variances

There are a few famous tales of engineers and mathematicians who analyzed roulette wheels to find imperfections that make them more predictable. Casinos in Madrid banned Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo after working out the slight but significant bias in their wheels, but the High Court, who called his method ingenious, backed him. Unfortunately, these days, casinos are wise to this approach and regularly swap around components of their wheels to avoid such predictability. What’s more, if you play online, there is no way the wheel is anything but random.

The only place you’re guaranteed to win at is Rick’s Café Casablanca.

Just Enjoy the Game

Since the only guaranteed way to win at roulette is to pour your heart out to Rick at the Cafe American in Casablanca and have the croupier fix the wheel for you, perhaps the best roulette strategy is to stop thinking so hard and enjoy the game. Leave your calculator at home, forget about nerve-racking mathematical sequences that send your stakes soaring and go with your gut. After all, a random number picked on instinct has as a better shot of winning as any other.

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Updated: November 21, 2018 — 10:34 am
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