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Three Roulette Myths I Wish Were True, 'Cause I'd be Rich20 July 2005
Roulette is simple. This is one of its virtues. A gambling greenhorn can approach a table and play as well as a venerable veteran, by watching how others bet for a few minutes and receiving only the aid dealers who appreciate tips provide as a matter of course. This aside, myths about roulette abound. And more solid citizens want to believe them than you might imagine.
One such fiction holds there's a secret bet that gives players a 50-50 chance of winning. The operative word is "secret" and the myth is the implication the even chance of winning makes it a "fair" bet. Say you're at a double-zero table. The wheel has 38 positions. Cover half of them, any way you want, to get a 50-50 probability of success. You could drop $1 each on 19 spots. Or $10 on a 12-number column and $1 each on any seven spots not in that column. Five three-number rows and one 4-number corner not overlapping those rows is another choice. The options are myriad.
The reason the 50-50 chance of success is no big deal is that the average profit when you win is less than what it costs when you lose. Make believe, for instance, you bet $1 on each of 19 spots. A hit pays $35. Subtract $18 for the spots that didn't hit for a $17 net gain. But losing costs you $19. The arithmetic is more complicated for non-uniform bets or wagers on combinations whose elements don't pay equally. But the conclusions are comparable.
Another myth is that you can trick the casino out of high-value comps if you and a cohort, who pretend to be strangers, play at the same table and make offsetting bets. An example might be $20 on Red and $25 on Black. The "theory" is that you're really only risking $5 except in the rare event that the ball lands in 0 or 00, but your combined rating is for $45 per spin.
Over enough spins, the house expects to earn the same from your action whether you bet $45 all on one color, or split between the two. So the $45 combined rating is correct. Strategies that ostensibly milk casinos for comps are never good ideas. You may earn a profit and get the comp as well. That's what gambling is all about. But you'll have paid more dearly than you think with the increased risk you took in flouting the laws of mathematics.
A third myth is that numbers become due as more spins go by without hitting. So you'll do best by letting the cycle mature.
Roulette is a random game. This means that past sequences of hits don't extrapolate out into the future. The chance of any number in a double zero game is one out of 38 on any spin. This, whether your choice has been hitting consistently, not won at all, or appears to be next in some logical order. Sticking to the same bets is therefore no better or worse than changing according to the pattern your mind's eye fabricates when you "connect the dots." Ditto for making flat-out guesses.
Predictable biases might be detected by analyzing past trends if wheels were off-kilter or dealers exhibited the "signatures" they're occasionally reputed to have. Don't count on either.
Wheels are checked, calibrated, and repaired so frequently and thoroughly that irregularities won't get to a point where they influence results significantly. As for dealer signatures, ask yourself whether anyone with less hand-eye coordination than the Six Million Dollar Man could gauge the ever-fluctuating speed of the wheel, anticipate the path the ball will follow when it leaves the rim and encounters bumpers and frets on the way down then bounces around among grooves, determine when and how fast to release it, then do so precisely. All are needed to deliberately hit even a section of the wheel, let alone a target number.
If at least one of these myths were true, you could watch me on The Apprentice firing Donald Trump for lacking the aptitude to find and fix the flaw at the roulette tables in the casinos I'd won from him. Don't wait for this episode any time soon, though. For, as the rhymer of reality, Sumner A Ingmark, wrote:
If you do spot a loophole but someone else knows it,
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