Letter Regarding "Nevada Roulette"
(From Blackjack Forum Vol. XI #4, December 1991)
By Darwin Ortiz
© 1991 Blackjack Forum
Note: Arnold Snyder's response to this article was published at BJFO in February 2013. See "How to Win at Roulette, Part 2: Dealer Steering and Tell Play." A link is at the left.
[Note from Arnold Snyder: Darwin Ortiz is an expert on cheating at casino games. His works include Gambling Scams: How They Work, How to Detect Them, How to Protect Yourself; Darwin Ortiz on Casino Gambling: The Complete Guide to Playing and Winning ; and Strong Magic
Ortiz's letter was a response to Laurance Scott's article Nevada Roulette, in which Scott asserted that there was widespread dealer ball steering at roulette games in Nevada casinos, chiefly to the disadvantage of players, and discussed methods of beating roulette.
I want to take a moment to disagree with one point Darwin Ortiz makes in this letter, where he states that "no casino management will keep a dealer who they believe has the ability to cheat" out of fear that the dealer will use the ability against the house. I know for a fact that lower levels of casino management have kept on dealers whom they knew could cheat--deal seconds, and the like--in order to use the talents of these dealers against players.]
Darwin Ortiz on Dealer Sector Shooting
I see that the latest issue of Blackjack Forum has an article ("Nevada Roulette," by Laurance Scott) reviving the old myth that roulette dealers, through years of practice, gain the experience to place the ball in whatever sector of the wheel they wish. I've had enough experience in the field of gambling scams to have learned to be careful about labelling anything impossible.
However, dealers who can "section shoot" seem rather like Bigfoot or flying saucers. I've met people who know people who know people who can do it. I've met people whose brother-in-law can do it. I've even met people who could do it on every day except the day that I happened to meet them. But I have yet to meet one dealer face-to-face who could reliably do it when challenged by me.
However, placing aside the difficult question of whether there is any dealer anywhere who can section shoot, one thing that I can safely say is that Mr. Scott's suggestion that such talent is widespread is utterly ridiculous. Hustlers who have worked at beating roulette through computer predictions by measuring wheel speed and ball speed can tell you that even something as minute as a breeze blowing across the wheel can negate the predictions. Yet, we are supposed to believe that dealers can take these countless variables into account and control the results.
Even more ludicrous is the claim that casinos highly value such dealers because they improve the hold. Perhaps most absurd is the claim that casinos will look the other way if a dealer with the ability to section-shoot helps a confederate win as long as he maintains a high enough hold.
Mr. Scott obviously knows nothing about the casino management mentality. First, no casino boss is going to under any circumstances look the other way while a dealer gives away even a dollar of house money (unless that boss is getting a cut--and that's another matter, and one which Mr. Scott does not allege.)
Second, no casino management will keep a dealer who they believe has the ability to cheat because they realize he may at any time decide to use that ability to cheat the house. For example, I've met twenty-one dealers who were amateur magicians. They always keep that fact a secret for fear that they will be fired if management finds out they have even a modicum of sleight -of-hand skill. The house's policy in these matters is, don't wait for it to happen--get rid of the liability.
According to Mr. Scott, the casino has a dealer who they know can section-shoot, yet they keep him because he uses his ability to increase the hold. They're not worried that he might decide to use that ability to help a friend win a huge score at one sitting that would more than outweigh whatever he might have helped the house win in the past, and his share of the profits would be enough so that he wouldn't be the least concerned if the house fired him right afterwards.
Nor would management fears of such a scam be unfounded. The fact is that if dealers could actually do what Mr. Scott believes they can, the game of roulette would have been destroyed long ago. Dealers would, indeed, have used their talents at every opportunity to bankrupt the house by helping agents win. Mr. Scott is naive enough to believe that a dealer with this skill will use it for job security. The money-making potential of such a skill makes the whole issue of job-security irrelevant.
Some years back, Lance Humble discovered that he and his blackjack students weren't winning as much money as his calculations predicted. He might have concluded from this that they weren't really playing as well as he assumed. Instead, he concluded, and claimed in his book, that blackjack cheating was rampant in Las Vegas. (He didn't win tons of money, therefore, he must have been cheated!)
[Note from A.S.--some big teams have kept records of their results at hand-held blackjack games vs. shoe games, and found their results at hand-held consistently below their results at the shoe games. At least one big team concluded that there was dealer cheating at hand-held games, and chose to limit their team play to shoe-dealt games.]
A close reading of Mr. Scott's article suggests that he has gone through the same rationalization process. He hasn't won tons of money. It couldn't possibly be that his system isn't as strong as he thinks. No, he must have been cheated! Once he settled on that theory it was, no doubt, easy to find many self-proclaimed insiders in Las Vegas willing to feed his fantasy.
I don't know of any dealers who have ever made money for the house or themselves by their ability to section-shoot. But I do know of some who have made money off the willingness of players to believe they could.
Here's a scam I ran across in a casino in the Orient. A dealer would approach a high roller and explain to him that, through years of practice, he had mastered the skill of placing the ball in any sector of the wheel he wished. It didn't work every time, but often enough to affect the odds. All the player had to do to win was consistently bet a set of nine numbers in a particular sector of the wheel during the dealer's shift. The dealer would do the rest by aiming the ball at that sector. All he asked in return was 50% of the winnings. A rendezvous was arranged to split the profits after the shift.
The dealer would then approach another high roller with the identical story but giving him a different set of nine numbers. This process was repeated with two other suckers, so that almost every number on the wheel was assigned to one player or another.
The dealer, of course, did nothing to help anyone win. Nevertheless, at least one player was bound to show a profit and he would be convinced that it was all due to the dealer's aid. The dealer would then meet that particular player to receive his share of the winnings while avoiding the other players. The victims could hardly complain to the management, "One of your dealers was supposed to cheat to help me beat you guys and then he didn't do it." Who knows, maybe some of Mr. Scott's 'sources' had some such idea in mind.
Snyder replies: I received a barrage of letters on Scott's article, one of the most interesting from a former dealer who claimed that section shooting at roulette was not only possible but was a common talent that most dealers possessed. He claimed that it did not take five years, but more like five hours, for a dealer to acquire this skill.
On the other hand, prior to receiving the letter from Darwin Ortiz, I had a phone conversation with Steve Forte (author of the Gambling Protection
DVDs), whose opinion of Scott's article is identical to Darwin Ortiz's. Based on my high regard for both Darwin Ortiz and Steve Forte, I'm afraid I must admit I now believe Scott's opinion on this matter to be uninformed. Is there a dealer out there who can demonstrate the ability to section shoot? ♠
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