The Roulette Debate Heats Up
By Arnold Snyder
(From Blackjack Forum Vol. XII #1, March 1992)
© 1992 Blackjack Forum
Note: Arnold Snyder's response to this article has been published at BJFO in February 2013. See "How to Win at Roulette, Part 2: Dealer Steering and Tell Play." A link can be found at the left.
Can roulette dealers steer or "aim" the ball with enough precision to help or cheat players? Laurance Scott, author of How to Beat Roulette, says they can (see "Nevada Roulette," by L. Scott, BJF XI #3). Renowned expert on cheating at gambling, Darwin Ortiz, author of Gambling Scams, says Scott is all wet (see "Letter on Roulette Dealer Section Shooting," BJF XI #4).
We've gotten an avalanche of mail on both sides of this subject since Scott's article and Ortiz's letter. Here's a sampling of the pro-Scott, anti-Ortiz opinions:
Letter from a Former Nevada Roulette Dealer
I just wanted to comment on your letter from Ortiz. I agree 100% with all he has to say about the position of casinos and their management in regard to cheating. I really have no stake in whether he and Steve Forte believe a dealer can place a ball in a section, but I would ask these questions:
How long do you suppose it would take to learn to spin a roulette ball so that it made exactly four revolutions before dropping?
If the wheel head were spinning very slowly and you picked a number (say zero) and a fixed point (say the 12 o'clock position) and spun the ball so it made four revolutions and dropped, do you think if you picked up the ball and waited for the zero to be at 12 o'clock again and spun it four revolutions again that it might end up close to where it landed before?
Do you think you could maybe land it in half the wheel head?
If a player can clock a moving roulette ball, couldn't a dealer?
I believe that Mr. Ortiz could learn to spin a roulette ball to make four revolutions within one hour. In a few more hours I bet he could make it go five revolutions, or six or seven. If they are really interested in this, why not take an hour and give it a try?
Letter from an Atlantic City Pit Boss
"Section shooting" is not a myth. This was proven to me in a proficient demonstration by a person who had dealt the game of roulette for more than two decades. This person was many years my senior and my teacher. Section shooting is a common sought after skill in the realm of roulette dealers. For this reason dealers who are supervised in professional gambling casinos are not permitted to hawk stares into the roulette wheel.
Mr. Scott's methods of winning are valid. However, should a pit boss like myself identify such a skilled player, we would instruct the dealer to call "no more bets" prior to the ball launch, and Mr. Scott's edge would go out the window. I can personally tell you that pit bosses and other casino management alike do not value "section shooting" dealers or any other skilled dealers of this degree because of (the possibility of) collusion.
Mr. Ortiz asks for such a skilled section shooting roulette dealer... to come forward and demonstrate their ability to him. Mr. Ortiz has about as much chance of that happening as the trigger man in the JFK assassination coming forward. No one is going to display that ability to a layperson...
Letter from Harry McArdle
One of the tricks employed by casino managers in hiring cheats without admitting it even to themselves is to hire "experienced dealers" and to hold them responsible for the results at their table. Did you ever start winning a lot and see the dealer become nervous? That's for real. His job is on the line. If you win big, they might just go out and hire a "more experienced dealer" unless they have one right there in the casino whom they can call over. Chances are they do.
Laurance Scott was not the first person to suggest that a roulette dealer could place his ball in a section of the wheel. John Scarne in his Complete Guide to Casino Gambling, published in 1961, asserted that "A good croupier can place his ball to within six holes." This is not an affirmation that I've blindly accepted out of faith in John Scarne. Rather, I've seen it reinforced repeatedly in my 33 years of casino gambling.
In an afternoon, during the summer of '66, I recall playing roulette at the table of a young female croupier who was practicing her skills. She would roll the ball slowly so that it would go around the wheel about two times before settling in a hole. Clearly, she was aiming for 0 or 00.
I bet 1 and 27, which are next to 00, if she was aiming for 00, and 2 and 28 if she was shooting for 0. On one occasion I almost won. She looked with alarm at the pit boss who was standing at her elbow. He, in turn calmed her down and had her continue what she was doing. "You almost got her that time," he said to me. Whereupon, he continued to root for me while I stayed for a few more bets.
What Darwin Ortiz and others are thinking of when they say they are skeptical of a croupier's ability to place his ball is probably the idea of the dealer achieving it while rolling the ball at top speed...
I don't know how many times a mechanic can roll his ball around a wheel and still place it with some reliability. This much I do know. It can be done and it is done.
Thoughts from Arnold Snyder on Roulette Dealer Steering
What it really comes down to is whether or not a professional roulette dealer can train himself to launch the ball such that it makes a specified number of revolutions prior to dropping.
I don't doubt that a dealer can launch a ball from a chosen point on the wheel, or that many wheels are biased such that the ball tends to drop onto the wheel more frequently from the same area of the track. But roulette dealers typically launch the ball so that it makes many revolutions (not 4 or 5) and the wheel, which is not spinning at a truly constant speed, is revolving in the opposite direction of the ball.
In Scarne's 1978 revision of his 1961 book, titled Scarne's Guide to Casino Gambling, he states emphatically that no roulette dealer can section shoot with accuracy on modern roulette wheels. He also expounds some on the dealer who exhibited to him his ability to aim the ball accurately within a 6-number section, as mentioned by Harry McArdle. This dealer, according to Scarne, was able to do this only on an obsolete wheel that had no ball deflectors, and only when he launched the ball in the same direction as the ball was spinning.
With both Darwin Ortiz and Steve Forte also of the opinion that roulette dealers cannot section shoot with accuracy, I still find the arguments that section shooting is a learnable skill to be less than compelling. Although Scarne was not the greatest mathematician, no one has ever refuted his vast knowledge of cheating at gambling.
Darwin Ortiz has conducted literally hundreds of seminars on cheating for casino security personnel in the past decade. Steve Forte spent many years in Las Vegas as a dealer, then floorman, then pit boss, then casino manager, prior to opening his own dealing school, and then producing his card and dice cheating videos, and acting as a consultant to the industry on casino cheating techniques.
The most convincing arguments that I have seen that section shooting may be more than a myth have come from Laurance Scott, who is attempting to arrange a confidential meeting with an industry insider who could not only explain to me the techniques to section shooting, but who could also demonstrate the ability to do it. I hope to follow up on this controversy soon. ♠
[Note from Arnold Snyder: Laurance Scott was never able to arrange this meeting.]
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