(From Blackjack Forum Vol. XI #3, September 1991)
By Laurance Scott
© 1991 Blackjack Forum
Note: Arnold Snyder's response to this article has been published at BJFO on Feburary 7, 2013. The article is titled "How to Win at Roulette, Part 2: Dealer Steering and Tell Play." You can find a link to the article at the left.
[Note from Arnold Snyder: In Can Dealers Really Steer the Ball at Roulette?, Steve Forte responds to a number of Scott's assertions in this article. Darwin Ortiz expresses his doubts in Letter from Darwin Ortiz re: roulette dealer section shooting.
I have published my own response as an article titled "A New Roulette Strategy for the Modern Game: Dealer Steering and Tell Play." You can find a link at the left.
Scott is the author of Professional Roulette Prediction: Volume 1 - Basic Methods]
There are two roulette universes that exist on planet earth: Nevada roulette, and roulette as it is normally played throughout the world. Most people who purchase my How to Beat Roulette system seem to be interested in how to beat Nevada roulette, so it is important to understand exactly how the game is different in Nevada than in other parts of the world.
First, a little recap for those of you not familiar with the techniques of beating the game. First you must find a wheel with a predictable ball fall-off point. Second you must be skilled at identifying an exact point within each ball spin at which to make your prediction--generally three to four revolutions before the ball actually drops from the track. Third, you must make your prediction based upon a visual observation of the ball in relation to both the position and velocity of the wheel. Finally, you must place your bets on the layout.
As a general rule, about one out of four wheels throughout the world can be beaten to some degree with edges ranging from 5% to 40%, depending upon the playing conditions. In Nevada roulette, however, you can throw out all of the rules.
I recently spent a week scouting and playing roulette wheels in Reno. It had been a long time since I had visited Nevada for serious play, and on previous occasions I was troubled by the fact that I always seemed to get big edges on paper, but whenever I played the edge diminished. I now realize why this is so: Nevada casinos cheat their roulette customers.
What? Cheat at roulette? How can anybody cheat at roulette? Well, first of all let me qualify the statement by saing that not all Nevada casinos cheat. Some casinos run a fair game. They use modern wheels which tend to yield truly random results. However, other casinos still use older style equipment which is quite beatable. Why would a casino use beatable equipment when modern non-beatable equipment is available?
The answer lies in the fact that the characteristics that make a wheel beatable from a player's standpoint are the same characteristics which allow experienced dealers to cheat players by "aiming" for sections of the wheel which would cause a player to lose a big bet. On some wheels I observed, an experienced dealer could maintain an edge of up to 30% over the majority of the players at the table.
Why Roulette Dealers Cheat
Job security is, in my opinion, the main reason dealers cheat. Roulette just doesn't get that much action and in order to survive many casinos require that a dealer produce a hold percentage above 40%. A totally random roulette game will produce a hold percentage of around 25% for the house. A dealer who cannot maintain an increased hold percentage for the casino is history.
The second reason is greed. As long as the casino gets its 40% it will look the other way when the dealer "helps" a confederate or hustles high rollers for tips (as long as it doesn't get too out of hand).
Any dealer experienced enough to hit sections (it takes about 5 years to learn this skill) and who can produce a 40% hold percentage is worth his or her weight in gold. These dealers have essentially free reign to do whatever they want to.
How Roulette Players are Cheated
First of all, as a player you must realize that the casino's objective is to wipe you out. Here is how the "average" player is hustled:
Jane buys in for $40 and starts to play her numbers. The dealer looks for any section pattern in the numbers and does one of two things:
- If Jane is a person the dealer wants to get rid of (i.e. she doesn't have any more money in her purse), he will do his best to wipe her out as fast as he can by aiming for sections which she hasn't bet.
- If Jane is a person he feels will "dig in" for more money, he will start to play the hustle. Jane will lose about $30 and then win. Jane will press up and possibly win again. A feeling of winning and euphoria will be induced. The dealer will also console and encourage Jane when she loses. Jane will then reach into her purse and keep pulling out money until she has lost it all.
As a player, you are continually encouraged to play straight up numbers. Outside bets, corners, streets and splits are discouraged. This is because the dealer cannot aim for randomly distributed bets such as red or black. He will tell you that you can't win any money by betting the outside. He will belittle and ridicule you for your stupid play. I have even seen some dealers go so far as to move players' bets from spits to straight up saying, "You can't make any money that way--why don't you go for it?"
Make no mistake. Some of these dealers have been in the business for over 30 years and most are real seasoned pros. They are in the business of sizing up a player and then playing them for every nickel they have.
Enter the Roulette Prediction Player
Casinos that cheat do not like system players. They will ridicule you as a system player by telling you that they love your action because system players lose faster. But the fact is that most system players who play a red/black/even/odd system will lose at the normal 5.25% rate rather than the 30% rate preferred by the dealer. System players who play a section system (pre-betting sections trying to follow the dealer) are wiped out in an instant. Their section never comes up.
Prediction players are another matter. The casinos really don't like prediction players and apparently have had to deal with them for many years. Prediction players wait until the ball has been set in motion before placing a bet on the layout, and most prediction players are of a "dealer signature" variety. Here is how an experienced dealer handles a prediction player:
Sleight of Hand Ball Switch
A prediction player is allowed to get a "read" on the dealer and maybe even win a bet. But the dealer knows exactly when the signature player is correctly reading the dealer's intent and it is at this instant that a ball switch is made.
It is a sleight of hand move. The new ball is palmed from behind the wheel and switched just before the spin. Why is it sleight of hand? Because most signature players realize that a different ball means a different signature.
The signature player will start to press his bets thinking that nothing has changed. The new ball, however, does not react the same. Generally, the switched ball comes up 1/2 or 1/4 wheel opposite from the predicted section. This is usually enough to wipe out a signature player, and the dealers generally have an arsenal of three balls from which to choose, all of which look identical but have different physical characteristics.
Roulette Wheel Speed Change
Should a prediction player solve the ball switch (which usually can be recognized by the sound of the ball), the next move is the speed change. The dealer will alternate from fast to slow trying to confuse the prediction player. Combined with the ball switch this is a pretty effective maneuver. Only the very best predictive players (e.g., me) can handle varying rotor speeds combined with ball switches.
Should a predictive player keep winning, the next step is to actually pick up the wheel and turn it 90 degrees. This is quite an event, and happened to me twice during my week in Reno. Both times the dealers said they were doing it to change my luck! I hadn't had a hit for a few spins and I guess they were trying to help me out, even though I had all of the chips in front of me!
When all else fails the dealers actually stick their hand into the wheel during the spin and alter the speed of the wheel. At times this has been done when my back was turned as I was placing bets. Sometimes it has been done when I was looking at the wheel. This is about as close as you can get to out and out cheating, and presents one of the final stages of a player's welcome at the roulette table.
"Get Your %@#(^*! Out of Here"
The final countermeasure I encountered was having a dealer lean on me and say, "How do you politely tell someone to Get Your Fucking Ass Out of Here?"
How to Counter the Counter Measures
For the first few days in Reno, I fell victim to many of these countermeasures. I'm good, but these 30 year pros are out for blood. I dropped about $800 playing $1 and $5 chips. Every time I would press I would lose. Every time I thought I had narrowed in on an edge I would lose. I was going nuts. I was keeping meticulous wheel statistics and, on paper, could show a whopping edge of 30% significant to the 4th standard deviation.
But then I noticed the ball switch. At first I could tell by the sound and then I confirmed it by looking into the ceiling mirrors (spy vs spy!). I then gathered statistics on each ball/speed combination.
I then realized that sometimes they were altering the wheel speed after I started making my bets. As a result, I made it a point to never turn my back on the wheel and only play the numbers in the first dozen.
What finally worked was a high variance strategy betting 1 to 5 numbers in the first dozen only. For those of you not familiar with high and low variance strategies, a high variance strategy is where you bet fewer numbers, but with higher amounts per number.
You win fewer times and have a higher variance in your bankroll, but given enough trials with the same action your result will be the same as if you were betting more numbers. For example, if you have a 10% edge you will win the same amount of money in the long term by betting $10 on one number as you would by betting $1 on each of 10 numbers.
The high variance strategy served several purposes: 1) It confused the dealers for a while, because they don't usually see sections bet in this manner. 2) The wins were scattered far enough apart so that the dealers were "lulled" into complacency. 3) I could get the bets down and there was never any question of betting too late. I never pressed after a win. This is usually when conditions are at their worst. Instead, I retreated after wins and slowly let optimum conditions return. Sometimes under optimum conditions I would press after a series of losses.
My end results were several wins which netted me $1200. I came away an overall $400 winner betting $1 to $8 a spin. I played over 800 trials and my edge was about 25%. I stuck with $1 chips because this was the action that was normally tolerated. Did they like it? Not a bit. They sweated every dollar. But there was really nothing they could do except ask me to leave (which they politely did--after I camped out at the table for over 8 hours on my last session).
How to Beat Roulette
I have shown where a polished high variance prediction strategy can beat Nevada roulette. There is really nothing they can do about it except ask you to leave. You can predict the section they aim for when they try to aim. And when they try to go random, you can predict the section anyway! If you can learn to predict, learn to spot the ball switches, and bet in a smooth manner (never turning your back on the dealer) then you can get a substantial edge at Nevada roulette.
I also believe that it may be possible to get an edge at Nevada roulette without any predictive skills just by using an applied psychology approach. First, assume that the game is rigged (which it is) and that an experienced dealer can hit a section with alarming accuracy.
Next, develop an act such that the dealers can't stand the sight of your face and start pre-betting sections with 25-cent chips. Have a co-conspirator bet $5 chips (at the opportune times) in the opposite section while hiding at the end of the table.
This act won't last for long but there are many variations which could keep it going maybe for days.
Will Nevada Roulette Continue?
One of the fears professional roulette teams have harbored throughout the years is that all of the opportunities will disappear because of more knowledgeable casinos, modern equipment, etc. However, this just hasn't been the case--not only in Nevada but throughout the world. Roulette teams generally don't worry about Nevada because devices are illegal and because casinos seem to sweat every dime. There are easier pickings elsewhere.
Favorable Nevada roulette conditions will apparently last forever. This is because the house is maintaining ideal conditions so that they can exact an edge over unsuspecting players. Nevada roulette is really nothing more than a carny game in the truest sense. However, this is one carny game that an be beaten by knowledgeable and skillful players trained in the art of predictive roulette. ♠
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