Is it possible for casinos to cheat at roulette? If so, would it actually benefit them to take that risk? Similarly, players who attempt cheating at roulette do so at enormous risk that is ultimately unlikely to pay off. Below we explore some the various methods, most of which are questionable in efficacy. Unless you have a special attachment to roulette, there are multiple casino games that are a better choice if you want to win without cheating. Read on to learn more.
Popular Roulette Cheating Techniques
Albert Einstein famously studied the game of roulette in an effort to find a way to beat the casino. It didn’t take him long to realize that it couldn’t be done. He eventually said that the only way to beat the casino at roulette was to steal chips when the dealer isn’t looking.
That’s one of the most common roulette cheats you’ll find, although you’ll see variations of it.
Casinos Cheating at Roulette
One of the first things you must understand about cheating at a casino is that it’s illegal, especially in Las Vegas, Nevada, where it’s a state felony. Smart gamblers, even those with no moral compunctions about cheating, examine the risk/reward ratio in various situations.
When you’re dealing with a potential felony, the risk is very high. In fact, I’d say it’s higher than almost anyone would want to deal with. I don’t want to spend ANY time in prison. Do you?
Also, the amount of money that you could potentially win by cheating at roulette is minor. You’d probably be better off trying to rob a bank.
If You Were Going to Cheat at Roulette, How Would You Do It?
Various methods of cheating at roulette exist, but none of them are especially exciting. Past posting is one potential way to cheat at roulette.
Past posting is when you change the amount that you bet after the outcome is known. This is hard to pull off, because roulette dealers follow very specific rules in order to prevent this.
For example, you wager $20 on a single number, using four $5 chips. When you see that you’re going to win, you quickly use sleight-of-hand to replace one of those $5 chips with a $20 chip, increasing the amount you’re going to win by a dramatic amount.
But think about this. Even if the croupier doesn’t see you when you’re doing this, the casino has cameras (the “eye in the sky”) which monitor all the action going on at the casino tables below.
Stealing other players’ chips when they’re not looking is another way of cheating, but at most roulette tables, players get chips of a color unique to them. You’ll look pretty silly (and lame) when you try to cash in some other players’ color of chips.
Devices Used by Cheaters
I’ve read about people who think that a device with a laser could estimate the speed of the ball, the speed of the wheel, and predict with a microcomputer where the ball might land. I’m skeptical that this kind of thing would work, but here’s something else to consider.
Using any kind of device to change your outcomes when gambling is a felony. Getting caught with a microcomputer and a laser would guarantee that you’d face expulsion from the casino and probably prosecution, too.
Collusion Between Players / Dealer
Theoretically, you could become buddies with a roulette croupier and convince him to help you cheat. That might work temporarily, but casino security measures are far more advanced than you might think. Not only would you probably get caught and prosecuted, but your buddy the croupier would probably also get into the same kind of trouble.
How would you collude? The dealer might let you place a better later than you should normally be allowed to, enabling you to place a bet when you have a better idea of the outcome. Or he could “mistakenly” pay out occasional bets that weren’t even winners.
Betting systems like the Martingale system don’t qualify as cheating because they don’t work. You can use the Martingale system to your heart’s content as the casino, because it just consists of raising and lowering your bets based on what happened on the previous spins. The casino doesn’t mind, because they understand that over time the system will lose.
Identifying a biased wheel might seem like cheating, too, but most casinos aren’t concerned about it. It’s not cheating unless you made some change to the wheel yourself, and consider how hard that would be to pull off. You’d only be able to identify a biased wheel by clocking it over a large number of spins.
For you to have any kind of mathematical surety about your results, you’d have to clock a couple thousand spins of the wheel. Most casinos see about 40 spins per hour at a casino roulette wheel, which means you’d have to put in 50 hours of observation before you could even be somewhat sure that the wheel has a bias.
Even then, you might spend 50 hours clocking a wheel only to learn that it’s not biased at all. Or if it biased, it’s not biased enough to get you an edge.
A better approach to beating the casino is to find a legitimate advantage play strategy to use. Which game and which strategy you use will depend on your temperament and talents, but you can get an edge over the casino on at least four games without cheating. These games are:
- Video poker
- Sports betting
Getting an edge at blackjack probably means learning how to count cards. Winning at video poker means memorizing the appropriate strategies and finding machines with the right odds. Poker is a lifetime pursuit, but it’s so worth it.
But the biggest money in advantage gambling is in sports betting. If you can find the right situations, you can get a huge edge and put lots of money into action in those situations. Like poker, being a profitable sports bettor is a lifetime endeavor.
Can Casinos Rig A Game of Roulette?
Everyone who’s ever played roulette, either online or in a real casino, has probably wondered whether or not roulette games are rigged. The answer to this question is more complicated than a simple yes or no, because in one sense, roulette wheels are almost never rigged. But in another sense, all roulette wheels are rigged.
The difference is based on what you considered rigged.
Can Casinos Control Where the Ball Lands?
In any legitimate or licensed casino, the wheels are checked to make sure they’re balanced correctly on a regular basis. This is done for the protection of the players, but it’s also in the best interest of the casinos. Rigged games are a sure way to get a bad reputation and lose customers.
This type of checking goes on at Internet casinos, too. But most Internet gambling venues use a random number generator program instead of an actual roulette wheel. (Live dealer casinos are an exception.) Online casinos rely on a reputation for fairness even more than land-based casinos do. People are already comfortable with playing casino games in places like Las Vegas, but they’re still nervous about playing online.
In either case, casinos have no real incentive to physically rig their roulette games. That’s because the math behind the game, in a sense, has already rigged the game in the casino’s favor.
The House Edge in Roulette Could Be Considered “Rigged”
All casino games provide the casino with a mathematical edge over the player. They don’t do this by rigging roulette wheels to have certain numbers come up more often than others. They don’t rig their blackjack decks or use loaded dice in craps, either. They just offer payouts on their bets that offer lower odds than the odds of winning.
Mathematically, over the long run, on almost every casino game, the casino is guaranteed to win a certain percentage of every bet. This percentage is called the house edge. Here’s how it works in roulette.
A standard American roulette wheel has 38 numbers on it. There’s a 0, a 00, and the numbers 1-36. Your chances of landing on any one of those numbers is 1 in 38, or 37 to 1. If you bet on a single number, then you win 35 to 1. The difference between your 37 to 1 chance of winning a 35 to 1 payout is the house edge.
Suppose you made 38 bets on a single number, and suppose you saw mathematically perfect results. You’d win one bet and lose 37 bets, right? On each of those bets you lost, you’d lose one unit, so you’d be down 37 units. On the one bet that you won, you’d be up 35 units, for a net loss of 2 units.
Does that mean the game is rigged? In a sense, yes. Mathematically, the game is unbeatable in the long run. Of course, in the short term, people can and do win at roulette, which is what keeps people coming back.
What about the Other Bets?
All of the gets on a roulette table exhibit this same phenomenon. Take the other end of the game, where you bet on red or black and get an even money payout. Suppose you bet red for 38 spins a row. Again, this is a mathematically perfect simulation, so you land on every single slot once.
You’ll hit red 18 times, black 18 times, and green twice. You’ll lose 20 bets and win 18 bets. Since you’re being paid off at even money on the 18 bets you won, you’ll be up 18 units, but when you subtract the 20 units you lost on the other bets, you’re down 2 units—just like you were down 2 units in the previous example.
The 0 and 00 are where the roulette table is “rigged”. The casino doesn’t have to have a button hidden on the croupier’s side of the table that controls the outcome. (You might have seen that in the movie Casablanca.) The casino makes plenty of profit over time on a roulette wheel.
The house edge is 5.26% on an American roulette wheel. If you owned a small casino with a single roulette table, and it had an average of 3 players playing 24 hours a day on it, you could predict (with a small degree of error based on variance) how much money that table would earn your business over time.
With 3 players at the table, you’ll probably see an average of 60 spins per hour on a roulette table. If those players are wagering an average of $10 per spin, you’re seeing $600 per hour per player in action, or $1800 per hour. After 24 hours, you’ll have seen $43,200 of action, of which the casino expects to win about $2272. (That’s 5.26% of $43,200.)
As you can see, the casino has no reason to rig the mechanical aspects of the game, because the math ensures their winnings over the long run.
What about Online Roulette Games? Are They Rigged?
No one can say for sure that no online roulette games are rigged. But most Internet casinos are licensed and regulated somewhere, which means their random number generators and software are audited. Since we’ve already demonstrated that the casino has a very profitable game already without rigging the results, it’s hard to imagine that a casino would bother to rig their roulette games.
Of more concern to an Internet gambler should be how quickly the casino pays out winnings. The Internet has way more horror stories about players who couldn’t get paid than it has about players who didn’t win or lose as often as they expected to mathematically.
The main point to remember is that all casino games are mathematically going to favor the house. That’s the nature of the game. If you play any negative expectation game long enough, you’ll eventually lose all of your money. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun trying to win in the short run, though. In fact, that’s the whole point of casino gambling.
So play roulette without fear that the wheel or the ball are somehow rigged. They don’t need to be rigged for the casino to show a tremendous profit over time.