Throughout the history of roulette, many players have tried to find ways to win by unconventional means. Some players have cheated by attempting to slip bets in after the wheel has come to a stop, while others have worked schemes to manipulate the ball or enlist the help of a friendly croupier.
But none of these techniques have been anywhere near as successful as the exploitation of biased roulette wheels. Finding the right wheel at the right time has helped many players over the years score big before the casinos who owned those wheels even knew what had happened. Best of all, these players weren’t even cheating – they won their money fairly, and were allowed to keep every penny. Today, no Australian casino would use a wheel tilted towards certain numbers – but it doesn’t hurt to know what to look for just in case the opportunity arises.
The history of players making big money on biased roulette wheels dates back to 1873. That year, a British man known as Joseph Jaggers traveled with a team of six helpers to the casino at Monte Carlo. Over the course of a few days, he had his team track the numbers on the many roulette wheels there, waiting to see if any patterns emerged.
At first, the results didn’t seem promising, as most of the wheels seemed to be playing fairly. But they soon realized that one wheel was showing a significant bias towards a group of nine numbers. Jaggers began to play on that wheel, and soon found himself winning big. After running up a huge score, the casino started moving around the wheels, which temporarily slowed him down.
But Jaggers wouldn’t be stopped that easily. He recalled a particular scratch on the biased wheel, found the proper one to bet on, and started winning again. Eventually, the casino made enough adjustments to forge Jaggers to give up, but not before he had won a fortune that was equivalent to over $5 million in today’s money.
Jaggers wasn’t the last player to use the biased wheel against a casino, as Monte Carlo once again got taken to the cleaners in 1891, and a man named Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo won about 1 million euros in the Casino de Madrid in the 1990s. But the history of roulette is also filled with examples of casinos using biased wheels against their players.
If you’ve ever seen the film Casablanca, you may remember the scene in which Rick helps a couple in need by telling them how to win on his trick roulette wheel. While this might be a bit fanciful, underground gambling halls in the 20th century were known to employ rigged wheels that could be manipulated by their operators to either produce certain results or simply tilt the odds in their advantage. Done subtly, this could allow these illegal games to cheat customers without them even realizing anything was wrong.
Amazingly, some players figure out a way to win even on these wheels. As we said, these wheels would be difficult to spot if used subtly, but that particular trait isn’t a strong suit for many people, especially when money is on the line. Realizing this, some professional gamblers would profit by making bets that were opposite the largest bets on the wheel, feeling extremely confident that the wheel would just happen to scoop up the big bets.
If these stories are giving you dreams of finding a biased roulette wheel and making a fortune of your own, be aware that this will not be simple. Casinos take much more care with maintaining their wheels these days than they did in the past, and it’s hard to imagine that a casino wouldn’t recognize the bias in a wheel if one started to show up.
If you want to try, be prepared to take a lot of time tracking the results of the wheels at your local casino. It’s not enough to spend a couple hours tracking 100 or 200 spins of the wheel; a small sample like that could look biased, but that would most likely be the result of normal variance and luck. Instead, you’ll need thousands of spins on the same wheel to feel confident that you’ve found a wheel you can exploit. If you manage to realize this before the casino does, you could be in for the hottest roulette session of your life! Remember, it doesn’t take much of a bias to turn a wheel into one with a player advantage; if a particular number is known to be hit 3% of the time on a European Roulette wheel (instead of the 2.7% of the time it should win on a fair wheel), that’s enough to give the player a huge edge by betting on that number every time.
Incidentally, these techniques can be used in online roulette, too. While no major online casino would use a biased wheel, and we’ve never heard of a roulette wheel at any online casino being used to cheat players (after all, roulette has a house edge to begin with, so cheating is unnecessary for the casino to make a profit), there has been at least one example of a little-known casino site using a biased wheel…to help players win!
While that might sound unlikely at first, we left one important detail out: this was done in the play money version of the casino, presumably to make players feel good about winning and then hopefully move on to playing for real. However, this was quickly discovered by using the same techniques players have used to find biased wheels in real casinos. The result? That casino (and others using the same software) were quickly put on blacklists by all online casino information sites and directories, and was out of business in short order.
There you have it: everything you’ve ever wanted to know about finding, playing, and profiting from a biased roulette wheel. We can’t promise you that you’ll ever see such a wheel in your lifetime, but if you do, there’s no reason not to start playing as soon as possible. It’s one of the few opportunities for the player to have a legitimate edge against the casino, and that’s something we’re always looking for.