Since roulette first became popular, gamblers, mathematicians and countless others have invested huge amounts of time and effort in attempting to come up with a way to beat the house. Now that it’s possible to log on to the web and play online roulette without having to make the effort of trekking to your local casino, many more people have stumbled upon the joys of this classic table game – and that means there’s even more desire to find a tried-and-trusted winning formula!
First of all, it’s important to dispel any myths about the existence of a system that guarantees you big payoffs every time you play. American maths whiz Patrick Billingsley said no betting method – however ingenious – can magically transform a sub-fair game into a way of turning a profit with no risk whatsoever. After all, it’s called gambling for a reason!
Furthermore, you shouldn’t pay too much attention to any systems that rely on the so-called ‘gambler’s fallacy’ – the idea that previous results are in any way a reliable guide to what’ll happen in the future. Remember that if the ball lands on black nine times in a row, it’s no more or less likely that the tenth spin will result in a win for black.
The early days of roulette – biased wheels
Back in the 1930s, professional gamblers were frequently able to gain the edge by seeking out rigged wheels and betting opposite the largest wagers.
Fast forward to the early 1990s and Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo effectively managed to do the same by recording the results of roulette wheel spins and using a computer to analyse them. His efforts paid off in spectacular style, as he is said to have won €600,000 in a day – and €1 million in total – on roulette at Spain’s Casino de Madrid. The casino was enraged and took legal action, but the court ruled that it should stop complaining and instead fix its wheels.
Nowadays, casinos pay close attention to the performance of their wheels and regularly rebalance them to avoid an incident like this cropping up again.
The martingale betting strategy
This is a little more sophisticated than relying on a broken or rigged wheel to earn you the big bucks! Martingale strategies take advantage of the various near-even money bets in roulette, such as odd or even and black or red.
Players using martingale systems double their bet every time they lose, so that the first win recovers any previous losses and gives them a profit equal to the original stake. Unfortunately, there’s a slight snag with this approach – a large financial loss is guaranteed in the long run, as the player will eventually either run out of money or hit the table limit, meaning they won’t be able to win back the deficit they’ve built up by continuing to raise their bet.
The Labouchere system
This progression betting strategy is similar to the various martingale systems that exist, but doesn’t require you to risk your valuable cash quite so quickly with huge double-up bets.
Also known as the ‘cancellation system’ or ‘split martingale’, it involves deciding upon an amount you wish to win before the game begins, then writing down a list of positive numbers that add up to that total. It’s designed to be applied to even-money propositions – the same as martingale systems – and attempts to offset the fact that roulette wheels contain a ‘zero’ slot (as well as the ‘double zero’ slot in American roulette).
For every bet, you stake a sum equal to the value of the first and last numbers on the list, after which they are crossed out. When only one number remains, that amount is staked. If the bet doesn’t come off, the amount lost is added to the end of the list.
This process continues either until the list is completely crossed out – by which time you’ll have won the desired amount of money – or you’ve run out of cash to wager.