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September 18, 2006

How to legally cheat at roulette

roulette wheel

Back in the 80s one of my all-time favorite books was The Eudaemonic Pie, the true story of how a bunch of physics grad students built a hidden electronic gizmo that would let them cheat at roulette (the device would secretly record how fast the wheel was spinning, how fast the ball was whizzing around the track, and how quickly both were slowing down. The device would then quickly determine in which part of the wheel the ball was likely to come to rest. It would cut the odds down from 1 in 38 to about 1 in 10, enough to make betting profitable).

Electronic roulette devices are illegal in Las Vegas and other U.S. casino spots, but a quirk in British law means such devices are not illegal over there. And the devices have gotten smaller and more and more accurate. As a result, according to this fascinating article in the Guardian newspaper, they're selling like hotcakes. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the end of roulette.

[Roulette wheel photo from redune/flickr.com]

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at September 18, 2006 04:08 PM


Of course, the casinos could just take care to make sure their wheels are good quality to begin with, and don't develop a bias from wear over time. It isn't hard to make a mechanical device with authentically chaotic output -- there are probably some simple modifications that would reduce the predictability of that little marble. As a first step, the casinos could just change the rules about when bets can be placed. Close the betting earlier on each spin, and the device won't get the data in needs in time to predict a winner.

Posted by: G. L. Dryfoos at September 19, 2006 12:18 PM

These new devices work even with perfectly balanced wheels (though they work even better with unbalanced wheels). And you don't want to have a roulette wheel with additional mechanics... part of routlette's appeal (perhaps subconsciously) is that it's such a simple, transparent game. (But then on the other hand slots are the exact opposite of transparent, and they are hugely popular, so what do I know).

In the wake of this, I could see U.K. gaming houses changing the rules to have all bets placed before the ball is thrown.

Posted by: Chris Spurgeon at September 19, 2006 12:49 PM

how can i get a Electronic roulette device?

Posted by: sicks at September 5, 2007 01:12 PM