Roulette has fascinated many great minds over the years. This includes physicist Albert Einstein, who’s the smartest guy to ever stand at a roulette table.
Einstein is famously quoted as saying: “The only way to beat roulette is to steal money when the croupier isn’t looking.”
According to Quote Investigator, this story comes from an Ohio reporter named Ted Thackrey Jr. He published a series of articles in the Toledo Blade, including one called “Secrets of a Master Gambler.”
This article discussed noted gambler Nick “The Greek” Dandolos, who showed Einstein around Las Vegas. As Thackney’s story states, Nick the Greek won three bets in a row on red.
Afterward, Einstein is described as saying, “I was wondering if you would be kind enough to wash my mouth out with soap?”
It’s impressive that Nick The Greek won three even-money bets in a row (8:1 odds) in front of Einstein. But I doubt that this made the Nobel Prize winner truly question his original statement, despite the joke about washing his mouth with soap.
I’m going to examine whether Einstein was right in that the only way to beat roulette is to steal chips.
The Success Rate of Basic Roulette Strategy
Some casino games can be beaten with basic strategy, including Texas hold’em, sports betting, and video poker (certain variations). You can study strategy to gain an edge in all three games and win long-term profits.
But is roulette anything like these games? Roulette strategy begins with understanding the two wheels, including the American and European wheel.
The American version has 38 numbers, including a zero and double zero. The zero pockets are important, because they only favor the house on even-money bets.
By dividing these two pockets by the 38 total numbers (2/38), you can see that the American wheel has a 5.26% house advantage.
A European wheel has 37 numbers, with only a zero. Dividing the single zero pocket by the 37 total numbers (1/37) gives you a house edge of 2.70%.
You can gain an even bigger advantage with French roulette. This game is also played on the European wheel, but it includes the la partage rule.
The la partage rule sees players receive half back on losing even-money bets that land on zero. This lowers the house edge to 1.35% when you make even-money wagers, including red/black, high/low, and even/odd.
Not many casino games offer a house advantage as low as 1.35%. Even European roulette gives you a strong chance to win with its 2.70% house edge.
But the problem is that you can’t do any better than these games. The average roulette player will lose in the long run, even if they’re playing French roulette.
You need a different approach if you’re going to disprove Einstein’s statement. And I’m going to discuss whether betting systems or advantage play can help you do this.
Using Roulette Betting Systems
Considering that basic roulette strategy won’tmake you a long-term winner, many players turn to betting systems. A roulette betting system is a patterned way of making wagers in order to manipulate wins and losses.
You’ll find no shortage of betting strategies online. Some systems are as easy as doubling bets following a win or loss, while others include complicated rules on when to increase or lower wagers.
The Martingale is the easiest roulette betting strategy to use, because all you do is double your wagers after a loss. Here’s an example:
- You bet $5 and lose.
- You bet $10 and lose.
- You bet $20 and lose.
- You bet $40 and lose.
- You bet $80 and win.
- Your next bet is $5.
Betting strategies can also be more complex, such as the Labouchere system (a.k.a. cancellation system). This strategy involves creating a series of numbers that add up to a desired profit.
Many players use units that represent a fixed bet amount. For example, one unit could equal $5.
You then take the first and last unit number in the string to decide your next bet.
Following a win, you cross off the two numbers and move on to the next bet. After losses, you add the bet to the end of your string and continue to the next wager.
Here’s an example of how the Labouchere works:
- You decide that your unit size will be the $10 minimum bet.
- You want to win 20 units ($200) during the session.
- Your number sequence is: 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 2
- Your first bet would be worth 5 units (3 + 2).
- You win, and the new string is: 3, 4, 4, 4
- Your next bet is 7 units (3+ 4).
- You win, and the new string is: 4, 4
- Your next bet is 8 units.
- You lose, and your new string is: 4, 4, 8
Both the Martingale and Labouchere can work in theory, because they let you win losses back and earn a small profit.
But the main problem with these systems you’ll eventually lose so many times that you hit the table betting limit.
The Martingale and Labouchere are examples of negative-progression betting systems, where you increase wagers when you’re losing. Some players try to overcome negative progression shortcomings by turning to positive progression systems, where you increase bets after wins.
An example of a positive progression system is the Paroli, where you double bets following each win. You then return to the starting wager after a three-win streak.
Here’s an example:
- You bet $10 and lose.
- You bet $10 and win.
- You bet $20 and win.
- You bet $40 and win.
- Your next bet is $10.
The problem with the Paroli and other positive progression strategies is that it’s hard to bank profits with them. You only have 8:1 odds of winning three straight even-money roulette bets.
This means that the vast majority of your time is spent gradually losing bets while waiting for a streak to build up. Most players don’t have the bankroll to constantly wait for three-win streaks before collecting profits.
Overall, roulette betting systems don’t do anything to counteract the house edge. Instead, they’re just good ways to manipulate your short-term profits and have a big session.
This is fine if you enjoy volatile sessions that can result in huge wins. But roulette betting strategies still won’t make you a long-term winner.
Roulette Advantage Play Methods – Do They Prove Einstein Wrong?
So far, I’ve covered how you can’t expect to win long-term profits with basic strategy or betting systems. Instead, you’ll need some luck to win with either of these methods.
This is why many roulette players over the years have turned to advantage play methods. An advantage player is somebody who develops a skill that gives them a long-term edge over the house.
The best-known example is blackjack card counters. But there have also been plenty of advantage roulette players throughout history too.
The main key is knowing the different advantage strategies and if they still work today. Here’s a look at each of the roulette advantage play methods.
The most-famous roulette advantage play technique is wheel bias, which refers to when a wheel wears down and begins favoring certain numbers.
Wheels begin wearing down when the dividers between numbers (a.k.a. frets) go bad. This increases the chance that the ball will land in pockets with worn frets.
But how you find biased roulette wheels? You must watch and record results from a specific wheel for thousands of spins to discover bias.
A common estimate is that you need to observe a wheel for at least 5,000 spins to determine if it’s biased or not.
Assuming a roulette game sees 50 spins per hour, you must watch the game for at least 100 hours. You also take the risk that you’ll spend all this time with a specific wheel without finding bias.
The biggest problem of all is that wheel bias really only works for older wheels with wooden frets. Most casinos today use Starburst wheels, which were specifically designed with metal frets to counteract advantage players.
Another point worth noting is that there hasn’t been a famous wheel bias case in over two decades. The last publicized wheel bias master is Gonzalo García Pelayo, who won an estimated $2 million from Spanish and Las Vegas casinos.
Pelayo made all this money in the 1990s, and I haven’t heard of anybody taking roulette games for such an enormous amount ever since.
John Huxley began manufacturing and selling Starburst wheels in the 90s. Ever since then, it’s become almost impossible to make roulette profits through wheel bias.
Dealers spin roulette wheels hundreds of times per day. And this monotonous activity can make them spin the ball and wheel in the same manner in each time.
Some players claim that they can predict where the roulette ball will land based on this predictable pattern (a.k.a. dealer signature). And they look for the following three traits when spotting a dealer signature:
- How far the ball lands in terms of pockets from the release point.
- If the ball spins with a consistent velocity.
- If the wheel spins with a consistent velocity.
The main thing to look for is where the ball lands versus where the dealer releases it. You may have found a dealer signature if you see the ball land 6-10 pockets from the release point every time.
When watching the velocity of the ball or wheel, you want to look for how many revolutions are being made before everything comes to a stop. The goal is to count a consistent number of revolutions that indicates bias.
You don’t have to pinpoint where the ball will land each time. Instead, you merely need to wager on the general area where you think the ball will land.
Here’s an example:
- You see the dealer’s release point being about 7-9 pockets away from where it lands each time.
- You bet $5 on nine pockets surrounding the average landing point ($45 total).
- These are all single numbers, meaning you’re paid 35:1 for a win ($175).
- The ball lands on one of your pockets one-third of the time.
- You win one collective $45 round and lose the other two ($90 total).
- $175 (winnings) – $135 (total bets) = $40 profit every three spins.
It’s easy to see that dealer signatures can be profitable. The only problem is proving that they truly exist.
The roulette world doesn’t have publicized stories of dealer signature masters like with wheel bias experts.The latter includes Pelayo, Joseph Jagger, and Billy Walters.
I’ve never heard of a famous gambler who made millions through dealer signatures. But this isn’t necessarily evidence that proves they don’t exist.
Some gambling forum members speak of casinos changing the wheel position and changing dealers when a roulette player is killing them. I’ve also seen accounts from dealers stating that they’ve seen coworkers with signatures.
But these are simply anecdotal accounts rather than serious proof. Therefore, it’s still hard to know whether dealer signatures are the key to winning long term.
Using Gadgets to Beat Roulette
Some roulette players have had success using gadgets to beat the casino. These include everything from magnetic balls to computerized devices.
Magnetic balls are used in conjunction with an electronic device. The device is placed under the table, so that it creates an electromagnetic field and causes the ball to travel to a specific section.
Those using this technique use a remote control to activate the electromagnetic field. They then bet on numbers in the section where the ball is being magnetically drawn.
This happened in an Australian casino, where players were able to win £250,000 before being caught. Their undoing came when a croupier’s cufflink got stuck to a wheel, causing the casino staff to examine the matter more closely.
A couple of roulette players appeared in a British TV documentary, whereby they showed how to beat the game using a device.
Their strategy involves one player making bets while another watches the wheel. The watcher stands close to the wheel with a concealed device that calculates the speed of the ball and wheel.
Both players wear a Bluetooth, so that the watcher can relay the speed to the bettor. The latter quickly places their bets on the board after predicting the section where the ball will land.
Many players think that it sounds like a dream to use these electronics to make guaranteed roulette profits. But you also have to consider that many gambling jurisdictions have laws against using such devices to win.
Nevada is a perfect example. They have strict laws against using electronics to beat roulette or any other game and will prosecute cheaters.
Even if using devices isn’t illegal, you have to worry about casino security. Casinos heavily scrutinize anybody who’s consistently winning, making it more likely that their plot will be uncovered.
Albert Einstein was far from the world’s biggest roulette expert when he visited Vegas with Nick the Greek. But he still made the declaration that roulette is an unbeatable game from an odds perspective.
This is true in many respects, because the casino holds a slight edge no matter what game you’re playing. But it wasn’t necessarily true when Einstein originally made the quote.
Wheel bias was still alive in Einstein’s day. Joseph Jagger first used this technique in the 1870s, and Pelayo even used it in the 1990s.
But Einstein’s words ring true today. Starburst wheels have near-indestructible frets, while other advantage play methods like dealer signatures and gadgets are questionable at best.
The best chance you have at winning is playing either French roulette (1.35% house edge) or European roulette (2.70%) and getting a little luck.
Nick the Greek showed Einstein what short-term luck can do when he won three even-money bets in a row. I’ve personally gotten hot with the game as well.
You don’t have to let what Albert Einstein said decades ago damper your opinion of the game. After all, you can still have fun with roulette and possibly win money too.