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Deal Me In: Round and round she goes

1 February 2012

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I liked your indifferent answer last week regarding system players trying to find trends on a roulette wheel based on previous numbers. I will agree, that numbers spun are random, but, isn’t there a system based on following the traits of the way a dealer spins the ball? Brett H.

What your question references, Bret, is called a predictive system, where the system player examines specific mannerisms of the dealer – the “dealer’s signature.” The player is foxhunting for roulette dealers who get into a rhythm of spinning the wheel and launching the ball in such a way that they consciously, or unconsciously, target a given number or section of the wheel.

Your question reduces to: Can a dealer deliberately or accidentally target and pocket a specific number when the wheel is spinning east, the ball west, with frets impeding the descending bouncing ball as it finds its way to cuddle obediently in a particular pocket, and if so, can the system player exploit such a dealer signature?

Except for a few verified instances of some success at clocking the wheel, I stand on the “notta chance” side of this argument for the 99.9% who think their schemes of determining where the ball is more likely to land and raise the return of the game above 100% work. Moreover, Brett, casino operators have plenty of security procedures in place to preserve the integrity of the game.

Every casino has its own set of guidelines for its dealers to follow when it comes to wheel speed, plus all dealers are trained to either speed up or slow down both the wheel and ball delivery before each spin to avoid wheel clocking. Besides, to unconsciously sector-shoot or pocket a particular number, the dealer would have to be consistent in aligning the starting point of the spin with a corresponding number and with your chips lying appropriately in snug anticipation of where the ball is going to land.

Another example of a predictive system is one that exploits flaws to the equipment. This system is centered on a biased wheel with the belief that some wheels may have a mechanical flaw that provides a non-random distribution of winning numbers. Sure, Brett, in theory, it’s a possibility, but in practice, it nosedives, mainly because casinos continually monitor the performance of their roulette wheels regularly to try to keep the result of the spins as uniform as possible. This constant maintenance and observation would catch any large bias, resulting in the table’s immediate closure.

Dear Mark: My wife and I live in Reno where we occasionally play video poker. The rumor around these parts is NOT to play ANY machines during the holidays because they "are tightened down" due to the influx of non-suspecting tourists. Is there any truth to this? Richard B.

Not really, Richard, but you do not even have to be a non-suspecting tourist to see if the casino is altering their video poker machines during holidays. You can easily spot any monkey business by going up to a Jack’s-or-Better machine, and eyeballing the paytable. Just by noting what they pay you for a full house and a flush you would see the switcheroo.

Besides having to get approval in certain gaming jurisdictions to change the percentage return in the casino’s favor, it is not cost-effective for casinos to vary the payouts on weekends and holidays for unquestioning vacationers.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "If someone is unsuccessful at hanging onto money outside of a casino, why on earth would you expect him to be successful at hanging on to it inside of a casino." -- Bob Dancer
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.