I’ve written before about how frequently you’ll read the phrase “secret patterns” when you read about roulette. Some writers and lots of players are convinced that there’s some secret pattern of winning numbers that exists, and if discovered, could guarantee profits. If secret roulette patterns sound conspiracy-oriented to you, that’s because it is. There’s lots of bad science and ignorant gambling strategy at play when the secret patterns theory comes up.
Even though lots of us turn up our noses at the very mention of any sort of “secret math” related to casino games, there are always bettors who email me, leave comments, or even ask me personally if I know the secret patterns of roulette. It’s also really common for me to get questions about identifying and taking advantage of biased roulette wheels – also mostly a nonsense strategy that isn’t worth your time.
I want to use the Frequently Asked Questions format to tackle these topics, since I get a large number of questions like this. By addressing them all in one location, I hope to relieve myself of the constant need to discuss and debate the concept of secret patterns and biased roulette wheels.
What Is a Biased Roulette Wheel?
Roulette wheels are physical objects, and thus imperfect. Since these wheels spin dozens of times per hour around the clock in most casinos, wear and tear in a repeating pattern is inevitable. That wear and tear affects the outcome of the spinning wheel. Some bettors believe you can identify these biases and use them to make smarter bets.
Of all the roulette mythology, this bit is the most pervasive and often the most difficult to defend against. That’s because there’s a kernel of truth underneath the layers of hokum.
Obviously, the physical props used in gambling are eligible for wear and tear. Chips fade, gaming tables scar and stretch, and casino carpets get downright anemic, all from the constant traffic and touching and such. Roulette wheels aren’t immune to this. And yes, wear and tear on a spinning wheel is likely to affect the length of time or manner in which it spins. That’s all just sound engineering.
The reason smart roulette players don’t really concern themselves with the very real phenomenon of wheel bias? There’s just no way a bettor can track a wheel’s performance long enough to get any mathematically sound sense of its consistent bias.
I read a few blog posts by one popular wheel bias writer, and he admitted that he’d need to track at least 5,000 spins in order to understand a wheel’s bias well enough to make bets on it. Even at 50 spins per hour, that’s 4 entire days of spin-tracking, all in a row. No casino is going to leave the same wheel in the same spot for four straight days while you down increasingly large cups of coffee and notate winning numbers. It’s just not feasible.
Are Modern Roulette Wheels Prone to Bias?
Nobody asks this, but I wish they would. Do people really think that today’s casino equipment is wide open to the kind of damage that leads to wheel bias? Casinos invest millions in design and technology – are they really going to use an old beat-up wooden wheel with shifty parts?
Modern wheels have parts that make them far less vulnerable to regular wear and tear – mainly in the form of all-metal parts that take much longer to become damaged enough to create recognizable patterns of winning numbers.
Modern roulette dealers are aware that people are looking for bias, and it’s said that they use methods to help them avoid biased results. Between that and the metal fittings, it’s just not very likely that any player can consistently predict results using wheel bias alone, even if they managed to track the 5,000+ spins necessary to make predictions at all, much less accurate ones.
Do Secret Roulette Patterns Exist?
If a secret roulette pattern existed, and I knew about it, would I be writing gambling blogs in my living room? I’d be riding a rocket to Mars with Elon Musk as my butler.
I will admit that it’s possible that at some macro quantum cosmic level, a magical pattern of winning roulette numbers may exist. I think it’s far less likely that any human roulette player can conceive of or put it into practice. I’m also at least a little afraid that it’s not possible at all – why waste any time chasing it or trying to apply it to my strategy? Roulette is hard enough without bringing high-level math into play.
I put “secret roulette winning number patterns” right up there with the concept of numbers being hot and cold – it’s magical thinking reserved for conventioneers looking to burn $100 and get a free rum and coke.
The only people making money off these secret pattern gimmicks are the people selling eBooks promising can’t-lose roulette betting systems that aren’t worth the paper they aren’t even printed on.
You can’t build a successful roulette strategy out of a conspiratorial secret pattern of winnings. Not without sending me $500, at least. See what I did there?
Do Casinos Control the Winning Roulette Numbers?
This is a common misconception that has a very tiny veneer of truth to it. These are always the toughest to debunk or even criticize, thanks in large part to the awful state of mathematics education in America.
Casinos don’t control the win and loss rates of any of the games on the floor … except that they do. Let me explain.
Casinos only offer games which will be profitable for them regardless of individual player wins and losses. Remember that casinos are mostly run by corporations with boards of stockholders and other financial interests that aren’t going to be comfortable funding a business that could occasionally go broke paying out jackpots.
The games on the casino floor are “rigged” in the sense that they’re designed to pay out less money than they take in. They aren’t rigged in the sense that somebody in a back room somewhere is deciding how the outcome should be for each spin of each roulette game.
When people start talking about the casino “controlling the numbers,” I know I need to smile and nod and eventually make my way to another conversation.
Can I Improve my Odds while Playing Roulette?
Yes, and I’ll tell you a few ways to do it for free, right here in the next paragraph.
First of all, if you want better odds, you should never play the double-zero or American style of roulette game. The casino has a much bigger advantage against players on double-zero games compared to their single-zero European counterparts. Most US casinos host maybe one single-zero table, and they like to hide them in unpopular places. Why? The house edge on single-zero roulette is almost 3% lower than the double-zero game.
Another way to improve your odds in roulette is to stick to even-money bets. These pay out the lowest amount, at just 1:1, but they have the highest odds of occurring. On a single-zero roulette table, the even-money bets win 48.6% of the time. You can sit at a roulette table all night making even-money bets and losing relatively little money. At $10 a bet, you can expect to lose just a few bucks an hour. If you earn a few free drinks along the way, you’re practically breaking even.
Finally, if you want to get the best odds of any roulette game, head to a European casino and play a French roulette game. With the French “en prison” rule in effect, the casino’s edge is just 1.35% on those even-money bets, which win 48.6% of the time, just like the single-zero Euro game in America.
Roulette is a game of chance. The only skill involved in playing roulette is making the best odds bets you can and doing whatever it is you need to do to make yourself luckier.
No one can make you win more money in roulette by teaching you a special method to identify biased wheels, and you can’t figure out some supernatural winning number pattern that will guarantee winnings. You’re much better off following common-sense advice and managing your bankroll. Concern yourself more with having a god time while playing roulette, and less time stressing your wins and losses, and you’re getting more value for your entertainment budget.