Professional Roulette Players
A simple explanation of why
all betting systems must fail in the long run
article by "Bullet Bob" Maxwell, 1/17/06
A fun game for a lot of folks is Roulette. Much of its popularity is because it is probably the easiest of all table gambling games to learn to play and a convenient way to test betting systems experiments.
Gamblers have been seeking magic betting systems forever. The challenge to find a "system" or a method of varying your bets in a way that will change the game odds to your favor can be compelling and sometimes almost addictive. It's important not to take the search for sure-fire winning systems too seriously because, like Santa and the tooth fairy, they just don't exist.
Betting systems are a progression of wagers, or bet amounts, that are predetermined to vary in accordance with previous win-loss results or some other sort of wheel results history. Most, but not necessarily all the systems use the even money Roulette bets such as red or black, odd or even, etc. All reasonable systems can produce attractive short term results that might seem too wonderful to be true. The Martingale System is a good example.
Martingale instructs the player to start with a minimum bet on an even money play such as "red", and stay at that minimum betting level until a loss occurs, then double the wager on the next play. The player is to continue doubling the amount bet after each loss until he gets a win. Then he or she will take a 1 unit profit and start over again with the minimum bet. A progression of this type can be shown like this: 1L, 2L, 4L, 8L, 16L, 32W or it can be stated as bet 1 unit - if you lose, then bet 2 units - if you lose, then bet 4 units etc. until the bet is followed by a win. (In this case the win occurs at the 32 bet level.)
In this series, even though the player lost five of the six bets, the betting system produced a 1 unit profit for a good short term play. (32 units won - 31 total units lost). The bad news is that the Martingale is a long term loser. The main flaw in the system is that it will sooner or later experience a losing streak that will require the player to place a wager so large that it will exceed either the house limit or the player's ability to continue. When this happens our player always suffers a very large loss for the series of wagers.
Along with Martingale, there are quite a few other betting systems with sophisticated confidence inspiring names like Labouchere, D'Alembert, and Paroli. They all have interesting short term betting procedures in common. Also in common, they all have the long term certainty of failure. You can read about these and other various systems here - www.ildado.com/betting_systems.html. Maybe the most respected internet source for the value of betting systems and such is "The Wizard of Odds". The Wiz puts it this way - "Betting systems are all equally worthless".
Now, if you are not impressed with any of the fancy name systems that have been around for a long time, there are lots of brand new get-rich-quick system products available for sale on the internet for just about any price from $9.95 to $149.95 or so. Some of the promos for this stuff are so convincing that it's hard not buy even when you know they are nothing more than worthless scams. The unscrupulous promoters of this junk love it when foolish and misguided people send them money and the casino operators love it when new guests arrive at their hotels with all the info about these so called systems stuffed in their pockets.
Albert Einstein is reported to have said - "The only way to beat Roulette is to steal chips off the table when the dealer isn't looking". (Or something like that)
The casino managers know that there never has been a Roulette betting system that will give the player a long term edge over the house and are not concerned about anyone discovering one.
They know that all betting systems involve a small to large variety of bets of various amounts. The wheel has no memory, so it doesn't matter to the house why a player using past results decides to place a certain size bet at any particular time. Nor does it matter how much the player is ahead or behind when he or she leaves the table or any such system related behavior. From the casino point of view, if the player were to play every day for a month, regardless of the system used, it would be just one long session of about 300 hours at the table that could yield about fifteen or twenty thousand separate plays.
Taking this one step further, the fifteen thousand or so bets made by our imaginary player could all fall into categories of various bet amounts used by the system along with how many bets were made in each of the categories. The analysis might look something like this:
2530 bets made at $5
2275 bets made at $7
2055 bets made at $15
1733 bets made at $20
(and so forth to account for all of the approx.15,000 bets made)
To use the 2055 bets made at $15 as an example, there is absolutely no reason for the casino to regard this group as anything special, just because the bets were made during the play of some sort of system. It doesn't matter if $15 was chosen as the right bet amount to make up for some previous losses, or to extend winning streaks, or anything else. It is still just a lot of $15 bets. The house will almost certainly gain a profit amount of approximately the 5.26% mathematical advantage that it gets on this and all other American Roulette wager amounts. . . There is no reason not to.
All the other bet amount categories are always subject to the same house advantage.
No bet amount choice can ever effect a change in the house advantage regardless of the reasons for a bet amount selection.
Because this is the way it is and as long as the game stays the same, no betting system will ever work in the long term. . . This is why there are no professional Roulette players.