Roulette Is Impossible to Beat. Or Is It?

One man says he trained his brain to do it
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2023 5:15 PM CDT
Roulette Is Impossible to Beat. Or Is It?
   (Getty Images / Pixel Stock)

The conventional wisdom had long been that roulette is an impossible game to beat. Thanks to the green 0 pocket (American wheels also have 00), all red and black bets have just under a 50% chance of success. "Everyone loses eventually," writes Kit Chellel for Bloomberg. "Except for Niko Tosa and his friends." Chellel's story starts on March 15, 2004, when Tosa, a wiry Croatian with a distinctively long and thin nose, entered the Ritz Club casino on London's West End. He chose a particular roulette wheel and settled in with a Serbian businessman and Hungarian woman. Chellel details their odd style of play: Roughly six or seven seconds after the ball was launched, they would "quickly and harmoniously," place their chips on as many as 15 numbers, favoring an area of the betting felt where gamblers could bet on segments of the wheel.

They won in a way that "defied logic: eight in a row, or 10, or 13." Tosa's £30,000 worth of chips swelled to £310,000; his friend increased his £60,000 by the same percentage. Chellel wanted to know what the Ritz Club's security people wanted to know: How did Tosa beat the system? Chellel's quest for answers goes deep, into the nascent days of computer-assisted roulette betting in the 1960s (it kind of worked in a lab, not a casino) to the more recent discovery that predictive betting can work, so long as certain imperfections lead to a "drop zone." Over time, wheels can develop very slight tilts that force the ball to go up a slope, which causes it to decelerate. "That morsel of predictability is enough" for software to take advantage of. But did Tosa use a roulette computer to cheat—or had he managed to train his brain to predict what an imperfect wheel would do? (Read the fascinating full story.)

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