If you want to beat the house at roulette, it helps to think like a physicist.
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A simple model of the motion of a roulette wheel and ball, based on
physics principles and confirmed by experiments on an actual wheel, has
revealed two ways of overcoming the usual odds against roulette
players.
The key, the modelers found, is knowing the precise location of the
ball and the relative speeds of the ball and wheel when the croupier 
the casino worker in charge of the game  sets the wheel in motion and
releases the ball.
"Knowing the initial conditions allows you to beat the odds," said
Michael Small, a statistician at The University of Western Australia in
Perth, who carried out the study with Chi Kong Tse of Hong Kong
Polytechnic University. "In some cases you can beat them quite
significantly."
The simpler method the pair tested involves careful observation and
recording of the initial conditions by an individual or team of
players. In experiments on a roulette wheel in a laboratory, the method
produced predicted earnings of almost 20 percent instead of the expected
loss of about 2.7 percent for a Europeanstyle wheel. In U.S. casinos,
the odds tilt farther in the house's favor because the wheel contains
one extra space.
The other approach, using a digital camera mounted above the wheel
to obtain the same data, provided better predictions. But for gamblers
it presents the obvious problem of how to conceal the equipment in a
securityconscious casino.
And yet another factor increased the chances of beating the house even further.
"A very slight slant in the roulette table, could ... substantially enhance returns," the two researchers reported in the journal Chaos.
Small and Tse used highschool calculus and physics  specifically
the branch known as classical mechanics  to develop their model. They
wrote down equations to predict the path the ball would take once the
croupier releases it.
"We extrapolate that prediction to the point where the ball hits
one of the deflectors  the raised bumps in the wheel's rim that are
added to increase the random bouncing of the ball," Small explained.
"Then we make a guess as to what portion of the wheel the ball is likely
to land in."
The pair tested their model on a standard casino roulette wheel
installed in Tse's laboratory. Small recorded on a computer the times at
which the ball and a specific part of the roulette wheel passed a fixed
point on the frame supporting the wheel.
"You basically press a button when the ball passes a certain point and then use that timing to make a prediction," Small said.
Predicting the half of the wheel in which the ball would settle
would allow a gambler to bet on a combination of numbers with some
confidence.
In 22 trials, Small and Tse predicted the correct half 13 times.
Overall that would have earned them 18 percent profit on a theoretical
stake, they report.
"It is clear that in principle one should be able to make some
predictions, given sufficient information," said Holger Dullin of the
University of Sydney in Australia. "The paper by Small and Tse did a
good analysis."
The concept of using scientific understanding to beat the house isn’t new. In the late 1970s the "Eudaemons,"
a group of physics postgraduates, used theoretical insights and a
rudimentary computer concealed in a shoe to win at roulette in Nevada in
the 1970s. But since they didn’t publish their research, nobody outside
their team knows the details of how they did it.
On the heels of this new research, however, J. Doyne Farmer, a
group member who is now a professor of mathematics at Oxford, has
written a report on the exploit that he plans to submit for
publication.
"Small and Tse get some aspects of roulette prediction right,"
Farmer said. "I can’t say whether their system would work, but I'm sure
it is not as good as ours."
Small and Tse extended their research by taking advantage of modern
technology. They mounted a digital camera directly above their roulette
wheel to obtain better measurements of the physical parameters. In 700
trials, they confirmed the validity of their model and identified
certain numbers on the wheel in which the ball settled preferentially.
The study suggests strategies for both sides of the roulette wheel.
"If you wish to beat the house, look for a wheel for which the ball
drops only from one side of the rim – that is, a crooked table," Small
said. "Prediction becomes substantially simpler and more reliable."
However, Small warned that roulette "is a game of chance. Even if
the odds are in your favor, there is still a probability of losing, and
losing big. In the long run you would come out ahead but you may first
need very deep pockets."
And Small also has some advice for casino owners.
"Train the croupiers to spin the ball when they release it, and
make sure that the tables are level and the air conditioning is
working," Small said, to allow for any influence of air resistance.
Small insists that his interest in gambling is purely theoretical. He has broken even in casinos by refusing to gamble there.
"On one occasion I lost $20 on cocktails," Small recalled. "And on another I gained $20, which I found on the floor."
Peter Gwynne, Inside Science News Service Contributor
Peter Gwynne, Inside Science News Service Contributor
22 trials that yield 13 correct predictions? That's a pvalue of 15% which means that 22 random coin tosses would yield a result as extreme 15% of times. That's about 1 out of 7. This is extremely weak evidence. How hard is it to run 1000 trials? Than we would know if this predictions are any better than random. Seriously, who reviewed this paper? It's ironic that this is a study about gambling, odds, statistics, yet the authors seem to have a very poor understanding of how to evaluate statistical evidence. How hard could it be to run, say 1000 trials, or even 100?
ReplyDeleteWe ran 700 trials. It's in the paper.
ReplyDeleteLol way to shut him up.
ReplyDeletehmm, Professor Mark Howe (UK) who owns the largest collection of roulette predictive devices throughout history( 30 years of collecting)and his mathematics at his site with over 12 years present on the net means this is OLD HAT! Its obvious that most wheels for example are never ever Level in a casino, 0.3 degrees in the tilt of the table or floor creak from expansion can see to that! Even a bit of dust on the track will make the wheel behave in a tilted fashion. I would check out http://predictroulette.com and http://roulettecomputers.info.
ReplyDelete