THE LAW OF LARGE NUMBERS IN ROULETTE

Roulette is one of those games that everyone thinks is ‘beatable’ but isn’t. Search online and you’ll find dozens of ‘roulette systems’ that promise hundreds of dollars a day in ‘guaranteed profit’ or the ability to turn $60 into $6000 in a month with ‘no risk’. Most of these systems are either out and out scams or else they’re based on flaw premises like Martingale betting–or worse. Some roulette systems are actually contingent on tracking the numbers that have come up in previous rolls and betting on numbers that are supposedly ‘due’.

The notion that certain numbers are ‘due’ in roulette because of the numbers that have already been rolled is a concept not limited to scam artists. It’s a commonly held belief and one that many casinos actually encourage (go figure). Many roulette tables have a LED or other type of screen that keeps track of recently rolled numbers. The more technologically advanced ‘number trackers’ helpfully point out how many ‘evens’ and ‘odds’ have been rolled in recent rolls, or how many ‘red’ or ‘black’ numbers. Common sense would suggest that if the casino is so anxious for you to have this information that it is of dubious value at best.

THE MATHEMATICAL REALITY OF ROULETTE

The only games in the casino that you can beat are ones where via a combination of the odds offered, strategy, tactics, etc. you’re able to turn them into a ‘Positive EV’ proposition. ‘EV’ is short for ‘Expected Value’ and most casino games are ‘Negative EV’ meaning that you’ll lose in the long term. It is impossible to turn a longterm profit in a Negative EV game. It doesn’t matter what system you use, what betting tactics you use and especially how you track the numbers and assess which ones are ‘due’. For some reason people have a hard time wrapping their head around the concept of ‘randomness’. That’s why we’ve talked in other articles about the ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’ and how many ersatz wise guys subscribe to this erroneous concept. Simply put, the ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’ is the misguided belief that random events in the past influence random events in the future. An example of this is what we discussed above–how certain numbers are ‘due’ because of the numbers that have come before it.

The ‘house edge’ of American Roulette (a ‘double zero’ wheel) is 2.70%. The ‘house edge’ of European roulette is 5.26%. There are some rules such as ‘En Prison’ or ‘Le Partage’ that can modify the edge slightly but nowhere near enough to make roulette a ‘Positive EV’ game. These percentages simply cannot be over come by anything that the player can do (at least do legally–a ‘crooked roulette wheel’ or other form of manipulation is theoretically possible but will also land you in jail in Nevada and elsewhere).

THE LAW OF LARGE NUMBERS

Players *can* get lucky and win in the short term. It’s important to not misconstrue what is happening. If you do profit in the short term it’s not because of a ‘system’ or a ‘betting strategy’. The probability gods are smiling on you. You can be sure that they won’t continue to do so for the long term. This isn’t because you’re then ‘due’ to lose–it’s because of a mathemetical concept called ‘the Law of Large Numbers’.

What the ‘Law of Large Numbers’ says, simply put, is that while short term variance can occur with a small number of repetitions of a random event that as the number of repetitions increase the outcome will be closer to the ‘expected value’. So after 100 spins you might have a big profit. After 1000, 100,000 or 1,000,000 rolls your percentages will start to move closer to the ‘house edge’ on whatever variant of roulette you’re playing. The point of this is that it’s important to know what you’re up against mathematically. That’s why you can’t ‘bet more than you can afford to lose’ or think that you have some kind of a ‘system’ that guarantees profit.