A Brief History of Roulette
While not venerable in the same ancient sense as Chinese gambling games like mahjong and pai gow, roulette is still well over three centuries old, making it one of the earliest games of chance played in the Western world. As such, it has provided authors a large amount of content to write in their Roulette Books.
The game can be traced to the scientific explorations of Blaise Pascal, a supremely talented inventor and mathematician living in France during the mid-17th century. During experiments aimed at designing a machine capable of perpetual motion, Pascal devised a prototype by spinning a wheel around a centralized hub. Of course, Pascal couldn’t get the wheel to spin eternally, but after tinkering with his invention he decided to investigate the possibilities.
Pascal divided the wheel into 36 identical spaces, before adding a number to each space and coloring them in alternating shades of red and black. This was done to facilitate probability analysis, and Pascal likely had no idea that his “little wheel” (or roulette in French) would later be adopted by gamblers all over the world.
The basic structure of Pascal’s wheel remained the same over the next 150 years. By 1801, the game had become popularized to the point of being mentioned in fictional literature. In his novel La Roulette, ou le Jour French author Jacques Lablee describes a roulette wheel found in the Palais Royal in Paris. As Lablee described the game, “there are exactly two slots reserved for the bank, whence it derives its sole mathematical advantage … two betting spaces containing the bank’s two numbers: zero and double zero.”
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The Transformation of the Game
In the mid-1800s, the game of roulette was transformed on a fundamental level, as a pair of French entrepreneurs attempted to curry favor with King Charles the III of Monaco. Brothers Francois and Louise Blanc surmised that by removing the “00” space from the wheel, they could create a version of roulette which appeared to be much more favorable to players while still retaining the house’s precious edge. Indeed, roulette wheels with only one “0” space offer players a house edge of 2.70 percent on even money bets, while wheels with both the “0” and “00” spaces increase the house edge to 5.26 percent.
The invention of “single zero” blackjack allowed King Charles to build a casino in Monaco which was soon the most desirable in all of Europe, a reputation the small state still holds today.
Arrival to America
Roulette arrived in the United States during the mid-19th century, and in 1866 a reference to the game appeared in Hoyle’s Official Book of Games. The American adaptation of roulette added a third house space, in this case, an Eagle, to accompany the “0” and “00” spaces. As described by Hoyle, “the single 0, the double 0, and eagle are never bars; but when the ball falls into either of them, the banker sweeps everything upon the table, except what may happen to be bet on either one of them, when he pays twenty-seven for one, which is the amount paid for all sums bet upon any single figure.”
Roulette blossomed during America’s untamed era of westward expansion, and the air of lawlessness bred a new generation of roulette hustlers and cheats. By deducing that the game could be beaten by players who could effectively influence the ball’s final resting place, these grifters traveled from casino to casino, using magnets and other devices to rig the wheel. When the pit bosses who manned riverboats along the Mississippi finally elevated their wheels, placing it in a position above the table to preclude attempts to sabotage it, the cheaters were widely thwarted. Roulette tables are still elevated today for this same reason.
International Popularity of the Game
Roulette has since become one of the most popular casino games in the world. In Europe, the single-zero variety of the game is still predominant, while American players are usually forced to contend with the double-zero variety. The divide extends internationally as well, with casinos in Canada, South America, and the Caribbean typically running double-zero “American” roulette, and casinos in Europe, Asia, and Australia commonly hosting the single-zero “European” version.
Roulette has also been updated for the digital age, with computerized tables eschewing human dealers for an automated experience, and online casinos operating virtual roulette games.
The Strategy Literature Boom
As the niche market for casino game strategy literature boomed into a big business during the 1980s and 1990s, leading to bona fide methods of playing blackjack and poker optimally on a mathematical level, a slew of so-called “winning systems” for roulette was also published. While these roulette books invariably promise a way to arrange your bets according to a progression, detect patterns in the preceding numbers, or even capitalize on faulty wheels which land on certain numbers more often, the fact remains that every spin of the roulette wheel represents a wholly independent occurrence.
Most roulette books claim to contain a “secret system” which purports to turn the house edge on its head, giving players a “surefire” way to win on a consistent basis. However, readers would be wise to remember the words of an unknown sage, who once said “the only proven way to profit from roulette is to write a book about a “foolproof” system and sell it to fools.”
Below, you’ll find a list of widely read roulette books, in chronological order, along with biographical information for the author and an objective review of the content contained therein:
How to Win at Roulette: The Outstanding Book of Systems
Norman Squire (1968)
As one of the world’s foremost authorities on the advanced theoretical study of the card game bridge, Norman Squire devoted his professional life to playing bridge at its highest level.
The British-born Squire died in 1991 at the age of 86, but during his long life, he won bridge championships in both the UK and internationally. Today, Squire is widely recognized within bridge circles as the most talented natural bidding theorist to have ever lived.
Hidden among Squire’s many strategy books on bridge, which includes more than a dozen titles published over the span of 25 years, is his treatise on proper roulette play How to Win at Roulette: The Outstanding Book of Systems. In this roulette strategy book, Squire introduces casual players to a series of progressive betting systems designed to minimize losses and maximize gains.
Included in Squire’s arsenal of progressive wagering systems are the D’Alembert, Labouchere, Paroli, and of course, the Martingale.
Along with these now common ways to manage bets, Squire also discusses the differences between American and European roulette tables, along with numerous examples intended to demonstrate the current system or lesson.
A no-nonsense manual on managing your wagers efficiently given a variety of situations and scenarios, advice for both beginners and experienced players is included. Despite the book’s age, Squire’s “How to Win at Roulette” still holds up quite well today.
Beating the Wheel: The System That Has Won Over Six Million Dollars from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo
Russell T. Barnhart (1992)
Born in 1923, Russell T. Barnhart discovered the art of illusion at the age of nine, a hobby which would become an integral aspect of his life.
After graduating from Princeton University in 1952, Barnhart eventually found himself in New York City, where he worked as a magician while spending his spare time in casinos and card rooms. A prolific creator and theorist, Barnhart is credited by the Conjuring Archive website with inventing 32 card tricks between 1945 and 2000. In 1981, Barnhart wrote a book on the technical aspects of magic titled The Master Palm.
In addition to magic, Barnhart also studied game theory and casino gambling history in earnest, writing several books during his prime. He published Beating the Wheel: The System That Has Won Over Six Million Dollars from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo in 1992, and at 217 pages, the book doesn’t miss a beat throughout. By attaching the straightforward subtitle “Biased Wheel Play, Wheel-Watching Systems, Electronics, Cheating Methods, Mathematics, Anecdotes,” Barnhart immediately informs the reader that his book will be based on firm logic rather than fallacy.
This roulette book is concerned with assessing the vulnerabilities of every roulette wheel in the house, before acting accordingly and taking advantage. With a systematic approach and crisp prose, Barnhart explains the intricacies of biased wheel play in direct terms, and the following passage is emblematic of his approach to the game:
“The main purpose of my initial ten chapters is to teach the (biased wheel) system through a variety of examples: how long these players spent clocking their wheels, whether they bet on one number or several separated from one another on the wheel or grouped together in a section, whether they adopted a proportional staking system or stuck to flat bets, and – of great importance – how they thwarted secret casino countermeasures.”
The players in question are Barnhart’s so-called Honor Roll, or a list of the most successful biased wheel roulette specialists of all-time, regular winners of six-figure sums in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Monte Carlo. As a historian by trade, Barnhart is a natural storyteller, and Beating the Wheel represents a detailed history of the game’s beginnings. Featuring intriguing, informative tales like Vladimir Grance’s exploits as Europe’s most notorious roulette wheel “fixer,” and teams The Italian Syndicate and The Jones Boys, Barnhart’s book is a stellar work of historical nonfiction.
John Patrick’s Roulette: A Pro’s Guide to Managing Your Money and Beating the Wheel
John Patrick (1996)
A staunch member of gambling’s old school, John Patrick has been active in the industry since the 1960s. At that time, Patrick found himself as just another penniless player on the Mississippi riverboat casinos. In order to work his way back from financial oblivion, Patrick took a job as a “prop” player for various casinos, playing for $10 per day in order to keep the games running and attract tourists to the tables.
Supplementing his prop player income by washing dishes, Patrick patiently rebuilt his bankroll by exercising strict money management. During the 1980s, he authored several books on gambling games under his “So You Wanna Be a Gambler?” series, including titles covering “Blackjack” (1983), “Slots-Roulette” (1983), and “Baccarat” (1985). He also hosted “So You Wanna Be a Gambler?” a weekly television show, on Financial News Network (FNN) over the span of 10 years.
With the roulette book John Patrick’s Roulette: A Pro’s Guide to Managing Your Money and Beating the Wheel, the author simply expanded upon his gambling strategy media empire, one which now includes more than 15 books, and several dozen online videos posted to his own website.
The heart of Patrick’s roulette advice is based on a deceptively simple approach to bankroll management. By advising players that they must always remain satisfied with a 10 percent profit on their buy-in, and prepared to walk away from the game once this threshold has been met, Parker’s strategy is designed to ensure small winning sessions which accumulate over time.
Although he does occasionally lapse into the territory of luck – such as stating that players should bet bigger when the wheel is “spinning in their favor” – Patrick spends most of the book’s 257 pages building a convincing case that the roulette’s house edge can be overcome by nothing more than fiscal discipline. He warns players to take note of house rules for each casino they enter, as ignorance can bleed your bankroll slowly.
For patient players willing to stick to the game plan, Patrick’s money management advice is surely useful, and you should be able to grind out small profits while avoiding disastrous losing sessions.
Spin Roulette Gold: Secrets of Beating the Wheel
Frank Scoblete (1997)
Frank Scoblete worked as an entertainer and touring theater actor until 1985 when he visited Atlantic City, New Jersey to research his role in a new play titled “The Only Game in Town.”
After spending time in the eastern seaboard’s gambling mecca, Scoblete soon became intrigued by the concept of cracking casino games, so he divested his shares in the theater company and embarked on a new career as self-styled gambling expert. Playing and working alongside his former co-star and future wife Alene Paone, Scoblete wrote articles for WIN Magazine in the late 1980s, before founding a publishing house in 1991.
A slew of additional gambling strategy books followed at a pace of about one per year, with Spin Roulette Gold: Secrets of Beating the Wheel representing Scoblete’s first foray into roulette. At 229 pages in length, this roulette book contains a healthy mix of basic game instruction, such as the rules, table layout, and available bets, along with a brief primer on biased wheels, and the typical nonsense about “can’t miss systems” for beating the game.
Among the more dubious systems described by Scoblete are the “Double Dynamite” (which incorporates elements of sector slicing and BIG number systems), the “Golden Number” (which advises to bet big on numbers that have hit at an inordinate rate), and “Chameleon” (which requires mimicking the betting of ‘lucky’ players who are winning more often).
Of course, none of these systems are capable of creating a winning roulette player over the long run, something which Scoblete readily admits in his own online columns. Writing in an article titled “Two Roulette Systems That Work,” which appeared in 2009, Scoblete confesses:
“If we mean that you will win in the long run with the systems I am advocating, then the title of this column is really misleading … you really have no chance to beat roulette in the long run, because the game is random and the casinos have the edge on each and every bet placed.”
Overall, Scoblete’s writing about the basic structure of roulette is useful, as he approaches the task of penning gambling prose in a casual, conversational tone. For beginners looking to learn the basics of the game, the first few chapters of this roulette strategy book offer a reasonable entry point, but just be sure to stop reading as soon as the word “system” is mentioned.
Secrets of Winning Roulette
Marten Jensen (1998)
Marten Jensen, the so-called “Doctor of Gambling,” has written several gambling strategy books over the years, all for Cardoza Publishing. Jensen’s work has covered slot machines, video poker, blackjack, and of course, roulette.
With Secrets of Winning Roulette, Jensen compiles a wealth of vital information on the game, making this roulette book a great entry point for first-time players. Overviews of wheel design and construction, table layout, and available wagers, are coupled with thorough explainers on probability, odds, randomization, and house advantage. All of this foundational information is well-researched and presented in relatable terms over an easily digestible 256 pages, making Secrets of Winning Roulette a helpful introduction for beginners.
Of course, like most roulette writers, Jensen can’t help but indulge in the infamous systems discussion that sells copies, but does little to help readers actually improve their profit margins. Along with general reviews on the concepts of biased wheel play and ball tracking, which are technically possible to employ but seldom used today, Jensen exposes readers to basic betting systems like the Martingale, the D’Alembert, the Labouchere, and several variations.
Jensen even touches on various cheating techniques, such as past posting, bouncing pads, wiggly frets, manual ball tripping, magnetic tripping, wearable computer/radio setups.
Overall, Secrets of Winning Roulette is best considered as two separate books. In the first 10 chapters, you’ll find essential roulette knowledge, but the final seven chapters contain nothing but debunked betting systems and surefire ways to get yourself banned from most major casinos.
Get the Edge at Roulette: How to Predict Where the Ball Will Land!
Christopher Pawlicki (2001)
Christopher Pawlicki branched out from an engineering background to become one of the leading experts on beating casino games through physical manipulation. During the 1990s he collaborated with dice control innovator Jerry Patterson, forming the PARR Dice Control Course and the “Perfect Pitch Delivery.”
Working closely with Frank Scoblete and going by the nickname “Sharpshooter,” Pawlicki has published dozens of articles to the former’s Casino City Times website, and while most cover his preferred game of craps, he also writes frequently about roulette strategy.
The underlying concept of Get the Edge at Roulette: How to Predict Where the Ball Will Land! concerns Pawlicki’s theory that dealers can control the eventual landing spot of the ball simply through their spinning motion. According to Pawlicki, who worked as a roulette dealer at various junctures during his life, the imperceptible movements and muscle memory inherent to each individual dealer results in a “dealer signature,” or a pattern in which the ball lands on particular areas of the wheel more often than randomization would suggest.
Taking advantage of this dealer signature forms the foundation of Pawlicki’s strategy advice. In the course of 229 pages, Pawlicki also explores concepts like biased wheel play and ball tracking, but it’s clear that the author firmly believes in the power of dealer signature following his own personal experiences as both a dealer and a professional player.
Gamble to Win Roulette
R.D. Ellison (2002)
One of the roulette world’s true curiosities, Richard “R.D.” Ellison was branded as a genius at an early age.
Working as a self-proclaimed casino game expert, Ellison developed his own unique theories regarding the results of roulette spins. Even though his ideas were widely derided by mathematicians, Ellison routinely debated Ivy League professors on their differing interpretations of probability.
The basis of Ellison’s roulette strategy can be summed up in an excerpt from an article titled “The Big Lie,” which contains the following analysis:
“It comes down to this: In a controlled environment that invokes a statistical certainty, there has to be a cause, and an effect. The effect is that the numbers conform to their statistical expectation. The ‘other guys’ will tell you that there is no cause: that the effect is the result of willy-nilly random chance that conforms through unabated coincidence! And the entire world has been buying this illogical horsepuckey for a hundred years!”
In his 256-page book Gamble to Win Roulette, Ellison describes his personal system, known as the “3Q/A Reverse Method.” When using this system, players are advised to group the available numbers into “A” and “B,” with A comprising the 1-6 six line and the 31-36 six line, while B consists of the 10, 11, 13, 14 quad, the 17, 18, 20, 21 quad, and the 25, 26, 28, 29 quad.
From there, Ellison’s strategy is to monitor the table tower listing the results of the previous spin and record the last five numbers. Whenever either the A or B group occurs more often in those five numbers, Ellison says to bet the opposite group heavily.
Of course, this approach to playing roulette, while wrapped in technical jargon and complex assortment of numbers, is nothing but nonsense. Even casual players know that every spin of the roulette wheel represents an independent occurrence, but Ellison swears by “reversing” the “trend” exhibited by the last five numbers. Readers are advised to avoid Gamble to Win Roulette at all costs – both based on the content, and the now-notorious reputation of its author.
In 2005, at the age of 56, Ellison was arrested and charged with unlawfully detaining his elderly mother and stepfather. Ellison confessed to holding them against their will for hours while subjecting them to erratic behavior, threats, and verbal abuse. He was charged with aggravated burglary, kidnapping, and felonious assault, and after unsuccessfully petitioning the court for a declaration of mental incompetence, and withdrawing an insanity plea, Ellison pled guilty to a reduced set of charges to which he faced up to 23 years in prison.
Four years before his arrest, Ellison wrote an article titled “Evil Aliens in the Gaming Area,” in which he offered readers advice on how to handle themselves should “a large gathering of hostile aliens bust in and start zapping the players with laser beams coming out of their eyes.”
Roulette: Playing to Win
Brett Morton (2004)
In his only contribution as a published author, Brett Morton compiles a curious mix of basic bankroll management advice with outlandish, unsubstantiated claims of guaranteed success.
According to Morton, his system is more of a “style,” one based on the disciplined deployment of funds, even money betting, and the willingness to walk away with small profits. In Morton’s words, “the aim is to lose less when you go down than you win when you go up,” and if you believe his own testimony, the style allows him to win four out of every five sessions.
Morton begins by detailing his own grueling challenge to turn 100 “chips” into 4,000 while playing roulette. Once he accomplished this unlikely feat, he successfully replicated the win, again and again, convincing himself that a true path to consistent profitability in roulette had been discovered. Of course, Morton admits that he actually had 1,000 chips (a term he uses throughout the book rather than a specific dollar amount) in his “fighting fund” (his colloquial term for bankroll).
Morton doesn’t reveal how many times his 100-chip stake was exhausted during his claimed run to 4,000, nor how he managed his subsequent rebuys, and the entire section relating to this story is dubious at best.
Before delving into his own personal system, along with the requisite primers on progressive betting patterns, Fibonacci numbers, and “footprints”, Morton takes the time to summarily insult baccarat players. By dismissing baccarat as a game fit only for fools – despite the fact that it offers a house edge of just 1.06 percent on “banker” bets and 1.24 percent on “player” bets, as opposed to the 2.70 percent and 5.26 percent rates on single-zero and double-zero roulette wheels, respectively – Morton exposes his own ignorance of the basic mathematics of casino gambling.
On the other hand, it is quite funny to read that “even the most brain-dead alcohol-ridden punter has only to make one simple choice, there is no skill required, he cannot influence the cards.” Especially from a man who goes on to gladly trumpet the virtues of watching the tower and recording previous numbers, hoping to spot patterns that will influence where a roulette ball will land. Morton also advises tipping “old hand” dealers upon arriving at the table, getting on their good side in hopes that they’ll start landing the ball near your numbers.
Unfortunately, even with a few decently written passages on money management and bankroll control which should improve the game for beginners, the bad information presented by Morton outweighs any potential benefits his roulette book might offer.
Roulette Odds and Profits: The Mathematics of Complex Bets
Catalin Barboianu (2007)
One of the only “honest” roulette writers in the field, Romanian-born Catalin Barboianu earned his Master’s in Mathematical Statistics, Probability, and Applied Mathematics in 1992 from the University of Bucharest. He is now a Ph.D. student at the same school, working toward a Philosophy degree.
Since 2003, Barboianu has worked as an independent researcher specializing in mathematical analysis of casino games and games of chance. In addition to numerous scholarly articles on the subject, Barboianu is also the author of at least 10 books on game theory.
In the Introduction section of his 212-page Roulette Odds and Profits: The Mathematics of Complex Bets, Barboianu makes his intentions clear from the onset, stating unequivocally that:
“There is no optimal long-term strategy for playing roulette … Any betting system will fail in the long run. This is not a roulette strategy book, because such a strategy does not exist: only betting ‘systems’ exist. It is rather a collection of odds and figures attached to a large range of complex bets, revealed in their entire mathematical structure. This book provides just mathematical facts and not so-called winning strategies.”
True to his word, Barboianu then runs through an admittedly complex set of algebraic formulas and other advanced computations to analyze a variety of common blackjack bets. Among the betting strategies studied on a statistical level:
- Betting on a color and numbers of the opposite color
- Betting on the third column and on the color black
- Betting on a color and on splits of the opposite color
- Repeated bets
While the prose can be quite dense for the layman, readers with strong math skills will greatly appreciate Barboianu’s commitment to running through advanced calculations in their entirety.
Written by an anonymous author, the Kindle e-book Roulette Rockstar proudly bills itself as the “bestselling roulette book on Kindle for the last three years.”
In fact, a cursory search of Amazon’s Kindle rankings shows Roulette Rockstar to be the 13th most popular roulette book in terms of overall sales (it might be telling that the top-ranked book on this list is The Gambling Addiction Cure: How to Overcome Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling for Life.)
Overall, Roulette Rockstar is the 351,561st ranked seller on Kindle, as of the writing of this review.
Clocking in at a slim 66 pages in print form, the book is presented under the following premise:
“The riveting story of an unemployed man down on his luck and drowning in debt. He makes a last ditch effort to raise cash by going to the Casino and fails miserably. Fate steps in when an old man sits next to him and reveals a simple Roulette Strategy that makes him thousands a day!”
This book is based on three-bet placement strategies, each one seemingly more foolish than the next. The first strategy involves a supposed 47 percent chance of winning one-third of your total bet, along with a 32 percent shot of breaking even. The second and third approaches are nothing more than blanketing the table with a laundry list of bets, usually returning a small fraction of the total wager, while giving you a chance to hit numbers for big wins.
In each case, the so-called strategy is to bet a large amount of chips on several different bets, knowing that while you’ll usually “win,” those wins will be smaller than the total bet. You’ll lose money of course, but using this technique packs the promise of the occasional “breakeven” big win, and when you’re lucky enough to enjoy a winning streak the profits should mitigate the steady losses.
Once again, roulette “experts” have taken the time to write and publish a strategy book, knowing full well that the systems they’re advocating will never create consistent winners. Avoid purchasing Roulette Rockstar, and let the title slip even further down the list of Kindle’s roulette library.