|In the 1970s, Doyne Farmer used the world's first wearable computer to
beat roulette tables in Nevada, but never revealed how he did it. Now he
has decided to break his long silence after a pair of researchers
developed and published their own method of beating the house.
Farmer's paper is a response to recent research by Michael Small from
the University of Western Australia in Perth and Michael Tse from Hong
Kong Polytechnic University. They demonstrate that with a few
measurements and a small computer or smartphone, you can indeed tip the
odds in your favour. The trick is to record when the ball and a set part
of the rotating wheel both pass a chosen point.
Their model divides the game into two parts: what happens while the ball
rolls around the rim of the wheel and then falls, which is highly
predictable, and what happens after the ball starts bouncing around,
which is chaotic and hard to predict. Because the first part is
predictable, Small and Tse were able to calculate roughly where the ball
would begin its erratic bouncing and therefore in which part of the
wheel it was more likely to land.
Using a subtle counting device, the pair was able to predict in which
half of the wheel the ball would fall in 13 out of 22 trials. In three
trials, the model predicted the exact pocket. That is equivalent to
taking the odds from 2.7% in the house's favour to 18% in the player's
favour. They confirmed their technique via 700 trials using an automated
camera system, which would be too conspicuous to use in a casino.
Farmer says Small and Tse's model is very similar to his own, except
that they assume that the main force slowing the ball down is friction
with the rim, whereas he found that it is air resistance. Small is
confident that casinos are aware of the trick. Casinos could guard
against it by closing bets before the wheel has rotated enough times for