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#1
Old 06-15-2005, 11:47 PM
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Rigged Roulette Wheels - do they/can they exist?

The rigged roulette wheel that the house can cause to stop on a particular number (or color) is a movie cliche.

Is it actually possible? Do they exist?

I can't imagine how it would work. If the mechanism was some sort of motor/brake that you could use to control the wheel, then it would take extraordinary skill to operate it so that the ball landed where you want. Even more so to operate it with sufficient subtlety that there were no sudden changes in the speed of the wheel such that punters would notice.

Likewise I suppose you could control a metal ball with electromagnets (you could have an electromagnet under one number, for example) but again if the magnet is going to affect the path of the ball, it's going to look awful funny.

Anyone know?
#2
Old 06-15-2005, 11:55 PM
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This doesn't address your question, but I thought it was interesting anyway:
http://snopes.com/luck/monte.htm
(In 1873 a British mill engineer won big by exploiting an imperfect roulette wheel that favored some numbers over others.)

I just felt that it's worth pointing out that you don't need to stop the ball on a particular number at will every time in order to win big. Even a small edge in the odds of a few percent allows you to rake in the cash.
#3
Old 06-16-2005, 12:06 AM
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I saw an episode of the History Channel's 'Breaking Vegas' (aired May 17, '05) that discussed a wheel analysis technique: wheel bias. The Spanish family team would watch the wheel night and day for a week, record the winning numbers, and used an early personal computer to learn the few numbers that gave the 'cheats'* the advantage.

*it's not really a cheat, the show was careful to explain.
#4
Old 06-16-2005, 12:16 AM
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Sure, but what I'm talking about is where the dealer can affect the wheel when he wants to: in the movie cliche he typically just reaches down with one hand and presses a button under the table.
#5
Old 06-16-2005, 01:00 AM
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All roulette wheels are rigged. They have an extra number or two which changes the odds to the house's favor. Surprisingly, while it's not hidden, many gamblers fail to take this into consideration.

Seriously, casinos make their profits by maximizing the money flow and raking in their percentage. Cheating at the games would be an unjustifiable risk. Suppose you rigged the game to add an extra 10% advantage for the house; a fix that big would be noticable and would cost you more than a 10% reduction in players.
#6
Old 06-16-2005, 01:03 AM
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I guess I'm really just looking for an answer to an engineering question here, not a discussion on gambling, odds etc.
#7
Old 06-16-2005, 02:13 AM
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I live in the centre of Madrid, Spain. Most slot machine halls here have at least one roulette wheel. They are automatic, run by computers. You buy virtual cheaps and place them via the touch screen.

There are two makes of roulette wheel here, one much larger than the other. The smaller one is rigged, the larger one maybe not. An engineer told me it worked using compressed air: when everyone has placed their bets, the computer calculates where the ball should stop and air blows through small holes (which are visible) at the numbers people have bet on. Sometimes I have seen a ball land and stop and then leap out of a number as if attached to a string! But it's air.

If the larger, more luxurious table is truly rigged it's more subtle, but the owners have told me it's very well controlled. A man started a fight one day after placing his chips 20 times to cover 36 of the possible 37 numbers and losing 15 or 16 times in a row. It wasn't the first time he'd tried that.

That's all I know.
#8
Old 06-16-2005, 02:37 AM
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Compressed air? That is darn clever, but I need more explanation.

So we want to keep the ball out of numbers 1 2 and 3. So we discretely select those numbers on a control panel. some nifty plumbing sends the air blowing through the holes. OK, I can accept that.

Now, the ball comes into slot 1 (for example). It does this despite the air, and as the wheel has slowed. 'Centrifugal Force' has reduced quite a bit. As it decreases, the air has enough force to blow the ball out of the slot, 'like it was on a string.'

So now the ball is forced back into the channel. What happens next? Will it have enough ommph to jump back into another slot? Does just roll around in the channel never dropping into any number?

Scare notes (on page 421 of Scarne's New Complete Guide to Gambling) that gaffed wheels are rare as the game already favors the house. Wheels can be rigged by installing electromagnets under favored numbers (perhaps the 0, 00 and Eagle). The croupier can activate the magnets to protect the house from a heavily bet number.

This of course requires sneaky wiring (and a gaffed ball with a steel core).

A simpler method (for those of us who failed wood shop) would be to place the magnets at the four points of the compass on the wheel's bowl. This works well, but requires a careful hand on the hidden switch to ensure the ball does not drop onto the number that was bet on.

Still, I doubt most people would ever run into a rigged wheel. The game pays the house in a predictable manner. There is no real reason to cheat.

(I still like the compressed air idea though.)
#9
Old 06-16-2005, 03:16 AM
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Actually I can see the compressed air method working well, particularly if you are not so much interested in having the ball fall on a given number as you are interested in having it not fall on a given number.

As long as you are only trying to get it to (say) not fall on seven, then the compressed air wouldn't have to blast the ball away right back into the channel, or blow it out "like it was on a string". It would just have to be enough to make the ball tend to skip seven and go into the next slot along. That might well be possible to do with sufficient subtlety that no one need notice, particulary with a light ball.

I must say I have no idea of the usual weight and composition of a roulette ball.
#10
Old 06-16-2005, 03:59 AM
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One could perhaps rig the numbers with small electromagnets and use a magnetic ball. Selecting a number on a control board would set all the magnets save the winning number to repel the ball and the winning number to attract it. I know nothing about electromagnets so I have no idea if it's possible to flip the polarity like that but if it is I think this would work.
#11
Old 06-16-2005, 04:54 AM
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A roulette ball is supposed to be made of ivory. We still call it ivory, but I am sure it must be some sort of plastic in this day and age.

A compressed-air system would take some fancy pipes going to every slot. I think the magnets are a simpler system.
#12
Old 06-16-2005, 05:01 AM
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I can't think that it's possible to have a magnet repel a ball. If it's just metal it will attract. If you magnetise it, it's going to have a positive and negative pole, and there would be no way of making it stay oriented so that its repelling pole stayed near the wheel's magnets: quite the opposite.
#13
Old 06-16-2005, 06:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Princhester
I can't think that it's possible to have a magnet repel a ball. If it's just metal it will attract. If you magnetise it, it's going to have a positive and negative pole, and there would be no way of making it stay oriented so that its repelling pole stayed near the wheel's magnets: quite the opposite.
true is it is made of normal metal. However a superconducting ball is repelled by a magnetic field. just need a wheel that can run on liquid nitrogen.

Of course you can do the opposite with a normal metal ball to drop at say number 1, put an electromagnet on that hole to attract the ball
#14
Old 06-16-2005, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
I can't think that it's possible to have a magnet repel a ball. If it's just metal it will attract.
Alumimum is repelled by a magnetic field, many times smaller then iron is attracted to it, but is is used sometimes to sepperate AL from other metals in recyclying facilities.

Assuming attractive force however the magnet might be in the 'raceway' to keep the ball up when it gets to that number.
#15
Old 06-16-2005, 11:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul in Saudi
Still, I doubt most people would ever run into a rigged wheel. The game pays the house in a predictable manner. There is no real reason to cheat.
Well obviously you have never been stuck in Casablanca, escaped from your Nazi occupied homeland, desperate to leave for America. But you haven't enough money to pay off the local authorities, so you are trying to win it at the roullette table. Oh the odds are desperately against you, and your wife fears she may have to convince the authority with the travel visa with her womanly charms. Perhaps then if you run into a casino owner with a gruff exterior but a touch of sympathy in his heart, a man who came to Casablancea for the waters, a professional drunkard, a cynic who can't remember last night and never plans for the next. Perhaps if you found that man and he understood your plight, perhaps then you might run into a rigged roullette wheel.
#16
Old 06-16-2005, 01:05 PM
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I would have thought that a simple way to fix a wheel would be to make the bottom of the numbered slots just a little more or less bouncy - so that the ball is statistically more likely to come to rest in one of the less bouncy numbers. This would not be very obvious while still allowing the odds to go in favour of those in the know.
#17
Old 06-16-2005, 01:20 PM
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Certainly that would work. Presume a gaffer was able to spend a few quiet hours with the wheel, he could then come back later and make a killing on that wheel. It work until the Casino wised up (give them two hours, I guess) or the word got out and everybody and his brother starts hitting that one wheel.

The casino could also set up a wheel that way. But why bother? An honest game will pay a fixed percentage to the house forever. Why muck such a sweet deal up by rigging the game?
#18
Old 06-16-2005, 02:43 PM
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A while ago, we heard about some enterprising folk in Europe who were able to use lasers to range the ball and predict where it would land (on the fly) before bets were in. Link. Considering that the gamblers had to do this in a concealed manner and didn't have a stable mount point, it should be very easy for a casino to get very high accuracy with such a system. Once the ball's path can be predicted, very small adjustments in the speed of the wheel would make it go wherever you wanted it to.

Obviously, Rick's is unlikely to have had lasers installed, but that's probably how a casino would do it now.
#19
Old 06-16-2005, 02:50 PM
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Technically interesting, but is it practical? Can I operate it in my tuxedo while yelling 'Banco?'

If I had such a device, I (as a bettor) would have a clue as to which numbers would come up. As The House, I do not see how it could help me. But then it is late here.
#20
Old 06-16-2005, 03:16 PM
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If I had such a device, I (as a bettor) would have a clue as to which numbers would come up. As The House, I do not see how it could help me. But then it is late here.
OK, so the house has this system that tells them ahead of time which number will come up. But that's not really what the system tells you: What it really tells you is "if the wheel spins freely without outside interference, this is where it'll come up". So you scan your table, and see where the ball is going to end up. If it's going someplace you like, you leave well enough alone. But if it's going someplace you don't like, then you apply a slight breaking to the wheel, or have a little mechanical gizmo to kick it a bit, or the like. This changes where the ball will end up. Now, if the new destination spot is one you like, you're done. If not, then you nudge it again, and so on.
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#21
Old 06-16-2005, 10:58 PM
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Yes that would work fine. But at that point of the thread we were (or at least I was) talking about a wheel rigged with a laser which would predict, but not control the number.
#22
Old 06-17-2005, 01:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul in Saudi
Scare notes (on page 421 of Scarne's New Complete Guide to Gambling) that gaffed wheels are rare as the game already favors the house. Wheels can be rigged by installing electromagnets under favored numbers (perhaps the 0, 00 and Eagle). The croupier can activate the magnets to protect the house from a heavily bet number.
The house could further avert suspicion if they rigged a pair of regular numbers (e.g. 7 and 22). The dealer would have two buttons, one for each magnet, and he would activate the the number without the large bet.
#23
Old 06-17-2005, 02:04 AM
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It could be done, but with difficulty. The wheel needs to be balanced and spin freely. If you add magnets and wiring to a couple of numbers, the wheel would be lopsided. I think this would be noticeable.

Then you have to add counterweights to the other side. Then you have to make sure the wheel is not so heavy that it spins too long and so attracts attention. And so on.

It could be done, but not easily or cheaply.

I do like the idea of magnets in the bowl. You can examine the wheel all you want and find nothing. The ball is a giveaway, but that cannot be helped.

Still a difficult and expensive project, not something you do over the weekend. Lots of carpentry. Not worth the trouble of doing.
#24
Old 06-17-2005, 02:39 AM
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With a relatively lightweight plastic ball (or another non-conductive material) I would think that a bit of controlled static electricity could significantly affect the outcome. Put a positive charge on the ball and a negative one where you want it to land, or a positive one where you don't want it to land.

"Damn, Herr Van de Graaf is on fire at the wheel tonight!"
#25
Old 06-17-2005, 03:43 AM
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The trouble I see with this is you would have to have wires to each and every number. After that, I would question if static electricity would have enough effect on a fairly massive ball. Only experimentation could tell.

Of course we do not need 100% control, anything that makes some numbers sticky and others repellent would pay out over a huge number of trials.

Still, there has got to be an easier way to make a living.
#26
Old 06-17-2005, 10:07 AM
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I think this would be the easiest thing to do: Rig the metal strips between the numbers so they can move up or down. If you don't want the ball to land on a certain number, press a button and the little metal frets on either side of that number move up slightly, and the ones around other numbers move down slightly. This would greatly favor numbers other than the one you're protecting.

One of the old bias exploits on wheels was to find unevenly worn frets which would bias towards the numbers that have the lowest frets.
#27
Old 06-17-2005, 10:32 AM
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I find the argument "casinos wouldn't cheat since the odds are already in their favour" to be somewhat weak. If they could get away with cheating, surely they have lots of incentive to do it on large bets. Human nature is essentially greedy and people have been cheating at cards for a hundred years. This post is not implying casinos do cheat, but casinos are about making money, not providing the fairest odds that they can.
#28
Old 06-17-2005, 10:43 AM
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(At this point, I would be pleased to talk about the greatest casino cheating incident in history. It is off-topic, as it was a card cheat, but a fine story nonetheless. I would be pleased to relate this story, but I am riotously drunk on homemade wine and in no condition to write coherently.

All of which points out how nice it is to have spell-check on your browser.)
#29
Old 06-17-2005, 11:12 AM
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Quote:
Human nature is essentially greedy and people have been cheating at cards for a hundred years.
Take a look at the profits they have. They're making money hand over foot. The casinos in Vegas were so profitable that all the hotels, hotel restaurants, shows, and other attractions attachted to hotels were run at a major loss just because it would attract gamblers. And they still give away tons of free crap with it.

They don't need to cheat. People walk up, knowingly get into a game they can almost never win, and walk away thanking them for the privelege!
#30
Old 06-17-2005, 11:43 AM
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What you want is a wheel like the one in Casablanca (or the one i a 1960s MAD article on casinos) where you can get the ball to land in a particular well every time. I seriously doubt you could do it. And I think that any mechanism to keep balls out of a particular well will be overly complex and overly obvious in operation.



There was a book called The Eudaemonic Pie out about 15 years ago that told of a bunch of college students who built a shoe computer to calculate the most likely quadrant for the ball to land in. They claimed they did quick and rough calculations using ball speed and initial position. Sounds like hooey to me, and a great way to lose a lot of money.
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#31
Old 06-17-2005, 04:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
There was a book called The Eudaemonic Pie out about 15 years ago that told of a bunch of college students who built a shoe computer to calculate the most likely quadrant for the ball to land in. They claimed they did quick and rough calculations using ball speed and initial position. Sounds like hooey to me, and a great way to lose a lot of money.
Unlike dice-setting in craps, roulette ????ing (I forget the verb) actually works pretty well. Difficulty-wise, my understanding is that it is a bit harder to master than card-counting.

Roulette has built-in defenses against this. Ever notice how hard it is to cover exactly one quarter of the wheel in a contiguous block? That's by design.
#32
Old 04-14-2013, 04:34 AM
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I think the laser theory is spot on the money, I know in my local casino which is quite large at least 100 roullette tables, all of the wheels have comuters underneath them, they all have lasers (poorly disguised as decorative lights) there is one on each corner of the wheel, and the wheels never stop spinning, I can't see how a free bearing can continue spinning. also every single table is monitored by at least 3 cameras, so the dealer does not need to be the one that is manipulating the wheel. It would not seem so far fetched that a pretty basic computer program could calculate the trajectory and adjust the motor speed on the wheel according to a pre selected number inputed from a remote location (the cctv room)
#33
Old 04-14-2013, 06:42 AM
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Seems like the people suggesting magnets have somehow never actually played with magnets.

Try this: get a steel bearing and a small Nd magnet. Draw some straight parallel lines on a piece of paper or something. Practice rolling the bearing straight down the lines, or rig a rail system to roll it straight.

Place the magnet off to the side of the ball's path, but not close enough to attract it, and roll the ball. Move it slightly closer and repeat until it attracts the ball.

Now, try to move it close enough so that it makes the ball's path deviate without sticking to it. While the ball is moving at a decent speed. Consistently. Now keep in mind that the path on a roulette wheel can vary quite a bit. Notice how even the tiniest deviation will cause the ball to either A. not be affected at all or B. cause it to jump straight onto the magnet, resulting in your casino being shut down.

Last edited by thicksantorum; 04-14-2013 at 06:42 AM.
#34
Old 04-15-2013, 05:36 PM
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That's because you're using permanent magnets and you have the reaction time of a human.

Use a grid of electromagnets controlled by a computer with laser rangefinders for input and you can do it in a way that can't be detected except without a highspeed camera or other sophisticated measuring device.

The better your predictive model of the ball, and the more precise the force you can impart, the smaller the changes it takes to deflect it to where you want it to go.
#35
Old 04-15-2013, 06:18 PM
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But, 8 years ago when this question was first asked, the model was the rigged roulette wheel in Rick's Café Americain. I'm pretty sure Rick didn't have lasers or computers on his rigged wheel.

So the question is, given 1940ish technology with no superconductors or carbon nanotubes or penicillin, is such a rigged table even possible? Or is it a purely Hollywood invention?
#36
Old 04-15-2013, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
But, 8 years ago when this question was first asked, the model was the rigged roulette wheel in Rick's Café Americain. I'm pretty sure Rick didn't have lasers or computers on his rigged wheel.

So the question is, given 1940ish technology with no superconductors or carbon nanotubes or penicillin, is such a rigged table even possible? Or is it a purely Hollywood invention?
I have talked to people that swear up and down that the dealer, by the strength of his spin, could control within a 3 or 4 slot spread where the ball would land. I called bullshit on that.

When I was dealing, the wheel was spun by hand (so a different speed each time), we reversed direction each spin and the ball was flicked by hand - so it would be near impossible to control.
#37
Old 04-15-2013, 10:13 PM
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Zombie Roulette Wheels. Delightful.


It might be interesting to list the places where "rigged roulette wheels" show up.

-- Casablanca, of course

-- The Sting

--Mad Magazine article from the late 50s/early60s on gambling 9the piece said that the wheel was slightly "off" resulting in better chances for soe numbers, but the illustration shows a fully controlled wheel with selectable numbers

I can't think of any other examples (we'll ignore things like Disney's Blackbeard's Ghost, where the mechanism for selecting the number is actually a telekinetic spirit of a dead pirate), but I'm sure I've seen this in TV shows and other flicks.
#38
Old 04-16-2013, 01:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Lemur866 View Post
But, 8 years ago when this question was first asked, the model was the rigged roulette wheel in Rick's Café Americain.
Nine years ago, three people successfully won 1.5 million pounds from a British casino using laser scanners. Relevant at the time asked.

Although later posters speculated, the OP never mentioned Rick's Cafe or any particular time period. Just asked whether it was possible or a Hollywood conceit.

Quote:
So the question is, given 1940ish technology with no superconductors or carbon nanotubes or penicillin, is such a rigged table even possible? Or is it a purely Hollywood invention?
I don't think it was possible then. Note that Casablanca doesn't actually show it happening. I bet if they could have made it look convincing on film, they would have. And if you can't make it look convincing on film, you certainly can't make it look convincing when the mark gets to change his point of view.

By The Sting, though, it might have been possible. We upgrade to 1970s technology. They measured the distance to the moon with a laser in 1969. There were pretty early electronic computers. Not within the means of your average saloonkeeper, and probably unrealistic for actual history, but with a "crazy Doc Brown is sent back in time and knows it could be done" sort of retro-sci-fi sensibility and Vegas financing, it's not impossible.
#39
Old 04-16-2013, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by iamthewalrus(:3= View Post
Nine years ago, three people successfully won 1.5 million pounds from a British casino using laser scanners. Relevant at the time asked.

Although later posters speculated, the OP never mentioned Rick's Cafe or any particular time period. Just asked whether it was possible or a Hollywood conceit.
There was no movie cliche in 2005 concerning people using lasers. Lemur866 has the flavour of it.

I think I'm getting old. When I first saw this thread title today I thought "hey, I've always wondered about that!" and only then noticed I was the OP.
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