As long as there has been gambling, there have been people willing to cheat in order to win. From players looking to gain an edge to casinos that want to take as much of their customers’ money as possible, disreputable people have been bending the rules for the sake of winning for as long as roulette has existed.
Below are some examples of the most common forms of cheating in roulette. We strongly recommend not attempting to use these methods in a casino, as getting caught cheating could get you banned from casinos – or even subjected to legal action.
Any reputable casino will respect the rules and provide you with an honest roulette game, so you should do your part and play honestly as well. However, if you want to find ways to gain an advantage that aren’t considered cheating, read to the end of the article to see an example of when cheating isn’t cheating at all!
Cheating by Roulette Players
Many of the most famous attempts to cheat come from players who have looked for ways to get around the house edge by manipulating the roulette wheel. There are two ways in which players might do this, by directly tampering with the results or working with the croupier to rig the game.
Over the years many scams have been attempted to use magnets or other devices to influence the results of the roulette wheel. Obviously, the most difficult part of such a task is to actually get close enough to the roulette wheel to have an effect on the game.
This has often been accomplished through the use of complex team scams that attempt to disguise their intentions. For instance, a team might consist of several members who don’t even appear to be together. This might include a few players that are simply gambling at the table, one or two whose job is it to cause a distraction and a player in a wheelchair that is actually concealing a magnet somewhere in the chair. While such scams can be effective, most players attempting such scams are ultimately caught.
A more invasive form of cheating involves collusion between a croupier (or dealer) and one or more players. This form of cheating is controversial – not over whether it is legal to cheat in this manner (it is unambiguously not allowed), but over whether it can be effective. While some operators claim to be able to spin a ball and aim it at a certain section of the wheel, there is little evidence that anyone has been able to do this in a way that could be reasonably disguised as a fair spin. However, even if a croupier was able to make a certain quarter of the reel just a couple percent more likely to hit that would be enough to give players at least some advantage.
One relatively new method for cheating at roulette involves using a handheld device in order to predict where the ball will land. Surprisingly, players have been doing this since at least the 1970’s and proof of concept for the idea has existed going back to the 1960’s. No casino will allow players to do this, however whether or not using such a device is actually illegal varies depending on where the casino is located.
Cheating by Roulette Operators and Casinos
It should not be over-looked that casinos can also be cheaters too. Anyone who has seen the classic movie Casablanca will be familiar with the idea of a rigged roulette wheel, and throughout history there have been underground casinos and gambling halls that have used such wheels to rip players off. While no regulated casino would use such a wheel, those that operate outside of the law have been known to do so.
This sort of cheating has actually allowed some players to come out ahead even on these rigged wheels. Professional gamblers who knew a reel was rigged would figure out where large bets were being placed, and then bet opposite of those wagers. When the rigged wheel would scoop up the larger bets, the sharp gamblers would win their modest wagers.
When Roulette Cheating isn’t Cheating
There are some forms of gaining an advantage at roulette that players would likely think of as cheating, but which are actually perfectly legal for players to use – if they can. The most well-known method for doing so involves players take advantage of a biased roulette wheel. If a roulette wheel has a bias in it that causes some numbers to be more likely to hit than others, it is possible that players might discover this by tracking numbers over the course of several days. Players can then bet on the numbers that are more likely to appear, confident that they will win in the long run.
Courts have regularly upheld the idea that this is not cheating. Since players do not have to use any electronic devices or tamper with the game itself in order to win in this manner, tracking numbers and betting on a biased wheel is completely legal. For instance, when a casino in Spain attempted to sue a player who won in such a manner the courts said that the player had done nothing wrong – and that the casino should fix their roulette wheel instead of suing.
The main principle Past Posting is adding new chips to the winning number after the ball has already settled in the pocket on the roulette wheel and/or removing the chips from a losing number. The principle is simple but simultaneously hard to execute and would require lightning quick reactions and deft fingers in order to evade the eyes of the dealer or pit boss.
This is another very interesting method of cheating. Top Hatting is like Past Posting but two people are involved – the croupier and the player. In Top Hatting the dealer is the main person involved and he tries to put extra chips on the winning number, the winnings then being collected by his partner in crime. However, with the high levels of security in casinos nowadays, this old trick is almost impossible to pull off successfully.
This method was used in the gambling houses of the past, but nowadays it’s not so easy to get away with. Usually four magnets were placed around the wheel area. The croupier could regulate them with the help of hidden controls. Magnets could also be placed within the pockets of the wheels, robbing less-savvy players of their money. Nowadays, it’s often believed that rigged games such as these are still found at carnivals and fairgrounds that offer roulette games. Keep a close eye out for balls suddenly sticking in the pockets!