Oscar’s Grind is a simple betting system used on even-money wagers at several casino games, most notably at roulette. Author Allan Wilson noted the system in his 1965 book, giving it the name Oscar’s Grind from a player he interviewed. The player’s name was Oscar and the ‘Grind’ system of play references the idea that the bets never get too high and the player simply grinds out a small win each day
According to the author, Oscar was a disciplined and meticulous gambler who supported himself with roulette system play. We don’t know if Oscar was a real person, but we do know that Victor Bethell first told of a similar system, which he called the Paroli, after spending months at the Monte Carlo roulette wheels over 100 years ago. The system was described as similar to the Martingale, but without the risk of hundreds of units of bankroll. However, like the Martingale, the plan of attack is to win a single unit at a time before starting over.
Readers should keep in mind that the vacation society of Monte Carlo in the late 1800’s was a rare breed. They were Europe’s aristocracy, they were rich and had little more to do than spend their vacation season playing the tables of chance and comparing notes on who was most successful and with which exciting system. It is certain that they, like the locals in Las Vegas, habitually told stories of their great success at the tables. Perhaps they were true, but the casinos certainly weren’t built on losses.
How to Play Oscar’s Grind
The mathematical foundation of Oscar’s Grind is simple, but to keep the wagers small enough to be recouped after a bad turn of the wheel, it works best on even-money wagers like Odd/Even, Red/Black, and high/Low (1st 18, 2nd 18).
To begin, the player must choose a table-stakes bankroll to risk and get enough chips to make their wagers without missing a single spin. If played at roulette, the single-zero wheel is optimal, with the added benefit of the En Prison or La Partage rule to reduce the house edge. Playing Oscar’s Grind at an American wheel with a zero and double zero and a house edge of over 5% is much more risky.
The simplicity of Oscar’s Grind is that the wagers start at 1 unit and do not increase until there has been a loss and then a win, at which point the wager is increased to 2.
It stays at 2 until a profit is made and the bet returns to 1, or it increases to 3 if there has been a succession of loses and then a win, and the streak is still in the negative.
The goal is to make a profit of 1 unit with each string of wagers. You may find that writing down each string is helpful and a good tool for reviewing the events later.
For an example, let’s assume the table-stakes bankroll is 100 units.
Bet one unit and win: We are plus 1 unit and keep wagering 1 unit (This string actually is a winner and we start a new one)
Bet one unit and lose: We keep wagering 1 unit until there is a win, and then the wager is raised to 2 units. If there is a string of losses and then a win at 1 unit and the bet is raised to 2, and then another win at 2 but the string is still in the negative, the bet is now raised to 3. The same continues to 4 units and higher if there is still a loss on the string. If the entire 100 units are lost, the play is over. Ideally a profit will be realized at some point and the string ends at +1. Then, a new string is started at 1 unit.
Here is what might happen: (Bets of 1,1,1,1,2,2,2,3,2)
Bet 1 unit and lose (-1)
Bet 1 unit and lose (-2)
Bet 1 unit and lose (-3)
Bet 1 unit and win (-2) – time to raise bet
Bet 2 units and lose (-4)
Bet 2 units and lose (-6)
Bet 2 units and win (-4) – still in the negative, time to raise bet.
Bet 3 units and win (-1) – still in the negative, but drop bet to 2 units so a win ends string at +1
Bet 2 units and win (+1) – start a new string
In this simple example we have 9 spins, 5 losses and 4 wins, but end at +1. Of course after the bet was raised to 3 units, the following could happen: (Bets of 1,1,1,1,2,2,2,3,3,3,3,4,4,5,5,6,5)
Bet 3 units and lose (-7)
Bet 3 units and lose (-10)
Bet 3 units and lose (-13)
Bet 3 units and win (-10) – time to raise bet
Bet 4 units and lose (-14)
Bet 4 units and win (-10) – time to raise bet
Bet 5 units and lose (-15)
Bet 5 units and win (-10) – time to raise bet
Bet 6 units and win (-4) – still in the negative, but drop bet to 5 units so a win ends string at +1
Bet 5 units and win (+1)
Now we have 17 spins, 10 losses, and 7 wins, but score a profit of 1 unit. To be successful, Oscar’s Grind must experience some succession of spins where there are three or more winners in a 4 or 5 spin group, or the grind starts. It is possible to have a string of hundreds of spins, moving slowly towards the loss of 100 units, but then ever so slowly recouping a few units each 10 spins or so. Stick with it and quite often the higher bets of 5 or 6 units will work their way back down to where there is finally a win of 1 unit.