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The numbers game

The numbers game

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski

Sometimes the best-laid plans of gamblers run afoul of odds and game conditions. The same goes for plans created on the spur of the moment.

Brianne, an East Coast reader who loves to play roulette when she’s not on the slots, emailed recently to tell of a system she’d tried.

“I was looking at the board where they posted the recent numbers, and the 18 had hit three times in a row. A few spins before that, there had been two 17s.

“That got me thinking. Should I bet 18 and 17? Then I thought maybe I should bet a bigger field, like six numbers in a row with 18 and 17 in the middle. So I bet the minimum $1 each on 15-16-17-18-19-20. That was $6, right around my average bet.

“I did that for 10 spins, and never hit a number. The winners were all over the map – 12, 34, 3, 00, 27, something like that. The hot numbers didn’t come in, and neither did any of those around them.

“I did this on a whim, so I’m not shocked it didn’t work.”

Assuming the wheel is well maintained and there is no physical cause that would lead a number of numbers to come up more often than expected by chance, Brianne just had a normal run of bad luck.

However, players who really want to take their chances on a key number plus surrounding numbers should look to the number arrangement on the wheel rather than the layout.

In nearly all cases, roulette results are random. Each number has a 1 in 38 chance of being the winner on each spin.

With six numbers working, Brianne had a 6 in 38 chance of winning, or about 1 in 6.3. Over 10 spins, average results would bring a little better than one win, but sometimes winning more than once and sometimes winning none at all are well within normal probability.

Under rare conditions, there might be some advantage to betting a block of consecutive numbers.

Players called “wheel clockers” have tried to find dealers who are stuck in a routine and release the ball at about the same velocity every time. The theory is that the ball might stop a consistent difference from the release point each time. If the ball tends to stop eight clockwise spaces past from the dealer’s release point, and the dealer releases the ball as the number 8 passes the dealer’s hand, then wheel clockers will bet on 20 and its surrounding numbers.

Note that the key number is 20 and not 16, as it would be if you were looking eight spaces past 8 on the layout.

On the wheel, numbers are in a different order than on the layout. The next three numbers past 20 going clockwise are 14, 31 and 9, and the three going counterclockwise are 1, 33 and 16.

Dealers rarely are consistent enough in release speed and spin to be predictable. Even if they were, there are enough randomizing factors on a wheel to prevent consistently hitting the same spots. The hardness of the ball, the texture of the wheel, the tightness of the frets between numbers and the forces of the ball and wheel traveling in opposite directions make landing points extremely difficult to project.

If somehow out found such a consistency, then you might gain by betting blocks of numbers on the wheel. Betting blocks of numbers on the layout, as Brianne did, is strictly a for-fun method that will yield the same house edge as betting any other number set.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).


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