Can you beat the casino at roulette? Most people would say that you can't over the long term. Not consistently day in, day out (some people say you can, like Balvinder Sambhi). But there was an Eastern European gang who hit the Ritz Casino in London and won £100,000 in the first day and £1.2 million the next using sophisticated tracking technology to measure the motion of the wheel and ball in order to give themselves an advantage over the casino, a technique known as Roulette Clocking. A total haul of £1.3 million. Not bad for 2 days work. Was this the best roulette strategy ever employed at a casino while still staying (just) within the law? Probably.
Roulette clocking wouldn't work at an online casino, of course. The results are generated by a random number generator. But in theory, it would work on live online roulette.
The casino became suspicious and reported them to the police who investigated. However, at the time, they were unable to prosecute because they were unable to prove that the gang had physically interfered with the roulette table.
The problem, was the law at that time had been draw up in 1845- some way before the advent of mobile phones. The team were allowed to keep their winnings. They did, however, contribute to the law being changed.
The Ritz Casino on Piccadilly is steeped in history, so it must have come as a bit of a shock to have been stung for so much money thanks to the latest technology. Well, they did get a lot of publicity out of it, I suppose.
The casino made a complaint to the police that the gang used a laser scanner hidden in a mobile phone that was linked to a computer to "clock" a roulette wheel by measuring the speed of rotation of the wheel, and the speed and trajectory of the ball in order to predict the zone in which it would come to rest. Not any easy thing to do in the time available! Remember, you have to communicate the result and make the bets.
Two men and a woman were part of the scam which was investigated by Scotland Yard back in 2004.
The case was described as "extremely complex", and detectives from the Met's serious and organised crime group set to work on proving that a crime had been committed. The 2 men came from Serbia (aged 38 and 33 at the time), and the woman was from Hungary (32 years old). They visited the casino twice in March 2004 and won £100,000 on the first session and £1,200,000 on the second.
The casino paid £300,000 in cash and wrote out a cheque for £1 million. Quite a haul. But then they reviewed their security tapes and, with the firm belief that you can't beat the house at roulette, they called in the Men in Blue.
Scotland Yard arrested the team at their hotel and found a big pile of cash and quite a bit of technology.
How Did They Do It
Roulette Clocking is also known as Sector Targeting and is inspired by the work of Claude Shannon and Ed Thorp. The idea is simple. If you can record where on the wheel the ball is released and where it passes after several spins, you can work out where it is likely to fall by working out the balls decaying momentum. You might not be able to predict the exact number, but you can predict the zone, and then it's a case of laying down Neighbour's Bets covering that zone. Once you know the roulette wheel layout, you can place your bets accordingly.
This shifts the house edge from a positive to a negative meaning the player starts to win more times than he or she loses, and bingo- you have a 100% guaranteed to win roulette system.
It's an incredibly hard thing to do in a laboratory, let alone in a casino with all the staff watching you, and with the security cameras in full swing. It is thought that the gang used a laser scanner to increase the accuracy of their measurements.
They would have had to collect the information and made their bets in seconds - a feat made possible with today's technology. According to a croupier who was working at the Ritz at the time, one of the computers was a mini black flip open pocket computer about 7" by 3", like a mini laptop with keyboard. It was found in the toilets with some sort of modification on it having holes drilled in it for switches and speakers no doubt. 2 men and 1 lady were arrested, but were later released because it was legal to use such device in the UK and they were allowed to keep their winnings.
The law that covered this kind of scam was written in the 19th Century- Section 17 of the Gaming Act (1845) forbids "unlawful devices". But a precedence had been set by previous cases that argued that they had not physically interfered with a game, they had simply used a system to win.
Is the gang still at large? I doubt they have been back to the Ritz, but there are plenty of other casinos around the world. If they were able to make £1.3 million in 2 days, I guess they may just have retired to a Carribean island somewhere.