Roulette strategies (and why they don't work)

If you’ve got any experience of online gambling, you’ve probably come across roulette ‘strategies’ – D’Almbert, Fibonacci, Martingale etc. While sticking to these systems can be a fun way to organise your play, doing so will not actually make you more likely to win. Therefore, if you see a website promising ‘winning roulette strategies’, don’t be fooled – there is no such thing. This lesson will prove it ...

No strategy? What do you mean?

Roulette is designed to make the outcome of spins as random as possible, using deflectors to bash the ball around the inside of the wheel to ensure unpredictable results.

While no game is ever perfectly random, you’d need a high-speed camera and a team of analysts to even get close to guessing the winning half of a live wheel, let alone the winning pocket.

The random number generation software used to determine the outcome of virtual roulette games is also impossible to defeat with human brainpower alone.

Even if you assume that the outcome of a roulette game is random, some players will argue that you can improve your house edge by betting in certain ways: doubling up on losses, or ‘going hard’ with inside bets on streaks and recovering with outside bets when your game slows down.

However, no matter how you play, the house edge will never change. This is because every spin is independent from the last, making each roulette session a mathematically distinct event with no statistical relation to the rest of the game.

As a result, all betting systems for roulette stem from the ‘gambler’s fallacy'.

Roulette Systems (aka Hell on Wheels)

Roulette systems have a lot in common with astrology – although there’s no evidence that either work, they’ve both had vast amounts of attention and money lavished upon them.

More extraordinary still is the vast array of systems that exist in the gaming world. Here are some of the best known. And remember - although they might claim to open the doorway to untold riches, the numbers simply don’t add up.

Labouchiere System
A progression system whereby a line of numbers is used to determine the betting amount following a win or a loss. Based on the infamous Martingale System (see below), the Labouchiere usually involves the gambler adding the numbers at the front and end of the line to determine the size of the next bet. The system is such that, by the time the gambler has won a third of his bets, he will be ahead. At least, that’s the idea.

The Martingale
A strategy that dates back to 18th century France, the Martingale employs ‘intuitive analyses. This is a fancy way of saying that, in a situation where one is betting on heads or tails – or, in the case of roulette, red or black – you double your bet after every loss. Considered a sure thing by the wealthy gamblers who first advocated it, it’s anything but – a fact the many people bankrupted by the Martingale strategy could testify to. You don’t have to be too smart to understand what an alternative known as the Reverse Martingale entails. It might be the opposite but the results are invariably the same.

D’Alembert System
A pyramid system based on a mathematical equilibrium theory devised by the man it’s named after. Known in France as ‘Montant et Demontant’ (literally, ‘up and down’) the D’Alembert is mainly applied to even money outside bets, and is the preferred method of gamblers keen to keep the size of their bets and, therefore, their losses to a minimum. Since it’s based on the illogical notion that a gambler is more likely to follow a win with a loss and vice versa, the only thing that’s inevitable here is you ending the day out of pocket.

The Fibonacci
Italian Leonardo Fibonacci calculated his famous sequence way back in 1202. An equation that describes such natural phenomena as snail shells, the sequence has proved something of a boon for gamblers who have applied it to both baccarat and roulette. Ultimately, it is but a less aggressive version of the Martingale, with the value of a bet being increased whenever it follow a loss. As with the Martingale, there is also a ‘reverse’ version. Use either at your peril.

Law Of The Third
A principle that governs a range of systems (the Pivot, ‘Tier et Tout’), the law is based upon the notion that, following 37 spins, a third of the numbers on the roulette wheel go ‘cold’. As such, it is down to the player to ‘fish’ for ‘hot numbers’. Adapted umpteen times, no matter what the refinement, the system remains just as fallible. However, the talk of ‘hot numbers’ will be familiar to anyone who’s watched the National Lottery draw and listened to Alan Dedicoat pick it apart with a fervour usually reserved for conspiracy theories.

The ‘Loophole’
A simple streak system, the ‘Loophole’ is noteworthy, not because of its complexity – it’s very simple – but because it landed its creator in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority. Claiming that one could win “£200 a day” by applying his system, Rotherham’s Jason Gillon received quite a shock when he found himself subject to an ASA investigation. Acting on a complaint, the Authority demonstrated that Mr Gillon’s claims were false and, as such, must be withdrawn. Less a ‘Loophole’ than a sink hole, then.

The Wizard of Odds beats the Martingale

Still don’t believe us that roulette strategies are nothing of the sort? Michael ‘the Wizard of Odds’ Shackleford is a renowned casino mathematician who conducted a number of experiments to prove that roulette systems have no statistical basis.

As an example, Shackleford chose to tackle the Martingale. He explains how the system is supposed to work:

“This system is generally played with an even money game … the idea is that by doubling your bet after a loss, you would always win enough to cover all past losses plus one unit.

“For example, if a player starts at $1 and loses four bets in a row, winning on the fifth, he will have lost $1+$2+$4+$8 = $15 on the four losing bets and won $16 on the fifth bet. The losses were covered and he had a profit of $1.”

After receiving dozens of emails from gamblers insisting that the system worked, Shackleford built a computer program that simulated bettors using two systems, the Martingale and ‘flat betting’ (the same bet every time) over 1,000,000 sessions.

Shackleford found that the ratio of money lost to money won was almost exactly equal to the expected house edge for both betting systems. On top of that, the average loss for the Martingale bettor was much higher than for flat betting (see table below):


roulette graph

Roulette bots

If you play online roulette you may be familiar with ‘roulette bots’. These can be purchased on the internet and are basically software that automatically place bets according to a roulette system (usually the Martingale).

As we have seen, there is no winning roulette system. Whether it's being implemented by a machine or human, no strategy will ever overcome the house edge. Roulette bots are a scam, plain and simple.

Enjoy roulette for what it is

Despite roulette strategies being mathematically groundless, many websites continue to claim that these systems will help you win – this is total rubbish.

You’re better off playing responsibly, within your means, with the knowledge that roulette is a game of chance that should be enjoyed on those terms.

The right casinos to play roulette

Roulette systems don’t work, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun playing at our top rated online casinos.

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