A roulette wheel is simply a disk that has pockets set into its circumference and is free to spin within a smooth channel. That’s it, nothing more. So what is the game of roulette? It’s simple: Someone projects a small ball in one direction along the channel while at the same time the wheel is spun in the other direction. The objective of the game is for you to guess into which pocket the ball will land.
So what are we talking about here? Ballistics and a mechanical device – that’s all. The universal laws of physics NOT the laws of statistics govern all mechanical devices. Think about it. If you knew the dimensions of the wheel, its rate of acceleration from rest, its speed of rotation, the force applied to the ball, the gradient of the channel in which the ball runs etc you would be able to work out precisely which slot the ball will land in and win every time. It’s the same laws that program a rocket to rendezvous with a distant planet at a precise time and place in the universe.
Of course it’s not so simple
For one thing you are unlikely to know most of these parameters, so what can be done? Suppose you took a video of a roulette wheel and then played the track back in slow motion. There are many software packages around that will allow you to do this – frame by frame. You could record the time it took the ball to move from the point of release to landing in a slot. You could also work out the rate of rotation of the wheel. It’s unlikely that a real casino would allow you take a video of one of their wheels. However some online games are broadcast on the tv network so offer an opportunity to do this. This gives you a chance to analyse the wheel in minute detail simply by recording a session onto your computer. However you don’t actually need to do this yourself because we have done it for you. (You can’t do this online by the way because of the latency of the internet – only a real-time broadcast will do)
The results of this analysis are built into our software. The task is not straightforward though and to understand why you have to look a little more deeply. If you look at a roulette wheel you will see that the channel in which the ball moves is dotted with hazards. There are usually two inline with the channel and another two at 90 degrees. The effect of these hazards is to either propel the ball further by giving it more momentum or cutting the spin short. So a measurement of how long it takes the ball to move from the point of release to the slot it lands in can only be an average over time. The other factor that affects the movement of the ball is the force with which the ball is released. In a real casino a croupier releases the ball. Each croupier inevitably will release the ball and shift the wheel with more or less force.
A licensed casino will have to use a certified wheel. This means that the bearings and mechanism comply with a standard. The casino fools you into believing that a balanced wheel together with a human croupier guarantees that the wheel will be a perfect random number generator. The very opposite is true. The behaviour of a perfect wheel by definition can be predictable and it’s impossible for a human operator not to drift into a pattern whereby the force they employ to spin the wheel and project the ball is also measurable. The only part of the equation that is in any way random is that caused by the physical hazards in the path of the ball.