I loved this story. The Hustle remembers how in 1964 a world-renowned medical professor found a way to beat roulette wheels, kicking off a five-year winning streak in which he amassed $1,250,000 ($8,000,000 today).
He noticed that at the end of each night, casinos would replace cards and dice with fresh sets -- but the expensive roulette wheels went untouched and often stayed in service for decades before being replaced. Like any other machine, these wheels acquired wear and tear. Jarecki began to suspect that tiny defects -- chips, dents, scratches, unlevel surfaces -- might cause certain wheels to land on certain numbers more frequently than randomocity prescribed. The doctor spent weekends commuting between the operating table and the roulette table, manually recording thousands upon thousands of spins, and analyzing the data for statistical abnormalities. "I [experimented] until I had a rough outline of a system based on the previous winning numbers," he told the Sydney Morning Herald in 1969. "If numbers 1, 2, and 3 won the last 3 rounds, [I could determine] what was most likely to win the next 3...."
With his wife, Carol, he scouted dozens of wheels at casinos around Europe, from Monte Carlo (Monaco), to Divonne-les-Bains (France), to Baden-Baden (Germany). The pair recruited a team of 8 "clockers" who posted up at these venues, sometimes recording as many as 20,000 spins over a month-long period. Then, in 1964, he made his first strike. After establishing which wheels were biased, he secured a £25,000 loan from a Swiss financier and spent 6 months candidly exacting his strategy. By the end of the run, he'd netted £625,000 (roughly $6,700,000 today).
Jarecki's victories made headlines in newspapers all over the world, from Kansas to Australia. Everyone wanted his "secret" -- but he knew that if he wanted to replicate the feat, he'd have to conceal his true methodology. So, he concocted a "fanciful tale" for the press: He tallied roulette outcomes daily, then fed the information into an Atlas supercomputer, which told him which numbers to pick. At the time, wrote gambling historian, Russell Barnhart, in Beating the Wheel, "Computers were looked upon as creatures from outer space... Few persons, including casino managers, were vocationally qualified to distinguish myth from reality." Hiding behind this technological ruse, Jarecki continued to keep tabs on biased tables -- and prepare for his next big move...
In the decades following Jarecki's dominance, casinos invested heavily in monitoring their roulette tables for defects and building wheels less prone to bias. Today, most wheels have gone digital, run by algorithms programmed to favor the house.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.