The fabled gambling game roulette is a casino staple and has been such for more than two centuries now. Having evolved from a prototype wheel derived from an invention of the French physicist, mathematician and inventor Dr. Blaise Pascal, the game has gradually gained enormous popularity since its introduction.
Roulette is best visually recognized by its distinct game setup – a table with a board to place bets on and a high wheel on one end or the middle, depending on which version is being played. Of the game’s hardware components, it is the wheel that stands out most, eventually becoming synonymous with roulette. In fact, it’s not just roulette that adopted its own wheel as its symbol. The simple contraption, composed of a rotating wheel within a heavy wooden bowl with a ball track, was made to represent various casinos and even the gambling industry itself.
The roulette wheel’s importance goes beyond mere symbolism. It is the key player in every spin, which can never be possible in the wheel’s absence. As the game relies on it, the wheel is required to be fair and precise. Thus, it is manufactured with strict standards and high quality craftsmanship, which is evident in the fact that every wheel exhibits refined aesthetics and can last many decades of use.
However, the wheel can never remain consistently impartial. Without proper care and regular tuning in addition to age and wear, the roulette wheel can end up unbalanced. In this state, the tall wheelhead leans a little on one direction as does the rest of the wheel. In a different case, one or more frets or partitions dividing the pockets may loosen and pop out. In any case, bias is created in the wheel, as the ball will favor the numbers at the wheel’s dipping part or land in those slots around the loose fret.
Biased wheels are known to be sought after and exploited by profit-oriented players, and some even “broke the bank” after successfully locating and correctly betting on one. One notable case is that of the 19th century British engineer named Joseph H. Jagger. He hired six clerks to meticulously record the results of the roulette wheels in Monte Carlo’s Beaux-Arts Casino, and found a wheel biased to a certain set of numbers. He then went on and wagered on that particular wheel, won big and was later immortalized as “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”.
Parts that cause bias in the wheel are often barely noticeable to both the players and the dealer. The best way to spot this is long and careful observation of all the wheels in the casino as Jagger once did. However, this proves a terrible waste of time as modern casinos tend to be thorough with wheel maintenance and regularly swaps the wheels between tables. Nevertheless, it’s a boon for the player should one be found, as correctly placed bets on a biased wheel can be a great source of quick additional income.