Chaos Theory & Gambling – Can You Use It To Beat The House?


Savvy gamblers are always looking for a way
to gain an edge over the house, and that includes looking to the world of science
and math for help.

Here we’ll look at chaos theory at its most basic level and whether you can you use it to gain an advantage in blackjack and roulette.

What Is Chaos Theory?

Chaos theory is a complicated mathematical theory that studies the unpredictable and random nature of complex systems.

A complex system could be something like the
weather, or the behavior of water boiling on a stove.

It theorizes that a tiny difference in
starting conditions will result in a completely different outcome
, which is
what makes the systems so complex to study.

You might be more familiar with the butterfly effect.

The term was coined by MIT meteorologist and one of the pioneers of chaos theory, Edward Lorenz, when he was developing a weather-prediction model in the 1960s.

He theorized that something as small as a
buttery flapping its wings in Asia could be capable of eventually causing a
hurricane in the Atlantic.

As is often the case in such discussions of
scientific discovery, many nuances were lost in its simplification for
widespread audiences.

And is also the case in many scientific discoveries,
there were punters hoping to cash in.

Edward Lorenz’s nuanced take on the
predictability of weather quickly began discussions on whether roulette spins
could be foretold, or whether blackjack shoes were ‘complex systems.’

And wherever there are gamblers looking to
cash in, there is always someone selling a how-to guide that will make it quick
and easy.

And in all fairness, both blackjack and roulette
outcomes certainly do have a sensitive dependence to initial conditions.

So, let’s take a look to see if you can use
chaos theory next time you’re at the casino.

Can You Use Chaos Theory To Beat Blackjack?

The beauty of blackjack has always been
that it’s not a random game.

The probability of the next card is
determined by the cards that have been dealt preceding it.

And due to the rules of the game, a large
number of high-value cards left to be dealt changes the odds, sometimes to the
point where you have the advantage.

Chaos theory is used to find order in
seemingly random data, so there is some sense that maybe it could be applied in
some way here.

But that is just smoke and mirrors.

We know the difference that each card’s
removal from the game will make, there is no large change from the subtraction
of one Ace from a 6-deck shoe.

Six decks of randomly shuffled cards
present many opportunities for those that watch what cards have been played and
know the value of cards left to be played.

But it does not rise to the level of a
complex system
. No small change to our starting conditions can lead to big
changes by the end of the shoe.

Modeling of millions of shoes of blackjack
does not reveal any tipping point where things change suddenly and

Rather it shows a simple mathematical
progression of highs and lows. Almost like a song if you will.

Can You Use Chaos Theory To Beat Roulette?

The purpose of a roulette wheel from the
house side of things is to put together an instrument that creates an
independent trial.

One that randomly selects one of 38
different numbers from double zero to 36.

But of course, an ivory ball, a wooden
wheel, and a moving metal wheel head are perhaps not the best practical choices
for such a task.

Trust an engineer to quickly figure out a
system’s flaws. That’s exactly what Joseph Jagger did way back in 1880 when he famously
broke the bank in Monte Carlo.

Spotting just one wheel out of dozens that seemed
to have flaws, he won about $7 million in today’s money in an up-and-down week
that saw the casino realize the problem and attempt a bait and switch with a
different wheel head.

I personally saw a rather eccentric
Englishman, who went by the pseudonym “Harry Gatto,” beat two separate wheel
heads for more than $300K back in the early 90s after tracking them for months.

There is little doubt that roulette wheels
have been susceptible to attack in the past due to poor maintenance and flawed

The question is whether they still are, and
whether chaos theory can help in that pursuit.

Here again, on the surface, it appears that
small deviations in starting conditions can cause large changes in results.

A slightly bent fret on a wheel head, a
worn ball, a groove in the ball track, a slight tilt to the spindle – any of
these can cause a number or segment of numbers to hit more often than they

But most of these issues are best described
by everyday physics, and while the turn of the roulette wheel and the
subsequent landing of the ball is affected by many more things than you might
at first think, it’s simply untrue that small differences in things as obscure
as humidity or the temperature make a large difference
in the speed or,
more importantly, the number the ball ultimately lands in.

Casinos Make It Hard To Cheat

As far back as the late 70s physics
students from UCSC were tackling roulette with computers.

It turns out that by accounting for the
speed of the ball and the speed of the wheel, and then using other calculations
for the scatter of the ball once it descends onto the wheel head, that they
could bet sections of the wheel that would net them north of a 40% advantage.

The issue here, much as counting cards, is that it is almost instantly observable by a trained professional.

You must first get the info on where the
ball is, where the wheel head is, and the speed of both, and then still
have time to get your bets down where a hidden computer tells you to.

While it can now be accomplished by apps on
your phone, you can imagine the frantic betting back in the 80s.

But again, the late betting of coinciding
numbers on the wheel head is a dead giveaway. And this is one of many reasons
why phones are almost never allowed to be out anywhere near a roulette game.

In rare cases, casinos may wave off new
bets after just one or two revolutions of the ball to prevent this type of
advantage play.

Other approaches from the late 80s and 90s
that looked for tilted wheel heads or other physical issues with the wheels
have also largely been fixed.

It’s not uncommon for a larger casino in
the states to do wheel maintenance once a week, or even more.

This will include looking for any issues with
frets and canoes or ensuring that nothing sticky has gotten on a number to
prevent the ball from bouncing out easily.

It will also employ a level to make sure
the wheel isn’t tilted in some way, which may have been how my Mr. Gatto managed
to beat those roulette games.

And while collecting reams of data on
roulette wheel decisions is what is generally prescribed for locating a
beatable game, please note that most casinos already pull that data directly
from their electronic roulette scoreboards
where it can then be analyzed by
powerful software looking for anomalies.

My advice on anyone wanting to sell you a chaos
theory-derived roulette system is, as always, “Run, don’t walk.” 

While roulette remains susceptible to
several different advantage plays, most of these are easily defeated by
properly trained staff and have nothing to do with chaos theory.

And perhaps the best protection of all is
simply keeping two balls on the table of differing weights and sizes.

Even the best physics models or an
absolutely stunning supercomputer using some version of chaos modeling won’t
get far if they are unsure of the starting conditions that they need to make an
accurate prediction.

For something similar, check out:
Can Quantum Entanglement Really Help You Win At Blackjack?

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