How American Students Beat Casinos with Math in 1978

Greetings, dear Readers! Today I want to tell you about an amazing case that happened in the late 1970s in sunny California. 

It was there that a group of graduate students from the University of California, headed by J. Doin Farmer and Norman Packard were able to develop and, most importantly, implement a clever plan that allowed them to win when playing one of the most unpredictable games – roulette. Well, if you want to try to play roulette yourself, then you can visit Woo Casino.

How Did They Do It?

How Did They Do It

One hot summer, young people, driven, by the way, not by a thirst for profit, but by a high desire to finance their scientific developments, decided to come up with schemes for cheating casinos.

The approach was chosen really scientific: according to the memories of the eudemons themselves, they analyzed data on the rotation of a particular roulette in a casino for about two years using a video camera and an oscilloscope, and then derived a formula that allowed with sufficient probability to determine the specific octant where the ball thrown by the dealer would fall.

In American roulette, strictly speaking, there are 38 sectors. So the octant of the Eudaemons is a range of about 4-5 sectors. In addition, there was an opportunity not to place a bet.

The formula, by the way, included only four variables, but required quite complex calculations that could not be made so quickly as to have time to make the right bet.

Special Minicomputer

Special Minicomputer

Then the students decided to create a minicomputer that would calculate everything online. In 1978, it was assembled in the sole of a shoe! Although the graduate students, apparently, relied on similar developments of the father of information theory, Claude Shannon (yes, he was also fond of casinos), their approach claimed to be revolutionary.

The system itself required the participation of two people: one observer and a player directly placing bets. The first watched the roulette wheel at the beginning of its unwinding (even before the ball was thrown) and entered the initial data (most likely it was about any positions of marker points on the wheel, for example, the “zero” field) into the minicomputer using the big toe.

After processing, the information was transmitted through the antenna to the second partner – the player, who felt it in the form of vibrations of solenoids, also embedded in the shoe. Feeling the unique “pattern” of fluctuations, the player placed a bet on the range specified by the computer.

The technical problem was not only the provision of power, but also the location of microcomputers and solenoids in the sole of the shoe, which implied loads due to body weight. Then the graduate students decided to use epoxy resin as a damper, and the power battery was made removable so that its prompt replacement was possible, for example, in the casino toilet.

It was not without problems: once there was a breakdown of the insulation, and the player received a thermal burn of the foot. Fortunately, he didn’t show it.

The result was stunning – the average profit was 44 cents per 1 dollar, and the total income was $ 10,000. The “research” was stopped when the casino began to take up too much time, and the goals were achieved.

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