John Patrick's Roulette

For ten years during the eighties and nineties John Patrick had his own weekly TV show, "So you Wanna be a gambler?", broadcast on the Financial News Network in the States and devoted to the subjects of casino gaming and gambling. During the twenty year period or so from 1983 to the mid naughties he also authored over a dozen books, and created many instructional videos, on different casino games of chance. John Patrick's Roulette was originally published in 1987, and is one of a series he published which included, Craps, Baccarat, Blackjack, Casino Poker, Video Poker and Sports Betting, which were then followed up with a number of "advanced" titles. So you get the picture? Looking at the numbers behind all of these games of chance I suspect it's highly likely he made more money from his publishing and media endeavours than he ever did at the tables.

John Patrick's Roulette is fairly lengthy at 257 pages, but of course the important question is whether it provides anything of value for those who choose to take on the wheel of doom or is it just another title top heavy with winning systems tosh and other voodoo considerations? In short it leans far, far more towards the latter than the former.

Mr P's approach to playing roulette is very much led by his money management methodology as the key to being a consistently winning player. He advocates the setting of non-negotiable win goals and stop losses and suggests being satisfied, and walking away, when you've won 20% of your session fund or have lost a very maximum of 50% of it. This all sounds very sensible. However, if you were to apply this approach rigourously it would mean that you'd have to achieve your 20% win on five out of every seven occasions just to come out even. Obviously there are going to be times when your wins or losses will be less, and this ratio changes as a result, but regardless the combination of the house edge and the unpredictable behaviour of the variance fairy leaves this approach no more likely to win longer term than simply repeat-betting all of the numbers ending with a six. I should say that I'm not adverse to setting a point when you pocket your winnings, or pack it in and take your losses on the chin (thereby stopping them from slipping out of the comfort zone), but at no point that I could see does he highlight the fact that doing so will not affect your longer term outcomes and, averaging things out, the fact is that the more you play the more you'll lose.

In addition to setting a win goal, and loss limit, Mr P also suggests dividing the money you're planning to take to the tables into three, or more, "session" amounts, so that if you hit a lean spell and lose one you can effectively start a new session later when you pick up on a rising trend (whatever that is). There's no harm in splitting your bankroll up into smaller amounts of course, but forget about all of the other stuff around seeking out the tables that have recently returned your preferred numbers (he refers to this as "charting a table"), capitalising on rising trends, betting with the wheel or adopting any of the systems or betting progressions he includes within his book (whether you apply his money management techniques or not). All of this is just baseless voodoo. Early on, at the bottom of page 8, Mr P writes "Trends dominate in gambling! First, you gotta realize this fact. Next, you gotta find a table showing a strong trend. Then you gotta know how to take advantage of it. Trends - something you had better look at.". Taking advantage of trends is complete bollocks of course and this statement caused my alarm bells to start ringing pretty early on after opening the front cover. This put me on notice of what was to come and, regrettably, the rest was just as I expected it to be.

Chapter 71, "The Law of Averages", discusses the variance that inevitably occurs in the results although there's no attempt to explain the maths and how to quantify the best and worst case scenarios for it. Possibly he didn't know how to do this (he admits as much), although for a "professional" gambler I'd say that would represent a major deficiency in the skill-set. Likewise, in Chapter 19, "Vigorish", Mr P sets out to discuss the house edge although its profound impact goes unrecognised; he comments simply that ". . . this (the 5.26% edge on a double zero wheel) isn't rotten, but it is an uphill grind.". Hmmm . . . bearing in mind that double-zero roulette wheels have just about the worst HE of any game of chance on the gaming floor I think this is understating things, just a tad . . .

Having read through John Patrick's Roulette, and seen the quality of the content and style of writing, I think it's highly unlikely that I'll be devoting any more of my time to any of his other books. Looking at the online reviews of his other titles, they all appear to offer monotonously similar advice for each different game on the casino floor; ie they simply promote Mr P's trend spotting and money management techniques as a means of keeping players' results consistently in the black. The simple truth is that neither of these approaches are ever going to work - raising or lowering your bets, or walking away when you're up on a session, will have no effect on the probabilities of winning or losing or the pay-tables used in any given game of chance. For those who play regularly the house edge will always have the last laugh - regardless of what their snapshot profit and loss results might show during the early stages of their playing careers.

Overall then, this one's best left on the charity shop bookshelf. I would say this is where my copy would have ended up, but frankly I'm not so sure I would want anyone else to read it - as it's got the potential to do more harm than good.

John Patrick worked as a gambling author, presenter and consultant for around forty years. He relocated to Florida in 2005, having lived in Las Vegas and New Jersey beforehand. His last entry on his own online message board was made at the end of March 2018 and his last Facebook posting a year ago when he would have been 86. At the time of writing his website at johnpatrickcasino.com was disabled (and replaced with a holding page) and the domain given on his LinkedIn profile page has been re-registered by another party.

April 2020.