How to win at Roulette
Norman Squire

This title was originally published in 1968, although I picked up the reprint which was published in 1992 - not too long after Norman Squire's death at the age of eighty four. The original was published shortly before the 1968 Gambling Act became law, a State agency was established to police the casino industry ("The Gaming Board") and the licensing conditions significantly tightened up. By 1972, around 90% of the twelve hundred or so casinos that were estimated to have existed across the UK prior to the Act had closed (including the one owned by the Krays in Soho, London). At the time, a survey estimated that around three and a half per cent of men, and one and a half percent of women gambled in a casino, although the majority of these not doing so on a regular basis. So one might be forgiven for thinking that the original edition was published as an opportunist venture, targeted at this market sector, and to take advantage of the 1968 Act being introduced.

To begin with, the book looks at the game of roulette; a description of the wheel and of the French and American betting layouts, different types of bets including the call bets, the payoffs and consideratons around the house edge. It's all there and in my humble opinion is as good as any other overview of roulette and its variants. This is the good bit. However the remainder of the book, in fact the vast majority of it, is devoted to "winning" (one presumes from the title) systems and studies of the betting sequences and progressions that make them up. There are many different ones examined, with a large proportion being of the negative progression variety. Definitely the not so good bit.

In addition to examining a multitude of systems, there is also a chapter on "hypothetical bets" (read "waiting spins") which he suggests should be used to reduce the amount of capital required to apply a system, four on "sleeping numbers" and one entitled "The Write Off Column" - which looks to be simply an overly egged case of abandoning a progression when in profit, having maintained an unnecessarily complex record of results from which one can make this decision. Whilst on the subject of maintaining results, the author also recommends that zero results, and any profit or losses resulting from them, are recorded separately from the wins and losses resulting from the red and black numbers. I'm not sure what all of that's about, although if one nets off all three columns to arrive at a net result for all numbers the bottom line will reflect the overall result of playing. Zero is, afterall, just another number on the layout.

The chapter "Les Voisins" (page 170) merits a mention. This one discusses an advantage play technique, although Mr S doesn't refer to it as such, and it could easily be overlooked amongst the nonsense "systems" wordage - which would be a shame as I think it does carry some weight. Basically it's a consideration of dealer signatures, taking advantage of a fairly consistent "gap" between consecutive winning numbers that may result from them and betting a five number sector of the wheel to allow for a margin of error. Mr S states in the opening paragraph of this chapter that roulette's 2.7% disadvantage can be turned into a positive edge of around 16% by applying this technique, although there's no explanation as to how this number has been arrived at. Personally, given all of the factors that can impact the final resting place of the ball after it hits the rotor, I think a five number sector is far too limited - and a sector of nine, eleven, thirteen or even fifteen numbers would provide a greater degree of confidence. Mr S also points out that even where consistent gaps are due to randomness, and not the actions of the croupier, betting on a five number sector of the wheel will still provide a 5/37 probability of being successful - and as such he implies there's everything to gain from pursuing this technique but nothing additional to lose. That bit he got spot on.

Taking all of the content into account, if someone who had never played roulette before picked up How to win at Roulette and flicked through it I'm sure their first impression would be that roulette is a complex undertaking and, just like chess, takes a great deal of study and practice to do well at. Nothing could be further from the truth of course, and all of the systems, methods and other considerations Mr S has written about simply pimps up what is a very simple gaming proposition. As all savvy roulette players will know, all roads lead to Rome and a house edge of 2.7% regardless of how they choose to place their bets. I did turn to the back of the book fairly early on to read the conclusion and final thoughts of the author but, alas, there isn't one.

Norman Squire (1907-1991) was a top Bridge Player and senior member of the English Bridge Union. He won many prestigious tournaments during the 1940s and 1950s, and published several titles on the subject of Bridge - his earliest being the Theory of Bidding which he published in 1957. Having researched Mr S before getting stuck into How to win at Roulette, I was profoundly disappointed at what he'd presented - which is bascially an overly-worded route map that will more than likely end at the poor-house. As bridge is a game of probabilities, skill, cunning strategies and having a good idea of what your opponents are likely to do, I did expect Mr S to have taken a far more level headed and pragmatic approach to explaining the dynamics behind roulette and the risks that go with playing it. Regrettably he didn't, and as such I can only conclude that How to win at Roulette is just another book about roulette that's predominately filled with nonsense. In short most of it's tosh which shouldn't be taken seriously. Sorry Norman.

January 2018.