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  • A Math and Physics Savant Figured Out How to Beat Roulette


    • 3 minutes

    • 3 minutes

    Practice makes perfect.


    The Unbeatable Game


    We know what you're thinking: isn't roulette a game of chance? To most people, sure, but apparently not to everyone.


    According to Bloomberg, there's a man out there who's beaten the game, no computer required — and all he says it took was a little practice. Easy!


    That man's name is Niko Tosa, a Croatian math and physics savant who travels the world, sometimes with fake documents and wearing some type of disguise, to win the game that even Stephen Hawking once said is pretty much impossible to beat.


    "It is practically impossible to predict the number that will come up," Hawking once wrote about the game, as noted in the Bloomberg profile of Tosa. "Otherwise physicists would make a fortune at casinos."


    Beating roulette and Stephen Hawking? Wildly impressive.

    Practice Makes Perfect


    Tosa — that's a pseudonym — is so good at winning, in fact, that the London police launched a full-scale against him and two colleagues back in 2004, under the theory that they'd been using some type of computerized device to cheat. They weren't, but the investigation did reveal that, under perfect conditions, the game can be bested, as long as the wheel itself is ideal.


    "Those conditions are, in effect, imperfections of one sort or another," explains Bloomberg writer Kit Chellel. "On a perfect wheel, the ball would always fall in a random way. But over time, wheels develop flaws, which turn into patterns. A wheel that's even marginally tilted could develop... a 'drop zone.' When the tilt forces the ball to climb a slope, the ball decelerates and falls from the outer rim at the same spot on almost every spin.


    A similar thing can happen on equipment worn from repeated use, or if a croupier's hand lotion has left residue, or for a dizzying number of other reasons."


    "A drop zone is the Achilles' heel of roulette," he continues. "That morsel of predictability is enough for software to overcome the random skidding and bouncing that happens after the drop."


    In other words: no computer needed. Just practice, the perfect wheel, and Tosa's computer-like brain.


    "You can call me Nikola Tesla," Tosa told Chellel, when, after the reporter had tracked him down in Croatia, he was asked if he'd ever used some kind of computing machine to beat the unbeatable game, "if I have such a device!"



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