Derren Brown, often misspelled as Darren Brown, has a long history of amazing casino tricks. In his well-known Mind Control series he successfully demonstrated a simple means of counting cards and thereby turning the odds at Blackjack into the favour of the player. Casinos were incensed and his ban remains in place to this day.
I remember Derren well from parties at Bristol University, where as a fellow student, he used to amaze us with his feats of magic. Students were often reduced to tears of incredulity by seemingly simple acts for which there was no explanation. One time he stopped my friend Greg’s watch and wound it back to a number he chose, without getting anywhere close to it. While we were wide eyed in amazement Greg simply scowled and grumbled “You broke my watch”.
This latest series was announced as “some of his most incredible feats to date”, which was a pretty ambitious claim when you consider the scale of some of the previous tricks such as the Russian Roulette incident. This event, billed as the big finale, promised to unlock the secrets to beating the casino. But was it real, or simply an elaborate scam? Do casino systems follow a similar scam, or can you genuinely beat the casino?
The answer of course is more complicated than that. All casino games, without exception, include a house edge, the small advantage that means over time the casino always wins. Roulette has one of the smaller edges, at 2.7% on single-zero, European tables. However the house edge can be turned by making small adjustments to the odds, as Derren Brown showed in his card counting method for Blackjack. Effective roulette systems work in a similar way, though many are simply leveraged double-up strategies that produce no long term returns. Mathematics-based systems like the Mayer Roulette System alter the odds in a small but significant way that allows players to slowly build up a large bank that can then be used to place very large bets, such as Derren Brown demonstrated for one lucky viewer.
So how did Derren’s system work? Derren Brown used an elaborate speed measurement device to predict the speed and angle of descent of the ball onto the roulette wheel. In the TV show, he was one out and loses the viewer his money. Of course in reality a system such as this is banned by law from being used in a casino.
To really beat the casino, Derren Brown’s TV show showed a neat trick, but only a mathematical and effective strategy will allow the house edge to be overcome and consistent winnings to be achieved.