Frets, Pocket Pads and Wheel Leveling

The Case with the Wheel’s Frets

french_rouletteAny roulette wheel may have one or more slightly-loose frets (separators) between the ball pockets, as a result of mishandling during wheel maintenance, or if the wheel has been tampered with deliberately. No matter what may have been the cause for this pocket separator issue, a cunning player could take advantage of it.

Every wheel with loosened separators will almost always give preference to particular numbers. In case the roulette ball tends to be bouncier and comes into contact with a loosened separator, the energy in the ball will be absorbed by the movement of that separator, thus, the ball will likely stop jumping and will come to rest in the nearest pocket. The effect we described may be additionally boosted, in case more adjacent separators are loose. However, quite a strong effect will probably not avoid the attention of casino management, while the latter will surely have the wheel repaired. In case a roulette ball tends to be very lively and while traversing the wheelhead, it tends to come into contact with a larger number of pocket separators before settling, the loose-fret effect will be more noticeable.

The frets are usually manufactured of non-magnetic materials (brass, chrome-plated brass, aluminum). Each separator is held in place with the help of 1-2 small screws, which can be accessed from the underside of the wheelhead. ”Low-profile” roulette wheels have lower pocket separators and shallower pockets. This way the randomness of the wheel is improved, while the ball is enabled to pass through a larger number of pockets before it settles. Increased liveliness of a roulette ball will usually obstruct visual trackers and computer prediction programs, but it will highlight any bias resulting from loosened separators.

Roulette wheel and winning number

The loose-fret issue may occur in several ways. It may be completely accidental – for instance, when a casino mechanic drops his/her wrench into the wheelhead and it hits a separator. On the other hand, the issue may occur as a result of deliberate actions – for example, when one wiggles a separator with a pair of smoothjaw pliers, or when he/she hits it with a hammer. A professional may use a homemade tool with a slot, which can be slipped over a separator and twisted with the help of some measure of precision. In case such a procedure is executed correctly, the loose separators will be quite hard to notice.

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In order to detect loose separators, one should place the wheel in a location with no noise and just tap each one of the 38 frets with a hardwood implement, searching for a tone discordance. It is usually a time-consuming procedure and casino management will hardly consider doing it too often.
One or more separators may suffer damage eventually and may have to be replaced. To come across an exact replacement may not be an easy task at all, especially if the wheel model is a bit obsolete. In case the replacement separator does not have the identical height, the wheel’s randomness will almost certainly be compromised. If the replacement separator is a bit higher, it will catch the ball, giving preference to the nearby pockets. Respectively, if the replacement separator is a bit lower, it will probably be skipped by the ball.

We should note that a number of wheel manufacturers have devised a way to deal with the loose-fret issue. The whole circle of ball pockets is constructed from a single casting, known as a pocket ring, which we already mentioned. Such a construction is considered as one neutralizing the loose-fret problem, but there are experts in the field who state this design is a more cost-saving one. Because it is a single-piece construction, it eliminates 38 individual separators and makes the assembly of the wheel far simpler.

In some cases, the pocket ring can be adjusted independently, which means it can be rotated in relation to the circle of numbers. This way any biases brought about by particular pockets will be shifted to different numbers. In case a roulette wheel tends to favor the 8-12-29 number span, if one rotates the pocket ring clockwise by five numbers, he/she will shift the number bias to 21-6-18. The adjustable ring may prove to be an effective ”defense tool” against ”wheel clockers”, especially if it is reset each day. However, such a procedure is probably not performed more than once each week.

A resourceful player is able to clock a wheel with an adjustable pocket ring. What he/she needs to know in this case is that if it has been too much time between the clocking procedure and the play session itself, the bias may have been shifted. In order to reset the pocket ring, one needs to shut the wheel down for a while. This is the reason why such a procedure is executed early in the morning, when no one operates the wheel. Some players will use the day shift to clock the wheel and the swing shift to play the bias.

Game of roulette

The Case with the Wheel’s Pocket Pads

The pocket pads represent the material at the bottom of the ball pockets in the wheelhead, which may be of various substances. On older wheel models it is a soft vinyl material cemented in place. The vinyl comes in red and black color in alternating pockets, with the exception of the single and the double zeros. On contemporary wheel designs the pocket bottoms have a hard plastic surface, which favors greater ball bouncing. The eventual replacement of any damaged or worn pocket pads should be done with caution. In some cases the replacement pad material is not of the same resilience and thickness like the original pad, while in other cases the casino mechanic may not be precise enough when applying an even layer of cement. This may change the resilience of the pocket pad. In case all ball pocket pads do not have one and the same resilience, this would compromise the wheel’s randomness. A pad with a lower resilience is likely to absorb the energy from the ball and retain it in the pocket. On the other hand, a pad with a higher resilience is likely to shove the ball out of the pocket. It is a practice the pocket pads to be with resilience somewhere in between.

A curious fact to note is that casino management and wheel mechanics tend to ignore the pocket pads. Some of them may not be aware that pad manipulation is an easy way to have a wheel rigged. Replacing some of the pocket pads to a material with a different resilience may result in the wheel giving preference or not to particular numbers or colors.

European Roulette Wheel

Leveling a Wheel

In the past, in case a visual tracker found an appropriate wheel for prediction work, but the ball dropping point tended to be random, this was a simple issue to deal with – a player would slip a matchbook under one of the leveling feet. Because all roulette wheels have three or four leveling feet, a player standing right beside the wheel was able to access one of those feet. Although it was apparent from the player’s side of the roulette table, no one cared about the matchbook, as it seemed to have been inadvertently placed under the edge of the wheel. However, when the plexiglass security shields were introduced, such a ”procedure” became impossible.

There are cases, when a wheel may not be exactly level, because the table itself is not even. If a wheel is repositioned on the roulette table, or moved to another table, it needs to be leveled once again. No matter that wheel leveling is among the simplest procedures, a number of casinos do not seem to pay that much attention to it. This usually is to a player’s advantage and against the casino itself, respectively.

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