Gonzalo Garcia Pelayo is another who has taken advantage of wheel bias to create his fortune, but for Pelayo it became something of a family business.
The Spanish national was born in 1947, and his initial interest was film. He studied at film school in the 60s but actually ended up working in radio, then moving across into record producing.
He had a whole career in the entertainment industry before he became interested in roulette, convinced that a man made object such as the roulette wheel could not be truly unbiased.
It was the early 90s when he began looking into this seriously, coming to the conclusion that even millimetre differences between pockets, slight imperfections in the gears that spin the wheel, and even a slightly unlevel floor could all create wheel bias.
Of course, Garcia needed to prove these theories before he began staking any real money on roulette, so he started visiting the Casino Gran Madrid and recorded the results of thousands of spins on the wheels there.
Two of his children, Ivan and Vanessa, were brought onboard to help him at this stage, because the data they were collecting was specific to each wheel. That meant more than one pair of eyes were needed.
Together, they collecting over 30,000 results, and once they had enough information the data was painstakingly fed into a computer specially built by Garcia to analyse the results.
The computer could then tell him which numbers or areas of the wheel more most likely to come up on a spin.
Confident in what he had found, Garcia worked out that wheel bias gave him a 6% edge over the house, and was ready to put some money down.
Cleaning up at Casino Gran
Pelayo was starting with a bank roll of just $2,200, and he knew he would suffer losing streaks along the way, so he still needed a little luck as his strategy was only going to be successful over the long term.
Initially lady luck evaded him, and he ended up losing half of his bank roll, but he persevered, gaining ground and eventually building his bankroll enough to set his family to work on other tables in the same casino.
They would sometimes visit 6 times a week, each person playing the biased numbers specific to their wheel, and by splitting the bankroll they also drew less attention while still making profit.
Eventually they had enough to increase their stake size, and after just a few months that initial $2,200 was worth more than $100,000.
The casino did eventually cotton on, and tried a few things to stop the Pelayo’s winning streak; they ordered the dealers to spin the ball faster, made accusations of cheating, and even tried switching the wheels between tables, but the family by now knew them so well that they could tell the wheels apart.
In the end, the matter was settled in court, with the casino’s attempts to ban the family thrown out by the Spanish Supreme Court, who found that wheel bias was a form of advantage play and not cheating.
The wheels were eventually changed and so the bias was gone, but not before Garcia and his family had banked more than $1 million of the casino’s money.
Heading to Vegas
With their plans scuppered at home, it was time for the Pelayo family to hit the road. They set off on something of a European tour of casinos, starting off in Amsterdam where they racked up $400,000 over 4 months before eventually being discovered.
They hit a personal best in Vienna when they won $110,000 in a single night, but things were getting tricker for the group as the casino industry began warning each other about the group.
This meant that they were sometimes asked to leave a casino only a few hours after first entering a new venue, making it almost impossible to track results and discover any bias let alone take advantage of it.
The pressure of their enterprise took its toll and a few members of the family decided to call it quits and head home, exhausted by the stress and from being away from home for so long.
Those who remained decided to leave Europe behind and try their luck in Las Vegas, and this is where things finally got too much.
American tables had an extra zero, making it more difficult to get a significant edge and make money, not to mention the increased security measures over there. Nonetheless, the group managed to bag another $500,000 before the head of the family, Garcia himself, finally succumbed to the pressure and collapsed.
This was a clear sign for them to stop, which they did, heading back to Spain to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle for a while.
A conservative estimate puts the family’s totally earnings by the time they had finished at more than $2 million.
Life After Roulette
He might have finished with roulette, but Garcia was a statistician and maths geeks, so he couldn’t keep away from this sort of thing for long.
He eventually turned his hand to pools betting and then poker, sticking to the world of probability in games of chance.
He also went back into film making after a 30 year hiatus, and he was the inspiration behind another, Winning Streak. This 2012 movie was originally called The Pelayos, and was released to lukewarm reviews to put it politely.
His escapades were also the topic of a documentary and a book.
In 2020, he launched a company called Mind.Capital, a software platform that buys and sells crypto currencies.