Throughout history, countless people have claimed to know the strategies and secrets for beating the classic roulette wheel. While it’s not possible to verify all of them, there are a few roulette systems that have proven successful for roulette players over the years. One of these is the Gonzalo Garcia Pelayo system, a strategy designed to reduce the house edge by recording the results and analyzing them through a computer.
Almost every roulette pro, mathematician, or data whizz will tell you that the arbitrary nature of the roulette wheel means there is no way for a player to gain an advantage, even with roulette strategies. However, Pelayo believed that roulette wheels aren’t as random as people think, and with a few calculations, certain numbers on the wheel could be predicted.
Despite the lack of evidence to back up his statement, the proof in the pudding came when Pelayo won over 600,000 euros at a Madrid casino in a single day. His mammoth win resulted in the casino accusing him of cheating and filing a court case shortly afterward, which to Pelayo’s delight, was unsuccessful.
This wasn’t the only occasion the former record producer turned roulette master made a fortune with his strategy. But before we delve into his success and failures, let’s first run through Pelayo’s backstory and how he came to conceive his theory.
The Birth of the Gonzalo Garcia Pelayo System
Born in Madrid, 1947, Gonzalo Garcia Pelayo’s career path consisted of producing records, presenting, broadcasting for radios, and directing TV commercials and short films. Aside from becoming a highly successful entrepreneur at a young age, he was also an extremely talented mathematician with weak gambling skills. His initial failings with roulette prompted him to study his losses further, and one day it occurred to him that if the algorithms of the roulette wheel are not 100% random, it should, in theory, be possible to exploit the game in some way.
Pelayo also theorized that the results in roulette are highly reliant on the dynamics of the roulette wheel in itself. His ideas and research led him to believe that it was physically impossible for a wheel to be 100% perfect. He also thought that there must be some degree of bias towards certain numbers on the wheel – he just had to recognize where these points were to gain an edge.
He began working on a roulette system capable of overturning the bias towards the house and making it favorable to the player. To prove his thesis that the roulette wheel favors specific numbers, he needed to establish the following:
1- Masses of different data from a selection of real roulette wheels.
2- A means of analyzing data for locating any biases in the spins.
Believe it or not, the first point didn’t require a huge amount of time or effort and was pretty easy to solve. Gonzalo managed to gather tonnes of data from different roulette wheels by sending his kids to casinos across Madrid. It’s said they spent hours’ clocking spins’ on as many wheels as they could find, and within a few months, Pelayo had all the data he needed to form his strategy.
Using a computer language program developed in QBasic, Gonzalo analyzed the data from lots of different roulette wheels, then assign each number on each wheel with a value. The idea was that the more times a certain number appeared, the higher value it would be assigned. What mathematicians and IT specialists would probably call this system today is ‘frequency distribution analysis.’
In the end, what Gonzalo ended up creating was a unique profile of each roulette wheel, complete with a list that would purportedly show the numbers most likely to occur. At this point, most people would have dismissed Gonzalo’s hypothesis as nothing more than an oversimplified roulette strategy based on dealer tracking and bias wheels.
What can’t be ignored, however, is how he still managed to win an enormous amount of money using these exact methods. He stated that his analysis and secret system turned the tables in a game that normally has a 5% house edge into a game that gives a whopping 15% player advantage. Although winning on every spin isn’t always guaranteed, it’s something that has been known to work in the long term for serious players.
Hitting the Vegas Tables
Gonzalo eventually exhausted the casinos in Madrid, and most of them banned him and his family from going back. As a result, they turned their sites to the casinos around Europe and eventually the world’s roulette mecca, Las Vegas. Here, Pelayo struggled to make his system fit when he came face to face with the American roulette wheel for the first time, after being accustomed to classic and French roulette wheels.
Although the only difference in the layout is the addition of the double zero, this gives the casino almost twice the advantage. Gonzalo now needed to adjust his system to a game with a 5.26% house edge, which meant digging for even more biases that would continue to make his system feasible.
This process brought along with it a vast amount of stress and risk, as Gonzalo would later find out the hard way. One evening he picked out what he considered to be two heavily biased numbers: 8 black and 31 black. To secure a big win quickly, he started the game off by placing large wagers on these numbers. During this time, he worked out that his system stacked the odds against the ball landing on 19 red, directly on the opposite side of the wheel.
To his dismay, this is precisely where the ball hit and again on the next spin. He concluded it to be completely improbable that the ball would land on this number a third time and proceeded to place another hefty wager. Minutes later, the ball landed on red 19. After a few more minutes, Gonzalo collapsed on the casino floor and was immediately rushed to A&E with a suspected heart attack.
Luckily, it was a false alarm, and Pelayo was fully recovered and out of the hospital a day later. What did become fragile after this incident was the confidence in his theory. He even tried to return to the same casino so he could continue what he started, but soon realized he couldn’t face up to losing again or having his beliefs shattered further.
With all his confidence out the window, Gonzalo soon deduced that it is impossible to play any advantage system and that deviations and apprehension do nothing but skew the very edge that is meant to be exploited. Spain’s own roulette conquistador hung up the gloves and returned to Spain with his family shortly after this event. He only returns to Vegas now to take part in the World Series of Poker.
Why the Pelayos Roulette System Isn’t Practical Today
Pelayo may have had success with his system initially, but as you’ve now learned, it doesn’t work all the time. This is particularly true if you’re playing the American variant of roulette or an online version. When you play roulette online, it is impossible to identify any biases in the wheel because each spin is determined by random number generators.
Even though this is the case for real roulette wheels in land-based venues, people have still been able to cheat and manipulate the game in the past. One example of this is a British man named Thomas Mass, who by installing a mini-computer in his shoe, was able to detect the ball’s deacceleration after it hit the wheel and predict where it would land. He even published a best-seller on his approach to playing roulette along with several other novels dedicated to using systems.
Another genius case where technology was used to cheat the wheel was when a Hungarian and a Serbian man entered the Ritz casino in 2004. The pair pulled off a 1.3 million pound heist after installing a laser scanner in a mobile phone. This device was hooked up to a computer that would then feed them back to the sector of the wheel where the ball would most likely hit. Once the casino discovered what the two men were up to, they were arrested and kept on police bail for almost 9 months but later released after the authorities couldn’t find any evidence of tampering with casino equipment. They were also allowed to keep every last penny of their winnings.
Gonzales Pelayos certainly earned his place in the gambling history books and never before has a man and his family gone to such an extent to beat the house edge in casinos. He not only came up with a viable theory for beating roulette, but he, along with his family members, executed the idea perfectly. In total, the Pelayos made a $1.5 million profit (minus expenses) in the time they were deploying the Pelayo system. That doesn’t mean that Casino Gran Madrid didn’t put up a fight when it came to preventing the family from profiting.
According to reports, the operators continuously harassed the family and called around all of the other casinos in Europe to have them banned. Multiple casinos have also made changes to their layout of the roulette tables since then, which include making the dealers spin the balls faster, moving the wheels around, and outright banning players who show even the most minuscule sign of using an advantage system.
So, next time you go to play roulette at a casino, keep Mr. Pelayo and his family in mind — just don’t put all your money on red 19!