The Magnetic Roulette Ball

October 10, 2011 § 8 Comments


For many years casino bosses scoffed at the notion of a magnet being put inside of a standard acetate or nylon roulette ball, which was standard for all casinos.  They felt it would be impossible.

The casino boss’ reasoning made sense.  How could you cut open a roulette ball and put a magnet inside?  The cutting would be easy enough, but how would you put the ball back together?

There was a way to get a magnet inside of a roulette ball, and we devised it, also figuring out how to control the gaffed roulette ball.  What good is it to have a small magnet inside of a roulette ball without the power to influence it?

I wore a powerful Alnico magnet on the top of my upper left thigh underneath very baggy slacks, which performed the function of hiding the magnet.

The magnet was heavy, about 25 pounds, 10 inches long, four inches wide and three quarters of an inch thick.  I couldn’t keep it in place without some modification to the magnet.  We had a leatherette cover made for the leg magnet with a loop at the top so a belt could pass through it.  This was still not enough to hold it in place so we made a strap that ran from the loop under my shirt to my shoulder.  That did it for the support.

It was not magic to get a magnet inside of a roulette ball if you made your own roulette balls from scratch, and that’s what we did.

When I write “we” the other half of “we” was the same guy I was involved with in the lead bottoms I wrote about in a previous post.  “We” are still good friends and I talk with him often.  His initials are R.M. and I am putting this in as an inside joke between R.M. and I. He is now a respectable businessman and if he wants to tell somebody who R.M. is, it’s up to him.  I’m sure he’ll laugh.

R.M. and I went to a machine shop in Los Angeles and requested the manufacture of our desired ball molds so we could cast our own balls.  We explained to the machinist, in order to enlist his aid in the design, that we were inventing a kind of pinball machine game that utilized plastic balls of different diameters that were to contain small pieces of metal of varying weights in the center giving each ball a different weight but the same appearance.

He was most helpful with the various-sized molds that were eventually developed out of aluminum.  He constructed molds that separated into two halves, a bottom and a top.  Each half of the mold had half the diameter of a roulette ball machined into the surface.  When the two surfaces of the mold met, the interior concave surfaces formed an almost perfect sphere.

The top half of the mold had a quarter inch diameter hole drilled into the center of its concave section that reached into the top half of the mold.

We returned to Vegas with our molds.

We had purchased a common colorless liquid resin from a hobby shop.  The plastic resin came with a catalyst, which when added during the ball manufacturing process, caused the special roulette ball to harden exactly like a normal acetate or nylon roulette ball.  The hardening took five hours.

Then we had the bottom half of the ball poured to within one sixteenth of an inch below the rim of the bottom concave sphere of the aluminum mold.  We would wait for approximately two hours and then place a three-eighths inch long by one-eighth inch thick diameter “indox” magnet on the center of the top half of the partially hardened tacky half-ball.  Now the indox magnet would be exactly in the center of the sphere.  (One eighth of an inch equals two sixteenths of an inch, thus the reasoning for placing the indox magnet one sixteenth of an inch below the rim of the bottom mold.)

We then attached the top half of the mold and poured more liquid plastic through the quarter inch shaft of the top half of the mold.

We used indox magnets because they produced powerful magnetic fields, were light in weight and had reverse polarities.  One end would repel and the other would attract.

We used the reverse polarity magnets because we felt that when the roulette ball was in the roulette wheel-head race it could be more easily knocked out of the race by the magnet on my leg because it was either pulling or pushing the ball, maybe both.

After waiting five hours we would remove the ball from the mold. The ball would have a “stem” that we cut off with a hacksaw blade.

The machinist had manufactured special-hardened, extremely sharp steel cutting dies to remove the seam between where the two halves of the sphere had been joined.  We had a different sized die for each size ball we were to make.

By hand, we shaped the ball by rolling it against the steel dies, which had a concave shape to match the resulting shape of the balls, until we had an almost perfect sphere.  We used a micrometer to measure and achieve the desired size.  Shave a little, measure a little, shave a little.  Measure until the desired result was achieved.  For example, a ball that was a true half-inch (five hundred thousands of an inch) or whatever size we were making.

Roulette balls are not white; they are more of a cream or ivory color.  We added color pigment to the plastic resin to achieve whatever color we wanted.  I made a purple ball once during our practicing of how to make the balls.  My partner didn’t think purple was practical, and it wasn’t, but I did it anyway.  I was having fun. The ball was useless but I liked it.

There is an old cheaters’ saying, “Now that we know how to do this, we have to find somebody to do it to.”

Now we had to get one of our special balls into a roulette game.

We had our own roulette wheel head and practiced for six to eight hours a day for a month until I was able to knock the ball into a section of 10 numbers fifty percent of the time—enough to get the money.  With the dealer getting out 20 spins an hour, we figured we would earn $1,300 an hour betting $5.00 per number.  Normally, we would begin with betting $1.00 per number and my partner would slowly increase his betting in increments of one or two units to make it look more natural.  This was enough to win the money without creating too much steam from the pit help.

The two of us would work in conjunction.  I would “switch” our ball for the casino’s roulette ball.  It was simple enough to do.  I would stand at the edge of the roulette wheel-head, at the end of the table with the magnetic ball cupped in my right hand.  When the casino’s ball slowed down and was on its last spin, ready to drop from the wheel-head race in which it was spinning, my cohort would be standing at the opposite end of the table.  We had eye contact and he was excellent with his timing of buying in with a hundred-dollar bill, throwing it on the layout at the last second, “rounding” the dealer so the dealer would turn his head for just a moment.

It was too late for the dealer to give him chips at this point, but the dealer wanted that bill off of the layout so he’d reach out and grab it. This is all the time I needed.  Everybody was distracted.  I’d put my right hand over the edge of the wheel-head rim and let the casino ball roll into my hand, “catching” it and simultaneously dropping our magnetic ball. The ball would bounce around and settle in a number like it was supposed to.

This was before the colorless Plexiglas shields were put up around the roulette wheel-head and chip bank—to prevent this type of thing—where players could stand and watch.

The next step was for me to go put the magnet on and then come back to the game.  I did not want to get caught with a magnetic ball in my hand and a magnet on my leg.

My friend and cohort would be making one-dollar bets on certain numbers until I got back to the game. I sat in the seat closest to the wheel head.  This was so I could move my left leg under the wheel head to knock the ball out of the race.

We had decided on using the ten numbers after the double zero because the green of the double zero was twice as wide as the green single zero, which afforded me the luxury of instantly locating the section I was lining up with the ball.

My partner was betting the same section of numbers on the wheel every spin of the ball: the 10 numbers following the green 00, namely 27-10-25-29-12-8-19-31-18-6.

He would now stand in the middle section of the table, as he had to reach the number “six” at one end of the table and the “31” at the other when placing his bets.

Of course we did not acknowledge each other.  If we were to get caught we did not know each other.  I was going to take all the heat.  Young and dumb.

I had to watch more than one thing at a time: the spinning roulette ball as it slowed to a speed that would look normal when it was knocked from the race by my leg magnet, ensure the ball was lined up with the green double zero when I moved my leg under the wheel-head to affect the ball, all the while making meaningless notes on a pad of paper.

I also had to pay attention to the pit help.  I used to slick my hair back with Vaseline, wear thick horn rimmed glasses to look like a nerdy “system” player.  All casino people laugh at system players.  When I was sure I was going to knock the ball into our section, I’d touch the top of my head and my partner would try to get down bigger bets.

R.M.  had dealt craps for years and had the ability to get the chips down really fast.

We developed a “route” of casinos.  We kept track of what date we had been there, which shift and so on.  We never played near the end or beginning of a shift.  We did not want to be pointed out by a dayshift boss to a swing shift boss.  There were no cameras in those days so that was certainly to our benefit.

We would win a couple of thousand dollars or so at each casino and quit.  We did not take the magnetic ball out of the game(s).  We should have, but felt it would be easier to not have to put it in again a month later.

We also made the mistake of having two magnetic balls on separate roulette tables in the same casinos.  Somehow, one of the casinos had moved a roulette ball from one table to another, and upon closing the table on the graveyard shift and placing everything under the chip bank cover, two roulette balls moved and stuck together.

This made the newspapers and our scam was over.  Some bosses began carrying little magnets in their jacket pockets and they would pass them over a ball every once in a while to make sure it wasn’t magnetic.

Still, the casino people did not completely understand how this scam worked, how the magnetic ball was controlled.

On occasion, a roulette ball will come out of the race, hit the wheel head and bounce out of the wheel head and land on the floor.  Customers and pit help will look for it.

This happened once with our magnetic ball and the ball stuck to my leg magnet.  People were looking around for the ball and I took it from my leg, bent down to the floor and said, “Here it is.”

Another time we had a young woman carrying the leg magnet in her purse for us.  She had a big leather bag for a purse that she slung over her shoulder to carry the magnet, as it was too heavy for her.  It weighed about 25 pounds and she went about 105 pounds, at most.

After I put one of our magnetic balls into a game, I would meet with her in the lobby and she’d hand me her purse and I would go into a bathroom and put it on in a stall.  Otherwise I would have to go to the car, take off my baggy pants and put on the magnet inside the car.  It was not the most comfortable thing and the car would not always be parked close by.  Besides, passersby could see into the car.

She was carrying the magnet down the street and got too close to a metal lamppost.  Her bag stuck to the lamppost and she couldn’t pull it off.  She kept struggling with it.  I was about 100 feet behind her, made it to her quickly and pulled the bag off of the pole.

She learned to stay away from metal things like slot machines and lampposts.

I think the roulette ball gaff could be done today with some kind of electronic device inside the ball and a remote control unit with which to influence the ball.  Just need a dealer to put it into the game.

And there are plenty of dealers with larceny in their hearts.

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