“Richard Jarecki, Doctor Who Conquered Roulette, Dies at 86”

[relevant video]

Thanatos Savehn is right. This obituary, written by someone named “Daniel Slotnik” (!), is just awesome:

Many gamblers see roulette as a game of pure chance — a wheel is spun, a ball is released and winners and losers are determined by luck. Richard Jarecki refused to believe it was that simple. He became the scourge of European casinos in the 1960s and early ′70s by developing a system to win at roulette. And win he did, by many accounts accumulating more than $1.2 million, or more than $8 million in today’s money . . . He and his wife honed his technique at dozens of casinos, including in Monte Carlo; Divonne-les-Bains, France; Baden-Baden, Germany; San Remo, on the Italian Riviera; and, briefly, Las Vegas.

How did they do it?

At the time, Dr. Jarecki told reporters that he had cracked roulette with the help of a powerful computer at the University of London. But the truth was more prosaic. He accomplished his improbable lucky streak through painstaking observation, with no electronic assistance.

Ms. Jarecki said in a telephone interview on Monday that she, Dr. Jarecki and a handful of other people helping them would record the results of every turn of a given roulette wheel to discover its biases, or tendency to land on some numbers more frequently than others, usually because of a minute mechanical defect caused by shoddy manufacturing or wear and tear.

Here’s some juicy statistical detail:

Ms. Jarecki said that watching, or “clocking,” a wheel, as Mr. Barnhart described it, could mean observing more than 10,000 spins over as long as a month. Sometimes a wheel would yield no observable advantage. But when Dr. Jarecki and company did find a wheel with a discernible bias, he would have an edge over the house. “It isn’t something he invented,” Ms. Jarecki said. “It’s something he perfected.”

Wow. This obit has more statistical sophistication than most of the PNAS papers I’ve seen.

Jarecki was bi-cultural: He was born in Germany, then his family moved to the U.S. when he was a child, then after graduating from college he moved back to Germany, then he met his wife, an American, during a medical residency in New Jersey, then not long after that they returned to live in Germany together.

Also this:

In addition to his wife, with whom he also had a home in Las Vegas, he is survived by a brother, Henry, a billionaire psychiatrist, commodities trader and entrepreneur; two daughters, Divonne Holmes a Court and Lianna Jarecki; a son, John, a chess prodigy who became a master at 12; and six grandchildren.

Two nephews of Dr. Jarecki are the award-winning documentarians Andrew Jarecki (“Capturing the Friedmans” and the HBO series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst”) and Eugene Jarecki (“Why We Fight” and “The House I Live In).”

And, finally:

Dr. Jarecki moved to Manila about 20 years ago, his wife said, because he liked the lifestyle there and preferred the city’s casinos to those run by Americans.

His touch at the roulette wheel endured until nearly the end. Ms. Jarecki said he last played in December, at a tournament in Manila. He came in first.

Roulette tournaments? Who knew??

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