How do they play roulette on a cruise ship?

This question is pretty straightforward: Roulette on a cruise ship? Sure, these are really big ships and sure, the table can be more or less level, but not dead on balls accurate like a land based table can be. (It’s an industry term.) Is it just a matter of any ship motion being attributed as random and not any advantage to anyone?

Well, except they’re not random movements, are they? The ship will roll from side to side to a much greater degree than it will pitch up and down from stem to stern so you’d expect, all other things being equal, a bias in favour of the ball ending up on the numbers to port and starboard, rather than the numbers to fore and aft.

Whether this is born out by observation, I can’t say.

presumably they could use a table like this?

Yeah, but in roulette, the ball spins one way and the numbers spin the other way so no obvious preference there…

That’s kind of what I was thinking. Thanks.

Even if the ball and table reacted to completely regular and predictable ship motion that wouldn’t reduce the overall randomness. Provided each ball release and wheel spin wasn’t also correlated with the ship’s motion.

If you always spun the wheel the same speed and always released the ball the same way at the same point in the rotation you’d have a very non-random outcome on dry land. So doing the same thing at sea with a perfectly rhythmic ship motion would also be equally non-random. In this case adding in an actual ship motion which is not perfectly rhythmic would in fact add randomness to the process.

The numbers don’t stay stationary on a roulette wheel.

I’d wonder how they would test it. For regular wheels, they routinely do a lot of spins and check the pattern for any variances to ensure the wheel is balanced. (These checks have to be done frequently to ward off tampering.) But the pivot point shifting around against a swaying wheel could introduce anomalies that such checking wouldn’t find.

Modern jumbo cruise ships have a barely detectable motion so those should be fairly accurate. But for smaller ships, perhaps they shut down the wheel in heavier seas.

There’s no problem. The magnets used to suck the ball into the desired pockets are strong enough to overcome the effects of ship motions.


The testing works the same way as on dry land and produces the same results with the same degree (or lack) of accuracy & repeatability.

At least in modern casinos each wheel spin is recorded anyhow. That is a continuous in-service test of randomness. If a wheel was loaded it’s be real obvious real quick.

This is the essential point. Because the numbers are what’s spinning, the ship’s motion doesn’t affect the probability.

Big modern cruise ships are a lot more stable than some of the buckets I used to work on* - from experience, the casino would be closed if the movement of the ship was anything beyond a very gentle roll and pitch - I don’t think this was actually motivated by any concerns about things like the roulette wheel, but rather, to minimise the range of activities that required passengers to remain standing up.

*(I had an audit job that required me to travel on cruise ships as a passenger - it was pretty sweet, except the bits where I had to crawl into odd-shaped, tight, smelly storage lockers way below decks)

What were your accommodations like? I had a friend who played drums on a few cruises. Sounded like a sweet gig, but all he could do was talk about the tiny, shitty room he shared with too many people and the long hours he worked.

Not to answer for Mangetout, who will of course have had a different experience anyway, but my brother has been on a few cruise ship gigs in the last few years and from what I gather it’s a working holiday - yes, they have to work hard during the hours they are on stage, but the rest of the time is theirs to enjoy like any other passenger. I daresay they don’t get the best rooms but I don’t think they were like servants’ quarters either.

Also, IANAL, but typical casino regulations may not be applicable in international waters, so strict statistical outcomes may not be necessary. Players may effectively “assume the risk” of any negative impacts of rolling waves while the cruise line has ways of mitigating risk on their end by closing the table to players who appear to be winning to much or are overly interested in recording outcomes to identify a trend. They also have the historic data and can identify any major biases that would create a cash drain.

Normally a small fairly basic passenger cabin, but as I was travelling as a passenger, I coukd use the lounges, restaurants etc, so only went to the cabin to wash and sleep.

Sometimes it was possible to get switched into a better cabin if one was available. One time I managed to get upgraded to a stateroom, which was nice.

I’d typically have to work 12 hours our of every 24 and maybe 18 or 20 hours straight on the last day of the job, so I made sure to take advantage of the rewards.

I didn’t play roulette on my last cruise but it seems that they didn’t use regular tables, but computerized ones with a display screen.