Norman Leigh: Banned Roulette Legend Who Won $1.3 Million at Casinos

Roulette Wheel With a Roulette Table Background

Roulette only provides an advantage to players under rare circumstances. Therefore, it hasn’t spawned nearly as many legends as other beatable games like blackjack and poker.

Norman Leigh is one of the few roulette players who’ve made it to legendary status. Using a special technique, Leigh managed to win so much money that French casinos eventually banned him.

You can read more about Leigh’s story below. You’ll also find out if it’s still feasible to use the same methods that he used to beat real money roulette.

Leigh Breaks the Bank at Monte Carlo and France

Norman Leigh began his assault on French-area casinos in the mid-1960s. He found a seemingly infallible system and recruited 12 gamblers to help him in his quest.

Leigh needed more players so that he could make larger bets and win more. He and his fellow teammates pooled together tens of thousands of francs.

Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco

The team chose to hit roulette tables in Nice (France) and Monte Carlo (Monaco—which borders France). Both locations offered the coveted European Toulette, which only has a 2.70% house edge.

Leigh’s team used his system to win 800,000 francs. When adjusted for inflation, that amount would be worth over $1.3 million today. Of course, 800,000 francs, or $1.3 million, isn’t as big of a fortune when divided 12 ways. But the winnings still ensured that each player was properly compensated for their time.

Leigh and Company Banned From French Casinos

The French and Monte Carlo casino industries weren’t too happy about losing a collective fortune. Each principality banned Norman Leigh from all of their gambling establishments.

Monaco was particularly incensed over the matter. Leigh, or at least one of his team members, broke the bank at Monte Carlo. Regarding the latter, each table at Casino de Monte Carlo begins with a specific amount of chips (a.k.a. “bank”). If a player wins all of the chips from that table, they’re said to have broken the table’s bank.

Few gamblers have pulled this feat off. Charles Wells and Joseph Jagger are among the select few roulette legends who’ve broken the bank at Monte Carlo. Leigh joined exclusive company by pulling off the feat himself.

Why Did Leigh Get Banned From Casinos?

French and Monte Carlo casinos didn’t actually know how Normal Leigh was winning when they banned him. Instead, they just felt that something was up due to the high volume of his winnings.

As I’ll explain later, Leigh wasn’t doing anything that the average roulette player couldn’t do to win. Nevertheless, the casinos felt that he must have had tricks up his sleeves.

Gambling establishments typically watch successful gamblers to ensure that they’re not cheating or using advantage play. Leigh wasn’t cheating nor employing a skill method.

Again, though, the casinos couldn’t understand how Norman’s team managed to keep winning. They simply banned him based on suspicion.

How Did Norman Leigh Win So Much in Roulette?

Some of the most famous roulette players have won big through a technique called “wheel bias.” The latter refers to watching the wheel and clocking results.

The goal is to find a faulty wheel that favors a specific pocket and section. You can read more about how wheel bias works here.

Wheel bias is the only legal way to gain an advantage through roulette. Jagger used it in 1873 to win what amounts to over $6 million by today’s standards.

Leigh, however, didn’t use this method or any other advantage technique to win. Instead, he relied on the reverse Labouchere system.

Large Amount of Bets on a Roulette Table

The reverse Labouchere system is a basic betting strategy that anybody can use. You don’t need special skills or knowhow to pull it off—just the willingness to learn.

Leigh was far from a professional gambler when he learned of the reverse Labouchere. Born in 1928, the Londoner entered the army in 1946 and worked as an interpreter.

During his time in the army, Norman always had a fascination with roulette. He began studying the game and eventually stumbled upon the system that would help him win a fortune.

How Does the Reverse Labouchere System Work?

Although anybody can learn the reverse Labouchere, it’s still not the easiest roulette strategy to understand. Given just a few minutes, though, you can quickly master the basics.

You begin using this system by writing a sequence of numbers down. The sequence can consist of any numbers and be however long you’d like. For the sake of this discussion, I’ll use 4-5-3-2 as the string.

Each number represents betting units, with the unit being the table’s minimum bet. If you’re dealing with a $5 minimum wager, then a unit size of 4 is worth $20.

You need to add the first and last numbers to determine your first bet. Assuming you win this wager, then you add the combined sum to the next sequence.

Here’s an example:

  • Your sequence is 4-2-5-3.
  • Your first bet is 7 units (4 +3).
  • You win the wager.
  • Your new sequence is 4-2-5-3-7.

If you lose the first wager, then you’ll cross off the two numbers used in the bet. Here’s an example:

  • Your sequence is 4-2-5-3.
  • Your first wager is 7 units.
  • You lose the wager.
  • Your new sequence is 2-5.

The concept of this system is to keep going until you finish the sequence. Here’s an example on completing the number string:

  1. Your sequence is 4-2-5-3.
  2. Your first wager is 7 units.
  3. You win this bet.
  4. Your new sequence is 4-2-5-3-7.
  5. Your next bet is 11 units.
  6. You lose this wager.
  7. Your new sequence is 2-5-3.
  8. Your next bet is 5 units.
  9. You lose this wager.
  10. Your new sequence is 5.
  11. You bet 5 units and lose.
  12. The sequence is over.

How Can the Reverse Labouchere Make You Money?

This system is designed to take advantage of winning streaks. It calls on you to keep adding numbers and, subsequently, bets to the string when you’re winning.

If you keep the string going for a long time, then you stand to book considerable profits. Assuming you get a large win streak going, then you can quit any time and keep the money.

I assume that Norman Leigh and his teammates often quit when they were up big. Otherwise, they might have lost everything back to the casino if they kept betting until sequences ended.

The main advantage of the Labouchere strategy is that it prevents you from losing too much money. You only stand to lose what your initial starting string contains. If the sequence adds up to 20 units, then you won’t lose any more than this.

Assuming you’re not comfortable making larger bets with this strategy, you can always play online roulette. The internet version only requires $1 minimum wagers. You could place an eight-unit bet, for example, with just $8 online.

I should stress, though, that the reverse Labouchere doesn’t overcome the house edge or provide guaranteed winnings. It merely manipulates short-term winnings. Norman Leigh and his accomplices got lucky while using this strategy.

Why Did Casinos Ban Leigh for Using a Betting System?

The reverse Labouchere may not be as easy to learn as some betting strategies. Nevertheless, it’s not a closely guarded secret either.

Literally anybody can use this system with little effort. They just need to learn the basics and have an adequate bankroll.

With that said, why did French and Monte Carlo casinos ban Norman Leigh from using this strategy? The main reason is because they didn’t understand what he was doing. These casinos simply saw that Leigh’s team continued winning and felt that he must be cheating or using advantage play.

Thirteen Against the Bank Book

However, he was merely using the reverse Labouchere strategy. Although this system can be effective with lucky involved, it doesn’t guarantee profits.

No modern casino would ban Leigh if they watched him for any measurable amount of time. That’s because the reverse Labouchere is well known today. But it wasn’t so popular or well understood back in the sixties, which is why certain casinos decided to ban Leigh.

Conclusion

Norman Leigh would go to prison on fraud charges in 1968. This conviction gave rise to the idea that he simply cheated the casinos to beat roulette.

However, Leigh got his life back together and published a book called Thirteen Against the Bank in 1976. In it, he describes how his team only relied on their system to win—no cheating involved.

It’s unclear exactly how Leigh convinced his 12 teammates to buy into the reverse Labouchere. Perhaps just like the casinos, they didn’t fully understand the strategy and just thought that it sounded great.

Whatever the case may be, Norman Leigh etched himself into roulette history. His band of 13 won $1.3 million in profits, which is a gambling feat that’s extremely rare.