How Alan Turing Cracked the Casinos Before the Nazi Code: Mathematical Genius Used Equations to Assess the Odds of Winning at Roulette Before He Was Given the Job of Enigma
- Alan Turing used equations to judge the odds of winning roulette, letter shows
- Letter was written 88 years ago while a student at Cambridge
- The seven-page letter is now being sold at auction with an estimate of £50,000
- Also sold is a photo of Turing in Sherborne in 1930. It is valued at £4,000
He used his genius in math to crack the Nazis’ Enigma code, which helped accelerate the Allies’ victory.
But before that, Alan Turing focused on a less vital but potentially more profitable task: breaking the bank in Monte Carlo.
Nearly a decade before his heroic efforts in World War II, he used equations to estimate the odds of winning at roulette.
Turing’s analysis was unearthed in a letter written 88 years ago when he was a 21-year-old student at King’s College, Cambridge.
He was inspired by stories about the successful gambling past of comic book lighting inventor Alfred Beuttell, the father of a close school friend.
Nearly a decade before his heroic efforts in World War II, Alan Turing used equations to estimate the odds of winning at roulette at the Monte Carlo Casino (pictured)
He was inspired by stories about the gambling history of comic book lighting inventor Alfred Beuttell, who told Turing that he had devised a “Monte Carlo” method. Pictured: Roulette table in the casino of Monte Carlo
Beuttell told Turing that he invented his own “Monte Carlo” method and lived off his casino winnings for a month on the French Riviera.
Turing put Beuttell’s system to the test and calculated the odds of winning after 150, 1,520, 4,560 and 30,400 spins.
His calculations showed that it was possible to win ‘an unexpectedly large amount’ in the short term, but the longer the gambler plays, the ‘more chance’.
Turing signed: “Sincerely to all and please don’t feel the need to reply to this rant of mine.”
The seven-page handwritten letter, on King’s College letterhead, was sent in February 1933 and has remained in the family to this day.
It will be sold on September 15 through London auctioneer Bonhams with an estimate of £50,000.
Turing’s analysis has been unearthed in a letter (pictured) written 88 years ago that is now being sold through auctioneers in London with an estimate of £50,000
Also sold at auction is a photograph of Turing and Beuttell’s son Victor with other boys and masters in Sherborne in 1930. It is valued at £4,000
Turing became lifelong friends with Beuttell’s son Victor when they attended Sherborne School in Dorset in the late 1920s.
They spoke on the phone the night before Turing’s suicide in 1954 after his prosecution for homosexual acts, then illegal in Britain.
The Queen granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013. Turing was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2014 film The Imitation Game about the cracking of Enigma.
Matthew Haley, Bonham’s Head of Books and Manuscripts, said, “From the letter you really get the sense that Turing really enjoyed doing all these calculations.
In a polite way, his conclusion seems that Beuttell’s success was beginner’s luck. It does underscore Turing’s fascination with probability… although I can’t imagine Turing playing a roulette wheel in Monte Carlo.’
Also sold is a photograph of Turing and Victor with other boys and masters in Sherborne in 1930. Its value is estimated at £4,000.