Roulette Players That Broke The Bank


There is no Hall of Fame for roulette. But if there was then Joseph Jagger and Charles Deville Wells would be the first two names on the list. In the 19th century both players ‘broke the bank’ in Monte Carlo.

Joseph Jagger was a British engineer. He reasoned that because of wear and tear the outcomes of roulette wheels would not be perfectly but could be biased towards particular numbers. In 1873 Jagger went to the Beaux Arts Casino at Monte Carlo. He employed clerks to record the numbers called on all the roulette wheels. He discovered that in one of the wheels nine of the numbers occurred much more frequently than the others.

Jagger returned to Monte Carlo in July 1875. He played on the biased wheel, betting on the favourable numbers. In three days Jagger won about £60,000, which was a huge sum 140 years ago. Soon some of the other players caught on and so did the casino staff. They rearranged the position of the wheels. Next day Jagger started losing money. Having realised the switch, he located the biased wheel and began winning again. The casino reacted more decisively this time. They moved the frets and metal dividers on the biased wheel, so that a different set of numbers would be biased. And they made these change daily not giving an opportunity to Jagger to identify the biased numbers. Jagger realised that the doors had been shut but he left Monte Carlo a rich man.

Charles Deville Wells was a conman who loved gambling. He arrived at the Monte Carlo Casino in July 1891 with £4,000 borrowed from investors for manufacturing a musical jump rope. He played continuously for 11 hours in which he was lucky enough to clean out the roulette table 12 times. His total winnings ran over a million francs. In November Wells again returned to Monte Carlo. The casino suspected some form of cheating, but the private detectives put on his trail gave Wells a clean chit. Again he won over a million francs. These exploits made Wells a famous man in England. Fred Gilbert wrote a song about him titled The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. In the winter of 1892 Wells again returned to Monte Carlo with a fresh bankroll borrowed from investors. He ‘broke the bank’ six times in this trip but splurged all his winnings on wine and women. He returned home with nothing and died a poor man in 1926.