Joseph Jagger

The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo

Joseph Jagger

The first famous roulette player was a man named Joseph Jagger, also referred to as the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.

He was born in Yorkshire, England in 1830 and worked as an engineer in a cotton factory.

Through his knowledge of mechanics and love for the game of roulette, Jagger believed that not all roulette wheels were completely random, as the slight imperfections would result in some numbers coming up more than others.

Testing his roulette theory

To test his theory, in 1880 Jagger headed to Monte Carlo, where he acquired the help of 6 people to watch the 6 roulette wheels at the Beaux-Arts casino, with one person watching one wheel each.

The helpers took note of the results from the wheels, which allowed Jagger to find that one particular wheel was biased to particular set of nine numbers, which were 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 19, 22, 28 and 29.

Photo of a vintage roulette wheel design

Early roulette wheels would not have been as precise or as balanced as modern wheels.

With his new knowledge of the frequency of certain numbers occurring at one particular wheel, Jagger headed to the casino with the intention of exploiting the wheel's tendencies. Sure enough, the same numbers kept appearing on the wheel, and over the next 3 days Jagger accumulated over £60,000 ($120,000) in winnings, which in today's money is equal to around £3,000,000 ($6,000,000).

After the third day the casino was becoming highly suspicious about the large losses that they had been suffering, and so in an attempt to offset this loss, they switched the positions of the roulette wheels in the casino.

On the fourth day, Jagger was unaware that the wheels had been switched, and so began to lose money to the casino. However, after a short while Jagger noticed that a scratch on the biased wheel was not present on the wheel he was currently playing at, and so searched around the casino to find the biased wheel once again. Sure enough, Jagger found the correct wheel and continued to win money for another two days.

Monte Carlo roulette hall photo

Monte Carlo casino roulette hall today.

You cannot beat roulette forever

Once again, the Beaux-Arts casino was not best pleased with their losses, and so they went to further lengths to prevent Jagger from taking more money from them. This time, instead of switching the roulette tables around, the casino would rotate the metal dividers between the numbers each night, so that the roulette wheel would be biased to a different set of numbers.

This time, Joseph Jagger was unable to overcome the constant changes of bias in the roulette wheel, and so lost some of his total winnings for the next two days.

After the second day, Jagger kept a clear head and decided that enough was enough, and left Monte Carlo to head home to Yorkshire with his winnings.

Joseph Jagger

Joseph Jagger's Grave

When he got home, he retired from the Mill and invested some of his winnings into property. Joseph Jagger died in 1892 at the age of 72, and is buried at Bethel Chapel in Shelf, West Yorkshire.

And for those of you who may be wondering; yes, Joseph Jagger is said to be a distant cousin of Mick Jagger, the lead singer of the Rolling Stones.