Roulette has gained a reputation over the years for being one of the more dramatic and exciting gambling games you’ll find in the casino. This is in part due to the game’s dramatic tension. There’s always that moment when the ball bounces from pocket to pocket, giving every player the hope that it might land on their lucky number. But it’s also due to the huge odds offered on single number bets, which allow players the chance to earn a fortune with a few lucky spins.
In the centuries during which roulette has been played, a handful of bets and players stand out above the rest as the most famous in the game’s history. Here are just a few of the well-known roulette gamblers and bets, along with a few famous fictional accounts of roulette, too.
Famous Roulette Players
Perhaps the first truly famous roulette player was Joseph Jagger, also known as “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo“. In 1873, Jagger had the idea that not all roulette wheels were perfect, and so employed several people to track the numbers on every roulette wheel in Monte Carlo’s famous casino. After several days of study, Jagger was certain that one wheel was showing a bias towards nine numbers in particular. Over the course of several days Jagger was then able to exploit this bias in order to win around £65,000 – the equivalent of well over £3 million in today’s terms.
Just a few years later, Monte Carlo would once again see itself defeated in spectacular fashion by a roulette player. In July 1891, a small-time criminal from London named Charles Wells showed up with a few thousand pounds he had made on a fraudulent invention. He managed to “break the bank” – winning all of the money stored at the table – at every table he played at over the course of about eleven hours. He repeated that feat again in November, winning over a million francs in both cases. Unlike Jagger, Wells had no secret and later admitted his run was simply a combination of luck and the use of a very aggressive martingale system.
Another famous gambler who won enormous amounts of money on roulette was Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo. Though there had been over 100 years since Jagger found those biased wheels in Monte Carlo, Garcia-Pelayo ventured that there would still be wheels that could be exploited if he looked hard enough. Sure enough, he found a wheel at the Casino de Madrid and ultimately won over €1 million by betting at the biased tables.
Famous Roulette Bets
In some cases, players have become more famous for a single bet at the roulette wheel rather than any long term success in defeating the casino. For instance, in 2004 there was the highly-publicized account of Ashley Revell. This London man decided to take the ultimate risk, raising as much money as possible in order to place it all on a single bet on the roulette wheel. After selling everything he owned Revell was able to raise $135,300. The professional gambler then put all of his money on red at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. When the ball landed on 7 Red, Revell collected his winnings of $270,600, left the $600 in “change” as a tip, and walked away.
In 2009, television personality and illusionist Derren Brown attempted to predict where a roulette ball would land live on UK television. To make the stakes a little higher, he took £5,000 of an individual’s money and wagered it on a single number. According to Brown, he would use the laws of physics to predict where the ball would land and waited for about three seconds after the roulette wheel began spinning before choosing number 8. Unfortunately for Brown (and whoever wagered the money), the ball landed one pocket over, on number 30.
Roulette in the Movies
Roulette has often been used in films to create a dramatic moment where a character has a chance to earn all the money they need to perform some important task. For example, the German film Run, Lola, Run has the main character (Lola) wager 100 marks twice in a row on 20, winning both times. She wins a total of 129,600 marks – more than the 100,000 she needed to pay off her boyfriend’s debts.
Roulette also played an important role in one of the most famous movies of all time. In the classic 1942 film Casablanca, Rick (Humphrey Bogart) owns a cafe that features a rigged roulette wheel. While he mostly uses this wheel to scam customers out of money, he helps a Bulgarian couple looking to bribe the local police captain by suggesting they wager their money on the number 22. After the number wins, he once again tells them to bet on 22, which wins yet again. At this point, Rick warns the husband that it is now time to cash in their winnings, and that it would be in their best interests never to play on that particular roulette wheel again.