I have written previously about ‘The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo’ but in fact, there was more than one man to claim this feat and one of the earliest was the Yorkshireman Joseph Jagger and he achieved this quite legally.
Jagger was born near Halifax in 1830 and worked as an engineer at a mill in the village of Shelf and it was his knowledge of engineering that was to make his fortune.
He visited Monte Carlo in the 1870s where he watched the roulette wheels in action. Jagger knew from experience that no wheel spins perfectly and that would mean that different roulette wheels would favour certain numbers.
To test his theory, Jagger employed six clerks to watch the wheels at the Beaux-Arts Casino and to note down the sequence of numbers where the ball fell. Studying the results, he realised that one particular wheel favoured nine numbers which were 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 19, 22, 28 and 29.
Armed with this knowledge, Jagger returned to the casino and in the space of three days, he won £60,000 which is equivalent to £3 million in today’s money.
The casino was naturally suspicious of Jagger’s good fortune and they set out to outfox him by switching the positions of the roulette wheels. Jagger began to lose but then realised that a scratch he had noticed on the biased wheel was missing from the wheel he was playing so he searched the casino until he found the one he wanted and carried on winning.
The casino finally got the better of him by rotating the metal dividers between the numbers each night, so that the roulette wheel would be biased to a different set of numbers. Realising that he was beaten, Jagger returned to Yorkshire and gave up his job in the mill, investing his cleverly gotten gains in property in Bradford before he died in 1891.