The Man Who Broke The Bank

The Casino de Monte-Carlo has always been a masterpiece of grandeur with its glamorous interiors, gilded ceilings, and marble columns.

The visitors who rushed into its opulent interior on July 28, 1891, didn’t notice its dazzling surroundings. Their attention was instead drawn to a quiet, unremarkable-looking man, who had arrived at noon and played roulette with astounding success in the hours that followed.

Having arrived in Monte Carlo with £4,000 (about £400,000 today), the British-born inventor Charles Deville Wells was 50 years old at the time.

Onlookers jostled eight-deep around him as they attempted to replicate his winning streak, staying at the same table and never pausing, even for food or drinks. During the next five days, he followed this routine. When he returned to his hotel room with his winnings and slept with them under his pillow, he would return to the casino floor by lunchtime to play a mix of roulette and cards each day with a recklessness that one observer described as ‘an attempt by a mad millionaire to lose his capital’.

His winning streak was 23 out of 30 consecutive spins of the roulette wheel during one session.

Because of his short stature, he had a hard time seeing above the piles of coins and notes before gambling chips were introduced.

A fortune worth £4 million would have been amassed by the end of the week, enabling him to break the bank. To do this, it was necessary to empty a certain gaming table of all its reserves of money. As such, the play was suspended while more money was fetched from the hotel safe.

The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo, a popular Victorian music-hall ditty, celebrates Wells’ claim that he accomplished this feat ten times. In those days, almost no one hadn’t heard that tune and whenever names such as ‘Monte Carlo Wells’ were mentioned, people wondered just how he had made it so famous.

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