Did you know that the famed casino in Monte Carlo was built along a depressed seaside area known as the Den of Thieves? The name was changed and the harbor swept of unsavory characters before Le Grand Casino de Monte Carlo opened in 1858.
The main casino buildings still stand, and look much like they did back in 1873 when Joseph Jagger brought the world's second smallest country to fame by "breaking the bank at Monte Carlo."
Jagger was a regular player at the casino, and like many roulette players, he systematically wrote down spin after spin on tablets provided by the casino.
He watched and listened intently and eventually found a bias in the wheel he was playing. Jagger's newfound knowledge allowed him to exploit his edge, eventually winning every checque and placque on the game. Fittingly, a black shroud was placed over the layout while the game sat empty and Jagger took his haul to the cashier.
That story sounds a lot more romantic than the one about the bandit using a gun to steal chips from a Las Vegas craps game. My how things have changed, or have they?
The 1892 song The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, made famous by Charles Coburn, was actually inspired by the exploits of Charles Wells, a notorious gambler and huckster of nonexistent inventions.
In 1891, Wells defrauded £4,000 from investors for a share in his latest scam, the "musical jump rope." Instead of getting a patent, he headed to Monte Carlo and employing a Martingale system, hit a lucky streak that "broke the bank" - winning over a million francs.
The song made Wells famous and used his new status and influence to persuade more wealthy clients to invest in his great inventions, but he consistently returned to Monte Carlo to play roulette with their cash. Eventually his luck abandoned him, he was jailed for fraud numerous times, and he died busted in Paris in 1926.
I guess that proves that it's easier to beat the casinos at their own games than to defraud and steal to get the chips. Plus, you get to use your player's reward club points for comps!