Roulette is one of those games that’s all about the glitz and glam without being short on any of the thrills that attract most players to gambling in the first place. Part of what makes the game so exciting is how unpredictable the game is. Many players may find themselves almost transfixed as they stand and watch the roulette wheel as it spins, bouncing from pocket to pocket.
But the thing about roulette is that it’s really only a small handful of players who are lucky enough to walk away as winners. And few still who leave the casino with life-changing sums. It’s these players and their incredible victories that have helped add to the prestige of the game.
Roulette has also gained popularity because of how it has been portrayed in pop culture. The way most people view roulette today is largely because of a small group of famous players as well as some dramatic fictional depictions of the game.
It is generally agreed that one of the first most famous roulette players was a man by the name Joseph Jagger. He became famous in 1873 when he earned the name The man who broke the bank in Monte Carlo. He is probably the first player in history to have found a weakness in the Monte Carlo’s roulette wheels and won by taking advantage of it.
Jagger’s theory was that it’s impossible that all roulette wheels are the same. He believed that the wheels must show some bias and he was determined to find the flawed wheel. Jagger worked together with several other gamblers to track the numbers that would come up on the roulette wheels. They did this for all the wheels in the Monte Carlo casino – no small task.
After several days of careful tracking, Jagger became convinced that one of the roulette wheels was indeed flawed. He noticed that at least nine numbers appeared more frequently due to the bias of the wheel. Jagger exploited this bias by betting on those numbers. In total he walked away with a whopping £65,000 which is about $3 million in today’s terms.
But the Monte Carlo certainly wasn’t safe after that. The casino was hit again in 1891 when a Londoner by the name of Charles Wells struck it lucky. Wells bet a mere thousand pounds and was able to completely clean out all the Monte Carlo roulette tables. He succeeded to do this in the space of 11 hours. Wells came back in November and once again broke the Monte Carlo bank. In total he walked away with over a million francs.
The interesting thing about Wells is that unlike his predecessor, Joseph Jagger, he didn’t rely on exploiting any biases in the roulette wheels to win. In that sense Wells is regarded as the more impressive winner.
According to Wells his win was a combination of good luck and an effective yet aggressive use of the Martingale betting system. It’s rare to see a player walk away with such impressive sums. Especially when it comes to a game which is as unpredictable and random as roulette.
Then there was Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo. Not unlike Joseph Jagger, Garcia-Pelayo believed that it was impossible for all roulette wheels to be perfect. He believed that if one looked one would find a wheel with a slight bias which could be exploited. Garcia-Pelayo proved his theory to be true when he found a biased roulette wheel at the Casino de Madrid. He walked away with over €1 million.
Sometimes it’s not the player so much as the betting style that draws attention. That’s the case with Ashley Revell. Revell has become famous for one very risky bet. In 2004 Revell decided to place the ultimate bet. He decided to bet everything he had.
After selling everything he possibly could, Revell was able to raise $135,300 which he then bet on red at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The ball landed on 7 Red and Revell walked away a very rich man. Revell’s total winning are estimated to be about $270,600.
Then there is the famous bet made by the illusionist Derren Brown. Live on television Brown predicted where the roulette ball would land. He also placed a bet of £5,000 on a single number using the money of someone in the audience. According to Brown he was able to use physics to predict precisely where the ball would land.
But the laws of physics failed Brown who predicted the ball would land on the number 8. The ball didn’t land there but in the next pocket, on the number 30.
As mentioned part of the hype around roulette comes from how it is depicted in films. Often the game is portrayed as a character’s last chance to win just what the character needs to turn his/her life around. The game is given a dramatic and omnipotent quality such that it can transform lives.
In the film Run, Lola, Run, the main character bets 100 marks on the number 20 and wins. She does it again betting the same amount on the same number and wins again. In total she walks away with an incredible 129,600 marks more than enough to dramatically transform her life forever.
Of course roulette is also featured in the famous 1942 film Casablanca. In the film the main character, Rick, owns a café where patrons can play roulette. The roulette wheel is flawed and Rick uses it mostly as a way to scam customers. However, at one point he does decide to help a couple by telling them that that should bet on 22. They do and they win. He then tells them to bet on the same number again. And so they do letting them win again.
Roulette as it is portrayed in films is not the roulette most people who frequent casinos ever get to experience. There are also few players who get to walk away with the life-changing sums that Jagger or Wells enjoyed. But it’s because of these films and the famous roulette players that roulette has become so prestigious.