Joseph Jagger – The Man Who Broke the Bank in Monte Carlo

In the 30 Interesting Facts About Roulette, we mentioned about Joseph Jagger – The Man Who Broke the Bank in Monte Carlo, after some research online, I manage to found more detail about this Roulette Legend who his name lives until now.

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Born the village of Shelf near Halifax, England in September of 1830, Joseph Hobson Jagger (also referred to as “Jaggers”) got his practical education in mechanics while working in the cotton mills of Yorkshire as a young man. He made engineering his specialty and enjoyed studying various mechanisms, not the least of which was the roulette wheel.

Jagger’s research led him to belief that the results of each roulette spin might not be the result of purely random sequences. Instead, mechanical imbalances in the wheel might produce biases and, if so, that could lead to predictable outcomes. It was certainly a theory worth testing, even though any legitimate roulette maker would claim that such a theory would be largely untrue.

Clocking the Wheel

History does not record the exact set of circumstances that led Joseph Jagger to the Beaux-Arts Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco during the summer of 1873. What is known is that he commissioned six clerks to record every single number that came up on the six wheels of the casino throughout the twelve hours it was open. None of the clerks knew what the data was going to be used for, and none of them would share in what would later become one of the greatest runs of “luck” in gambling history.

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For six days, Jagger poured over the number his clerks had “clocked,” searching for patterns amid the randomness. It was intense work that had to be done by hand, and it gradually became clear that no unusual patterns at all occurred among the 37 numbers appearing on five of the six wheels. They were completely random. The remaining wheel, however, demonstrated a clear bias for a particular set of nine numbers: 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 19, 22, 28 and 29.

On July 7, Jagger put his discovery into action. He located the table where the biased wheel was mounted and methodically began wagering on his chosen numbers. By the end of the day, he was ahead £14,000 (equivalent to a little over $1 million at current values). Over the next three days, he continued his betting and, seeing his success, other gamblers began copying his selections. Jagger’s bankroll steadily grew to £60,000 ($4.8 million by today’s standards) before the casino began to take countermeasures.

Suspecting that Jagger had somehow targeted a specific wheel, overnight the Beaux-Arts floor managers had all six of their wheels rehoused at different tables. When Jagger returned on the fifth day, he sat down at his usual spot and began making his usual wagers, only to see his losses soon mounting. Some say he lost heavily before he realized that he was now facing an unbiased wheel.

Going out on Top

Fortunately for the engineer, he had a keen eye for detail. During his earlier winning sessions, Jagger had noticed that there was a scratch on the wheel he favored and it was no longer present. He gathered up his chips and went off to examine the other five wheels. Sure enough, he located the scratched one, took his place at the table and immediately resumed his winning ways.

In response, the casino staff had their wheel maker move around the frets, the metal dividers between numbers. This changed the bias and caused Jagger to lose on his numbers. For two days, he tried to regain his advantage, but the patterns were no longer discernable. By the time he finally gave up, Jagger was ahead roughly two million francs or £65,000 ($5.2 million currently). He returned to England, never to return.

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History records that Jagger quit his job in the cotton mills and invested his winnings in real estate. He settled down and lived a quiet life of leisure until his death in 1892, when he was buried at Bethel Chapel on Halifax Road in Shelf. His name lives on, not only in the annals of roulette lore but also in the personage of another Jagger named Mick, who is said to be a distant cousin of the first known wheel clocker.

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