Back in the days in 1891 Monte-Carlo, every roulette table had a cash reserve of 100.000 francs. Once somebody won so much money that the table couldn’t pay, it was announced that the winner broke the bank and the table was closed until they brought extra founds. Charles Wells broke the bank and won 1 million francs with his flawless roulette strategy. He was not just breaking the bank of the casino, he even broke his own bank once.
I am not into counting the francs into dollars or pounds or care about inflation. It is enough to say that from his winnings Wells bought a ship that had a ballroom with available space for fifty guests. It’s possible that he used some progressive strategy, maybe he was just lucky, or possibly, he sold his soul to the devil.
The early years of the grasshopper
While we can tell many things about Wells, we can’t say that he was stupid. At the early stages of his career, he was working as an engineer. He developed a machine that regulated the speed of the ship’s propellers. Although his annual salary was 1000 francs, he was selling the idea for 5000. He moved to Paris and while he was spending the 5000 francs he realized that he likes pricy drinks and rare foods. Sitting at the roulette table smoking cigars he decided not to touch anything with a handle anymore.
Probably this is the time when he met his wife and future mother of his daughter. Money goes fast if you like extraordinary. Wells decided to invest in constructing a railway. Since he spent most of his money he had to find investors.
Breaking the bank with the London scam
Once he collected enough money he fled to London – not to work on the railway. I think Wells was the father of crowdfunding. He came up with partly fictitious inventions and was looking for investors to finance his ideas. His main idea was to live in luxury. He had enough assets to go big with his scam. He bought a building where he was setting up his fake chemical laboratory and machines. Once he met a potential investor he told them about his engine that cuts 40% of steamships’ fuel consumption. Since he was also showing his bank passbook to gain trust, he was convincing investors by the money flooding there by his previous investors.
Since his wife wasn’t convinced by this kind of shady business she moved back to Paris with their daughter. This was the time when Wells met Jannis Pairis a 20 years old model at the time. As he was trying everything to impress her, he was coming up with the idea to build the biggest luxury yacht in the world. To find money to deliver this idea was the main trigger that was leading him to Monte-Carlo in the summer of 1891.
Breaking the bank of the Monte-Carlo Casino
While online casino sites in the UK were not available at the moment he was going to the biggest casino accessible at the time in Monte-Carlo. He was on a monstrous 5-days winning streak making over a million franc, breaking the bank 12 times. We can’t be sure how he did it. He was claiming to use a flawless roulette strategy. But the most possible explanation is that as an engineer he was able to spot the wheels which had some mechanical issues and were throwing some numbers more often than others. Of course, casinos were aware of these loopholes and were trying to fix these wheels as soon as possible. Maybe they thought that it’s good marketing and let him win.
Friendship with Vergis
Wells made friendship with a shady yacht broker named Aristides Vergis. Vergis started his career as a freelance salesman at a jewelry store. His methods of work were as follows. He told his boss that someone, let’s say, “John”, want to buy a precious ring for her daughter’s wedding. When “John” received the invoice, it was the time when he realized that he supposed to have a daughter. Obviously, all the jewelry was landing in Vergis’ pocket. After a 12 month prison holiday, Vergis went into the yacht business right away.
After breaking the bank in Monte-Carlo Wells bought the Tycho Brahe, a huge former cargo ship with 300 feet length. He was turning Tycho Brahe into the Palais Royal one of the biggest luxury yachts of the time. He was conducting the business by Vergis and gave him a lot of responsibility including selecting the captains of the ship. Since it was likely that authorities will go after Wells soon, Vergis was bribing an officer to find out if there is a warrant against Wells. It was time for him to leave England. While Wels was trying to cross the Channel, he was arrested on board of the Palais Royal.
Perfecting the scam – returning to Paris
Wells was found guilty on 13 counts of fraud and was facing 8 years in prison. After serving his time he was returning to Paris. He had the intention of founding and breaking the bank of his own. In 1910 he was setting up his private bank under the name of Lucien Rivier. His bank offered to pay
365% interest. Existing costumers were paid from the incoming investments. Individuals put in about 2 million francs (about 7 million pounds in today’s money) into the seemingly legitimate business. When authorities began to investigate the case Wells was heading towards Brittain once again.
Police were able to find out who is Lucien Rivier and traced back Wells into Britain. This time the court was sentencing him to 5 years in prison in the year 1912. After his scam french government was coming up with new strict regulations regarding private banks. We can say that Wells managed to change the laws of a country.
The man who was breaking the bank died penniless in London five years after serving his last prison sentence. Since her girlfriend, Parais didn’t have a dime, she was burying Wills into an unmarked pauper’s grave. If you’d like to try some of the roulette strategies I linked above you can find some cozy roulette tables through online casinos in the UK.