The First Famous Roulette Player

Gambling has been around a long time and certain events have become a part of its folklore. One such tale is that of Joseph Jagger, a British engineer in the middle of the 19th century, who is considered the first famous roulette player.

Jagger worked in the Yorkshire cotton industry. He saw the mechanical imbalances in the machines he worked with due to prolonged use and reasoned that the same would apply to roulette wheels in the casinos. Therefore the outcomes would tend to be biased towards a certain set of numbers. In 1873 he hired six clerks to secretly record the numbers called on the roulette wheels at the Beaux Arts Casino in Monte Carlo. On analysis of the data he discovered that one of the roulette wheels showed a clear bias. Nine numbers were called more frequently than the others.

Armed with this knowledge and his savings Jagger landed in Monte Carlo on July 7, 1875. He bet consistently on the “favourable” numbers in the biased wheel and in three days Jagger won £60,000. Almost 120 years ago this was worth a king’s ransom. The casino also caught on and rearranged the position of the wheels. Next day Jagger began to lose to his consternation. He figured out the wheels had been switched. Fortunately he recognised the biased wheel because of a scratch he had seen on it. He started playing on that wheel and began winning again.

This time the casino took more effective measures. They realigned the frets and metal dividers between the numbers on the wheel. The bias shifted to a different set of numbers. Jagger realised what had happened and began to record the numbers so as to determine the bias. But the casino made the realignment again. And the casino began to make this change on a daily basis. Neither Jagger nor any other player would be able to take advantage of the biased wheel.

Jagger realized that he had been beaten. But he was smart enough to leave Monte Carlo with his fortune. Back home, Jagger resigned from his job at the mill. He invested his winnings in property. Jagger died a rich man in 1892 at the age of 72.

Casinos no longer have to resort to changing the fret positions. Advancement in materials and technology has ensured that bias does not creep in due to wear and tear. Despite that there are quite a few roulette players that track number sequences hoping to locate a bias.