The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo

Charles Deville Wells was born in 1841 and was a high-stakes gambler and confidence trickster who used his charm and wit to con wealthy people out of money so he could use it to fund his love of the roulette table.

Wells always dreamed of being rich and famous and he set about doing this by claiming he was an inventor then taking bank credits from unsuspecting investors. In July 1891 he managed to get £4,000 from investors who thought they were investing in a “musical jump rope” but instead he took off to Monte Carlo to seek fame and fortune.

The Monte Carlo Casino owner wanted to publicise big wins in his casino to attract more and more punters so if a player won more than the number of chips at the table he would announced “faire sauter la banque” which literally means “to blow up the bank or safe.” Whilst the table was waiting for more chips to arrive it would be covered in a black shroud. This was a site Wells would see on numerous occasions.

During an 11-hour session at the roulette table, Wells broke the bank a total of 12 times, winning in excess of one million Francs! Such was his lucky streak that at one point he won 23 of 30 spins of the roulette wheel. Most people would be happy to bank such a large win but Wells wanted more and he returned to Monte Carlo in November of the same year and won another million Francs in just three days of play.

In April 1892, Fred Gilbert wrote a song called, “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” and Wells got his wish of being famous. He returned to Monte Carlo Casino in the winter of 1892 but despite breaking the bank on more than one occasion he lost all of his money, that of his investors and additional funds some investors sent to him that he said he “needed for repairs.”

His investors became wise to his actions and Wells was arrested in Le Harve and extradited to the United Kingdom where he stood trial charged with fraud. He lost his case and served eight years before being released. His time in jail did not deter him from defrauding people and he was quickly back in prison serving another three years inside. Upon his release he moved to France but by now he was well-known as a fraudster and he went on to serve another five years in a French jail after he was caught up in a financial scam.

Wells died in France in 1926 extremely poor. Before his death he revealed that the Monte Carlo Casino had hired private detectives to find out how he was being so lucky and if he was using a revolutionary system to beat their roulette wheel. However, he simply stated that he had been very lucky and that he used a high-risk Martingale betting system where he doubled his bet after any loss.

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