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The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo

The story of the man who broke the bank at-Monte Carlo is not a myth, but a real incident. The man was Charles Wells. A commonplace Englishman, he made a sensation in 1891 when he walked into the casino at Monte Carlo with $20,000 in cash, and took a seat at the roulette table, confident that he was going to win. Monsieur Blanc, the director of the casino, knew his mathematics well, and did not give much thought to Wells, of whose luck at the English gaming tables he had heard.

Wells played without any system, placing his money all over the table; he won, and won-incredibly. The table at which he played was five deep with people who had left all of the other gaming tables to watch Wells play. In less than two hours, the lucky Englishman won over 100,000 francs, and broke the bank. By breaking the bank is meant merely that a table was broken. Each table began with 100,000 francs each morning, and when it was entirely gone, then the bank was considered broken, but not the casino, of course. Well, the bank was replenished with another 100,000 francs which Wells won during the ensuing three hours.

Suspecting that Mr. Wells was using some fraudulent scheme, Monsieur Blanc engaged five of Monte Carlo's ablest detectives to watch Mr. Wells very sharply. For three days Wells won consistently. On the fourth day the grande coup took place. Wells won five times consecutively on the number 5, and broke almost all of Monte Carlo.

The chance of winning consecutively five times on one of the numbers is very small. It is represented by the product of these fractions: 1/38 x 1/38 x 1/38 x 1/38 x 1/38 which equals1/79235168, meaning that the chance of winning five times in a row on a specified number in roulette is 1 chance in 79,235,168. It is almost equivalent to saying that if you were to play the number 5 about 80 million times, you would experience one run of five 5's. If a player began with only 10 francs on the number 5, and permitted the accumulated winnings to remain on the number, then after winning five consecutive times, the total capital would be 60,466,176 francs (assuming 5 francs to the dollar, the sum equals about $12,000,000). Wells, of course, did not allow his accumulated winnings to remain on the number 5; he played the maximum stake allowed, and won five times consecutively.

Then a mysterious thing happened. He began to lose; he lost rapidly and heavily, still playing his favourite number 5. In even much less time than it had taken him to win his fortune, he lost it. He lost even his initial $20,000 stake with which he began his coup. He disappeared from Monte Carlo, and has never been heard of since.


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