Joseph Jagger Legendary Roulette Player

Published on: December 12, 2012 

The term truth is stranger than fiction can be appropriately applied to the exploits of Joseph Jagger. Hollywood movies abound with stories of players cleaning out the casino tables sometimes with great play and sometimes with luck. Jagger did that in real life and without gaming skill or luck. Joseph Jagger was a British engineer in the middle of the 19th century. He was involved in Yorkshire’s cotton industry. Working with machines realized that constant usage would create grooves and result in imbalances. Jagger reasoned that the roulette wheel was a machine and the same thing would apply. Therefore the outcomes of roulette wheels would not be purely random and could be biased towards particular numbers. In 1873 he hired six clerks and sent them to the Beaux Arts Casino at Monte Carlo. They recorded the numbers called on the roulette wheels over a period of time and gave the results to Jagger. On evaluating the results, Jagger found that one of the wheels showed an unmistakable bias. Nine numbers in that wheel occurred much more frequently than the others. Jagger decided to cash in on the information. On July 7, 1875 he went to Monte Carlo and started wagering on the favorable numbers at the table with the biased wheel. In just three days Jagger won £60,000. One can understand the enormity of the amount by converting it to today’s value, when it would be about £3 million. Such things do not go unnoticed and other gamblers began to copy his bets. The casino also figured out what was happening and secretly rearranged the position of the wheels after closing time. Next day Jagger was surprised that was losing instead of winning. He had noticed a scratch on the biased wheel and could not see the scratch on the wheel he was playing at presently. He located the scratched wheel in another place. He started wagering on the wheel and started winning again. This time the Beaux Arts Casino took permanent measures. It shifted the frets and metal dividers between the numbers so that a different set of numbers appeared more frequently. This change was made daily to prevent Jagger and others from taking advantage of the biased wheel. Jagger realized that he could no longer compete with the casino. He left Monte Carlo with over £3 million in today’s value. Back in England Jagger resigned from his job and invested his money in property. He died in 1892 at the age of 72. Technology has advanced to such an extent that these kind of imbalances and biases cannot be found in roulette wheels today. However some roulette players continue to hope. They religiously note down the numbers called on a card trying to locate a pattern. Casinos encourage them to do this. Online casinos use a random number generator based software and hence there is absolutely no chance of mechanical bias. However there is one very important lesson to be learnt from Joseph Jagger and it pertains to both land casino gambling and online gambling. This lesson is to quit when you are way up. History of gambling is full of instances of players squandering away fortunes that had been won because they lacked the will power to get up from the tables.
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