May 18, 2023
Casino Blog

Masters of Deception: The Most Famous Cheaters at Roulette and Their Tactics

Roulette, the quintessential game of chance, has long been a target of those seeking to turn the odds in their favor. While the vast majority of players adhere to the rules and trust in Lady Luck, there have been those who chose a different path: the path of cheating. Their stories, while undoubtedly morally questionable, are fascinating tales of ingenuity, audacity, and sometimes, sheer luck. This article will delve into the most famous cheaters in roulette history and examine the tactics they used to beat the system.

Charles Wells: 'The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo'

Charles De Ville Wells (1841 - 1922), also known as "Monte Carlo Wells," was a notorious English gambler and fraudster. His gambling escapades have been immortalized in the song "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo," owing to a series of successful gambles in 1891 that led him to "break the bank" at Monte Carlo.

Before his gambling exploits, Wells was employed as an engineer at the shipyards and docks of Marseille in the 1860s. He invented a device for regulating the speed of ships’ propellers and sold the patent for 5,000 francs. Later, he moved to Paris and persuaded people to invest in a fraudulent scheme to build a railway at Berck-sur-Mer in Pas-de-Calais. He disappeared with his clients’ money and was convicted in his absence by a Paris court. He then relocated to Britain, where, from 1885 onwards, he persuaded members of the public to invest in what he claimed were valuable inventions of his own devising. Although he promised substantial profits, there is no evidence that any of his backers ever received a return on their outlay.

Wells' gambling exploits began when he visited the Monte Carlo Casino in 1891. At the start of each day, every gaming table in the casino was funded with a cash reserve of 100,000 francs – known as "the bank". If a gambler won large amounts, and this reserve was insufficient to pay the winnings, play at that table was suspended while extra funds were brought from the casino's vaults. Wells caused this to happen multiple times due to his large winnings, which led to him being referred to as "the man who broke the bank." Wells claimed to have used an "infallible system" he had perfected to achieve these wins. His past record as a fraudster, on the other hand, led many observers to believe that he had somehow found a way to cheat the casino. A further possibility, however, is that he was exceptionally lucky on these particular visits.

Despite his initial wins, Wells returned to Monte Carlo in January 1892 but lost about 100,000 francs. No credible evidence can be found to suggest that he ever repeated his earlier wins, though he would later claim to have won a further £2,500 in August 1910.

Wells' life took a turn in late 1892 when he was arrested and extradited to Britain to face charges in connection with his patent scheme. He was tried at the Old Bailey in March 1893, found guilty on 23 counts of fraud, and sentenced to eight years imprisonment, which he served in Portland Prison. He was released after six years for good behavior.

In 1910, under the alias of "Lucien Rivier", he set up a private bank in Paris and promised to pay interest at 365% per annum (1% per day). Some 6,000 investors deposited a total of 2m francs (about £7m today). Existing customers were paid out of the new investments which "Rivier" received in ever-increasing amounts. This scheme was similar to the one Charles Ponzi would later perpetrate in the United States, offering a return of 100% every 90 days.

Wells' life was filled with intrigue, deception, and high-stakes gambling. While he was a criminal and a fraudster, his exploits and the mystery surrounding his "infallible system" have fascinated people for over a century.

Richard Marcus: The 'Savannah' Strategy

Richard Marcus is a famous professional gambler and former casino cheat. He's best known for his ingenious "Savannah" strategy, a roulette betting system.

In this system, Marcus would place a $5 chip on top of a $500 chip, a so-called "past posting" move, which means making a bet after the time no more bets is announced. The key to this strategy was to make the dealer think that the top $5 chip was accidentally placed there. If the bet won, Marcus would point out that the dealer had made a mistake and that his bet should be paid out at the higher amount. If the bet lost, he would quickly remove the losing bet before the dealer could notice, pointing out the mistake.

This strategy worked because the dealers, and even the surveillance staff, were not able to detect the higher value chip underneath the $5 chip. Marcus reportedly won millions of dollars using this strategy.

However, it's worth noting that this strategy is illegal. Richard Marcus himself has since retired from cheating and now writes books and runs a blog about casino cheating. His story serves as a reminder of the lengths to which some people will go to try and beat the system, and why casinos need to be vigilant to prevent such activities.

Due to tool error, I couldn't provide more detailed information about Richard Marcus and his Savannah strategy. If you want to learn more about Richard Marcus, his book "American Roulette: How I Turned the Odds Upside Down---My Wild Twenty-Five-Year Ride Ripping Off the World's Casinos" would be a valuable resource.

Francis Farrugia, Francesco Baioni, and Frank Camilleri: The 'Top Hatting' Trio

Francis Farrugia, Francesco Baioni, and Frank Camilleri, collectively known as the 'Top Hatting Trio', were renowned for their sophisticated method of cheating at casinos, known as 'Top Hatting'. This method involves illegally adding high-value chips to a winning bet after the outcome is known.

Farrugia, a Maltese national, was the mastermind of the group and had a casino cheating career that spanned over 20 years. He was renowned for his dexterity and quick hands, which allowed him to perform the top hatting maneuver without being noticed by casino staff or surveillance systems.

Baioni and Camilleri, both Italian, were his primary accomplices. The trio worked in coordination, with Baioni and Camilleri often creating distractions to allow Farrugia to execute the move. They operated in casinos across the world and were known for their ability to evade capture for many years.

Their method was extremely effective due to its simplicity and the difficulty in detecting it. Top hatting involves adding chips to a winning bet after the outcome is known, but before the dealer has paid out. To the untrained eye, it can look like the cheater is simply being indecisive about their bet.

However, this method is illegal and the trio was eventually caught. They were known to have been banned from many casinos, and in 2012, Farrugia was sentenced to nine months in prison in the UK for his part in the scheme.

The Ritz Trio

The Ritz Trio was a group of gamblers who famously won millions at the Ritz Casino in London in 2004. The trio consisted of two Serbian men and a Hungarian woman. They leveraged a legal method known as "sector targeting" with the help of a laser scanner to predict the likely area where the ball would land in a roulette game.

They used a laser scanner hidden in a mobile phone linked to a computer to measure the speed of the ball as it was released by the croupier. The data was then analyzed to determine the likely area of the roulette wheel where the ball would land. The trio would then quickly place their bets on that sector of the wheel. Using this method, they were able to win over 1.3 million pounds in a series of bets.

After the casino realized the large winnings, they stopped the game and the trio was arrested. However, they were later released as the method they used was not considered cheating under British law. This case became famous as it highlighted the potential for technology to be used in gambling, and led to casinos worldwide reassessing their security measures.

Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo

Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo is a Spanish record producer and gambler who became famous for his successful strategy in roulette. His strategy was based on the principle of "biased wheel" - the belief that not all roulette wheels are perfect and some have a mechanical imperfection that can make some numbers come up more than others.

In the early 1990s, Garcia-Pelayo began studying roulette in depth. He spent thousands of hours recording the results of individual spins at the Casino de Madrid in Spain. He then analyzed this data to identify any slight bias in the wheel. He discovered that one of the wheels showed a clear bias, with some numbers coming up more frequently than others.

Garcia-Pelayo and his family then began betting on these numbers. The strategy proved to be hugely successful, and the family reportedly won over one million euros in a short period of time.

The casinos were not happy with this and attempted to sue Garcia-Pelayo, claiming that he had cheated. However, the courts ruled in his favor, stating that "the operation was clean. The only thing he did was to exploit a fault in the roulette."

Gonzalo Garcia-Pelayo's story has been the subject of a documentary and a feature film, and he is considered a legend among professional gamblers.

French Cigarette Pack Scammer

Monique Laurent, often referred to as the "French Cigarette Pack Scammer", is famous in casino circles for her elaborate scam involving the roulette tables.

Monique, her brother, and her husband devised an ingenious method to manipulate roulette wheels in the late 1970s. The scam involved a radio receiver cleverly concealed inside a pack of cigarettes and a small ball with a radio transmitter. The transmitter could control the speed of the ball used in the roulette wheel, thereby predicting more accurately where it would land.

Monique's brother was the technical genius behind the device. He created a miniature radio transmitter which could fit into a roulette ball and a receiver that could fit into a cigarette pack. Monique's role was to play at the casinos and signal her husband when to press the button on the pack of cigarettes, which would cause the ball to drop into a group of six possible numbers with an 90% accuracy rate.

Their scam was highly successful, and they were able to win over 5 million francs (approximately 1 million dollars) over the course of a week. However, their success caught the attention of the casino staff. The casinos noticed that Monique seemed to win every time she played, yet no one could understand how.

Eventually, the scam was exposed when the casino's security team noticed the husband acting suspiciously. They found the pack of cigarettes with the receiver and discovered the scam. Monique and her team were arrested and subsequently banned from casinos.

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