Most of us have dreamed of walking into a casino and walking
away with a fortune. But in the sixties and seventies, one American doctor
turned this fantasy into a reality. Richard Jarecki consistently beat roulette tables across
North America and Europe, netting a fortune worth over a hundred million
dollars in today’s money.
Born in Germany to Jewish parents in 1931, Richard Jarecki
moved to suburban New Jersey before the outbreak of World War 2. Here he
pursued a career as a medical researcher during the day, while collecting data
on the game of roulette at night. More specifically, Jarecki would collect data
on individual roulette wheels across Atlantic City, looking for idiosyncrasies
on each wheel, spotting which wheels would produce more winners on one number
than on others.
Roulette is famously a game of small house edges (around 95%
for the American game, and just 97% in European roulette), so any wonky wheel
can tilt the odds in favour of any eagle-eyed observer. It just so happened
that Jarecki was what we would now term a nerd, and he exhaustively observed
and recorded data on every roulette wheel in every local casino.
Once he had built up a significant bankroll of several
thousand dollars, Jarecki was ready to hit the European scene, where the house
edge was smaller, and the limits were higher. He took up a position at the
University of Heidelberg, which gave him time to observe the roulette wheels at
the nearby Baden-Baden
casino. At the Casino San Remo on the Italian riviera, Jarecki spent
the first few days with his notepad and pen at hand, selecting the perfect
roulette wheel for his system.
Soon Jarecki was placing $100 on a single number, shocking
the Italian public with his apparent psychic powers. Once he had bled the San
Remo casino dry, he moved up the coast to Monte Carlo. This playground of the
rich and famous meant an even richer hunting ground for Jarecki. By this time,
he was sending his wife Carol, and a team of scouters, in advance to find the
best wheel, allowing the doctor to turn up and start playing (and winning)
immediately. In an even more audacious move, Jarecki negotiated a loan of some
$25,000 from a Swiss bank before he arrived in Monaco, allowing him to press
home his advantage.
Wins in Monte Carlo of several million dollars ensured a
media frenzy, threatening to unveil Jarecki’s secret. He managed to fob the
reporters off by claiming to own a powerful computer which helped him find the
winning numbers, but by this time, casino owners were growing suspicious. His
last big win was back at San Remo, where he ‘broke the bank’ (depleted the
casino’s cash reserves) and faced a 15-day ban from the premises. When the ban
expired, Jarecki promptly walked back in and won $100,000.
By this stage, casino managers suspected that he was using
data on the tables to find the big wins – and so took to rearranging the
positions of each table every evening. This still wasn’t enough to outfox
Jarecki, who would quickly recognize small defects in the wooden rims and
locate his favourites.
The casinos of Europe eventually resorted to replacing every
one of their roulette tables with newer versions, less prone to producing
Jarecki realized that his moment was over, and returned back
to the US in 1973, embarking on a similarly successful career as a commodities
Although the roulette world had seen wheel observers before
(Joseph Jagger had enjoyed some success with the technique way back in the
1880’s), nobody had quite taken the casinos to the cleaners on such an
industrial scale as Jarecki before.
He was the greatest roulette player in history up to that
point, and sadly, he will probably remain that way. These days, casinos employ
their own analyses of each roulette table’s performance and replace wheels
faster than any gambler can react to any flaws. Also, more and more roulette is
played outside the land-based casinos, and has instead switched to the live
casino version, streamed from a studio to player’s homes.
Jarecki died in 2018 at the age of 87, and we are highly unlikely to see such incredible strings of roulette wins ever again.
Mathieu Blake - Internet Entrepreneur, loves technology, sports, the Montreal Canadiens, Poker, Poker chips, current events and travel. You will often find him Writing about different topics that interest him on websites and blogs. To submit an article, contact the website directly.
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