Biography of Gambler and Con Man Charles Wells Part 1

About the famous gambler and con man Charles Wells who was able to repeatedly break the bank in Monte Carlo.

FOOTNOTE PEOPLE IN WORLD HISTORY

CHARLES WELLS (1841-1926), Gambler and confidence man

In July, 1891, a plump, bearded, bald little cockney arrived in Monte Carlo with 4,000 English pounds that he had swindled from acquaintances who were gullible enough to believe he had invented a "musical jump rope." Cautiously risking a small part of this ill-gotten bankroll at a roulette table, Charles Wells began to win steadily. Soon he was betting 2,000 francs on each spin of the wheel and doubling his stakes after his infrequent losses.

Eventually, Wells "broke the bank." That is, he won all the funds in that particular gambling table's bank. The table had to close down, and a black cloth was draped over it until guards could escort in a fresh reserve of 100,000 francs. Breaking the bank was sufficiently unusual to generate great excitement in the casino. And after Wells accomplished this feat a second and then a third time, a huge, crowd gathered. Aristocrats, kings, and princes began to push and shove one another, fighting for a chance to play the numbers the lucky Englishman chose.

"The worst thing was the greed that his success aroused in other guests," complained Bertollini, the man who supervised play at the table. "They crowded around his table eight ranks deep, and all wanted to play the same numbers he did. They would shout at my croupiers in English, German, French, Italian, and Kurdish. In the end, I could do nothing else but limit the number of players at the table. That led to new violent clashes with persons who thought I was afraid they might win too much."

As Wells broke the bank a fourth time, and a fifth, other gamblers stood on tables and chairs to take notes so that they could compile charts of his system. Those unable to get that close bought copies of these notes in the hope of making their own killing at another table.

Spurred on by his incredible success. Wells remained at the casino 11 straight hours. He broke the bank 12 times that first day. Then he told his awed fellow gamblers. "I'll break the bank again tomorrow within an hour of the opening of the casino." Wells needed only half an hour the next morning to fulfill his boast. Wells stayed "hot," winning big that second day and then the third. At one point, repeatedly playing the house limit, he won 23 times out of 30 successive spins of the wheel. After three days, his winnings exceeded 1 million francs, and Wells returned to England in triumph, a rich man and an instant celebrity.

A few months later, Wells made a second voyage to Monte Carlo, much to the delight of the casino owners, who hoped to recoup their losses. But Wells's luck had not cooled. He placed his money on number five and let the bet ride while the ball stopped on five for five turns in a row. Again he seemed to break the bank at will, raking in another million francs in three days.

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