Joseph Jagger

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Joseph Jagger's grave at Bethel Church, Shelf

Joseph Hobson Jagger (1830–1892) was a British engineer widely known as "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo", though he is not the only person to have done so.

His name is sometimes reported as Jaggers, but the International Genealogical Index indicates that Jagger is more likely.


Jagger was born in September 1830 in the village of Shelf near Halifax, Yorkshire. He gained practical experience of mechanics working in Yorkshire's cotton manufacturing industry, in particular working on spindles at Bottomley's Mill in Shelf, and extended his experience to the behaviour of a roulette wheel, speculating that its outcomes were not purely random sequences but that mechanical imbalances might result in biases toward particular outcomes.[1]

In 1873, Jagger hired six clerks to clandestinely record the outcomes of the six roulette wheels at the Beaux-Arts Casino at Monte Carlo, Monaco. He discovered that one of the wheels showed a clear bias: nine of its numbers (7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 19, 22, 28 and 29) occurred more frequently than the others. He placed his bets accordingly on 7 July 1875 and quickly won a considerable amount of money, £14,000 (equivalent today to around 50 times that amount, or £700,000 (about US $1,000,000), adjusted for inflation). Over the next three days, Jagger amassed £60,000 (about £3,000,000 / US $4,800,000 accounting for inflation) in earnings with other gamblers in tow emulating his bets. In response the casino interchanged the wheels on the floor, which threw Jagger into confusion. After a losing streak, Jagger finally recalled that a scratch he had noted on the biased wheel wasn't present. Looking for this telltale mark, Jagger was able to locate his preferred wheel and resumed winning. Counterattacking again, the casino moved the frets, metal dividers between numbers, around daily. Over the next two days Jagger lost and gave up, but he took his remaining earnings, two million francs, then about £65,000 (the equivalent today of around £3,250,000), and triumphantly left Monte Carlo, never to return.

Jagger resigned from his job at the mill and invested his money in property. He is buried at Bethel Chapel, Halifax Road, Shelf.


Further reading[edit]

  • "Monte Carlo' Wells". New York Times. January 18, 1893. p. 3. 
  • Grochowski, John (February 21, 1997). "House has built-in edge when roulette wheel spins". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 21. 
  • "The great expectations of a royal reporter". Daily Mail (London). April 20, 1994. p. 50. 

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