Charles Wells is famous for being the man who broke the bank in roulette games in the Monte Carlo Casino. „Breaking the bank” came from French „faire sauter la banque” and meant winning more than all the chips on a particular table. A black shroud was on the table while the chips were being replaced. Wells did it multiple times. It didn’t mean cleaning out the casino – no player has ever done that.
From early childhood Wells, born in 1841, wanted to be rich and chose roulette as his means to do that. He became a con man who asked to borrow money for his non-existent inventions. He used all of it to play roulette. One time he promised to create a musical jump rope, got £4,000 for it, and broke the bank 12 times by playing without a break for 11 hours in July 1891. He won more than a million francs. Out of 30 successive roulette spins, Wells won 23. He went back to Monte Carlo in November. Private detectives hired by the casino didn’t find any cheating. During three days he won a million francs using the Martingale doubling system. He successfully bet on the number 5 five times in a row.
Wells became a celebrity, to the point of getting a song The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, written by Fred Gilbert in 1892. He went to Monte Carlo again, broke the bank six times, but ended up broke.
After that he was arrested and convicted three times for fraud and financial scams, twice in England and once in France, and spent many years in jail. He died in poverty in 1926.