Gambling Legends – Charles Wells

Charles Wells, born in 1841, was a tubby, extravagant cockney and is one of the most famous gamblers in history.

He is said to be the inspiration behind the song “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo” by Fred Gilbert. He enjoyed the high-life in London his feats had awarded him and spent his money frivolously. Legend has it that whenever he walked into a nightclub, the band would immediately begin playing “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”.

In 1981, Wells went to Monte Carlo and wrote himself into history. Although he funded himself with money he had defrauded from investors with claims of fake inventions, Wells turned around £4000 into 1 million francs on roulette. He had broke the bank an astonishing 12 times. Even though private detectives were hired to find out Well’s system, on another trip later that year, he made a further 1 million francs in the space of 3 days.

Wells put it all down to his bravery and guts. “Anyone is free to watch me play and imitate me, but the general defect of the ordinary casino gambler is that he lacks courage,” said Wells. Indeed, many people did watch Wells like a hawk and attempt to copy his methods. Crowds of people constantly surrounded any table he was playing at, many copying any bets he made.

In 1892, Wells returned to Monte Carlo once more. He sailed there in a luxury yacht, The Palais Royal, with his mistress Joan Burns, claiming that he was testing a fuel-saving device for steamships, for which he had persuaded many people to invest large amounts of money in. This time Well’s broke the bank a further 6 times. However, Well’s winning streak was to end. He soon lost all his money and that of his investors. He even got more money off his new wealthy friends in London, claiming his device needed to re repaired, but he lost all this too.

Soon after this disastrous reverse of fortune, Wells was arrested in Le Havre and extradited to England. He was tried at the Old Bailey and was sent to prison for 8 years for fraud. It is said he had defrauded some of Britain’s wealthiest people of $150,000.

When he was released, Wells changed his name to Davenport and was soon up to his old tricks. He was soon back in prison again, this time for 3 years. After this, he then migrated to France and, true to form and undeterred, defrauded 60,000 people in an elaborate financial scam. His scam was later rumbled by the police and he was sent to prison for another 5 years.

Charles Wells died in Paris in 1926, a very poor man, leaving a legacy of extravagant spending, various financial scams and many prison terms. His antics made him idolised by many and feared by casinos alike.