The gambling world is full of mysterious, terrifying, and wonderful stories, from bizarre bad beats to hair-raising heists, murders, and even ghosts. But when it comes to mysteries involving lucky winners, the tale of Richard Jarecki – who nearly bankrupted an Italian casino – springs to mind.
ended up taking over $1.2m ($8m in today’s money) home
Doctor Richard Jarecki was studying medicine in the 1950s. However, it was during the 1970s that he became a lucky gambler who ended up taking over $1.2m ($8m in today’s money) home with him in less than a month from the San Remo casino.
Born in Stettin, Germany in 1931, he and his Jewish parents, Dr. Max and Gerda Jarecki, fled Germany following the rise of Nazi Germany. They eventually settled in New Jersey where Jarecki grew up and went on to study at Duke University, later earning his medical degree from the University of Heidelberg.
A few years later he met his future wife, Carol Fuhse, during a medical residency. They later married in 1964 and moved to Germany in 1967. It was around this time that Jarecki discovered his love of gambling.
His game of choice? Roulette.
Jarecki soon discovered that not all roulette wheels produce random results. With the help of his mathematician wife, Jarecki established a data-driven approach to cheating the house. Even though the pair didn’t invent wheel bias, they did craft it to perfection.
The aim of this method is to figure out if a wheel is biased toward certain numbers. Unlike decks of cards or dice, which are changed every night in casinos, roulette tables stay the same for decades. Because of this, Jarecki noticed the wear and tear tables endured over the years and wondered if this would have an effect on the statistics.
sometimes tracked up to 10,000 spins on a single wheel
With his ability to retain numbers and analyze data, Jarecki and his wife spent months watching and recording thousands of roulette spins. The work was hard and often resulted in no tangible wheel bias, but the potential reward for something like this was too good to resist. They sometimes tracked up to 10,000 spins on a single wheel.
Confident in what they had discovered and researched, Jarecki began his gambling and turned $700 into $40,000 in just one night:
Unlike American roulette tables, which have 38 numbers, the ones in Europe have 37, including a single zero. Realizing that this gave him nearly a 3% statistical house edge, the doctor decided to stick around Europe to maximize his winnings.
Jarecki also noticed something else. Compared to the US, Europe was more lenient on its successful players as the casinos took longer to observe play and make a decision before removing them. With this combination, Jarecki was able to profit immensely from a casino in a picturesque Italian town, San Remo.
Jarecki won $48,000 in one visit to the casino in 1968
He bought a luxury apartment in San Remo because its casino had old roulette wheels. Jarecki won $48,000 in one visit to the casino in 1968, then returned eight months later to take home $192,000 in a single weekend.
The venue banned him for 15 days but he returned with a vengeance once that expired, winning another $100,000. In fact, this was such a loss to the old traditional casino that it had to issue Jarecki with an IOU.
Not wanting to face this issue again, the San Remo casino tried several methods in an attempt to stop Jarecki from winning.
One of these was to move the tables around to confuse Jarecki. This didn’t work based on the fact that he had memorized the tables and their imperfections. He was still able to spot the imperfect wheels.
The San Remo casino even asked the government to intervene, requesting that it bar Jarecki from entering the country. The doctor is reported to have said:
If casino managers don’t like to lose, then they should sell vegetables.”
Eventually, the casino solved the wheel bias problem by changing its old roulette tables. Jarecki moved back to America with his wife and began trading commodities, where he became head of Comex, one of the commodities exchanges.