7 Times When Gamblers Broke the Bank

The term breaking the bank describes when gamblers win all possible chips at a table. In turn, the table must shut down until the casino can replenish its chips/cash reserves.

Casino de Monte Carlo first coined the term breaking the bank in the 1860s. Casino owner Francois Blanc would even put a black cloth over such tables until his staff brought out more funds from the casino’s bank vault.

Gambling is now much more prevalent than it was in the mid-1800s. Therefore, gamblers have been able to break the bank all over the world.

Below, you can see 7 instances where gamblers broke the bank in Monte Carlo and other casino destinations.

1 – Joseph Jagger

Joseph Jagger was an English engineer who theorized that roulette could be beaten with the right amount of patience and skill. He correctly guessed that certain wheels, over time, wear down and begin favoring specific pockets.

Jagger hired six clerks to travel to Monte Carlo and record results on roulette wheels. When they brought back the data, he analyzed the numbers and discovered one biased wheel.

He traveled to Monte Carlo and took advantage of the defective wheel. By the time his gambling excursion was over, Jagger had won £65,000 pounds (approx. £5 million today).

In doing so, he broke the bank multiple times and became the first well-known advantage player in Monte Carlo’s history. Jagger retired from gambling after this big win and never looked back.

2 – Charlie Wells

Like Joseph Jagger, Charles Wells also made his gambling fortune in Monte Carlo. However, he didn’t use skill to earn his profits.

In fact, Wells didn’t even use his own money as a bankroll. He conned people into investing in phony invention ideas, such as a musical jumper rope.

Wells took the investment money with him to Monte Carlo and began playing roulette. He started with 4,000 francs and turned this amount into 1 million francs (approx. $5 million today) by the time he left.

The conman took a second trip to Casino de Monte Carlo and continued his incredible streak. He collected another 1 million francs and even earned fame throughout Europe (i.e. “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”) after another big win.

Wells didn’t know when to quit, though. Not only did he continue conning people with fake inventions, but he also went back to Monte Carlo for a third trip.

This time would be his undoing as he lost all of his previous profits. Wells, who had purchased a luxury yacht for the trip, was later arrested by French authorities for his previous scams.

3 – Kerry Packer

The late Kerry Packer was a media mogul in Australia. He owned Australian Consolidated Press and the Nine TV network before eventually combining the companies into Publishing and Broadcasting Limited.

Packer became a billionaire through his business dealings. He was able to play high-stakes casino games whenever he wanted as a result.

By and large, Kerry Packer was a losing gambler who has suffered some horrific losses. For example, he once dropped $28 million during a three-week London gambling spree.

But he also booked huge wins too. For instance, he earned $33 million dollars at the MGM Grand Las Vegas in one session.

While nobody associates this massive winning streak as breaking the bank, Packer no doubt had to break multiple table banks to have accumulated such a fortune.

Win or lose, the Aussie was always an entertaining figure at the tables. Considering he had a net worth of $6 billion, he never really had to worry about whether he won or lost.

4 – Charles Schwab

Charles M. Schwab was a steel magnate who headed Bethlehem Steel throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. He accumulated an estimated $40 million fortune, which amounts to roughly $1 billion when adjusted for inflation.

Schwab no doubt had plenty of money to enjoy lavish gambling vacations. Like several others on this list, his favorite casino destination was Monte Carlo.

Schwab once made newspaper headlines at the time for winning 75,000 francs on two separate occasions. He broke the bank multiple times during these runs.

Just like Wells, though, he managed to lose all of this money before leaving Monte Carlo. His gambling losses were a microcosm of his spending habits as a whole.

Despite accumulating a huge fortune, Schwab spent his money quite liberally. He held extravagant parties, purchased luxury items, and took lavish vacations.

Schwab spent at such a fast rate that he eventually burned through his fortune. He labored through the last few years of his life in a small apartment while holding onto Bethlehem Steel shares that had lost much of their value.

5 – Archie Karas

Archie Karas is known much more for experiencing one of history’s biggest gambling runs rather than simply breaking the bank. However, he pulled off the latter feat en route to turning $50 into $40 million.

Karas started his famed run in 1992 after driving to Las Vegas with just $50 in his pocket. He previously had a $2 million bankroll but lost all of this money playing poker against Doyle Brunson and Chip Reese.

After arriving in Vegas, Karas borrowed $10,000 from a poker friend. He turned this amount into $30,000 through poker and paid his friend back.

From here, Archie began dominating opponents in both poker and pool. He accumulated $17 million through both games before everyone throughout Vegas refused to play him in anything.

A gambler at heart, Karas turned to Binion’s Horseshoe Casino. He chose Binion’s, because he wanted to play the highest craps stakes allowed in the city.

His luck continued as he managed to win another $23 million and boost his overall bankroll to $40 million. At one point, he held every $5,000 chip in the casino.

Unfortunately, everything went downhill from here. Karas managed to lose all of his money through a combination of high-stakes baccarat, craps, and real money poker. He’s since gone on a few other big gambling runs, but nothing compared to the $40 million run.

6 – Don Johnson

Don Johnson went on a blackjack streak in 2011 that not only broke the bank but also got the Tropicana Atlantic City CEO fired.

Johnson built up a reputation as a whale in Atlantic City and beyond. Casinos saw him as a recreational player who was worth negotiating with.

Rather than asking for private flights and caviar, Johnson merely wanted to negotiate for better blackjack rules.

Unbeknownst to the casinos, he was a math genius who turned the rules in his favor.

Johnson asked for a 20% loss rebate and rules that pushed the house edge under 0.2%. These two factors combined allowed him to grab a small advantage over casinos—without them truly realizing it.

He used this edge to win $5.8 million from the Tropicana, $5 million from The Borgata, and $4 million from Caesars Atlantic City.

By the end, nobody would accept his blackjack action in Atlantic City or anywhere else. The Tropicana also fired their CEO, Mark Giannantonio, for allowing Johnson to bet up to $100,000 per hand.

7 – Paul Newey

Paul Newey is an English investor who’s worth over £300 million. Therefore, he’s not afraid to bet big on the gambling tables.

In 2005, he took a trip to Birmingham’s Star City casino. He began using a strategy called full and complete, where he would wager on every instance of his lucky number.

Newey used this strategy to win £3 million in one night from the casino. This win not only broke the bank but also caused the Star City owner to issue a profit warning.

The casino didn’t have to worry for long, though, because Newey would eventually lose all the profits on their tables later. Of course, he could more than afford to fritter away the fortune when considering how much he’s worth.


Multiple paths exist for breaking the bank. You can get lucky like Charles Wells, develop a skill like Don Johnson or Joseph Jagger, or just play dizzying stakes like Kerry Packer.

Of course, the house usually wins in the end. Karas, Schwab, and Wells are among those who found this out the hard way.

But if you can break the bank and walk away, you’ll end up with a fortune and become a gambling legend in the process. Both Jagger and Johnson managed to win big and also walk away from their respective games.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016.

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