Various expressions describe winning big in casino games, including “going on a hot streak” or “being on a roll.” But no phrase is as descriptive and emphatic as “breaking the bank.”
The latter not only describes casino wins but also references a specific situation. However, not many people use breaking the bank to describe successful casino runs these days.
This brings me to the following question: can you still break the bank in gambling? I’ll discuss this matter by covering more on the phrase itself, famous gamblers who’ve broken the casino bank, and if it’s possible to still do this today.
Breaking the bank refers to when a gambler wins more chips than a table has on hand. The table must shut down for a certain time until the casino can bring more chips to replenish its funds.
Of course, some people use this phrase to describe other situations. For example, they might say that somebody breaks the bank when they experience a hot night at the tables.
The gambler in question may not have truly won all of the chips at the table where they’re playing. But they’re successful enough to take lots of money off the casino.
The most extreme example of breaking the bank is when one wins more chips/money than is available at the entire casino. In this instance, the gambling establishment would either have to borrow money from the bank to cover their losses or declare bankruptcy.
I don’t know of any examples where somebody has actually won this much. As I’ll cover later, though, one gambler did win enough to cause the casino to issue a profit warning.
The expression breaking the bank dates back to the mid-1800s in Monte Carlo. Casino owner Francois Blanc began using this phrase to describe a gambler who earned all the chips at one of his tables.
Along with his twin brother, Louis, Francois opened the world-famous Casino de Monte Carlo in 1863. His tables started each day with a reserve of 100,000 francs.
The 100K francs were known as the tables “bank.” Assuming anybody were to win all 100,000 francs at the table, Blanc would shut down the respective game for a while.
He also started a unique tradition that involves placing a black cloth over the table. Blanc would only remove the cloth after more funds were brought from the casino’s vault to replenish the bank.
The concept of breaking the bank started in Monte Carlo. However, gamblers from around the world have accomplished this feat at various casinos. You can read about some of the players—both modern and past —who’ve broken in the bank below.
Joseph Jagger was the first well-known gambler to break the bank at Monte Carlo. He won £65,000 during a Monte Carlo Casino trip in 1873.
Jagger didn’t just get lucky when winning this amount and breaking the bank multiple times during his stay. Instead, he used an advantage-play method called wheel bias.
The English engineer hired several clerks to visit Casino de Monte Carlo and track results from various roulette wheels. When they returned with the data, he compiled the numbers and located a biased wheel.
Jagger then travelled to the famed gambling destination and began playing on the defective wheel. He used his knowledge of the biased pocket to win a massive fortune.
Don Johnson victimized Atlantic City casinos for a short period that lasted from 2010 to 2011. Johnson used his clout as a high roller to negotiate for favorable blackjack rules and a 20% loss rebate.
Casinos are typically excellent at negotiating with VIPs and retaining their edge in the end. However Johnson, who is a mathematical genius, asked for such specific rules that he was able to gain a small advantage over the house.
Johnson travelled to Atlantic City and began betting as much as $100,000 per hand. He was able to win a collective $15 million from multiple AC casinos.
He did so well that the Tropicana even banned him from playing at the casino after they lost $5.8 million. Johnson also won $5 million at the Borgata and $4 million at Caesars Palace.
Archie Karas lays claim to one of the best gambling stories in history. After a horrific losing streak in 1991, he turned his $50 bankroll into a $40 million fortune over a two-year span.
Karas didn’t eventually initially start out to break the bank. Instead, he won millions of dollars by beating other people in pool and poker.
Eventually, nobody wanted a piece of Karas due to his incredible hot Street. He then visited Binion’s Horseshoe Casino and started playing high stakes craps.
Karas was so hot at craps that he was able to win every single $5,000 chip in Binion’s. These chips amounted to an $18 million profit.
However, his luck eventually turned sour and he lost all of this money through a combination of high stakes baccarat, craps, and poker.
English investor Paul Newey has made hundreds of millions of pounds through a mortgage business and investment fund. Newey briefly added to his fortune in January 2005 after winning £3 million at Birmingham’s Genting Casino Star City.
Afterward, casino owner Stanley Leisure issued a profit warning. Genting Star City’s value dropped 12% after the warning.
Newey experienced most of his success on the roulette tables. He was wagering up to £300,000 per spin at one point.
He uses a strategy roulette strategy known as “Full and Complete,” where he covers all possible instances of a single number with various bets. Newey won with this strategy enough times to increase his relatively low starting stake to £3 million.
He’d eventually lose all of this money back to Genting Star City. But when considering his £335 million net worth, Newey probably doesn’t lose much sleep over the losses.
Charles Wells is a British con man who also experienced one of the biggest roulette runs of all time. Wells used illegitimate profits from one of his scams to fund a Monte Carlo trip in 1891.
He started playing roulette and winning at an incredible rate. Wells left Monte Carlo with a profit of 1 million francs, or $5 million when adjusted for today’s inflation rate.
Not quite happy with this amount, he went back to Monte Carlo and won another 1 million francs. He also became a mini celebrity throughout Great Britain as a result of his wins.
Wells is believed to be the subject of Fred Gilbert’s 1891 hit song “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.” The song title says it all when describing the dozen-plus times that Wells did indeed break the bank.
He pushed his luck one too many times by returning to Monte Carlo a third time. Wells lost all of his winnings and was later arrested in France for his numerous frauds.
You certainly can still break the bank today. You even have different routes for managing this feat.
One option includes playing high-stakes table games. As Johnson and Newey have shown, you can quickly put a dent in the casino’s pockets by betting six figures and going on a run.
If you’re anything like me, though, don’t have six, five, or even four figures to risk on a single round. Therefore, you’ll probably need to become an advantage player or simply rely on incredible luck.
Jagger and Johnson used their in-depth knowledge of gambling to develop an advantage and win serious profits. Such edges still exist nowadays if you can find them or become extremely skilled with something like shuffle tracking.
As for luck, well, you can’t control when good fortune will smile upon you in the casino. But if you keep playing, then you may just get lucky one day.
Breaking the bank is an antique phrase in today’s gambling world. However, it’s also a fascinating expression that has a rich history.
Francois Blanc started using this phrase to describe big winners in his Casino de Monte Carlo. Specifically, he said that people broke a table’s “bank” when they won every available chip.
Some people use breaking the bank generically to describe any kind of hot streak. But as you can see, it refers to a specific instance.
You still have the ability to break the bank today. You can do so by either becoming an advantage gambler, getting really lucky, or playing high stakes.
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