The real-life story of Dr. Richard Jarecki’s astounding success at the roulette table brings a world of old-time casino intrigue to life.
Tales of such massive casino wins generally include episodes of cheating and scamming. Jarecki however, the mild mannered medical doctor who died last year at the ripe old age of 88, achieved his incredible feat through research, analysis and a willingness to move towards his goal slowly and patiently. At the 50th anniversary of Jarecki’s biggest win, which he achieved in 1969, it’s time to review how this master player pulled off the roulette payout of the century.
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Richard Jarecki’s Jewish family fled from Germany to the United States in the ‘30s to escape from the Nazi dictatorship. As a young refugee, Richard played games like bridge, rummy and skat to console himself while he tried to adapt to the new, strange environment. Even as a young boy, Jarecki would bet on the games that he played and he would usually win his wagers.
Jarecki was gifted with an incredible memory that allowed him to easily remember and computate numbers and statistics. He studied medicine and obtained a medical degree while spending much of his free time in casinos.
In his late 20s, Jarecki developed an obsession with the game of roulette. Roulette had, until then, been considered to be a game of chance but Jarecki was convinced that, with the proper strategy, he could beat the wheel.
Experimentation led Jarecki to conclude that roulette wheels were just a piece of machinery. Like any other type of machinery, Jarecki discovered, the wheels had defects and each roulette wheel had its own individual flaws and imperfections. Jarecki, his wife Carol and a team of observers visited casinos to observe the roulette wheels. They watched them closely to see if it was possible to detect a pattern that would give them the information that they needed in order to determine how to maximize any type of wheel bias.
In 1964 Jarecki made his first move He took out a £25,000 loan from a Swiss financier, went into a casino and started to play. After six months he’d won £625,000 – almost $7 million in today’s currency. Many people tried to understand his methodology but Jarecki tried to mislead them, saying that he calculated roulette outcomes daily and then fed the information into a computer and waited for the computer to give him the data that he needed to pick his numbers. At that time, very few people knew anything about computers so Jarecki’s secret was safe.
Jarecki continued to hide behind this technological ruse and continued to keep tabs on biased tables in preparation for the next big move.
Jarecki bought an apartment near San Remo in Italy and watched the casino’s roulette tables carefully. He found a table that seemed to have a bias for the number #33, a result, Jarecki determined, of the “constant friction of the ball against the wheel.”
In 1968 he spent 3 days at the casino. He won a total of $48,000 ($360,000 in today’s currency). Eight months later, over the course of one weekend he won $192,000 ($1,400,000) which, effectively, broke the casino’s bank twice in one night on two different wheels. The casino owner banned Jarecki for 15 days but when the ban was lifted, Jarecki returned and won another $100,000 ($717,000).
Casino operators tried to rearrange Jarecki’s favorite roulette wheels and they placed them in different spots every night. But Jarecki could easily recognize each wheel based on its nicks, cracks, discolorations and scratches. He knew immediately which wheels had which defects and biases. One casino owner, Signor Lardera, complained “He is a menace to every casino in Europe. I don’t know how he does it exactly, but if he never returned to my casino I would be a very happy man.” Jarecki retorted “If the casino directors don’t like to lose they should sell vegetables.” The San Remo eventually replaced all 24 of its roulette wheels to thwart Jarecki but they took a huge loss on the replacement investment.
Jarecki took in a reported $1,250,000 ($8,000,000 today) between 1964 and 1969. In 1973 he returned to New Jersey where he multiplied his fortune 10x as a commodities broker. His interest in gaming was passed down to his son who, at age 9, became the youngest chess master in history. Jarecki died in 2018 at the age of 86.