A gentleman, well known in artistic circles, has favored me, through
a mutual friend, with the following interesting account of a swindle
perpetrated in connection with roulette here in London. He entitles
it 'A True Gambling Experience'; and it is here given as nearly
as possible in his own words.
'Some time ago, a friend of mine
wrote to me, asking if I would like to go to a gamble at the rooms
of a Mr. X--, who had acquired a certain notoriety by gaining
large sums at Monte Carlo. Indeed, his name was mentioned almost
daily in the London Press. I went, and the game of roulette was
played, the guests being regaled at about midnight with a most
excellent supper and "Pol Roger" ad lib.
'The company was mixed -- a few
men from club-land, a well-known money-lender, and two fair ladies.
One lady was our hostess, the other was the celebrated Baroness
--. The game was played quite fairly, the board being one of those
ordinarily used in England, with one "zero." The stakes were limited
to 20l. upon the even money chances.
'At the end of the evening, our
host -- the much-talked-of gentleman of Monte Carlo -- who had
won about 1,oool. during the sitting, appointed another evening,
and asked me if I would mind taking the bank. I consented, provided
that I might stop when I had lost as much as I cared to risk.
This was acceded to, and I took the bank on the following week,
when I arose a loser of some 300l., but had such consolation as
was to be derived from partaking of a supper similar in character
to the first, everything being absolutely en prince,
A game of baccarat followed, and a friend of mine was fortunate
enough to win some hundreds from our host. I myself, having settled
up all my losings [sic] at roulette, was a gainer of fifty sovereigns
or so. At the end of the evening, our host excused himself from
payment, on the ground that he had had a very bad week racing,
and had a very heavy settlement to make on the Monday, " I know,"
he said, " you and your friend will not mind waiting until next
week, when we will have another evening." Of course we agreed
to wait until the next meeting.
'Some days after, I had a letter
from Mr. X--, stating that he had much pleasure in sending me
a cheque (enclosed), and remarking that he intended having an
evening at the rooms of a friend of his, near Charing Cross. The
evening arrived, and I duly wended my way to the address Mr. X
had given me. I found about twenty people assembled, among them
my friend and another man I knew. I went up to the former and
asked him if Mr. X had paid up the money he owed him. "Oh yes,"
he said, "he has paid me in those," pointing to a heap of counters
in front of him. The game had commenced when I arrived, and I
noticed that the limit of the stakes was double that of the former
occasions, viz. 40!. upon the even money chances. I further noticed
that a Frenchman (who could not speak a word of English) was turning
the wheel, and Mr. X-- was acting as "croupier." The board was
not similar to that used on former occasions.
'The game proceeded, the Frenchman
rolling the ball, and Mr. X raking in the losing and paying out
the winning stakes. Every now and then a man would retire hard
hit, whilst others were constantly arriving. Business was brisk,
a good trade was being carried on, but nobody knew how certain
the bank was of winning. A Rothschild could not have stood against
that board, as I afterwards discovered.
'Presently, one of the players
got up and said, "I think that is seven hundred I owe you, X--,"
and proceeded to try and write a cheque for the amount upon a
blank sheet of paper; but finding he could not write distinctly,
he called to the money-lender, who filled in the body of the cheque,
and then the half-tipsy punter signed it and left. Several large
cheques were paid to X-- upon various players taking their departure;
and I, having lost 10l. punting in sovereigns, wrote a cheque
for that amount. In the meantime, my friend who had been paid
by X-- some hundreds in counters, as before mentioned, had lost
them all, and had a debit of about 400l. against him. He was staking
the maximum each time on either red or black. Sometimes he had
a maximum on one of the other chances. The luck (?) was dead against
him, and he only won once in every three or four coups. He came
into the next room with me and had a brandy and soda. "My luck
is terrible," he said, "awful! but I am going to sit it out. The
chances must average up presently." Such, however, was not the
case. He lost more and more, whilst beads of perspiration stood
upon his forehead.
'Relaxing for a moment my attention
from my friend and his play, and glancing at the roulette revolving,
I noticed the ball roll into division No. 3, red. Strange to say,
however, when the roulette came to rest, the winning number proved
to be No. 26, black. Even then the thought did not occur to me
that there was anything wrong; but shortly afterwards a similar
event occurred, and then I felt sure there was a swindle somewhere.
I went into the cloak-room where we had left our outer apparel,
and putting on my opera hat and cape, returned to the scene. I
pulled my hat well over my eyes and watched the board. Having
a quick eye, and being used to roulette, I soon fathomed what
is possibly the most beautiful swindle ever invented. The partitions
which form the divisions into which the ball runs were constructed
in one piece and movable, altogether apart from the numbers between
which they were situated. In pressing upon the roulette to stop
its motion in the usual manner, a sort of ratchet movement could
be actuated which would turn the whole of the divisions round,
carrying the ball with them, from one number to the next. Thus
red could be turned into black, manque into passe, or pair into
impair, according to the manner in which the stakes were placed.
'I was so completely upset by
my discovery of this colossal swindle that I unfortunately committed
a faux pas which enabled the gang to escape punishment.
After I was thoroughly certain of the modus operandi,
I looked round the room to see what help was at hand in the event
of a tussle; but, not liking the look of the crowd, I decided
to obtain assistance from the outside. Before doing so, I felt
that my clear duty was to speak to the host, who had lent his
rooms to Mr. X--. I motioned him apart, and on telling him that
I wished to speak to him privately, he took me into his bedroom.
"Mr. Z--," I said, "I think it my duty to tell you that this game
is a gigantic swindle. The men who have lost have been cheated
out of their money," and I described the process to him. "It cannot
be true," said he, "I have known X for years, and have been engaged
in several large financial transactions with him, and I would
stake my life upon his integrity." "Well," I said, "that may be
so, but I am certain of what I say, and I shall prevent all the
payment I can. As for my cheque of 10l., I shall stop it at the
bank." (That cheque has never been presented from that day to
'I went out into the passage,
leaving Z-- in his bedroom, and at that moment the well-known
Mr --, F.R.C.S. was admitted at the door. I whispered to him,
"Play small and watch it," and went off for a detective. I was
afterwards informed by my "sawbones" friend that play was stopped
directly I left.
'The rest of the tale is soon
told. I met my unfortunate friend outside his house, and found
he had ended in losing 1,300l. His state was truly pitiable, and
his relief was great when I told him that he need not pay a penny,
as he had been duped.
'The next day private detectives
were busy; but, unfortunately, the mechanical board had escaped
them, and Mr. X and his confederates had cleared out of London.
'Would you believe it? X-- went
to a well-known firm of solicitors, and wanted to commence an
action against me; but they advised him to refrain from so doing.
'I traced many of the punters
who had lost money that evening, and stopped the payment of very
much that would otherwise have found its way into the pockets
of the swindlers. The men whose interests I thus protected never
thanked me. All I contrived to do for myself was to make many
enemies. For the future I intend to leave the exposure of swindlers
to those who are accustomed to that kind of work.'