Thursday, April 18, 2024

Roulette’s Famous Faces

Matthew Steeples explores the history of roulette and identifies five famous faces who’ve had the biggest successes at the wheel

Roulette is a game that came about as a result of a French mathematician, philosopher and religious writer named Blaise Pascal (1623 – 166) seeking to develop a perpetual motion machine.


This child prodigy from Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne first came to prominence aged just 16 after writing a treatise on the subject of projective geometry, but it was in 1642 that he pioneered work on calculating machines and became one of the first inventors of the mechanical calculator.


Pascal’s quest to discover a hypothetical machine that could continue forever in an unperturbed system without an external energy source in the 17th century was followed in the 18th century by a primitive form of roulette known as ‘EO’ (‘Even/Odd’) in late 18th century England.


Defined now as a “gambling game in which a ball is dropped on to a revolving wheel with numbered compartments, the players betting on the number at which the ball comes to rest,” the present form is believed to have been first played in Paris circa 1796. It was described then in a French novel, La Roulette, ou le Jour, by Jacques Lablee, but had previously been mentioned in 1758 as being banned in New France (Québec).


One of the most popular casino games of all time and available to play via’s list of online roulette sites as well as in-person in many ritzy venues, here is a game that has attracted many a high-roller. Here also is a game where the sum total of all the numbers on the wheel (from 0 to 36) is 666; it marks the “Number of the Beast.”


Five famous faces who’ve profited most from the pleasures of the roulette wheel…

Sir Philip and Lady Green (left) and Pedro Grendene Bartelle (right)
Sir Philip and Lady Green (left) and Pedro Grendene Bartelle (right)
Charles De Ville Wells (left) and Ashley Revell (right)
Charles De Ville Wells (left) and Ashley Revell (right)

Anything but sorry for their shameless business practices ‘Sir Shifty’ Philip Green and his wife ‘Lady Greed’ are well known for loving a bit of gambling. In December 2004, over a few nights, he is said to have won £3 million on the wheel at the Mayfair Club in London. The casino subsequently dramatically reduced its table limits whilst Sir Philip and ‘Call Me Lady Tina’ went on to become two of the most loathed people in Britain after what happened in the disgraceful Arcadia Group debacle.


Pedro Grendene Bartelle, the nephew of the billionaire sandal manufacturer Alexandre Grendene Bartelle, pocketed £2.8 million playing French roulette at the Hotel Conrad in Punta del Este, Uruguay in January 2017. He had staked most of his chips on no 32 and had put down an initial stake of just £275.


“Average English guy” computer programmer Chris Boyd decided to go for all-out in Las Vegas in 1994 at Binon’s Horsehoe Club. He won £350,000 after placing half that sum on red and cashed out and went home a very much richer man with his “life changed forever.”


English gambler and fraudster Charles De Ville Wells (1851 – 1922) was celebrated in the song The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo after he won 23 out of 30 consecutive spins at the wheel on one night in 1891. He won the modern-day equivalent of around £900,000 and then went back and returned soon after and did it all again based on luck (allegedly).


In 2014, Maidstone, Kent born Ashley Revell went to the Plaza Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas after selling his belongings, BMW and house. He staked his entire £76,840 worth on red and got lucky. He doubled his money and later became the inspiration for Simon Cowell’s 2011 game show Red or Black? and a Sky One mini-series titled Double or Nothing. In August 2023, the MailOnline reported that after his £153,680 win, he also met the woman who’d become his wife during the trip and then discovered a Bronze Age hoard dating to around 900 BC in Elham, Kent in 2018.


Matthew Steeples
Matthew Steeples
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.


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