On a warm May evening in 1969, a crowd of stunned players gathered around a worn-out roulette table near the Italian Riviera. In the centre stood a long-time 38-year-old professor of medicine in a crumpled suit. He had just bet $100,000 ($715,000 on today’s money) on one round of roulette. The croupier released a small white ball and the room froze. He can’t be that lucky… or can he?
However, Dr Richard Jareki did not fall into the hands of a blind case. He spent thousands of hours developing a brilliant winning way – and he will soon bring him a winnings equivalent to today’s $8 million.
From Nazi Germany to New Jersey
Richard Jareki was born in 1931 in the German town of Stettin to a Jewish family and fell into chaos. Germany was in the agony of an economic crisis, and support for the Nazi party NSDAP with its anti-Semitic platform was growing, blaming the Jews for all the problems in the country. Jareka’s parents, a dermatologist and heir to a large transport company, gradually lost everything they owned. Before the threat of internment and the imminent outbreak of World War II, they fled to America in search of a better life.
Hitler was on a German street in 1938, shortly after the Jareka family fled the country.
In New Jersey, young Jareki found an outlet in card games such as gin rammy, stingray and bridge, and was happy to “regularly win money” from his friends. His gifted brain could easily memorize numbers and statistics, and the young man went to study medicine – it was a noble deed approved by his father.
In the 50s, Jareki gained a reputation as one of the largest medical researchers in the world. But he had one secret: his real passion was hiding in the dark, stale corridors of the casino.
Somewhere around 1960, Jareki became passionate about roulette, a game in which a small ball spins on a randomly numbered multi-coloured wheel and players bet on where it will land. Although many thought roulette was a game of chance, Jareki was convinced that it could be “won”.
He noticed that at the end of each night the casino would change cards and dice for new ones – but the expensive roulette wheels remained in place and often served for decades until they were replaced by new ones.
Like other cars, these wheels would wear out. Jareki began to suspect that small defects – chips, dents, scratches, uneven surfaces – could cause certain wheels to give out certain numbers more often than they did in a truly random order.
The roulette on which Jareki played in the 1960s
On weekends, the doctor would travel back and forth between two tables, the operating room and the roulette room, manually recording the results of thousands and thousands of roulette launches and analysing the data for statistical anomalies.
“I experimented until I developed a sketch of the system based on previous winning numbers,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald in 1969. – If the numbers 1, 2 and 3 won in the previous rounds, I could determine which numbers were likely to win in the next three rounds.
Jackie’s approach was not something new: Joseph Jagger, considered the pioneer of the so-called “shifted wheel” strategy, won significant sums in the 1880s [Apparently this story was inspired by Jack London, who wrote the story “The Kid Dreams”]. In 1947 the researchers Albert Gibbs and Roy Wolford used this technology, bought a yacht with the money and sailed off into the Caribbean sunset. There was also Helmut Berlin, a turner who, in 1950, hired a team of buddies to monitor roulette work and won $420,000.
For Jareka, however, it was not about money. He wanted to bring the system to perfection, repeat it and “win” roulette. It was about winning a man over a car.
After several months of data collection, he took the saved $100 (postponed for a rainy day) and went to conquer the casino. Before that, he had not gambled, and although he believed in his research, he knew that he was still confronted with the “element of chance”.
In a few hours he turned $100 into $5000 ($41,000 in today’s money). After confirming that the system was working, he moved to more serious stakes.
In the mid 1960s, Jareki moved to Germany and took a job at the University of Heidelberg to study electrophoresis and criminal medicine.
He recently received a very prestigious award (one of only 12 awards worldwide) for his work on international cooperation in medicine, and joined an elite group of doctors and scientists. However, Jareki was eager for another prize: he looked towards the nearby casinos.
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