William Nelson Darnborough

Lucky Number 5

One of the luckiest roulette players of all time has to be a guy called  William Nelson Darnborough who was born in 1869 and died in 1958).

He´s sometimes known as the Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, although that title is more often used for Charles Wells who broke the bank some 10 years earlier!

This roulette high roller was from Bloomington, Illinois in the States and became famous for his big roulette wins in Monaco from 1904 to 1911. Darnbourgh moved to London after the turn of the century and became a regular at Monte Carlo. In 1904, he won over £80,000 playing roulette. In 1910, he converted £1,600 into over £60,000 during a month at the tables moving the roulette odds in his favour.

In his most famous session at the tables (on a French Roulette wheel of course), Darnborough bet on the number 5 and won five times in a row. That even beats Sean Connery´s roulette bet which was 3 time a row on the number 17.

During his lucky roulette years (or had he cracked the code?), he built up a pile of $415,000 which is worth around $10 million in today´s money according to Measuring Worth.

Those who watched Darnborough play spoke of the break-neck speed with which he would play his roulette strategy. He never bet until the dealer had spun the ball. 

How did he do it? Well no-one knows for sure- this isn´t the kind of secret that you tell everyone about, but he cut his teeth playing roulette in the US in illegal casinos. Darnborough was thought to be a wheel watcher (nowadays they are called Wheel Clockers)-  a man who could predict with enough accuracy where the ball would land (at least to give him an edge over the casinos). In theory, he could do this even if he were to play live roulette online today. An intersting thought!

Darnborough ended up marrying a young aristocrat and bought a country pile in England. His son was the film producer Antony Darnborough (1913–2000) and his daughter, the ballerina Hermione Darnborough (1915–2010) who was the wife of the composer and director of film music, Muir Mathieson.

His granddaughter Fiona Mathieson (1951–1987) played Clarrie Grundy in the BBC radio serial The Archers