Monte-Carlo's lucky charms
There’s nowhere else that luck is as important as in a casino. Just like anywhere else, luck isn’t always around at the Casino de Monte-Carlo. That’s why casino-goers have been outdoing themselves for the past 150 years trying to find new ways to influence the way the dice will roll.
Equestrian statue in the Hôtel de Paris
When visitors push the heavy revolving door to the Hôtel de Paris, they stand face-to-face with a splendid bronze statue of a horse and rider. It represents Louis XIV and has a particularly strange feature. The horse’s right knee is abnormally worn, for a bizarre yet wonderful reason. For over a century, local legend has claimed that rubbing the horse’s knee will bring good luck at the gaming tables. That’s why players leaving the hotel for the Casino de Monte-Carlo just a few metres away make sure they always perform this strange ritual.
You can find anything in a woman’s handbag
The English author Adolphe Smith wrote about how he was seated at one of the gaming tables in the Casino de Monte-Carlo next to a particularly lucky woman. When he congratulated her on her good fortune, she opened her bag and invited him to look inside. He saw silver coins like those she had been placing on the green baize, together with a strange lump of something grey and sticky. When he asked the woman what it was, she replied that it was the heart of a bat. She told him that she had asked one of the hotel employees to bring her one of the bats that nested in a nearby warehouse, and that she had cut out its heart herself. She claimed that any silver coin which came into contact with the bat’s heart brought her luck when she gambled. Smith tried his luck with a gold coin, but it didn’t work. The lady said that was perfectly normal: bats are moon animals, like silver. But gold is a metal of the sun, over which a bat has no power.
Ite missa est
The Church and gambling have not always seen eye to eye. The Church has always considered gambling to be a violation of the biblical rule whereby one’s living should be earned by the sweat of one’s brow. So what about those casino-goers who defy divine will by leaving everything to sheer chance?
In the early 20th century, Reverend Taylor, pastor of Monaco’s Anglican church, was surprised to see the vast number of people who began attending mass. As he was very familiar with Monte-Carlo, he went looking for an explanation in the casino. There he learnt that one player, returning to the casino after attending mass where hymn no. 36 had been sung, had bet on this number at roulette and won. The news spread like wildfire, and the faithful hurried along to mass and then to the casino to bet on the number of the hymn that was sung, believing it to be a sign of fate.
The Reverend was not at all happy that the Church was being involved in these vile schemes and decided that since the roulette wheel only had 36 numbers, they would only sing hymns from no. 37 onwards!
Reverend Taylor’s congregations then returned to a more normal size.
In Monaco’s palatial hotels, total discretion on the part of the staff is the absolute rule is total discretion on the part of the staff; no one must talk about what happens or what they see. Many long years must pass before this ‘statute of limitations’ runs out and an establishment can reveal anecdotes testifying to its clients’ habits or fads. But one thing is for certain: you just have to ask the chambermaids or housekeepers in Monaco’s hotels to know that the Casino’s clients are still as superstitious today as they once were in the past! Naturally, you won’t get any names, even if they are the most famous people in the world. But the superstitious nature of gamblers defies all logic: this one won’t sleep in a room because the room number brings him bad luck, that one will not accept a room decorated in green, and another will insist on placing a kilo of unrefined salt beneath his bed, guaranteeing his luck at the gaming tables.
Superstition is not a thing of the past; it is eternal, and part and parcel of the very spirit of gambling.