The Future at Monte Carlo
Hon S R Beresford
This is the book that inspired Norman Leigh to renew his efforts to break the bank at the Casino Municipale in Nice, South of France, as recounted in his story "Thirteen against the Bank".
It was published in 1923 by the Hon. S.R.Beresford (Honourable Seton Robert de la Poer Horsley-Beresford to give him his full name and title), third son of the third Baron Decies (Decies being located in County Waterford, Ireland). Being over 90 years old now, an original copy is pretty rare but I managed to pick up a collated photocopied version of an original for just a few quid on EBay.
It was originally sold at 21 shillings (a not inconsiderable sum for a book in 1923, and the equivalent of around £50 today). The London Tit-Bits wryly commented that as the book was only a third of an inch think it equated to a rate of 63 shillings an inch! One does wonder exactly who Mr B thought would part with this amount for a book devoted to what can only be described at best as a shady subject? The idle rich who liked to gamble perhaps? My initial impressions on reading the first dozen or so pages, was that this was the work of some twenties' con-artist using a pseudonym with a title tagged on for good measure. Having researched the author, however (which frankly was far more interesting than the book), this is clearly not the case.
The content itself contains little of substance or value. In addition to the reasons as to why the author went public with his secret money-making system, he argues that due to the "inevitablility" of some even-payout options (or thereabouts) in any game of chance arising more often than others, it was possible to apply a positive progression system and consistently beat the house. He recommends reversing the Labouchere system (the "Labby"), and refers to the resulting method as the Beresford. Apparently, even when starting out with a fairly modest amount of capital, applying his method is a surefire recipe for success at the tables. Right, I'd better get a few quid together . . .
He goes on to state that in his experience most players play roulette at a much greater disadvantage than 2.70%, as a result of not following a disciplined method but simply "guessing" when placing their bets (giving the house an additional 2% advantage - go figure?), and includes a record of six hours of roulette play, detailing the outcomes of 250 spins ("coups"), to illustrate the point that a short run of "predominance" can reverse any losses sustained and bring the player out ahead. Finally he comments on declining staff morale and levels of customer service at the casino in Monte Carlo, and his belief that even though the holding company managing the venue declared cash reserves of F35m in it's public accounts of 1921 (around £60m in today's value), six months of sustained losses to players working in cooperation and applying the "Beresford" could put it out of business. Hmmm . . . All this is presented in a pretentious, wordy, waffly style that makes for some tedious reading at times, although allowances should be made for changes in writing styles and the use of everyday English over what is more than ninety years.
I'm still scratching my head over this statement:
". . . it must be realised that a real bad 30 or 40 minutes opposing the "Beresford" at several tables would automatically depreciate the value of such assets as goodwill and buildings by many hundreds per cent!" ? ? ? ?
Is there anything in this piece of work that should be taken seriously? In a word no; it's all complete tosh. The Beresford is just as worthless as all other progression systems based on spurious logic and promising winning results. Not to say that it wouldn't be entertaining to apply it at the tables, just that if you do you shouldn't be under any illusions as to what the longer term results will be. As for the author's claim of using it successfully over the thirty years prior to publication, I think you can take this with a mountain of salt; read the findings of my research into his life below and be your own judge.
The life of Seton Beresford.
Seton Robert Beresford (1868-1928), "Bobbie", can best be described as an old-Etonian playboy. He was the fifth of nine children, and the third son, born to the Third Baron Decies and his wife over the eighteen years following their marriage in 1860. After completing his education at Eton, he entered Cambridge University in 1887, and the following year obtained a commission as a second lieutenant with the 4th Bn Sherwood Foresters (a reserve battalion). Looking at the regimental histories, however, it's unlikely he saw any mobilised service. After leaving university, he would seem to have spent the next ten years of his life attending society gatherings, playing cricket (he appeared in two first class matches for Middlesex during May 1909), shooting pigeons and living well, if not lavishly, despite having no notable source of income.
For eight months during 1899-1900 he did work as a war correspondent, reporting on the Boer War in South Africa, and although he was paid £20 per week (a tidy sum at the turn of the 20th century), his expenses were consistently more than he earned. As there isn't too much that a war correspondent can spend a hefty sum on whilst in the field, I suspect a large part of his "expenses" went across his hosting regiment's officers' mess bar or were lost gaming. The highpoint of his time in South Africa was when he (allegedly) left the relief column moving towards Kimberley on 15th February 1900, rode off in advance and subsequently met with Cecil Rhodes and advised him of the approach of General French and his troops. They arrived around two hours later. Interesting that, despite expending a fair amount of research time, I've never yet found a single story filed by Mr B with the Central News Agency, or any references to him being present in Kimberley on the day of the relief in contempory accounts of the time, ie the diaries/memoirs of Cecil Rhodes himself and those of Frederick Villiers (a noted war correspondent of the time who was there and did meet with Rhodes), A.B. "Banjo" Patterson (an Australian poet) and Winston Churchill, who at that time was working as correspondent for the Morning Post in England.
His personal life was certainly a tapestry. In 1899, aged 31, he married Delia O'Sullivan, a 23 year old musical theatre actress, although the marriage ended 9 years later when she divorced him citing the grounds of cruelty and adultery in her petition. Interesting to note that on the defendent's response, Mr B described his occupation as "gentleman of independent means" - a common euphemism for an unemployed (or unemployable) toff. He didn't challenge his wife's claims in court though, and a divorce was subsequently granted without complication. Three weeks after the decree absolute came through, Delia married a 21 year baronet and became Lady Huntingdon - who says there was no social mobility in those days?.
In February 1911, Mr B was best man at his brother's marriage to 18 year old Vivien Gould in New York (his Lordship was 44) which, by all accounts, was considered to be the society wedding of the year. After this he chose not to return home to England but to stay in the Big Apple, and he "went into business" there. Just two months later, in April 1911(1), it was rumoured within the society pages of some of the New York press that Mr B's noted interest in a much younger double-divorcee, Frances Burke Roche, who had recently received a million dollars from her late father's estate, would shortly result in an announcement of an intention to marry. This speculation turned out to be false, and the courtship petered out. A similar story appeared in early 1915(2) as a consequence of Mr B meeting Katherine Britton, an eligible young American deb, on a transatlantic crossing to England; however, just 3 months after the engagement rumours were aired in the society pages of the American press his engagement to the 25 year old eldest daughter of Rear Admiral Sir Charles John Graves-Sawle, the 4th Baronet of Penrice, was announced(3). They married in Kensington Registry Office, London, on 28th June (just a few weeks after becoming engaged) and afterwards he returned to New York with his wife, Rosemary, to pick up on his business interests. It turns out that Mrs B was a proficient ice-skater, and she went on to win the US Ladies Figure Skating Championship of 1918(4), taking the title from the reigning champion, Teresa Weld.
Mr B was sued in relation to substantial debts on at least three occasions, and declared bankrupt twice. The first occasion was in 1901(5), after returning home from his time reporting on the Boer War, where he was publicly examined by a member of the official receiver's staff after a petition had been filed by his creditors. He declared his debts to be £5,089 (over £500,000 at today's value). During the sitting, he admitted that in 1895 he had received a one-off lump sum of £6,000 from his brother (to whom he owed £1,500 at the time) for the rights to the £400 per annum annuity granted to him on his father's death, and of having to pass over his life assurance policies to two creditors as security against unpaid gambling debts (totalling £3,200) should he not return from his assignment in South Africa. He claimed that £1,300 of his debts resulted from him travelling to the South of France to recouperate from the effects of typhoid fever and pneumonia contracted in South Africa. Looking at the dates involved, it's inconceivable that all of this (over £135,000 at today's value) would have been spent on travel, accommodation, subsistance and medical fees in a little over a year, and I suspect much of the cost of his "recouperation" related to sums staked on the roulette tables of Monte Carlo. Another debt of £109, outstanding for four years and relating to unpaid stabling fees for two race-horses he had an interest in, was also part of his declaration.
In January 1902 his creditors met to consider a proposal for settlement of his debts at seven shillings and sixpence in the pound, in conjunction with his mother withdrawing her claim to money she was owed (thereby increasing the amount available for his remaining creditors). This was agreed by a general vote. It turns out that the settlement was funded by his (first) wife who paid over £1,500 to the administrator and guaranteed his fee. As a result of this, the matter was concluded shortly afterwards and, as the debts were considered settled, the bankruptcy order was cancelled.
The second occasion was November 1917(6), in New York for significantly more. A Broadway based firm of stock-brokers successfully sued him over an unsettled account totalling $26,516 (over $2m at today's value), run up through trading shares and securities on the New York Stock Exchange between May 1916 and June 1917. The plaintiffs secured an attachment order over any assets he held in the State, but when attempts were made to execute the judgement some mining stock thought to be held on Mr B's behalf couldn't be traced. No further legal action was reported to have been taken at the time and it may be that the debt was settled quietly in the background. No doubt the whole episode was put down as being one of those "terrible misunderstandings" that happen from time to time? Late in 1919 the Beresfords left New York to spend the winter in Bermuda, where Mr B spent his time pigeon shooting and playing cricket and Mrs B spent her's playing golf. From there they relocated back to England permanently.
The third occasion was in May 1925, when a bankruptcy order was made against Mr B(7) in the High Court in London, the result of Clifton Verney Limited, a London based "confidential" moneylender of the time, suing to recover what he owed them. By the time the case was heard he was no longer residing at his previous address in Surrey, and during the follow-up hearing to appoint an administrator to oversee his affairs the Court was informed he had left the country and was living in France. A classic case of doing a runner. Although no statement of affairs was drawn up, the proofs of debt presented to the court totalled £3,737 (around £198,000 at today's value).
Seton Beresford ended his days living in reduced circumstances in Cap d'Ail on the French Riviera, which is just two miles from Monte Carlo and the casino there. He died on 28th May 1928, shortly before his 60th birthday, and is buried in the Anglo-American cemetery on the outskirts of Nice. His grave, along with many others, has fallen into disrepair due to the site no longer being used (the last burial took place there in 1965). No children resulted from either of his two marriages, and his widow re-married just 9 months after his death and lived to the age of 81.
In summary it would seem Mr B lived the vast majority of his life as a privileged waster, whose title and family connections allowed him to indulge in a champagne lifestyle whilst he looked to stay one step ahead of his creditors. Despite becoming heir presumptive to the family title and fortune in 1910 (on the death of his eldest brother, the 4th Baron), he never succeeded to it losing his place in the line of succession to his nephew, who was born to the 5th Baron and his first wife in April 1915; his marriage on the quick just two months later was pure coincidence no doubt? Also open to speculation is the question of whether his debts had increased or not by the time of his death? Considering his record with regard to money I think it's odds-on that they had, and many more people and businesses were left out of pocket as a result of providing loans or goods and services on account. I may be wrong, and I'll be happy to set the record straight if this was not the case (if you have knowledge to the contrary please drop me a line).
Finally, spare a thought around the coincidence of Norman Leigh's great inspiration, and nemesis, being laid to rest just a couple of miles away from the Casino Municipale in Nice, where Norman led his team in taking on "the Bank" in 1966. Certainly a small world.
In addition to The Future at Monte Carlo, other titles from Seton Beresford are:
Prohibition (the wherefore and effect)
Published in 1925 (although it may have been earlier) by his London publisher, this is just 35 pages long. A copy is held by the British Library (General Reference Collection 8436.de.26).
Beresford's Monte Carlo (Historical, Anecdotal, Analytical, Informative)
Published in 1926 by his own publishing business based in Nice, France (J Beresford). This was the Rough Guide of it's time and ran to 427 pages. A paperback with a cover price of 5/- or F25.00, it was clearly intended to be more affordable and aimed at English speaking visitors to the town. Again a copy is held by the British Library (General Reference Collection 10175.f.51).
Profit in Racing and Other Sports
I could find no evidence that this title was ever published, although Mr B's original manuscript is held at the Cornwall Public Record Office and is filed under reference CF/2/859. I suspect it was found amongst his second wife's effects after her death in 1971 and was donated to the archive - she died without an heir and the family estate was bequeathed to worthy causes under public and charitable stewardship.
He also claimed to have written Industrial Economics, although there's no record of this title under his name at the British Library, and I could find no evidence that it was ever published or existed.
Seton Beresford and mum, the Dowager Lady Catherine Decies, photographed in the States in July 1914. Lady Decies outlived her husband, the third baron (who died in 1893 at the age of 82), by 48 years and also outlived six of her nine children by the time of her death in February 1941, aged 97. You do the sums around the age difference between her and the third baron when they married in 1860.
Courtesy of the US Library of Congress
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2005016549/ (link opens in a new window)
Seton Beresford's entry in the Cambridge University Alumni archive.
Very similar to an entry from the 1929 edition of "Who was Who?" (page 84). Archer H Brown was a firm of New York stockbrokers. Ignore the implied reference that he was in action with the 4th Sherwood Foresters during the Boer War - he wasn't. The Battalion was only deployed to South Africa as hostilities were winding down and after he'd returned to England, and it's probable that by then he no longer held a commission. He did indeed get involved with the purchase of horses on behalf of the Allies during the Great War, and there are legal papers on file at the Court in Richmond, Virginia, indicating that five years after the event (1920) he was still embroiled in a legal dispute with the owners of a major stockyard who provided the animals that were shipped to Europe and for whom he had acted as an agent(8). The bit at the end about him beating the bank at Monte Carlo needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt. In fact, a lot of it does.
Entry in the Cap D'Ail municipal register of deaths for Seton Beresford.
The entry indicates Mr B drew his last breath at 7.00pm on the evening of 28th May 1928, and his death was registered immediately the following morning by one Antoine Pesetti (aged 67), who lived in Monaco, and not his wife; I suspect he and Rosemary separated at some stage and she never moved to France with him when he left England in 1925.
The dilapidated grave of the late Hon.S.R.Beresford in the Cemetrie Ste Marguerite, Nice. Someone has thoughtfully recycled the decorative loose stones that were once there. Photograph courtesy of Alan Hart and the Gravestone Photographic Resource.
Press coverage and legal notices:
Below are a number of links to "digitised" newspapers and documents of the time which I managed to track down. The accuracy of the press coverage, and standards of journalism, would seem to have been no better then than they are nowadays (all links open in a new window).