Titanic Thompson's greatest hits

25 January 2011

Alvin Clarence Thomas, a.k.a. Titanic Thompson, got his nickname because he sank everybody he gambled with, but he also...

 

  • Flipped a playing card through the air, cutting a flower off its stem.
  • Slept with movie star Jean Harlow and traded card tricks with Houdini.
  • Made a loaded pistol disappear.
  • Lost $1 million playing pool with Minnesota Fats, then joined forces with Fats and fleeced some of the country's best sticks.
  • Made putts by using a steel-centered golf ball - after he magnetized the steel cup-liner in the hole.
  • Shot 66 right-handed, 65 left-handed, and told Ben Hogan, "Pro golf's not for me. I couldn't afford the pay cut."
  • Bet he could drive a golf ball 500 yards - and won by teeing up beside a frozen lake.
  • Double-crossed mob king Arnold Rothstein (featured in HBO show Boardwalk Empire) in the high-stakes poker game that got Rothstein killed.
  • Conned Al Capone by throwing a lemon over a building-a lemon weighted with buckshot.
  • Won bets by claiming highway mileage signs were wrong-after he'd moved the signs the night before.
  • Hosted the very first World Series of Poker.
  • Threw a peanut across Times Square, tossed a watermelon onto a skyscraper's roof, lifted a 10-foot boulder, leaped over a pool table, and shot six bullets through one bullet- sized hole (those tricks are in the book).
  • Was the real-life model for Sky Masterson, the gambler-hero of Guys and Dolls.

 

Kevin Cook is the author of Titanic Thompson: the Man who Bet on Everything

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