Titanic Thompson's greatest hits
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