Photo of the Day

A photograph of Ti from 1929. Titanic Thompson, who may have been the best golfer of his generation, gambled on his own, motoring from town to town from the Roaring Twenties to the 1970s, betting on golf, poker, dice, pool, horseshoes and games of his own invention. He killed five men, married five women and blazed a trail through the 20th Century.

Titanic—”Call me Ti”

His name was Alvin Thomas. But nobody dared call him that

During a life spent gambling — and mostly winning — he earned the nickname “Titanic Thompson” — because Titanic could sink anybody

One of the most famous gamblers of the 20th century, Titanic could sink just about all his opponents. He hustled golf and lost at horse-betting. He became so famous his life was eventually turned into a musical.

This is the story of one of the men who made Las Vegas what it is today – one of the craziest cities on Earth.

Born in a log cabin in the Ozarks, Alvin “Titanic” Thompson (1892-1974) travelled with his golf clubs, a .45 revolver, and a suitcase full of cash. He won and lost millions playing cards, dice, golf, pool, and dangerous games of his own invention. He killed five men and married five women, each one a teenager on her wedding day. He ruled New York’s underground craps games in the 1920s and was Damon Runyon’s model for slick-talking Sky Masterson. Dominating the links in the pre-PGA Tour years, Thompson may have been the greatest golfer of his time, teeing up with Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Lee Trevino, and Ray Floyd. He also traded card tricks with Houdini, conned Al Capone, lost a million to Minnesota Fats and then teamed up with Fats and won it all back.

He blew into town like a rogue wind that lifted girls’ skirts and turned gamblers’ pockets inside-out. Tall and thin with a bland mask of a face, he had close-set eyes that looked a little dead, at least until he offered you a bet. Then those dark eyes sparkled and he smiled like he had good news.

“Are you a gambling man?” he’d ask. “Because I am.”

Titanic Thompson — a made-up name for a self-made man who won and lost millions of dollars playing cards, dice, pool, golf, horseshoes, and anything else he could think of to bet on. He also married five women, each a teenager on her wedding day, and killed five men, all in self-defense. (While most of Titanic’s victims were hardened criminals, one was a teenage caddie who had tried to rob the gambler at gunpoint hours after one of his money matches.)

In the years between world wars, Titanic motored from town to town in a two-ton Pierce-Arrow, living by his wits and reflexes. He carried his tools in the trunk: left- and right-handed golf clubs, a bowling ball, horseshoes, a shotgun, and a suitcase full of cash.

He was America’s original proposition gambler, always on the move, one step ahead of his prey and the law — and he did some of his best work from tee to green. He hustled country-club golfers for $20,000 a hole while elite pros like Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson were earning $10,000 a year. He once drove a ball more than 500 yards. “The best shotmaker I ever saw,” Hogan said. “Right- or left-handed, you can’t beat him.”

In the 1930s and 40s, even the most upstanding golf professionals played money matches on the side. In 1934 several members of Ridgelea Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, put up $2,000 to back rising star Byron Nelson against Titanic. “I told them I wasn’t a gambler,” Nelson recalled. “They said, ‘We’ll do the gambling. You just play.’ ”

The 22-year-old Nelson, who would go on to win five majors, shot 69 to Ti’s 71. He thought he had won. “I was pleased with my play,” Nelson said. Later he discovered that Titanic had dickered with Nelson’s backers before the match and convinced them to spot him three shots.

Archetype of the Poker-Playing Golf Hustler

This guy’s going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear.

But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you’re going to wind up with an ear full of cider.

– Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson to Frank Sinatra in Guys and Dolls

Titanic Thompson was born plain old Alvin Clarence Thomas in rural Arkansas on November 30, 1892 (see Raising Titanic). Still awash with the detritus of the Wild West and the American Civil War, it was a pitiless era where the men drank and gambled with abandon and the women, if they knew what was good for them, kept their mouths shut. Ti’s father Lee – himself no stranger to moonshine and seven-card stud – skipped town when Ti was five months old and left him to be brought up by his god-fearing stepfather, who used him as cheap labour on the farm until the day, when he packed up his meagre belongings and headed off in search of caper.

Ti had left school at 14 and, in that sense, the next decade on the road became his university. Though he worked as a travelling shot and encyclopaedia salesman, these jobs, itinerant in their nature, were taken so he could move from town to town sniffing out people who loved to part with money. Missouri, Kansas, Texas, all across the south he roamed for wealth with a zeal fuelled by his impoverished childhood, and in every saloon, poker bar and whorehouse, he asked one question. “Does anyone know of a gambler named Lee Thomas?”

Titanic is perhaps one of the most interesting gamblers in history. He started off at an early age. Thompson made his first bet at six. He told a stranger his dog could fetch a marked stone from a pond. Of course, the stranger took the bet, thinking there was no way. The dog went in and fetched a marked stone. Thompson had filled the pond with several marked stones, making it impossible for him to lose the bet and this is the way he played. Before he would make any bet he made certain to fix it. In this way whenever a mark came along he would be sure to win.

It was said that he dug up a sign post stating Joplin was 20 miles away. He made certain to put it five miles closer. He went to some local gamblers and stated the sign was five miles too close. There was another story that he bet thousands that he could drive a golf ball 500 yards. He decided to tee up using a frozen lake.

You might say Thompson was a gambler and a hustler from these stories.  It is certain that if he wasn’t playing cards or other known games, he was creating something on his own to make a sure bet.

In 1908, Alvin left his home in Arkansas to conquer the world of hustling and gambling. When he set out he could neither read nor write properly and had less than a dollar in his pocket.

Alvin had a vague idea of tracking down his father – the mysterious “Lee Thomas” who had left him nothing but a name. He travelled through Missouri, working at first as a door-to-door map salesman and later as part of a travelling medicine show. One trick he developed during the show was the trick of throwing a dollar into the air and shooting a hole in it. He did this by palming his intact dollar, throwing up one pre-holed, and shooting to miss. Nobody ever cottoned on. At each stop he supplemented his income playing cards, growing to realise just how much money his skill could make him. This skill was not entirely legitimate – the young Alvin had developed his own system of marking cards with his fingernails that none of the country folk he played against could detect.

It was in 1910 that Alvin first killed a man. He had been playing Joe Green, owner of a riverboat named the “Rambler”, at dice and eventually Joe was deep enough in the hole to put the deed to the boat on the table. Alvin won and offered to let Joe stay on board working for him. Joe agreed, but on their first trip, he invited a friend of his named Jim Johnson to come along. Alvin and Jim diced, and Jim accused Alvin of cheating. Whether that was true or not, or whether Jim had been asked aboard by Joe to sort out “the Derby Kid” was irrelevant. The fight ended with them both going in the river, but Alvin had managed to catch Jim a blow with a hammer before they went in. Alvin survived, Jim drowned. Luckily for Alvin the local sheriff was corrupt, and handing over the deed to the “Rambler” saved him from a murder charge.

Alvin walked into a saloon in Oil City in 1910 and instantly pegged the man dealing stud as his father. Rather than reveal himself, he proceeded to win $3,600. “There’s your money,” he said, ‘I’m giving it you back because you never had a chance. See, I’m your son, Alvin.” The old man laughed while pocketing the cash, and the pair spent three weeks breaking the local oilmen at poker before going their separate ways and never meeting again.

So Alvin said goodbye and walked out of his father’s life forever in the spring. It was that year that he earned the nickname “Titanic”, one fateful evening after he won a bet that he could jump clear across a pool table. The sunken ship was in all the headlines, so when a bystander asked the barman who that crazy kid was, the man replied:

I don’t rightly know, but it ought to be ‘Titanic’. He sinks everybody.

He adopted the surname  “Thompson” when he saw his name misprinted in a newspaper.

Titanic Thompson does have a better ring to it than Titanic Thomas.

As lore had it, he got the name Titanic as a young man before World War I in a pool hall in Joplin, Mo. But I said I found it hard to buy that he got it by jumping over a pool table, or diving over a pool table, or whatever else he’d let people believe.

He said, “I did get the name in a pool game in Joplin, before the war. Snow Clark gave it to me. We were in a big game of pocket pool. Snow and me were partners against two other fellers. The stakes got pretty high. Snow saw me miss a couple of shots I should have made, and he knew it takes as much skill to miss a shot intentionally as it does to make it. He thought I’d put him in the can—that I’d bet on the other side. That’s when he said, ‘Boy, you’re sinkin’ me like the Titanic.’ I started laughing. I knew he’d given me a great name.” “I’ll take that version,” I said.

– Dan Jenkins

The name stuck, even though (or perhaps because) he was actually as skinny as a rake. Ti (as he started calling himself) was getting into the big time now. In Joplin, Missouri, Ti was hired by a local banker to teach a group of card sharks who had fleeced him a lesson. Ti cheated the cheats, and seduced the banker’s daughter as a bonus to himself. Over the next few years he taught himself new skills. He perfected the ability to throw cards into a hat, demonstrating his high level of natural hand-eye coordination. He developed a way of throwing dice that reduced the chance of them rolling so that they skidded and came to rest with the sides he’d chosen upright. It didn’t work all the time, but it was enough to give him an edge – and he didn’t need to load the dice to do it.

Thompson “had close-set eyes that looked a little dead. At least, until he offered you a bet.  Then those dark eyes sparked, and he smiled like he had good news. ‘Are you a gambling man?’ he’d ask. ‘Because I am.’ ”

He had incredible hand-eye-coordination and with his never-ending, cooked-up stories and empty promises he lured countless victims into brazen bets they could never win. He’d suggest improbable wagers, having first engineered or prepared the scenario to guarantee he’d win. He once bet Al Capone that he, Titanic, could throw a lemon onto the roof of a five-story hotel. The lemon was loaded with buckshot, having been previously planted on a fruit vendor’s stall. Capone, in the dark, took the bet and lost $500. A near-genius as a poker player, Titanic rigged the fabled all-night game that led to the death, in 1928, of Arnold Rothstein, the man who fixed the 1919 World Series (and the inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim, the sinister gambler in “The Great Gatsby.”)

Titanic Thompson. This portrait of Thompson (1892-1974) who was described as a “rogue wind that lifted girls’ skirts and turned gamblers’ pockets inside out.”

In 1916 he married a seventeen-year-old chambermaid named Nora. He was a good provider but was chronically unfaithful and after a year she divorced him. The same year, in Pittsburgh, he met a girl named Alice Kane. Or rather, he caught her picking his pocket. The two hit it off and later that year he married her. Like Nora, she was only seventeen years old – Ti was rarely interested in any woman out of her teens. Unlike Nora, she was willing to let Ti go out on the road on his own. The pair became a fixture of Pittsburgh’s “lively” scene, while Ti continued his free-wheeling life on the road. Then in 1918 America entered the First World War, and Ti was drafted.

Ti’s intelligence stood out among the other draftees, and he was quickly made a sergeant and an instructor. The position kept him out of the trenches, and also gave him a position to run a lucrative gambling ring in Fort McClellan training camp. After seven months the war ended, and Ti never was shipped overseas. With his earnings, both legitimate and illegitimate, he went back to Arkansas and bought his mother a house in Missouri where she had family. On his way back to Pittsburgh he got into a card game in St Louis, where he won forty thousand dollars. The dealer tried to set him up to be robbed as he left, but Ti had hired a bodyguard and was (as was his custom) carrying a Luger in a shoulder holster. Ti shot the two robbers dead, and then (rather than run, as his bodyguard suggested) called the police and told his story. He had no permit for his gun, but the two men he had shot were both wanted men and he left St Louis with the police chief’s thanks.

Back in Pittsburgh, he reunited with Alice, and the pair hit the town once more. It was a good life for Ti – tearing up Pittsburgh with Alice, running crooked dice games with her as his getaway driver for when things went bad. When the mood took him, he’d hit the road and travel wherever there was action. One of his most notorious coups was in Des Moines where he took on a professional horseshoe pitcher at his own game. Ti bets and won ten thousand dollars, and the horseshoe pitcher never realised Ti had set the stake a foot further away than it should have been. He also took part in card games, of course. When two would-be robbers burst through the door guns blazing, Ti’s bullets took one of them down. Once again he ended up with the thanks of the local police for eliminating a known and wanted criminal. That was the fourth man Ti killed.

Thompson invented a legendary bet which he frequently used and that earned him cost-free stays in some of the best hotels in the United States.

The bet was simply that he could throw his room key into its hole.

The trick, however, was in the wording because when someone took the bet Thompson didn’t throw the key into the keyhole. He threw it into the pigeon-hole behind the reception.

Got the better of Al Capone – and lived. 04 May 1932 — Infamous gangster Al Capone smokes a cigar on the train carrying him to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta where he will start serving an eleven-year sentence. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

It was on one of these trips that Ti first encountered golf. He saw a man on a driving range and asked for a swing. His first shot went past three hundred yards, a huge distance for a beginner. When Ti was talking about this in town, the locals decided that he was pulling their leg, so he took on all their bets and headed out to the course. He took his swing, but the grass was wet and the ball didn’t roll. At two hundred and eighty yards Ti lost his bet, but he paid up without a murmur. He had got something better in exchange – the golfing bug. Ti took to golf like a fish to water. Though naturally left-handed, he had trained himself to be ambidextrous.

His unusual mix of left-handed and right-handed clubs marked him out from the other players. His skill and focus did the same. Ti could have gone pro easily – but at the time the pros were earning $30,000 a year. Ti could make that in a week. One time in Chicago he spent a year betting everyone that he’d hit a five hundred yard drive before he left town. He cashed in the bet on a winter’s day when Lake Michigan was frozen over. Ti hit his ball out onto the lake, where it flew two hundred yards – and then rolled a good half a mile more. The golfers, knowing when they were beaten, paid up.

In the 1920s he rolled into New York City and cleaned out the gamblers who played underground craps games. That was the real-life action behind Damon Runyon’s famous Guys and Dolls stories. Runyon, the best-paid newspaperman in the world, wanted to write Titanic’s life story. But Ti said, “No thanks. Mine ain’t the kind of work publicity helps.” So Runyon fictionalised him. He based his most famous character on Titanic: Sky Masterson, the gambler-hero of Guys and Dolls.

It was around this time in the early 1920s that Ti became friends with Nicholas Dandalos, better known as Nick the Greek. Nick would become famous as one of the greatest professional poker players of all time, but right now he was just another easy rider like Ti. The two played poker together and would signal each other if they had a good hand. That way the other partner knew to stoke the betting and then get out of the way. Nick introduced Ti to Houdini, who Ti liked for his constant insistence that everything he did was just a trick. The pair compared card tricks, and Houdini was amused to discover just how much magic and card sharping had in common.

Nick also introduced Ti to Al Capone, but this time Ti was far less impressed. He disliked Al, but nobody could make the kind of money he did in Chicago without cutting the boss in. Al arranged the games, and in return took a 25% cut. Still, he knew enough high-rollers that Ti made a hundred thousand dollars off those games. After that, he had earned himself the lifelong respect of the most dangerous man in America. Titanic would tackle anybody; for him, the game wasn’t about money but winning, putting one over. He had pricked the arrogant Capone. For several years Titanic owned a house in Beverly Hills and dreamed of taking down Howard Hughes, but he could never get him out onto the golf course.

Ti and Nick headed on to southern California, where Ti cleaned up on the golf course and got cleaned out at the racetrack. Horse racing was the one thing he never mastered, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. Years later he did his best to fix a race in Tijuana, bribing or intimidating every other jockey into letting his horse win. The horse fell before the finish line and broke her leg, and Nick the Greek had to send him enough money to put a bankroll together again.

Golf was kinder, and a bet he won against a bootlegger got him a house in Beverly Hills. He phoned Alice and told her to sell the house in Pittsburgh and move out west. But Ti himself eventually tired of Los Angeles. Nick the Greek had moved to New York in the winter of 1927 where he’d become friends with Arnold Rothstein, the infamous crime boss who had bribed the Chicago White Sox to lose the World Series in 1919. Nick lost heavily to Rothstein and his friends, enough that his name started to become a punchline in New York.

Ti heard about his friend’s travails and arrived in town in the spring of 1928. After taking some time to get settled, he introduced himself to Arnold Rothstein. He laid on his native Arkansas accent and did his best to charm the crime boss. At the time Rothstein was being shadowed by the reporter Damon Runyon, himself a keen gambler. Runyon was fascinated by Ti, recognising him as a true character. Ti cultivated Rothstein as a friend, tripping the mobster whose nickname was “the Brain” into a series of proposition bets. Some were crooked – Ti would bet that they’d see a New Jersey car with a higher number plate than any of the New York ones, and then signal a driver he’d met earlier to come down the street. But some were not. One of these, that the Brain thought was a sure thing, was the bet that they could stop thirty strangers on the street and two would have the same birthday. Rothstein thought the odds were 365 to 30 in his favour. Ti, though, had studied statistics with an ex-university professor and knew that the chance was more like 70% on his side. He won the bet, and won Rothstein’s respect by explaining the maths behind it.

Ti made Rothstein his friend, but he never actually liked him. He told Alice, who had come out to New York that Rothstein was “a swindler and a gangster and a very smug fellow”. It was the latter that irked him – Ti loved to cheat arrogant men. Rothstein had a bad habit of always collecting his winnings, and always giving out IOUs for his losses. In September Ti was finally ready to spring his trap on the Brain. The game was poker, and to allay Rothstein’s suspicions Ti had agreed to be his partner at the table. To fleece the mobster, Ti had recruited an out-of-towner – a friend of his from Los Angeles named Nathan Raymond.

Once the game was going, Ti secretly recruited all the other players into the plot. By the end of the night, Rothstein was half a million dollars down – at least in theory. In practice, all they had was a stack of IOUs. By the start of November, Rothstein still hadn’t paid off his debts, and the pressure was starting to mount. George “Hump” McManus had organised the game, and he was the one responsible for making sure the IOUs were honoured. Hump made an arrangement to meet Rothstein on November 4th and told him he had to honour the markers. Rothstein had a half a million tied up in bets on the Presidential election, and he tried to get Hump to hold off until he could collect on those in a couple of days. When it became clear he was about to leave and had no intention of paying, Hump and his three guards drew their guns. Who fired the shot is unknown, but just after 11 pm the Brain staggered out into the street bleeding profusely. He was rushed to the hospital but died the next day. To the end, he refused to tell the police who had shot him.

Titanic Thompson playing poker. He conned Al Capone out of $500. And he double-crossed Arnold Rothstein, the crime boss who fixed the 1919 World Series.

Police investigated the room where Rothstein was shot and caught a lucky break. McManus had left his coat behind, and his name was embroidered into it. He was arrested, but it wasn’t until a year later that the case finally made it to court. Ti was one of the witnesses called at the trial, as the prosecution had realised that the card game in September was the likely motive for the shooting. When asked what he did for a living, Ti made a notable understatement:

I play a little golf for money.

Technically Ti was a prosecution witness, but he echoed the party line of all the gamblers called to the stand: McManus was “a swell loser” who wouldn’t kill a man for welshing his debts. His comments made the papers, but most got his name wrong – for some reason, a lot of them described him as “Titanic Thompson”. Ti quite liked the alias, and so he decided to keep it. A month after the trial started, it ended in an acquittal. The judge told the jury that as there was no way to prove McManus had been in the room, they had to let him go. To this day, Rothstein’s murder remains officially unsolved.

Ti hit the road again, but the publicity from the trial made it impossible for him to return to the “easy rider” lifestyle. The police ran him out of Oklahoma City, and in Little Rock he was arrested for illegal gambling. While he was in jail, he received a vicious one-two punch. The first was that creditors digging through the remnants of Rothstein’s fortune had found an old IOU in his name, so now he actually owed the dead man’s heirs twelve thousand dollars. The second was far more personal. Alice, who had moved back to Pittsburgh, had been hit by a speeding car. The woman who had been his wife for the last twelve years, the only woman he ever really loved, was dead.

Despite the glamorous tales, he lived a lonely life, moving from town to town looking for new suckers. Through five marriages and a scattering of offspring, Thompson really never connected with any person — only with the games.

With his anonymity gone, Ti returned to somewhere he was well-known – Los Angeles. He became part of the movie star set, and the widower sought consolation with starlets like Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow. Golf became his main means of earning, and here his fame made life a little easier – everyone wanted a crack at the infamous Titanic Thompson. He went back on the road again, and this was when he killed his fifth and last man. He shot a masked figure who was robbing his car, only to find it was the same kid who had caddied for him and seen the stakes he’d been betting for. The police accepted it was self-defence, but Ti was warned he could face charges for a different reason – the two girls he had riding along on his road trip were only 17 and 15 years old. The forty-year-old Ti wound up marrying the fifteen-year-old Jo Ann Raney to avoid the charges.

In 1939 Ti finally decided to get in on the oil game himself. Oil had been found at Evansville, Indiana and Ti figured out a way to get in on the rush. He’d missed the initial grab, but he soon realised that a lot of the landowners refusing to sell their mineral rights were more motivated by a lack of trust in banks (after the depression) than by stubbornness. When Ti turned up at their farms with a suitcase of cash, then they were happy to deal. He soon owned a dozen oil wells, which earned him enough money that he could have retired. But Ti wasn’t the retiring type. In 1944, Jo Ann became pregnant. Ti didn’t want to be a father, but Jo Ann was determined to have the baby. So they made a deal – she’d give Ti a quiet divorce and he’d give her the oil wells. Ti signed away his stability without batting an eye.

In the 1940s the rise of Las Vegas tied gambling down and spelt the end for the easy riders like Ti. He didn’t like casinos – too difficult and dangerous to hustle in – but Vegas had some good golf courses, and the gambling culture made it a good hunting ground for him. In 1949 he remarried to a sixteen-year-old girl named Maxine. In 1954 Maxine became pregnant, so he moved out and divorced her. Less than happy, she tipped the cops off to raid his divorce party. They found him in bed with an underage girl. Ti got a two-year sentence for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”, though he only served eight months. Before he went to prison, he remarried again, this time to a friend’s eighteen-year-old daughter. He was sixty-two years old. Five years later, when she became pregnant, he left her too. But three years later, he came back.

By 1963 Tommy, the boy Ti had divorced Jo Ann over was 18 years old. Just as Ti had done he came looking for his father. History was not repeated, though – the young Tommy wasn’t able to beat his father. Perhaps because of that, Ti welcomed the young man into his life. The famous gambler lived out his final years in Texas with his young wife and his two sons, hustling to the end.

Ti set up a match between the two in El Paso. Ti backed Floyd, while the Texas millionaires backed Trevino. The first day was an eye-opener for Floyd, who had once declared himself “the best golfer in the world.” Trevino, the little assistant pro, beat the man who the week earlier had won a PGA Open. The next day, he lost again. Ti was facing ruin, but he managed to persuade the locals to one final day. He bet twenty thousand dollars he didn’t have on Floyd. Ti knew the risk he was taking – he remembered Rothstein, and how men who didn’t cover their markers sometimes “woke up dead”. That final day pulled in a huge crowd, and the two men both played the golf of their lives. They were neck and neck teeing off for the eighteenth. It was a par five, and both men made it to the edge of the green in two shots. Floyd sank his eagle putt, and Trevino’s came to a stop right on the lip of the hole. The PGA champion won the round by a single stroke.

It was honestly the best outcome for all concerned. Floyd kept his pride, Trevino proved he could play with the best player in the country, and Ti kept his skin. In 1966 Trevino qualified for the US Open. Five years later he won it, the Canadian Open and the British Open Championship – the first player to ever win all three of those titles in a single year. Ti kept on hustling golf and cards.

In 1970 he co-hosted the first ever World Series of Poker. But by the time he turned eighty arthritis had robbed his famous hands of the skill he had used all his life. By his standards, that is – he could still make nine holes in par, though he had to take painkillers to do it. He died broke, like most gamblers. In his life he went through at least $10 million yet as an old man he had no investments, no insurance, no checking or savings account.

“The hustler who had driven through the Holland Tunnel with a satchel stuffed with $960,000 in cash now counted on a monthly Social Security check for $109.20.”

In May 1974, the man who had become an idol since Brando played his character Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, suffered a stroke.

After seven decades of gambling, betting and fooling people, time finally took its toll. He was found dead at age 82.

A little later, 50 miles from where he was found, a young caddie drove his cart past a couple of golfers and told them, “Titanic Thompson is dead.”

After a short break, one of the men asked, “Have you ever met him, boy?”

“No,” said the caddie, “never had the honour.”

“But you’re saying he’s dead.”

“Yes, sir, that’s what I heard.”

“Well,” said the golfer, “he might be dead, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”

Titanic Thompson rarely spoke about his life. But three years before his death he hosted the World Series of Poker, which was won by his old friend Johnny Moss.

Afterwards, he thought about all the money that was lying on the table and said:

“I don’t regret much in my life, but I wish I had been smart enough to put more money on the side.

“I wish I had thought about the future a little more, further than just the next game. That’s the one thing I blame myself for.”

In a life filled with ups and downs, in the end, all he left his family was a roll of twenties and the oil wells that had passed down to his son Tommy. It wasn’t much, but it was better than even. Titanic’s son Tommy is now in his late sixties and a preacher. Tommy Thompson followed in his father’s footsteps as a professional gambler, despite never having really known him. Tommy’s life reads like a movie waiting to be made. He came close to being shot one too many times, which made him choose another path. But the look in his eyes is that of a man who’s seen the real meaning of hustling.

Professional gamblers still talk about Titanic Thompson. They say that he threw a watermelon over a three-story building, that he pulled Capone’s pants down, that he beat Ben Hogan playing golf right-handed and then turned around and beat Byron Nelson left-handed, that he survived the sinking of the Titanic by sneaking into a lifeboat dressed as a woman. Only the watermelon story is true. But plenty of other Titanic tales are gospel. He hunted quail by throwing rocks, knocking the birds out of the air. He tricked Capone out of five hundred dollars and double-crossed Arnold Rothstein, the crime boss who fixed the 1919 “Black Sox” World Series. He hustled country-club golfers for twenty thousand a hole while Hogan and Nelson were earning ten thousand a year. He once drove a golf ball more than five hundred yards…

Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything: Kevin Cook …

The man who hustled Al Capone – Telegraph

Gambling Legend Wasn’t Always A Winner : NPR

Titanic Thompson Bio – The True American Hustler – GamblingSites.com

Excerpt from “Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything” by …

Book Excerpt: How I Met the Ultimate Hustler – Golf Digest

Titanic Thompson: The Greatest Action Man on Earth – Poker Hustlers

Titanic Thompson, the Man who Could Sink You

Titanic Thompson, By Kevin Cook | The Independent

Titanic Thompson: Introducing America’s Greatest Ever Gambler …

‘Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything’ by Kevin Cook …

Titanic Thompson: America’s Most Famous Gambler, Part I – Bluff Europe

Titanic Thompson, aka Alvin Thomas – Gambler and Killer – HeadStuff

Men Of Action: Titanic Thompson – Poker News – CardPlayer.com

Titanic Thompson – Culture | Online Casino Reports

Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything – Wonders & Marvels

Titanic Thompson – OnePocket.org


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