The Greatest Hustlers In Gambling History
Now, you can log on to Bet365 and bet away to your heart’s desire.
Back before all that, though, it was a very different world; a romantic world of hustlers and road gamblers in saloons and underground clubs. Here are some of the greatest O.G.s – original gamblers.
3. Minnesota Fats
Rudolf Wanderone Jr, better known as “Minnesota Fats”, is probably the most famous billiards and pool hall hustler of all time.
Even his nickname is something of a hustle: he was known as “New York Fats” until the Walter Tevis novel The Hustler was adapted into film. The titular hustler was known as Minnesota Fats, and Wanderone changed his name and claimed the character was based on him. Tevis denied this.
Fats began playing pool as a child in Manhattan. At 13, he travelled to Europe where he was trained by legendary German billiards champion Erich Hagenlocher. He left school in the eighth grade to become a travelling road hustler, going from pool hall to pool hall to win cash playing billiards.
His fame was such that he secured a vice-president position with billiard table manufacturers Rozel Industries. He has been credited with promoting the game in the US and worldwide, so much so that he is a member of the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.
2. Amarillo Slim
Thomas Preston is one of the most legendary gamblers of all time – most people are familiar with the name Amarillo Slim.
Slim was by and large a poker player; he, Doyle Brunson and “Sailor” Roberts were a trio of Texan road gamblers who would routinely clean out high-stakes poker games across the state. Slim had four World Series of Poker bracelets, including a Main Event championship from 1972. His most recent win was in 1990 at the $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha event.
However, Slim is perhaps best known for his outrageous prop bets. For example, he once bet that he could drive a golf ball six hundred yards (he hit it on a frozen lake); he also bet he could outrace a horse (he chose the track, featuring a hairpin turn halfway through); famously, he bet he could beat a champion ping-pong player (he chose the paddles and they were cola bottles with which he had practiced).
1. Titanic Thompson
Alvin Thomas’s gambling and hustling career was indeed a titanic one. By his thirties, he had already won millions of dollars in high-stakes poker games. These were 1930s millions, incidentally.
However, Titanic Thompson was probably most famous for his golf hustles. Thompson was a scratch golfer, with many of his peers saying he could have handily made a living from golf alone. However, there was more money in gambling.
One of his favourite tricks was to challenge someone to a golf bet and only just beat them. He’d then offer them double or nothing and offer to play left-handed. Unfortunately for his competitors, Thompson was left-handed; his right-handed game was so strong that no one suspected.
Thompson’s life was a rich one, but a dangerous one. Thompson had killed five men in his time, all in self-defence. Thompson became famous to the American public at large as a key witness in the Arnold Rothstein murder case.