Tag Archives: Titanic Thompson

Greatest Hustler Ever? Alvin Clarence Thomas

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Titanic Thompson AKA Alvin Clarence Thomas

Greatest hustler ever?  A roving, gambling legend who is said to have killed five men in his lifetime.  He was a key figure in the so-called ‘Crime of thre Century’, the murder of Arnold Rothstein.

One of Titanic Thompson’s partners in “the hustling game” included pool player Mnnesota Fats, who considered Titanic a genius, “the greatest action man of all time”.  Note: Thompson’s one weakness, as he admitted, was betting on horse racing, where he lost millions of dollars during his life in failed bets.

In an era when top pro golfers were lucky to earn $30,000 a year, Thomas (who, after a misprint in a New York newspaper, let people think his name was Thompson) could make that much in a week hustling rich country club hackers. He was once asked if he would ever turn pro?  He replied, “I could not afford the cut in pay”.

Writer Damon Runyon allegedly based the character Sky Masterson, the gambler-hero of The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown (on which the musical Guys and Dolls is based), on Thompson.

“In the spring of 1912, I went to Joplin, Missouri, just about the time the (Titanic) liner hit an iceberg and sank with ,ore than 1,500 people on board.  I was in a pool room there and beat a fellow named Snow Clark out of $500.  To give him a chance to get even, I bet $200 I jump across his pool table without touching it.  If you think that’s easy, try it. But I could jump father than a herd of bullfrogs in thise days.  I put down an old mattress on the other side of the table.  Then I took a run and dived head first across the pool table.  While I was counting my money somebody asked Clark what my name was.  ‘It must be Titanic,’ said Clark.  ‘He sinks everybody.’  So I was Titanic from then on.”

Titanic Thompson was honored at the first World Series of Poker in 1970.  He had made gambling trips with his eldest son Tommy for many years, but after his father died, Tommy, a skilled, successful gambler in his own right, gave up a life of making bets for a church ministry. He successfully counsels prisoners and preaches to convince others to stay away from gambling.

Amarillo Slim’s Greatest Prop Bets

* Playing Minnesota Fats in one-pocket pool with a broom.
* Taking 21 and 1/2 points on the Jets and Broadway Joe in Super Bowl III.
* Hitting a golf ball a mile on a frozen lake (inspired by Titanic Thompson).
* Betting which sugar cube a fly would land on in an Arkansas jail.
* Out running a horse for a hundred yards (no one ever said anything about the race being straight away. The horse had to stop and turn around and Slim won.)
* Shooting free throws with a football against a Hall of Fame basketball coach.
* Beating Bobby Riggs playing ping pong with a skillet as a paddle.
* Beating a world champion ping pong player with a Coca Cola bottle.
* Rafted down the River of No Return in the winter in a wetsuit and won $31,000 from Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder.
* Beating Evel Knievel in golf using a carpenter’s hammer.
* Betting that two out of 30 cab drivers in Dallas would have the same birthday.

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