I just finished this book about Alvin Thomas who was known as Titanic Thompson. he was an amazing man who made his living gambling on everything. He was particularly skillful in golf, poker and horseshoes. He was a man who made millions and spent millions. He ended up broke and in a nursing home. Nevertheless, he was an extraordinary man who lived in the roaring twenties and died after World War II ended at an old age. I'll skip his gambling skills and point out some historical facts noted in the book which occurred during his life.
Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker in a tavern in deadwood in the Dakota territory. He was holding a pair of aces over a pair of eights when Crooked Nose MacCall crept up behind him and shot him in the back of the head. Since that date, in 1876, the hand he held of aces and eights has been called the "The dead man’s hand"
On Sunday, June 28, 1914, the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, Franz Ferdinand, was being driven in an automobile to give a speech when someone threw a bomb that bounced off of the car he was in and instead blew up the car behind. The man who threw the bomb bit on a cyanide suicide pill which did not kill him, so he ran to the river and jumped only to find it was 4 inches deep. By then an angry mob had caught him and beat him to death. The Archduke continued down the street in his car to the Sarajevo town hall where he gave the speech and climbed back into his car. As it drove past a delicatessen another co-conspirator ran out and shot the archduke to death. As result of the controversy and accusations as to who was responsible, within a month World War I started.
Billy Sunday, whose real name was William Ashley Sunday, was a famous major league baseball player in his time. He had stolen a record 71 bases for the 1888 Pittsburgh Pirates and had set a record by racing around the bases in only 14 seconds. Three years later at a revival meeting he was converted and decided to preach instead of playing baseball. He rejected a $3000 offer from the Pirates and went to work as a preacher for $83 a month. He preached against "devil rum" and "demon wine." He attracted huge crowds. He was a powerful speaker and spoke to as many as 10,000 people without even a megaphone. He would pace back and forth on the stage and would run across the stage sliding into an imaginary plate in scoring a run for righteousness against demon rum. His shows were always entertaining.
I was amused by one story in the book. Titanic had been in a poker game for a lot of money when one of the players was shot. He was called as a witness in the murder case and the prosecutor questioned him about playing poker. One of the questions he asked him was "is poker a game of chance?" Titanic said "not the way I play it."
This was a fun book to read about a real character.