"Titanic" Thompson - the man who bet on everything and nearly always won

DB Cooper

peel me a grape
May 17, 2013
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If you have never heard of "Titanic" Thompson, it's time you did.

Thompson killed 5 men and married 5 women, each one a teenager on her wedding day.

But Thompson is most famous for having traveled from town to town with his golf clubs, a .45 revolver and a suitcase full of cash, and winning and losing millions playing cards, dice, golf, pool, and dangerous games of his own invention.



Thompson 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.
 

kf3

Jul 17, 2012
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South London
don't think i had heard of him, those travelling grifters lived crazy lives.

there was a wrestler, dutch mantell iirc, he would go into bars and deliberatley act drunk and lose bets on things like running and arm wrestling, then the last bet would be the wrestling where he'd take everyones money and then run for the train station to hit up the next town.
 

DB Cooper

peel me a grape
May 17, 2013
20,751
9,096
don't think i had heard of him, those travelling grifters lived crazy lives.

there was a wrestler, dutch mantell iirc, he would go into bars and deliberatley act drunk and lose bets on things like running and arm wrestling, then the last bet would be the wrestling where he'd take everyones money and then run for the train station to hit up the next town.
Some of the stunts these guys pulled were legendary.

'Titanic' Thompson was an extremely talented golfer playing left or right handed. Professional golfers who saw how well he played would ask him why he wasn't playing the pro circuit and his answer was he didn't want to take the pay cut. He made far more money hustling than he ever would have out of prize-money.

Thompson often told people he was tying to hustle that he would give them a chance and play left handed, and it made little to no difference to him.

Thompson had a coloured friend who often traveled with him and this guy was a very accomplished golfer in his own right. One of the best stunts they pulled involved Thompson's coloured friend driving a tractor for days on end on a paddock next to a golf coarse. Meanwhile Thompson was lining up a sting and he challenged a pair to a match, but didn't have a partner. Thompson said he didn't care who his partner was and the only guy around was the one on the tractor.

They called the coloured guy over to make up the foursome and he proceeded to shoot 67 in his work overalls while he and Thompson fleeced the other pair out of a sizable amount of money.
 

DB Cooper

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May 17, 2013
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One of 'Titanic' Thompson's earliest tricks was throwing a dollar into the air and shooting a hole in it with a gun. The slight of hand here was that he would show the crowd an intact dollar and in the act of throwing swap it for a pre-holed dollar. It worked every time and paid every time too.
 

DB Cooper

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May 17, 2013
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Who were the 5 guys he killed and why?
I'll see if I can answer the question one at a time.

The story goes that 'Titanic' Thompson's first kill occurred in 1910. Making him at the time, by my calculations at least, only about 17 at the time.

Thompson played dice with the owner of a riverboat. As usual Thompson was winning big and eventually ownership of the boat was on the table and Thompson soon enough won it from the owner.

Next voyage, Thompson, now the owner of the boat, was playing dice against a passenger called Jim Johnson and Johnson accused Thompson of cheating. A violent fight erupted between Thompson and Johnson and they both spilled overboard into the river. Just prior to them going overboard, Thompson had hit Johnson with a hammer. Thompson survived, Johnson drowned.

Thompson was fortunate the local sheriff was corrupt but the price of his freedom was the riverboat he had won at dice.
 

DB Cooper

peel me a grape
May 17, 2013
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Who were the 5 guys he killed and why?
Victims 2 and 3 occurred in approximately 1918, making Thompson, by my calculations at least, about 25 at the time.

Thompson was in the services during the war - though he was never shipped overseas. During the period he managed to get plenty of gambling in and accumulated himself a stake. Afterward he won $40,000 in a card game in St Louis. The dealer at that game organised a plan for Thompson to be robbed when he left. But the always prepared Thompson was packing a Luger and he shot the 2 men who attempted to rob him dead.

Although Thompson didn't have a permit for the gun, the 2 men he had shot were wanted and Thompson was free to walk.
 
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DB Cooper

peel me a grape
May 17, 2013
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Who were the 5 guys he killed and why?
The 4th life ‘Titanic Thompson took occurred at a card game in Iowa. 2 men interrupted the game when they burst in firing shots. Thompson, always with gun at the ready, shot and killed one of the men. Thompson’s luck continued when it was found the man was wanted.
 
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DB Cooper

peel me a grape
May 17, 2013
20,751
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Who were the 5 guys he killed and why?
The 5th and final life ‘Titanic Thompson took occurred was when he shot a masked man who he saw breaking in to his car. It turned out the ‘man’ was a kid who had previously caddied for Thompson. The kid would have known Thompson's habits and that he was never short of money. So he would have thought he was in for a windfall. Not so after Thompson's bullet killed him.

Thompson’s luck continued too when police accepted it was a case of self defence.
 
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SwollenGoat

Deicide
May 17, 2013
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The House that Peterbilt
One of my favourite YouTube channels.
here is another ya might enjoy,in that case







its all about the mental folks from history............
 

DB Cooper

peel me a grape
May 17, 2013
20,751
9,096
'Titanic' Thompson had a thing about playing cards.

If he wasn't marking a deck of cards to enable him to cheat at poker, he was practicing throwing cards hour after hour, honing his skills.

One of Thompson's favourite tricks was throwing cards into a hat. Another was to throw cards at flowers, eventually cutting their storks. All to win bets of course.