David Bruce: Gambling Anecdotes

• While in London, Chico and Harpo Marx ran across an expatriate American comedian who cheated at cards by using a marked deck (something they found out after losing a couple of weeks’ salary to him at the poker table), so they decided to teach him a lesson. First, they asked that the game be changed to auction pinochle the next time they played. The actor was willing to change, since marked cards are a marked advantage in any card game. Then they set up a game at the actor’s apartment. Next, to get ready for the game, Chico and Harpo set up a system of signals so that theycould cheat. Finally, they brought some new packs of unopened (and unmarked) cards along with them. At the actor’s apartment, Chico and Harpo proceeded to win the actor’s money. The night grew dark, the fireplace burned all the available firewood, and Chico and Harpo grew cold and ready to leave. However, the actor wanted a chance to win his money back, so he started to burn his furniture in the fireplace to keep Chico and Harpo warm enough to play cards. Early the next morning, all of the furniture, including the chairs and the table they had been playing cards on, had been burned up, Chico and Harpo were freezing, and they departed — taking with them $6,000 of the actor’s money. Chico and Harpo hailed a taxicab, and they ordered the cabbie to drive them to the warmest restaurant in London. This puzzled the cabbie, who asked, “Don’t you mean the best restaurant in London?” Harpo replied, “We don’t care if it’s good or not. Just get us where it’s warm. After our blood starts circulating again, we’ll decide where to eat.”

• During spring training one year, old-time baseball catcher Clint Courtney promoted a 100-yard race between Pedro Samos of the Washington Senators and Don Hoak of the Cincinnati Reds. Mr. Courtney backed — and bet on — Mr. Samos, who was a fast runner but a terrible starter. The other players were interested in the race, and the day before the race Mr. Courtney set up a race course at the Chattanooga baseball park. A lot of money was bet on the race, which was exciting. Mr. Samos, as usual, started slowly, but he swiftly caught up to Mr. Hoak, and he beat him, pulling away at the end of the race. Mr. Courtney, however, had done a little something to help Mr. Samos win. The race course that Mr. Courtney had laid out did not measure 100 yards — it measured 120 yards.

• A Mormon once went to the horse races. Just before the first race, he saw a priest stop in front of a horse and bless it. Considering that a good sign, the Mormon bet on the horse and won. This same routine was repeated race after race, and the Mormon had won a fortune. Just before the last race, the priest stopped in front of a horse, and the Mormon bet all his money on that horse. This time, however, the horse jumped out to a big lead, then died in the middle of the race. Sorry because he had lost all his money, the Mormon complained to the priest, who listened, then said, “That’s the trouble with you Mormons. You don’t know the difference between a simple blessing and the last rites.”

• New York Yankees Waite Hoyt and Joe Dugan went to church together one day, and Mr. Dugan lit a candle. That afternoon, he batted 3-for-4 and the next day he batted 4-for-5. Therefore, Mr. Waite went to a church and lit a huge number of candles. Unfortunately, he was a pitcher and the opposing team’s batters knocked him out of that day’s game in the third inning. Mr. Waite asked, “How do you explain it? You lit candles and get a bunch of hits. I do the same thing and get knocked out.” Mr. Dugan replied, “Easy. I saw you light all those candles in church, but right after you left I saw two gamblers come in and blow them out.”

• Early in her gymnastics career, when she was still a pre-teen, Shannon Miller attended a meet in Las Vegas, and she stayed at the Circus Circus Hotel. When she returned home, she had a lot of stuffed animals with her. Her mother asked where she gotten them, and young Shannon joked, “Gambling.” The real story was that a man in the hotel had asked if she liked stuffed animals. She had replied, “Sure,” and he had given her a bunch of stuffed animals he had just won. (Her parents did talk to her about not accepting gifts from strangers.)

• Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine once lived together in Monte Carlo, but when they were ready to leave, they didn’t have enough money to pay their hotel bill. Mr. Balanchine said, “Let’s go to the casino.” They went there, and he quickly won 600 francs. He wanted to continue to gamble, so Ms. Danilova gave him 100 francs and took the rest to pay their bill before he lost all the money.

• In April of 1995, Ken Griffey made a bet with Seattle Mariners manager Lou Piniella that he could hit a certain number of home runs during batting practice. Mr. Piniella bet a steak that he couldn’t do it. Mr. Griffey lost the bet, and a few days later, when Mr. Piniella walked into his office, he found a 1,200-pound Hereford cow. Mr. Griffey said, “There’s your steak.”

• Under dance teacher Nicolas Legat, André Eglevsky learned how to turn 12 pirouettes in a row, an astounding feat at the time. He soon learned to put this accomplishment to good use. As an impoverished dancer in New York, Mr. Eglevsky used to get money to buy his lunch by betting with George Balanchine that he could turn 12 pirouettes in a row.

• In 1942, professional golfer Sam Snead played two holes barefoot at the Masters in Augusta in order to help golf writer (and his personal manager) Fred Corcoran win a bet with his fellow sportswriters. (Mr. Snead birdied both holes!)


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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