David Bruce: Gambling Anecdotes

• Dave Marr and Tommy Bolt used to play against each other after making a friendly wager. Dave often lost, but despite not having much money, he was always able to pay off his losses by using merchandise he had won in amateur matches. After yet another loss to Tommy, Dave remembered that he had a shotgun in his trunk that he won at an amateur contest recently, and he thought that Tommy might be interested in it. So he got the shotgun and walked back to the clubhouse. Dave relates, “Tommy took one look at me coming through the door with a shotgun and almost died on the spot.”

• A man and his wife went to Las Vegas for a vacation. While the husband was taking a shower, the wife went into the casino to play roulette. She put $2 on number 17 and won. In fact, she let the money ride and kept winning — number 17 came up 17 times in a row on the wheel she was playing and turned her $2 into $50,000. Unfortunately, she continued to let the money ride and played number 17 one more time, but a different number came up and she lost all the money. She went back to her hotel room, where her husband asked her, “How’d you do?” She replied, “I lost $2.”

• According to legend, a gambler once found a way to recoup his losses at Monte Carlo. He turned his pockets inside out to show that they were empty, covered himself with a blood-like substance, then pretended to shoot himself with a revolver loaded with blanks just outside the casino. The casino authorities came running, recognized the man who was playing dead as a gambler who had suffered big losses in the casino, and were convinced that he had committed suicide because of his gambling losses. Fearing bad publicity, they stuffed money in his pockets and then went away to call the police. The “suicide” then jumped up and ran away.

• As an unimportant actor in Hollywood early in his American career, Walter Slezak was surprised to learn that his contract had been transferred to another talent agency. After making inquiry, he discovered that the heads of the two talent agencies had been playing golf. Being bored with betting money, they had started betting their unimportant clients on each hole. The head of Mr. Slezak’s agency had missed a putt, and suddenly Mr. Slezak’s contract was transferred to another agency. (Mr. Slezak later played the German submarine captain in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.)

• Chico Marx loved to gamble and so he never saved a dime of the hundreds of thousands of dollars he made and had to be supported in his old age by his more thrifty brothers: Groucho and Harpo. Once, Groucho’s financial advisor Salwyn Shufro asked Chico to guess how much money he had lost through gambling. Chico replied that he could tell exactly how much money he had gambled away, and then he asked how much Groucho in the bank. The reply came back: “Approximately $750,000.” Chico smiled and then said, “That’s how much money I’ve lost gambling.”

• Mr. Justice Hawkins (1817-1907) enjoyed attending the races. While sitting as judge, Mr. Hawkins saw a prisoner say something to a constable, and he asked the constable what the prisoner had said. The constable replied, “I — I would rather not say, your lordship.” However, Mr. Hawkins insisted, and the constable said, “He asked me, your lordship, who that heathen with the sheepskin was, as he had often seen him at the racecourse.”

• Damon Runyan used to gamble, and as he lay dying, he gave his son this advice about gambling: “Son, as you go around and about the world, some day you will come upon a man who will lay down in front of you a new deck of cards with the seal unbroken, and that man will offer to bet you he can make the jack of spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. Son, do not bet that man, because just as sure as you do, you are going to get an ear full of cider.”

• Labinsky was a ballet dancer who tried very hard to control his expenses. He budgeted very carefully and wrote down every cent he spent in a little book — then he went out and lost all his money gambling. Once, he was playing poker backstage. When he went onstage, he was supposed to be carrying a large platter, but through carelessness and his hurry to meet his cue, he walked onstage carrying the poker table.

• Wilson Mizner was a card sharp, and he knew a lot of other gamblers who were also card sharps. Once, he brought a deck of cards consisting of all aces to a card game, and after dealing a hand from the deck, watched with amusement as all the other players attempted to get rid of their extra ace.

• While making The Hustlerwith Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason challenged Mr. Newman to a game of pool. To make it interesting, they made a bet. Mr. Gleason ran 50 straight balls, and Mr. Newman owed him $50. The next day Mr. Newman paid his debt — with 5,000 pennies.

• Herbert Ransom was an actor who was a terrible poker player. Because Mr. Ransom was so bad, fellow poker player Franklin Pierce Adams once proposed a new rule: “Anyone who looks at Ransom’s face is cheating.”

• Lou Costello enjoyed gambling, although he lost a lot of money that way. Once, he bet $50,000 on a horse that had a big lead. Mr. Costello turned to a friend, smiled, then said, “The only way my horse can lose is if it stumbles and falls down.” The horse stumbled, fell down — and lost.

• In H. Allen Smith’s humor book titled Lost in the Horse Latitudes, the shortest chapter is titled “How to Play Stud Poker All Night.” In its entirety, the chapter reads, “I don’t feel good today. The hell with writing anything.”

• George White, a revue producer during the Roaring Twenties, thought it was a good day when he lost $100,000 at a horse race because he immediately stopped betting on the horses.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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