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All about Titanic

Was the model for Sky Masterson, Damon Runyon’s character immortalized in the musicalGuys and Dolls.

Won bets by claiming highway mileage signs were wrong—after he’d moved the signs the night before.



Alvin Clarence Thomas, a.k.a. Titanic Thompson, got his nickname because he sank everybody he gambled with. He also:

Bet he could drive a golf ball 500 yards—and won the bet.

Hosted the first World Series of Poker.

Conned Al Capone by throwing a lemon over a building.

Double-crossed mob king Arnold Rothstein (featured in HBO's Boardwalk Empire) in the high-stakes poker game that got Rothstein killed.

Made putts by using a steel-centered golf ball—after he magnetized the steel cup-liner in the hole.

Lost $1 million playing pool with Minnesota Fats, then joined forces with Fats and fleeced some of the country’s best sticks.

Made a loaded pistol disappear.

Slept with movie stars Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy, and traded card tricks with Houdini.

Refused Damon Runyon’s offer to write his life story, saying, “Mine ain’t the kind of business publicity helps.” So Runyon made Titanic the real-life model for Sky Masterson, the gambler-hero Marlon Brando played in the movie Guys and Dolls.

Flipped a playing card through the air, cutting a flower off its stem.

Threw a peanut across Times Square, tossed a watermelon onto a skyscraper’s roof, chipped golf balls into shot glasses, flipped cards under a hotel-room door into a derby hat in the next room, shot six bullets through a single bullet-sized hole, lifted a 10-foot boulder, and leaped over a pool table.

Teamed up with his wife to escape a gun battle in Pittsburgh.

Beat the national champion at horseshoes in Iowa.