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History's Greatest Hustlers

Described as "the deceptive act of disguising one's skill in a sport or game with the intent of luring someone of probable lesser skill into a gambling match”, hustling is all about good acting and misdirection. Pool and poker are the most famous sports at which hustlers have plied their trade, but technically speaking any betting-type game can become a hustler’s domain.

So, who are the greatest hustlers to have ever hustled upon this earth? Let's find out.

1. Alvin Thomas aka Titanic Thompson

Image credit: acbutch.com

During the 1930s and 40s, Titanic travelled America waging bets from anything from cards to golf, shooting to horseshoes and was rumoured to have even hustled Al Capone out of $500. His most famous hustles came on the golf course though. An ambidextrous scratch golfer, Titanic could have been a professional, instead choosing the bigger bucks of gambling over pro tournaments. His favourite trick was to challenge someone to a golf bet, play right-handed and only just win. Then he would offer double or nothing and offer to play left-handed, his unsuspecting opponent ignorant to the fact Titanic was even better as a leftie! He also once wagered that he could drive a golf ball 500 yards (200 yards was a players average at that time) and subsequently achieved the feet by bouncing it off the ice on a frozen lake. Throughout the course of his life, Thompson won and lost millions, married five women and even killed five men, all in self defence!

2. Rudolf Wanderone aka Minnesota Fats

Image credit: sportsmuntra.com

Wanderone was one of the most recognisable pool hustlers and entertainers in the States during the 60s and 70s. Trained by the legendary German billiards champion Erich Hagenlocher, Wanderone became a travelling hustler during his teenage years, going from pool hall to pool hall winning cash playing billiards. More often than not, he walked away with the big bucks and during WW2 he hustled servicemen in Norfolk, Virginia. Originally nicknamed "New York Fats", Wanderone changed his nickname to "Minnesota Fats", the name of a legendary pool player in the 1961 Paul Newman film The Hustler, of which Wanderone claimed to have been the inspiration behind. Although Wanderone’s eventual fame prevented him from hustling effectively, TV appearances and exhibition games provided him his income.

3. Luther Lassiter aka Wimpy

Image credit: billiardsforum.com

Lassiter is often considered one of the true kings of pool hustling and along with the other undisputed king, Minnesota Fats, Lassiter plied his early trade in Norfolk, Virginia during the 40s. At the time Norfolk was the highest-rolling place to be for pool hustlers and card sharks. It was said that between the years 1942 and 1948, Lassiter won £300k from gambling on pool games, with the wage sometimes set at $1k a game. Blessed with unbelievable hand eye co-ordination, Lassiter went on to compete professionally and won six world championships.

4. Efren Reyes aka The Magician

Described by many as the greatest pool player to have ever lived, Reyes has won over 70 international titles and is the only person in history to have won World Championships in two different disciplines. However, Filipino born Reyes, started his career in America as a hustler. Although recognised in his own country as a top-class pool player in the 80s, no one in the U.S. had heard of him. So, he moved to the U.S. and legend has it he was soon earning $80,000 a week from hustling pool games, elevating him to folk hero status back home.

5. Keith McCready aka Earthquake

Image credit: AZBilliards.com

McCready was a notorious pool hustler during the 70s and 80s in the United States. He was said to be able to beat absolutely anybody and wasn't even afraid to take money from the mob. In one interview he boasted, "Once I beat a guy out of $360,000. His name was Rosenbaum and he was connected in Detroit. We started playing for $8,000 a game and things escalated from there. I eased into him, got him stuck, and he wanted to gamble." Inspired by the "grandiose spirit" of infamous hustler Minnesota Fats, hustling came naturally to McCready. By the age of nine he was already hustling his brothers out of their allowance money and it wasn't long before he had embraced hustling as a way of life.