Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

A Gambling Man

If someone ever asks why I don't play poker, which is highly unlikely, I'll say it's because of Al Rogers.
Al was a professional gambler from Hammond, Indiana. That's all he did, play cards in the Calumet Region of Northwest Indiana and Chicago. He'd vary that sometimes by taking a train ride to see if there were any gullible strangers aboard, the kind who think they're hotshots at poker, blackjack and any other game you can name.
Al played it straight, never cheated. He didn't have to. If ever a man knew how to count cards and watch other players for the slightest little giveaway as to what they were holding, it was Al. After all, it was the only way he earned a living. Even the biggest war in history didn't keep him from plying his trade.
That's how I met Al back in 1943. We took basic training together and at times shared a pup tent in some godforsaken Georgia woods. We'd drape a couple of blankets over the tent so no light showed through. The light came from a candle placed inside a steel helmet lying on its side. The candle also threw enough heat to make a cold night warm.
Al wouldn't be caught dead without a deck of cards. He'd amaze me by things like handing me the deck so I could mark down the order of each card. Then he'd shuffle them for a minute or more and man, could that guy shuffle cards. Then he'd hand the deck back to me and not a single card had changed position. Sometimes I'd shuffle them and then Al would look them over. I'd take them back and ask him what card was tenth from the top. He'd say the six of diamonds and sure enough, it was. His memory was fabulous.
We never played, but Al would deal me hand after hand. After twenty or so he'd say he would now tell me when I held a good hand. He never missed. When I asked how he did it he'd say something like your left little finger twitches a little when you're pleased. When he played for real he'd never look at his cards until everyone in the game had looked at theirs. While they did it his eyes swept back and forth without really moving. He had great peripheral vision.
The Army had Al teach classes to various units on payday. He'd warn them against ever playing cards with a stranger. A few wise guys would always challenge him to a game, of course. A little later Al would walk away with all their pay envelopes in his pocket.
Al Rogers was a good teacher. I've never played a single hand of cards.


Blogger STAG said...

I don't dice, but I occasionally count a card or two. I win at poker a bit more than is comfortable...and I am not quite sure why. I don't think it is because I pick up on subtle cues, but maybe its because I bet large on good hands, and low on bad hands.
Therefore I don't get invited to poker schools any more.

5:22 PM  

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