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Wyatt Earp. Reproduction of a drawing by Alan Riley, c. 1949–1956. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93572).

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Earp, Wyatt (19 March 1848–13 January 1929), outlaw, gambler, and lawman, was born Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp in Monmouth, Illinois, the son of Nicholas Porter Earp, an adventurer and frontiersman, and his second wife, Virginia Ann Cooksey. After the Civil War the entire Earp family moved from Missouri to Iowa and then wandered westward until reaching California. After three years of farm life, Nicholas Earp’s sons struck out on their own....

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Hickok, Wild Bill (27 May 1837–02 August 1876), western lawman and gambler, was born James Butler Hickok in Homer, Illinois, the son of William Alonzo Hickok and Polly Butler, farmers. As a young man, Hickok spent most of his time working on—and, after the death of his father in 1852, managing—the family farm. The availability of land in newly organized Kansas Territory was enticing to Hickok, and in June 1856 he and his brother Lorenzo moved westward. His mother’s illness soon prompted Lorenzo to return to Homer. Hickok remained, but he did not settle into an agrarian lifestyle. Various events offered other opportunities to him. In the pre–Civil War years, he served in General ...

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Minnesota Fats (19 January 1913–18 January 1996), pool player and hustler, was born Rudolf Walter Wanderone in Washington Heights, New York City, the only son of Rosa Wanderone (maiden name unknown) and Rudolf Wanderone, Swiss immigrants who also were the parents of three girls, Rosie, Julie, and Jerry. Rudolf the elder, according to his son, traveled the world as a soldier of fortune or military mercenary before coming to America to work odd jobs in blacksmithing, heating, and plumbing....

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Morrissey, John (12 February 1831–01 May 1878), gambler, prizefighter, and U.S. congressman, was born in Templemore, County Tipperary, Ireland, the son of Timothy Morrissey, a factory worker, and Julia or Mary, whose maiden name is unknown. He immigrated with his family to Canada in 1834 and then moved with his family to Troy, New York, where he grew up. As a youth, Morrissey joined several street gangs in Troy and was constantly involved in brawls and gang fights. He worked briefly in a wallpaper factory and in the Burden iron works. He was the leader of a gang called the Downtowns, which engaged in continuing fights with the Uptowns. By 1848, at the age of seventeen, Morrissey began to consider a career in prizefighting after beating a gang of six Uptowns in one afternoon. He got a job as a deck hand on a Hudson River steamer, and about 1849 he married Sarah Smith, the daughter of the ship’s captain. They had one child who died in childhood....

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Arnold Rothstein. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116745).

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Rothstein, Arnold (1882–06 November 1928), prominent gambling entrepreneur and the suspected fixer of the 1919 World Series, was born in New York City, the son of Abraham Rothstein and Esther Kahn. The father was a successful businessman in various phases of the garment industry, and both parents were observant Jews, greatly respected within the Jewish community of the city. Unlike his siblings, Rothstein was a rebellious youth who disdained school, and he was fascinated by the excitement and gambling that he found in the street life of the city. By his mid-teens he was a pool shark and was running his own dice games. He left home at age seventeen and worked briefly as a traveling salesman, but by the time he was twenty he was building the career that would lead him to a central role as the major intermediary between the underworld and upper world of New York....

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Snyder, Jimmy "the Greek" (09 September 1919?–21 April 1996), gambler, newspaper columnist, and television sports broadcaster, was born Demetrios Georgios Synodinos in Steubenville, Ohio, the son of George Synodinos, owner of the White Star Meat Market, and Sultania Synodinos. In March 1928, when the boy was ten, his mother and his aunt, Theano Galanos, were murdered in front of the family home by Theano's estranged husband, a war hero suffering from “battle fatigue.” After his mother's death, his father moved with the three children to Kios, a Greek island. It was in Kios that young Demetrios learned to gamble, tossing stones for drachmas with the local teenagers....