Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: West Texas
Etta James was Minnesota Fat's Daughter
Etta James, the great singer, passed away. She always said she was the daughter of Minnesota Fats. Go to google images for a picture of the two. It will convince you. They really looked alike.
Fats was in California in 1938 when he met her mother. When Fats was a teenager, Hubert Cokes and Titanic Thompson staked him in New York and taught him high stakes gambling and "the conversation." How to talk up a bet. The challenge, the bragging, the deception, the negotiation of a spot, the special props...left handed, one handed, trick shots. Fats and Titanic were two of the best ever at "the conversation." Once a propostion was agreed on, the bet was usually already won. Fats seemed a laughable buffoon who always lied. Howsever, he was a fantastic gambler at many games, not just pool. He said he never lost at poker, but his wife says he got busted at poker several times. When pool lost favor in America, Fats played more poker in the 1950s.
Hubert "Daddy Warbucks" Cokes, Titanic Thompson, and Fats were together in New York, California, Evansville, Indiana, Norfolk, Virginia and at the Hustler's Conventions for pool tourneys and side action. In New York, Fats beat Smart Henry in a big match with Titanic and Cokes as backers. After the match, Titanic laid a new road name on Fats, Double Smart Fats. Later Fats changed that to Triple Smart Fats. In Evansville, Fats played in the big poker game at the McCurdy Hotel with top gamblers: Titanic, Cokes, and Ray Ryan, flamboyant high roller and expert card player. Pots ran to $25,000 in 1939 money. That poker game was robbed for $150,000. The robbers told Fats to shut up but he would not and rarely did, Titanic and Ray Ryan could never beat Fats at one pocket pool, the gambler's game. Ryan tried to beat him for several days. The guy running the poker game lost big to Fats. Titanic's biographer, Kevin Cook, says Fats beat Ty out of $1,000,000 but I doubt it. Tommy Thomas, Titanic's son, wrote me that his father was playing Fats one pocket the night he was born in 1944.
He started out being called New York Fats. He only took the name Minnesota Fats after the movie, the Hustler, came out in 1961. He said it was about him. The author said it was not. I believe it was. In the novel, Fats had a twitch or tick, and the real Fats did also.
He was a fascinating character that lied and lied and wanted you to know he was lying. He's day, "I can whistle in five languages." or "I am smarter than anyone I know. I know what everybody else knows,a nd no one knows what I know."
Even though he appeared the fool, and wanted to, he made huge scores. At the pool tourneys he would not enter, saying someone would win a $20,000 prize and he'd beat them out of that. He did just that, taking down a series of younger pros who were better shooters. Like his mentor, Titanic Thompson, he never drank or smoked. This was a huge advantage. He'd wait until the young pros were drinking. He's stall, talk, harass, and get home with their money, time after time.
Road gamblers played all games. I doubt that Fats was as good a poker player as he said, but he made consistent money.
When he was matched up on TV with Willie Mosconi, the world pool champion, Mosconi won the match, but Fats won the hearts of the American public. Mosconi got an agreement that Fats would not talk when he was shooting. Fats kept talking. What I like is that Fats would brag about being a professional gambler that had never worked for wages. He'd pull a huge bankroll out and offer Mosconi bets. Mosconi was furious and once sued Fats. This was one of the biggest TV audiences of the year, right behind the Super Bowl. Fats became really famous. He was one of the most famous gamblers in America.
The movie, the Hustler, with Jackie Gleason as Fats, and Paul Newman as Fast Eddie was a huge hit and revived pool across America. It was one great gambling movie. Any serious young gambler should study it. In the movie, Fats was taciturn and immaculately groomed. They used grooming as a metaphor for self-discipline, maturity, and gambling professionalism. That made a huge impression on me. I bought tons of clothes.
Minnesota Fats ended his days at a hotel in Nashville with little money. He'd go to the honky tonks to dance. He had a rubber stamp with his autograph and he'd ask people if they wanted his autograph, and he'd stamp it on a piece of paper.
Last edited by Johnny Hughes; 01-21-2012 at 11:35 AM.