In 1894 Soapy Smith had taken on the title of "colonel" Jefferson Smith. Normally Soapy did not fear using his real name but during political reform it was common that he would simply change his last name during a swindle in order not to be recognized as that "scoundrel from Denver." The following newspaper clipping presents an interesting and typical modus operandi of a poker game swindle known as "big mit." It is very likely that the "Colonel Johnson" noted in the story is none other that Soapy himself, with members of the Soap Gang. Enjoy!
New Castle NewsThe moral cleanliness claimed to have been inaugurated in Denver by the populist administration, chief of which was the driving out of bunco men and gamblers, will hardly be vouched for by Mr. Bainbrich, a well-known stockman who lives near Craig [Colorado], as the following from the Denver Republican shows:
November 17, 1894.
A Rio Blanco Stockman Pays $360 to see the Colonel.
"He said he came to Denver Saturday morning and about dusk met two men near the Albany hotel, who stopped him to enquire about what would be the probable result of the late election in Rio Blanco. A word led to a conversation and soon Bainbrich and his street acquaintances were like old friends.
"The strangers talked mining to the ranchman, as such strangers are prone to do on occasions of that kind, and then one told him about the splendid gold ore specimens that were in the safe of his friend, Colonel Johnson. If Bainbrich would accompany them to the colonel’s office they would give him some of the specimens. Bainbrich went.
"The 'colonel' is never in, and he was not in on Saturday evening. To kill times while waiting for him, bunco steerers always play poker with ranchmen. Bainbrich’s bunco steerers roped him into a game. When they showed down on the last pot played the Rio Blanco man was minus $160 cash and a $200 check and he hasn’t seen the colonel nor the specimens yet."