May 29, 2010

Soapy Smith & the "big mit"

(Click image to enlarge)
Soapy Smith in
A "Big Mit" Game
Altered art by Jeff Smith

The following is a Rocky Mountain News clipping about a "big mitt" (crooked poker game) swindle that netted $240. The bunco men are "Joe" Bowers, who in reality is "Rev." John L. Bowers and "Professor" W. K. Jackson of the Soap Gang.

What is interesting about this piece of "friendly poker game" swindle is that it involves a victim who declined to sit in on the game, yet still lost $240! How it was done only adds to the mystique of these bad and truly intelligent bunco men. They were indeed masters of human nature.

Rocky Mountain News
October 5, 1894


The Oily Gentleman of Clerical Appearance Finds a Fat Fish.

Alluring Prospects of a Door-Plate Invention Draws a Small Sum from a Young Speculator, While the Great Chief
of Detectives Behymer Confesses That He Was Deceived by a Smooth Young Pedagogue from Colorado Springs.

Freeman Libby of Lyons, Colo., called at the station yesterday and complained that a brace of bunco men had induced him to give up $240. Libby has the general appearance of a stranger. He was attired in a cheap suit of cloths and wore a heavy coat over his blue jumper. His story was that he met Joe Bowers on Seventeenth and Larimer streets. Bowers represented himself to be a mining man from Cripple Creek who had an engagement with a Mr. Jackson to inspect some specimens. While the pair were discussing the questions of the day W. K. Jackson hove in sight. Bowers introduced him to Libby and the latter was invited to come with them and see the specimens.

In an easy and graceful manner the countryman was steered into the old St. Charles hotel, near Nineteenth and Market streets. There they found three men playing poker. They invited Libby and his friend to join in the game, but Libby declined. The countryman did not wish to prevent his friends from sharing in the game and told them so, thus aiding and abetting in his own downfall. Bowers and Jackson sat down at the table and played well. Jackson at first won everything in sight. His pile of chips soon began to disappear and he borrowed $100 from Libby who was eagerly watching the game, promising to give him a check. The $100 was soon gone and the smooth Jackson borrowed another $100 and then $40. Libby was then broke and he demanded his money back with the usual result. He complained at headquarters and warrants were sworn out before Justice Woodson for the arrest of Bowers and Jackson. They were arrested and released on bonds.

Libby, Freeman: p. 153
big mit: p. 87, 153, 197


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