ig mitt" or "big hand," the slang Soapy Smith used to call a rigged poker game might have been one of his most common swindles in Denver, Colorado. In fact, there are at least 31 pages in Alias Soapy Smith that mention the swindle in operation.
Soapy did not write down or describe his methods, thus we do not know exactly how he dealt out his cheating poker hands. He surely knew the art of manipulating the Devil's paste-boards (deck of cards), however, the amount of times these "friendly games of poker" are mentioned in Alias Soapy Smith, it is obvious that this was an assembly-line set up, making money hand-over-fist, as fast as the gang could gather victims and trim them of their ready cash, and perhaps a check from their bank back home. This was not a show of dexterity, but a fast version of the big-store con, done in as little time as possible. The only difference between big mitt and robbing someone with a pistol, was that the victim, if taken properly, would never know he had been robbed. This production line larceny, milking the money from dupes as quickly as possible, from one game to the next, was set up in back rooms all around the lower business district of Denver. It is not unrealistic to imagine Soapy moving from building to building, game to game, playing his role in extracting the greenbacks from the prey. What was needed was the simplest, fastest method of convincing the marks that they held a sure-thing poker hand, and could not possibly lose. Their greed would do most of the work of encouraging them to bet heavily. All that was needed was for one of the Soap Gang to produce a better hand than that held by the victim being robbed.
Without much debate, the obvious choice is that Soapy introduced a "cold deck" into the game, a cold deck being a prearranged deck that would give the dupe a sure-thing hand, while giving another member f the Soap Gang, the winning hand. There are numerous way of getting a cold deck into Soapy's hands, but today's post is centered on Soapy's chore of getting rid of the "hot deck," the poker deck currently in use at the table.
This is where a "Fry Pan" would possibly come into use. This secretly hidden device approximates the shape of a small frying pan with a cloth bag attached. In the description for its use, an author writes, "The Cold Decker would be attached to a strip of wide elastic pinned to the operator's back under his coat. The device would be placed between the operator's legs and used as a deposit for a deck of cards after a switch had been made. When the operator stood up later, the Cold Decker shot up the back of his coat, thus concealing the presence of the switched-out deck."
Rigged poker games
Big mit: pages 66-69, 87, 122, 126, 128-29, 190, 194-197, 268, 277-78, 284, 341, 351-55, 363-64, 366, 382, 402, 505.
He is the most gracious, kindhearted man I’ve met. To know him is to like him.
— William Saportas (Alias Soapy Smith, p. 590)
1818: The Senate ratifies the Rush-Bagot bill for an unarmed U.S.-Canadian border.
1862: Confederate President Jefferson Davis approves a conscription act for white males between 18 and 35.
1862: Slavery is abolished in the District of Columbia.
1881: The “Battle of the Plaza” takes place in Dodge City, Kansas when Bat Masterson arrives after receiving word that his brother Jim was being threatened by his saloon partner, Al Updegraff, and a bartender, A. J. Peacock. As Bat exited the train he saw both men and gunfire was exchanged. Al Updegraffe is wounded and Masterson is arrested. After paying an $8 fine, the Masterson brothers leave for Colorado. It is probably in Denver at this time that Bat meets and becomes a life-long friend of bad man “Soapy” Smith.
1882: John Allen shoots and kills Cockeyed Frank Loving in Trinidad, Colorado. The fight starts at the Imperial saloon and ends at Hammond's Hardware Store.
1884: Trick-shooter, Annie Oakley is billed as a “markswoman” in Columbus, Ohio while touring with the Sells Brothers Circus.
1900: The first book of postage two-cent stamps is issued.