Monday, July 29, 2013

Arnold Rothstein

Arnold Rothstein was known as the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.”  Because he did.

Known by many names – A. R., Mr. Big, The Fixer, The Big Bankroll, The Man Uptown, and The Brain - Arnold Rothstein seemed more myth than man. He was the inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby, and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls.

Arnold Rothstein was gambling, and Arnold Rothstein was money.

Just like the Rothschild 's name, Arnold Rothstein symbolized money—big-time money, gambling money, racket money, illegal money, millions upon millions of dollars.

From The Big Bank Roll, biography of Rothstein: "The cigar salesman made a good living. He lived frugally, did not dissipate. Each week the roll in his pocket grew a little thicker. He knew he could never attain his ultimate aim by simple economies, but these could start him on his way. He didn’t like long range projects. He was essentially a short-term, quick-turnover man."

“Rothstein pursued a fixed course. He worked at selling cigars until he accumulated $2,000. He decided that this was sufficient to base an entry into gambling as a profession. He quit his salesman’s job. He would never again work for anyone else. All the rest of his life, no matter what else he might be, he would always be a professional gambler.”

Rothstein received his nickname, “The Big Bankroll,” because he always insisted on carrying a huge bankroll of $100 bills. He wanted to be able to immediately finance any deals he made.  He was rumored to carry as much as $20,000 at any time.

 Rothstein had a simple philosophy, “Look out for Number One. If you don’t, no one else will. If a man is dumb, someone is going to get the best of him, so why not you? If you don’t, you’re as dumb as he is.”

Arnold Rothstein on When Not to Bet: "All the more reason for patience. I've made my living in large part as a gambler. Some days I make 20 bets. Some days I make none. Weeks, sometimes months in fact, when I make no bets at all because there simply is no play. So I wait, plan, marshal my resources and when I finally see an opportunity and there is a bet to make, I bet it all."

Rothstein once stated that he was willing to bet on anything but the weather--the weather was the only thing he could not fix.

After flunking out of school at 16 because he spent his time and money gambling, Arnold Rothstein figured out that "if anyone was going to make money out of gambling he had better be on the right side of the fence. I was on the wrong end of the game." In his late 20’s, Rothstein opened a gambling parlor. By 1912, when he was thirty, Rothstein was a millionaire from the profits of his gambling parlors and the racetracks he owned.

Millionaire by the age of 30. 

"Rothstein's main function though was organization. He provided money and manpower and protection. He arranged corruption - for a price. And, if things went wrong, Rothstein was ready to provide bail and attorneys. He put crime on a corporate basis when the proceeds of crime became large enough to warrant it."

Historian Leo Katcher described Rothstein as "the J. P. Morgan of the underworld; its banker and master of strategy." Meyer Lansky, a man of some intelligence himself, observed, "Rothstein had the most remarkable brain. He understood business instinctively and I’m sure that if he had been a legitimate financier he would have been just as rich as he became with his gambling and the other rackets he ran."

Rothstein's fortune grew to an estimated $50 million in 1920's dollars.

Rothstein was shot in the abdomen and died on November 6, 1928, at the age of 46 for an unpaid high-stake poker debt.  He had never been convicted of breaking any law during his lifetime.

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