During the early twentieth century, professional gamblers were such a scourge in the smoking rooms of trans-Atlantic passenger liners that White Star Line warned its passengers about them. In spring 1912 three professional gamblers travelled from the USA to England for the sole purpose of returning to America on the maiden voyage of Titanic. "Kid" Homer, "Harry" Rolmane and "Boy" Bradley (Harry Homer, Charles Romaine and George Brereton) were grifters with a long history of living on the wrong side of the law, who planned to utilize their skills at the card table to relieve fellow passengers of cash. One swiftly fell under suspicion of being a professional "card mechanic", and was excluded from some poker games, but other games continued apace. This new book, the result of years of research by George Behe, reveals the true identities of these gamblers, their individual backgrounds, the ruses they used, and their ultimate fates after tragedy struck, as well as providing an intriguing insight into a bygone age.
Several professional gamblers are known to have been on board the Titanic's doomed maiden voyage, and in this colorful account historian Behe (On Board RMS Titanic) makes a strong case that three of "these gentlemen of the green cloth" were notorious con men traveling under aliases: George Brereton, Charles Romaine, and Harry Homer. Utilizing survivors' testimony and letters, arrest records, ship logs, and newspaper coverage from the time, Behe offers insight into the three men's lives before and after the tragedy. Card sharps by the dozens made a career of conning wealthy travelers in the card rooms of luxurious vessels crossing the Atlantic, and the most successful, Behe notes, operated secretly in tandem, and as such it's highly probable that Brereton, Romaine, and Homer were working together on the journey. As the Titanic sank, the three men made a dangerous leap into a lowering lifeboat; all three survived the disaster. Romaine gave his real name when speaking to reporters upon arrival in New York, but the other two gave a variety of different aliases. As rumors that card sharps had survived the disaster surfaced in the press, speculation about them became popular tabloid fodder. Two of the men continued as grifters, while Romaine became a stockbroker.Behe provides intriguing descriptions of the methods of con men and card sharps alongside chilling details of the Titanic's sinking and the testimony of survivors. It's a significant addition to Titanic history.