Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Titanic and Gamblers

When the Titanic hit the iceberg on April 14, 1912 at 11:40 p.m., a gentleman in the second class smoking room joked about getting ice from the berg for his drink. Other gents barely noticed when the ship struck the iceberg.

They were too busy playing cards.

According to reports from survivors, several gentlemen went down with the ship playing their last hand. Whether or not it’s true, what is true is that gambling was a popular pastime during the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

So popular that the chief steward relaxed the White Star Line rule of “no gambling on Sundays.”

Gambling on board, however, didn’t come without its dangers.

And I don’t mean a losing hand.

“Boatmen” or professional gamblers were a notorious group of cardsharps who traveled the North Atlantic route relieving wealthy male passengers of their ready cash (women were not allowed in the smoking room).

It was such a problem that a notice was posted in the first class Smoke Room warning passengers about “Games of Chance” and the likelihood of professional gamblers looking for easy pickings at high-stakes card game.

No one paid any attention, including the hero of my story, Captain Lord Jack Blackthorn.

We first meet his lordship after the ship leaves Cherbourg, France on April 10th after picking up passengers and mail–

If there was one thing that made Captain Lord Jack Blackthorn smile more than holding a pretty woman in his arms, it was a winning hand at cards.

To his dismay, at the moment he had neither.

“I’ll raise you fifty pounds,” Jack said, stretching his long legs under the green-topped playing table. An uncomfortable itch stung his palm as he laid down the one-sided British notes. He never did enjoy playing against boatmen, professional gamblers who followed the sea, but he was in desperate need of funds.

Katie O’Reilly
is the story of a poor Irish girl and a British lord–both willing to risk everything on the maiden crossing of the Titanic for love…

Next on Titanic Wednesdays: How I found Katie O’Reilly’s Irish voice in me


Michelle Polaris said...

I hadn't known about those professional gamblers. I'm getting quite an education with these posts and I love it! Thanks Jina.

Wynter Daniels said...

This is news to me, too. I'm enjoying all the tidbits of ambiance you're throwing in.

Jina Bacarr said...

Glad you're enjoying the Titanic info, Michelle! Playing bridge whist was popular aboard ship, but I thought it would be more fun for my hero to play poker!

Jina Bacarr said...

Thanks, Wynter! There was so much going on aboard the Titanic, I thought it would be fun to blog about it.

We'll continue to explore all things Titanic each week...