- The Gambler
It was an exceptionally warm spring day in 1974. The sun was bright but
you couldn't tell because of the old, stained curtains covering the
nursing home windows.
I was playing cards with my 82-year-old father, Titanic Thompson. He
was one of the most famous gamblers and golfers in the world.
Before I walked out of the nursing home that spring day, my dad
did something he hadn't done before. He put his arms
around me and said, "I love you son." I had
waited my whole life to hear those words. Little did I
realize as I walked out of his room that day, I would never see
my dad again. He died just a few days later.
My dad had divorced my mother when I
was 2 years old. I grew up reading about him in Life
magazine, Golf Digest and Sports Illustrated.
I wanted him to love me and felt the best way to do that was to
become a professional gambler. I started practicing with a
deck of cards when I was 13. The best card cheaters in the
world would come to see dad, and I would spend hours mastering
what they taught me. Dad told me I was the best he had
ever seen with a deck of cards, but he never told me he loved
I can't begin to tell you all the times
God supernaturally saved my life during those years. Once,
I was playing poker with one of the top card cheaters in Las
Vegas when some men kicked in the door and started
shooting. They killed my friend, and then they turned
their guns on me. One of the men knew me and said,
"Don't shoot that man." At the time, I wondered
why they would spare my life, but now I know that God was
In 1997, four weeks before Easter, I
took a look at myself in the mirror and didn't like what I
saw. I said, "God, I have been taking from people all
my life. When I die, I want someone to remember me for giving
instead of taking." I fell down on my knees and cried
out to Him.
Two weeks later, I was waiting for my
turn in a barbershop when I met a Christian lady named Margaret
Moberly. Even though we had never met before, she knew
everything about me. She said that God had told her,
"That man is a professional gambler. He has a lot of
nice things, but he isn't happy. He has a big heart, and
God has him on a long leash." I was blown away.
I responded, "Lady, it doesn't get
any better than being on a long leash with God, does
it?" She didn't laugh.
The night before Easter, she sent me
another message through a friend" "Tell him that God
now has him on a short leash, the devil has made a bet on his
soul, and God has covered the bet." God had really
gotten my attention now.
That Easter I went to church with
Margaret. Again, prompted by the Lord, she said,
"Tommy, when you were a teen-ager, God called you to be an
evangelist and everything in your life has led up to that
end." When she said those words, I felt like someone
poured hot oil in me. I have never been the same
since. I knew then there would only be two winning hands,
and they were nailed to the cross for me.
I am now a volunteer chaplain and have
preached the gospel in maximum-security prisons for the last
five years. I am so thankful that God never gave up on
me. He has given me the love that I was looking for and
given me a new purpose in life. I know that God loves me,
not because of my ability or performance, but because He is my
Father, and I am His kid.
Man Magazine - July/August 2000