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Clik this link to see more about our old pal, Grady. Grady and I were great friends but that never stopped us from being fierce competitors against each other. Whenever we played neither side would ever give an inch. After the games we would often go out together for drinks, or go partners gambling in the Casinos. Grady was an avid craps player, and often hit for big scores. Late in life we found an internet gaming site that caught our attention. The link to the spot is: When Hubert Cokes was a rambling gambling man in the rowdy 20s, the guys and dolls of that romantic era called him The Giant. It was a simple, almost childlike endearment and yet it implied singular distinction. They called him Hubert Cokes The Giant because of his indomitable scorn for protective cults. The only protection Hubert Cokes ever needed was Hubert Cokes. Stories of the derring-do with which the freelancing Giant defied powerful gang lords are legend and they are retold, and perhaps embellished, wherever floating crap game alums gather. Once they say, Cokes was running a rich dice game somewhere and a benevolent arm of a protection society announced it was muscling in. Cokes looked down his leathery nose at the ultimatum and when a couple of dockwallopers were dispatched to his tables, The Giant whipped hell out of the toughs with his bare fists. Hubert Cokes was always the master of his house. Then there was the Southwest Incident: Cokes was operating a posh gambling casino in a booming oil town. Floyd, the aficionados claim, thought the law offered better odds than The Giant. You hear all sorts of stories about Hubert Cokes. He is one of those larger than life mortals who seem to step off the pages of fiction onto the wide, wide screen of life and some of his intriguing stirrings have been dramatized with exaggeration. He has tone, as they say. He likes the simple things in life. He enjoys playing golf with his wife, Frances, a former nurse, and he delights in teaching kids, and sometimes women, how to shoot pool. Once I saw him up to his ears in housewives in one of those carpeted billiard rooms in suburbia. He was instructing les girls on the proper technique in making a bridge. A salty old sandbagger like Texas Guinan, who knew Hubert Cokes when he had hair, would have laughed out loud. Hubert Cokes is a wealthy Evansville, Indiana oilman-sportsman who takes the sun in Florida in the winter and spends the summers golfing in the Midwest. He was, for the record, one of those country club hustlers who had a hand in sending ex-heavyweight champion Joe Louis to the poorhouse just beyond the 19th hole. Hubert Cokes also loves to bet on his pool game because he is an excellent pool player, in fact, one of the best around, bar none. When he is in the dashing, chancy world of the pool hustlers, Hubert Cokes is known as Daddy Warbucks, a nom de guerre that needs no explanation. He looks like Daddy Warbucks — the bald head, the big ears, the tiny deep set eyes, the taut mouth, and the ever present cigar. He is also very rich and extremely generous and so he is a soft touch for the luckless, down and out pool hustler. Of all the picturesque pool hall sobriquets, Daddy Warbucks, perhaps, is the most poetic. When Hubert Cokes is in Evansville, almost any night you can find him in the game room of the Elks Club, a stately old ante bellum mansion that stirs thoughts of another day. He was younger then, fortyish and newly wed, and had just made a strike in the oil fields around Centralia in Southern Illinois and he was thinking about a place with a mailbox and a lawn and a flower garden. For 25 years he had been a rambling, gambling man, a rover with the soul of a gypsy and the roots of a sparrow. Life had been one glorious high roll after another and for a quarter of a century Hubert Cokes had been running to where the action was — In Joplin, or Tulsa, New York or Chicago, Miami or New Orleans. But in the action was around Evansville, IN where new found oil spilled over like a spring flood and riches awaited the free soul with the bankroll and guts to dare chance. And so they came from all over — storied Ray Ryan, the highest roller of them all; fabled Titanic Thompson, the prototype of all proposition men; solemn Preacher Du Buford, who wore dark suits and spoke softly like a man of the cloth but bellowed invectives when he struck a dry hole; crafty Jimmy the Greek Castras, who made book on anything, once on how many cups would break at a DAR party; and a carload of other blithe spirits, Hubert Cokes among them, with nerves honed over crap tables and the daring to risk it all on one more roll. They were all out of Runyon, by gosh, an they checked into the old McCurdy and fortunes were made and lost right there on the marble floor of the lobby; and out on the sidewalk this flamboyant new breed did things with money that had the Elks holding hard to their rocking chairs across the street. In those freewheeling days before World War II, Evansville was a lethargic little river town on the northern shores of the beautiful Ohio and back then, as it does today, the scene suggested the best of two worlds — the tranquil grace and charms of the Old South, coupled with a bustling, yet cautious and prudent Yankee enterprise. In Hubert Cokes, with a new stake and a new bride, took it all in and liked the odds. Evansville, indeed, was his kind of town. So he settled there and after a few more gushers poured in he went into the oil business on Main Street. He might have been a pillar of the community too, except that in Evansville, Indiana pillars of the community come from a select circle of old-line families, the old rich, as it were, as opposed to the new rich, who are mostly oil people like Hubert Cokes who stayed on after the boom. He is one of them now but after 26 years he is still a heavy who sits below the salt at the dinner table. Because of his wealth, Cokes is constantly singled out for the big hustle and sometimes the propositions, not to mention the stakes, are staggering. The Giant looked ripe for a toppling. Word spread quickly and overnight hustlers seemed to walk right off the desert. The cunning Cokes smiled and said he was, indeed, interested providing of course, he could name the games — left-handed, one-handed and jacked-up. Cokes chuckled all the way to Evansville but the hustlers, sensing a bonanza, trailed him like bloodhounds. Then he took on all comers and took might be too mild a word. His partner is tall, slender, blondish and 32 year old Larry Meyer who grew up in Louisville, KY and moved to Evansville a few years ago. One-pocket even, Cokes shooting with one hand. Despite the la Russian Roulette rules under which Cokes chooses to play, over a nine-month stretch, Daddy Warbucks led the long series by 24 games going into September. Like most men his age, Cokes is myopic. He reads the newspapers, even the fine print on the stock market page, with the naked eye, but on a pool table he is helpless without glasses. The black frame and prescription treated lenses are about the size of a cue ball and when Cokes puts them on they cover his eyes, his eyebrows and a goodly portion of his forehead. They arouse memories of old fashioned racing goggles, the kind Sunday drivers used to wear at the wheel of the old open touring cars, and when Cokes stares out of the thick lenses he looks more like a Mad scientist than a tired businessman relaxing at the club. The six pool tables get a good play from the membership and so does the bar which is on the other side of a swinging door at the far end of the room.. There is nothing special about the bar except that it doubles as the music room for the regular Monday night vocalizings of the 23 voice Elks Club Chorus and on occasion the assorted tenors, altos and baritones provide amusing background music. One night last summer Cokes, in deft stroke, ran a quick eight balls to win an eight or no count version of one pocket and as he pocketed the last ball, as if on a prearranged cue, from the bar the chorus sang out lustily: Any pool player who has broken a rack in a serious money game has at one time or another found himself on the road. He was 16 and attending high school in Hot Springs, AR, and during a long hot summer things were slow, even in Hot Springs. Louis and one night when things were slower than usual. We played all day and all night. After that I was a rolling stone. Louis convinced the teenage Cokes that a cotton farm was no place for a young gambling man and soon the took to the road for good. His wanderings were to last for 25 years and take him across the country a dozen times, living out of suitcases and earning his keep in grubby horse parlors and chandeliered casinos. When he ran short of capital he headed for the nearest pool room. His game was always good enough for eating money. He originated one pocket out there around He taught me the fine points. That was my college education in pool. I was 47 and at my prime. I could have handled anybody in the country back then. I busted everybody who came through Evansville, everybody but Willie Hoppe but he was out of my class in cushions. I played him an exhibition at the Elks Club and he gave me a good lesson. But 20 years ago I owned the hustlers. Among the early hustlers backed by Cokes resources was a roly-poly, nonstop talking fat boy the oil man met on Broadway in He was walking all over the place, talking to everybody, spilling powder all over the floor and not paying attention to what he was doing. Concentrate on the game. He gathered a fortune shooting golf right-handed, losing a small bet on a close game and hiking the wager by boasting he could beat his score left-handed. Thompson a natural lefty, was a par golfer from the port side and his list of pigeons was long and impressive. He once propositioned Cokes out of a tidy sum, though not on a golf course. In the 30s, when hard times fell on everybody, Cokes worked as a pharmaceutical salesman. There are actually four different spellings so any way I spelled it Ty said it was wrong and showed me a different spelling in an old dictionary. I paid off but later I found out Ty had hustled me good. I can laugh about it now but back then I felt like a sucker. He likes to laugh and does often. The elder Cokes, a barber by trade, put down his clippers and tried his hand at cotton. But both marriage and the crop were failures and when Hubert, an only child, was still a toddler, his father quit the farm and opened a barber shop in San Antonio, TX. The years raced on and Cokes was a grown man before he saw his father again. It was in , when Cokes was 24, that he wandered into San Antonio. He claimed he was the best barber in the whole state of Texas. Well, he started shaving me and I drew back. He has acquired the poise of a diplomat and the soft tenderness of a doting grandfather, yet beneath the lordly, dignified demeanor resides the jugular instinct of the Giant of old. Some people have a let down when they meet him because there is a vast grey area between Hubert Cokes the Man, and Hubert Cokes the Myth. As slick as that crew was, Jimmy was the 8 ball smarter than anybody else.
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