Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Arnold Rothstein, Dark Genius of the Mob

Career and Marriage

After the death of his brother Harry, Arnold made a serious attempt at mending the relationship with his father. He moved back home, worked at his father's factory, stayed away from the poolrooms and even attended the synagogue. Arnold's efforts failed. After an argument he left home again feeling that he was unloved and unwanted. He would never spend another night in his parents' house.

Rothstein's new home was the Broadway Central Hotel and his new profession was that of a cigar salesman, which kept him in close contact with gambling houses, hotels and saloons. His favorite hangout became a poolroom owned by John J. McGraw, the manager of the New York Giants baseball team. Here Rothstein honed his talents as a pool player and gained the reputation of being one of the best on Broadway.

During this period, the first decade of the twentieth century, Rothstein began working on his bankroll. He believed that by carrying a large sum of money, and flashing it, that it helped gauge his prominence. "Money talks," Rothstein told a reporter. "The more money the louder it talks."

In Leo Katcher's fine biography of Rothstein, The Big Bank Roll, the author discusses Rothstein's work philosophy:

"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."

With "Big Tim" Sullivan's backing, in 1902 Rothstein began working on his own. He booked bets on baseball games, elections, horse races and prizefights. In addition, he gambled on his own — shooting craps, playing pool and participating in poker games. 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."

Rothstein was cautious not to over expose himself in bets. He found that the secret of winning was simply to have a large enough bank roll to be able to lose one more bet than anyone else could afford to lose. Rothstein continued to prosper from his gambling endeavors and he was still lending money at exorbitant interest rates. He began to invest his income in legitimate businesses as a silent partner. He became part owner of an automobile dealership and several drug stores.

By 1906 his bankroll had grown from $2,000 to $12,000. To flash his roll served as a sign of his ability and success and earned him respect in his chosen field. In 1907, he met his future wife Carolyn Greene, a 19 year-old actress. He once took her to dinner and spread his money out over the table. "This is going to make me important," he told her. "I know how much money means. I'm going to have more and more of it. Nothing is going to stop me."

Rothstein had selected his wife very carefully. Not a womanizer, he had Carolyn checked out thoroughly before presenting her to his family. At an uncomfortable meeting in his parent's home, Abraham questioned his daughter-in-law to be.

"Are you Jewish, Miss Greene?" he inquired.

"My father is Jewish and my mother is Catholic. I have been brought up as a Catholic," Carolyn replied.

"But you will change your religion if you and Arnold should marry, will you not?" Abraham asked.

"No, Mr. Rothstein," came Carolyn's response.

"If he marries outside his faith, he will be lost to me," said Abraham.

Rothstein left his parent's house for yet another time with a feeling of being unloved. His father's wishes had no effect on his plans to wed Carolyn. On August 12, 1909 Rothstein and Greene were married in Saratoga, New York during the heart of horse racing season. Newspaperman Herbert Bayard Swope was Rothstein's best man. Rothstein's parents did not attend. When word of the wedding reached Abraham, he reacted by donning a prayer shawl and reciting the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, for the second of his sons.

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