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The Gambler: 1941

The Gambler: 1941

December 1941. "Workman at Shasta Dam plays poker. Shasta County, California." Medium format acetate negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Weenie King

He looks like the guy who played the very weird self-described “Weenie King” in Preston Sturges’s 1942 screwball comedy “The Palm Beach Story” - the character who really sets the story in motion.

Hard hat

Before they became simply "hard hats" they were known as "hard boiled hats" because the early ones were made of steamed canvas coated with varnish or shellac. In the 1930's mesh-reinforced bakelite and, later, fiberglass appeared (the MSA "Skullgard") ... and that's what our man appears to be sporting. The first mandated wearing of hard hats on jobsites was at federal dam projects and on the Golden Gate bridge.

Dead ringer

He resembles the late Max von Sydow.

Hmmm, not quite ...

I was hoping to read his cards from the reflection in his glasses, but I can't. Hopefully everyone else can!

The Tell

He better be careful to be sure the other players can't read his cards in the reflection of his glasses.

Queens and Threes

The legendary Working Man’s Hand.

Raze, call or fold

The construction of the dam required the "relocation" -- it was moved to oblivion -- of the town of Kennett, home to what was billed as the "second longest bar in the state." (Who was first?? Were they maybe seeing double instead??)

I'm not sure where in the landscape this gentleman was playing, but I picture ghosts from the backroom of the Diamond Saloon sitting in.


Better watch the reflection off those eyeglasses.

"Gambling has ruined my life --

-- I'm only 21 years old."

A lot of money.

Assuming about $10 in his pile, that's about $196 in today’s dollars.

His Friends' Favorite Partner

Because of the reflections in his eyeglasses.

You Can Leave Your Hat On

I'm reminded of guys in the pool rooms out West who always shoot while wearing their cowboy hats.

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