St. Patty’s toast to an Irish ‘menace’

Mar 17, 2013 6:11 AM

Terry Rogers was a second generation bookmaker who introduced Texas Hold’em to Ireland. At the time Terry ran his underground poker room, the Eccentrics Club in Dublin, poker was illegal in Ireland.

I met Terry at the Horseshoe in the 70’s where he would always take bets on the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. He would spread his big book out right in the middle of the room, and players would just walk up to him and place their bets. This went on for years until one day the police arrested him on the casino floor. Jack Binion bailed him out, and from then on, the betting was kept under wraps.

Terry loved poker, especially the camaraderie of the game. He backed many players in the World Series of Poker. It was his favorite time of the year. He would spend the time in Las Vegas. He wore either flashy clothes or a coat and tie while he played poker. He really was a class act in the poker world. 

I remember one time in the 1986 Grand Prix of Poker he brought over a whole team of Irish poker players wearing shiny, satin green jackets. In fact one of the members of the Eccentrics Club, Noel Furlong, won the 1999 WSOP Main Event. Poker was his passion.

I remember Jack Straus hosted an invitational poker series at the Frontier around 1984. My first opponent for the heads-up tournament was a guy from Texas called Timmy, I believe, who was a vending machine vendor. 

He showed up with a big bag of money and wanted to place a bet on himself against me for around $20,000. Terry took the bet, and I busted Timmy the Texan on the second hand. Terry said, “That is the fastest $20,000 I ever made.” 

It took about a minute and a half.

Terry was a very eccentric guy, and he had strong opinions about everything; he was someone you never wanted to make mad. But he was also one of the nicest people I have ever met. Because he was such a gentleman, he invited me and my wife to Ireland as his guests after winning that bet.

A couple of things stand out in my mind from that trip. Terry introduced me to Liam Flood who took me to a farm to watch the Irish national champion horse train. It was like a scene out of a movie. It was a misty Sunday morning, and we were served strawberries and champagne on white linens. Everything was first class.

Terry took me to one of the racetracks around Dublin where he had been booking for years. The scene is still one of the most memorable moments of my gambling career. There were approximately 25-30 bookies lined up right against the grand stand on soapboxes taking bets. Terry had the longest line of people. 

What was unusual about Terry was that he was actually very rude to the bettors, so they all wanted to beat him. He and his family were a fixture at that track for over 50 years. One bettor has stood out in my memory after all these years. He had a stutter and had trouble speaking. When he bet on the horses, he said, “I want dat one, dat one, dat one….”

Terry turned red in the face and said, “Get out of here! How am I supposed to know which horse is dat one and dat one???” An old lady came up and didn’t have the right change; he made her go to the end of the line. And she did! He was so rude he was nicknamed the Red Menace.

When the races were over, I found it curious that there was no line of people to collect. Terry had won it all. He put all his money in his oversized leather bag and went home where I helped him put rubber bands around all the money which was spread out on a table almost eight feet long. I finally knew what the term bagman meant. He was the bagman of Ireland. 

He was the most proud Irishmen I ever met and also one of the most cultured men I have met in my life. He knew everything about history, and he loved books. He insisted on taking me to see James Joyce’s home in the middle of the night to make sure I saw the residence of one of the greatest writers in all of literature. 

On this St. Patrick’s Day, I am reminded of my close friend the late Terry Rogers and his contributions to the poker world.

photo c/o Poker Player magazine

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing and creating the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry. Robert can be reached at [email protected].

 GamingToday on Facebook      and         GamingToday on Twitter