Ida Summers, christened the ‘Vegas Vixen’, was a flagrant, but nonetheless successful, blackjack cheat, who reputedly won tens of thousands of dollars, by illicit means, from casinos on the Las Vegas Strip from the early Sixties onwards. Believed to have started out in Newport, Kentucky – the original ‘Sin City’ – Summers moved to Vegas following the passing of the Federal Wire Act and other legislation supported by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, in 1961, which sounded the death knell for illegal gambling in casinos and bust-out joints in Newport.
A disarmingly attractive, petite woman, Summers initially performed sleight of hand, a.k.a. ‘hand mucking’, to introduce winning cards into her hand. Later, as she gained confidence, she worked with several male accomplices to switch entire blackjack shoes filled with prearranged cards –known as ‘cold decks’ or ‘coolers’ – into the game to guarantee a succession of winning hands.
Eventually, Summers’ exploits aroused the suspicion of casino security, not to mention the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the FBI, who launched a combined operation to surveil and apprehend the mother-of-four and her associates. Summer was, indeed, arrested – reputedly on the say-so of one of her supposedly ‘trustworthy’ former accomplices – but subsequently sentenced to probation rather than imprisonment.
The late Johnny Moss, who became known as the ‘Grand Old Man of Poker’, had the distinction of being the first winner of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event in 1970, although, at that time, he was elected overall champion by the five other contestants. Nevertheless, Moss went on to win the WSOP Main Event, in its current form, twice more, in 1971 and 1974. Born in Marshall, Texas before World War I, Moss was one of the original Texas ‘road’ gamblers and was hailed by Thomas Preston Jr., a.k.a. ‘Amarillo Slim’ – winner of the WSOP Main Event in 1972 – as the best poker player who ever lived.
Moss reputedly played Nick Dandolos, a.k.a. ‘Nick The Greek’, heads-up for five months at Binion’s Horseshoe, Las Vegas, between January and May, 1949, winning up to $4 million. However, Benny Binion did not open Binion’s Horseshoe until 1951, having only regained his gaming licence in 1950 and the story only came to light in 1971, five years after Dandolos’ death, so the account may well be apocryphal. Nevertheless, Binion did establish the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979 and Moss and Dandolos were among the first inductees.