Arnold Rothstein was a human computer. Right from his infancy his mathematical genius astonished all who knew him, and throughout his life he delighted in getting his New York friends to fire large numbers at him which he would then add, subtract, divide and multiply, delivering the answers within seconds.

With this ability and his flair for business, he could have become a top-flight international financier. But his was a twisted genius. He wasn’t interested in anything unless it was crooked.

You name the racket, he was in it, pulling the strings behind the scenes, for he always remained in the background, his minions taking the rap if anything went wrong. Rothstein himself was never indicted, yet he was the “Mr. Big” behind rackets ranging from drug-smuggling to controlling labour markets, from bootlegging to fixing baseball’s 1919 World Series for gambling purposes.

He became a multi-millionaire, his henchmen included some of New York’s top gangsters, and as a born gambler he was seldom known to lose. But that was when he was in his prime. His luck and judgment began to fail him when he reached his mid-40s, and to recoup his losses on bad bets he summoned three of the nation’s wealthiest gamblers to a poker game. George “Hump” McManus was one of the players who sat down at the table on September 8th, 1928, Nathan Raymond and Alvin Thompson were the others. Rothstein’s losing streak persisted, and when the game ended on September 10th he owed more than $360,000.

Claiming the game had been rigged, he refused to pay up…and signed his own death warrant. On the evening of NOVEMBER 4th, 1928, he was at Lindy’s Restaurant on Broadway when he received a phone call and left, saying he was going to the Park Central Hotel to see “Hump” McManus. His bodyguard Fatty Walsh wasn’t with him, and he handed his gun to a friend, asking him to look after it until he returned.

Sixty minutes later a bellhop at the hotel found Rothstein outside the service entrance, clutching his stomach and gasping for breath. He had been shot, and he died in hospital two days later, refusing to name his killer.

A trail of his blood led to the hotel room occupied by McManus, who denied knowing anything of the shooting and was acquitted through lack of evidence. It later emerged that four men had awaited Rothstein in the hotel room. They included McManus and Raymond.

When Rothstein repeated that he wasn’t paying, one of the men had produced a gun, there was a scuffle, and the gun went off, shooting Rothstein in the abdomen. He’d got the odds wrong again. And for the last time.