Steven Lazaroff
12 min readDec 20, 2020

--

Victor Lustig

COUNT VICTOR LUSTIG

Arguably one of the most famous con men in history was the dashing Count Victor Lustig, considered by many to be the Heavyweight Champion of the Art of the Swindle. This character took the confidence game to new heights — let’s say about as high as the Eiffel Tower is tall. More on this later.

Certainly, during his colourful career, many, many people would say that they not only met the man but also knew him well. Many of his victims would actually go as far as to describe him as a close, “dear friend” and “as warm and sincere a human being as they ever knew.” Yes, the Count excelled at making people feel comfortable, close to him and valued. He gave those he met a sense of confidence and compassion and made them believe that he really cared about them and their feelings.

They were all wonderful suckers. What made The Count most special was that he excelled at lying.

He was born as Robert V. Miller to middle-class parents in 1890’s Austria/Hungary and lived an unremarkable life until age 19, at which time he was slashed across the face by a jealous boyfriend and decided that perhaps he needed to reinvent himself as something more — something a little larger than life. He started telling new acquaintances that the long, ugly scar on his face was from a duel of honour, and thus the Count persona was born. After all — who doesn’t want to imagine that dashing, romantic picture of a sword fight at dawn? Calling himself a Count was probably more practical than a Viscount, which would probably have just confused people.

He was a quick student of the quick buck and practised billiards, poker and bridge. And cheating. Lots and lots of cheating. A gambler’s life had an immediate appeal, and he was naturally attracted to places where he could find rich, hedonistic marks– which meant the Trans-Atlantic ships that constantly chugged back and forth between Europe and New York. It was on trips like this that he met professional gamblers like Nicky Arnstein, and learned to polish his techniques for both legitimate and illegitimate play. Yes, it was a golden time to be a card shark.

The outbreak of World War One put a stop on the Count’s adventures on the high seas, as the rich weren’t all that attracted to being shot at or sunk while there was fighting going on and the cruise traffic dried up. However, in New York…

--

--

Steven Lazaroff
0 Followers

Writer and boutique independent publisher