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Raised in the Game

by Sterling Daniels

Raised in the Game

Copyright © 2017 by Sterling Daniels

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Raised In The Game, LLC.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in

any manner whatsoever without written consent from the author, except

in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

For information:

6650 West State Street

Unit D, Box 309

Wauwatosa, Wisconsin 53123


Printed and bound in the United States of America.

First Printing: March 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-86049-6

TITLE: 1841678


I dedicate this book to my mother,

Bessie Ma Gardner.

She taught me respect, principles, integrity,

and all the things I needed to mold me into the man I am today.

Thank You, Mama. I Love You.

It is said that a man’s whole life and character is the outcome

of his beliefs and also the environment in which he was raised.

His theological belief is merely his intellectual opinion of the

world around him. If what he sees is unjust and poor treatment

of others and him, he will look for a better life. This belief then

lives deeply in his being and heart, which molds his character

and makes his whole life.

Table of Contents

Introduction ............................................................................................ i

Prologue ................................................................................................. iii


Chapter 1: Mama: Growing Up in the 60s ................................................ 3

Chapter 2: Balls and Dice ........................................................................ 7

Chapter 3: The Roaring 70s .................................................................... 11

Chapter 4: Tap Out: Learning the Gambling Game ................................ 15

Chapter 5: West Side Margie .................................................................. 23

Chapter 6: Rise of the Super Fly Macks ................................................. 33

Chapter 7: First Mistake: Stepping Over Dollars for Pennies ................ 41

Chapter 8: On My Own .......................................................................... 57

Chapter 9: Welcome to Brew City .......................................................... 63

Chapter 10: The Big Leagues: Setting My Trap ..................................... 75

Chapter 11: Young, Black and Rich ....................................................... 91


Chapter 12: Taking the Game to the Next Phase .................................. 107

Chapter 13: The Milwaukee Railroad .................................................. 111

Chapter 14: Taking My Show on the Road ........................................... 127

Chapter 15: Learning to Make a Ho ..................................................... 135

Chapter 16: Dirty Mike and A Shaky Gun ............................................ 139

Chapter 17: The Only Square that Understood ..................................... 149

Chapter 18: The Cat Catches Michael .................................................. 163

Chapter 19: When a Ho Leaves One Pimp for Another ....................... 167

Table of Contents, continued


Chapter 20: Tap Out’s Last Big Sting .................................................. 181

Chapter 21: The Mouse Gets the Trap ................................................. 193

Chapter 22: On Top of Your Games ..................................................... 195

Chapter 23: Patience Is A Virtue .......................................................... 203

Chapter 24: The Blind Switch .............................................................. 205

Chapter 25: Chicken, You Should Know Better .................................. 209

Chapter 26: Betty Mea: The Black Bonnie .......................................... 211

Chapter 27: I Choose You .................................................................... 215

Chapter 28: 1980 Jams ......................................................................... 219

Chapter 29: Taking My Game to the Next Phase ................................. 223

Chapter 30: Expanding to Survive ....................................................... 229

Chapter 31: Good-Bye, Tap .................................................................. 233

Chapter 32: Life Without Tap ............................................................... 235

Chapter 33: The Queen Cocaine Arrives .............................................. 239

Chapter 34: Making Moves in Kankakee ............................................. 241

Chapter 35: The Texas Sweet Roll ....................................................... 243

Chapter 36: White Queen Takes Black Queen ..................................... 247


Chapter 37: Time to Get Down ............................................................ 251

Chapter 38: Raw Dog ........................................................................... 255

Chapter 39: Doing it in West Lawn ...................................................... 259

Chapter 40: Big Red ............................................................................. 263

Chapter 41: The Queen Strikes Again .................................................. 269

Chapter 42: The Coldest Day of My Life ............................................. 271


I am Sterling Daniels, also known as Dan the Man, S, ST, SG, and

Turk—this is my life story. I was born in Cook County in 1954. As long

as I can remember, my number one goal was to help my mother, broth-

ers, and sisters out of the rat-infested ghetto. I was willing to do what-

ever it took. But what I didn’t know was that slavery did not end after

the Civil War. Unites States President Abraham Lincoln made it clear

in his speeches that slavery was not the issue. The North was industrial-

ized while the South was still dependent on agriculture. So, it started with

the trade with Europe because they wanted to see the United States split.

They later prohibited it in principle in 1877 at the end of the Reconstruc-

tion. But slavery was still in existence. It just took shape in a new and

sadistic form. Black life was effectively criminalized and sentencing was

rendered by various means—brutal labor being the primary in the indus-

try of agricultural production. This remained the case throughout the late

19th and early 20th centuries.

World War II was declared, and Blacks were needed again. Then post-

war businesses opened the doors with added opportunities in the North.

When I was growing up in the 60s, there was still clear evidence of segre-

gation. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched for equal rights, voting

rights, and the end of segregation as it related to military personnel in the

Vietnam War.

This is a true story about me, a young man who played the street life

because I saw no other way to go. It was the life I chose because it was the

only life I knew and l was compelled to be the best. My great uncle Tap

Out taught me The Game. I was true to the game. A man of truth never

departs from his divine principles, which I espouse in this book. I came a

long way from poverty, pain, loss of friends, and threats against my life to

become one of the greatest players to ever master the Three Boss Games.

I was a part of one of the largest organizations in America. I allow you

to see and feel the way it was coming up in the 60s, 70s, and 80s with no

cut—just the truth. I show that a Black man is more than all the names that

were unfairly placed upon him. You will see the Black pride, principles,

morals, and respect for The Game, which include the cons, the violence,

and the games that are played in the streets.

There is no difference between this and what America is doing; they


play the same game, just at a higher level. You will see how I always

thought I was the cat catching the mouse, until the day I got caught up in

someone else’s game.

There is a bigger cat; one that has no respect for principles, morals,

Blacks, or anyone for that matter. This cat plays the game unfairly be-

cause he does not recognize any rules. He makes rules as he goes along.

He is cold-blooded and vicious. He is the United States government.

When the time came for them to close the door on Blacks again, it was done so

with a vengeance. They didn’t need Blacks anymore because domestic manu-

facturing was displaced with sprawling financial institutions that drained the

economy. First, they flooded the inner cities with cocaine, making it available

for everyone to buy. Then, they used their money to help support the wars that

the CIA started. They created new laws and, in doing so, created a new form of

criminal conduct. They dubbed it the “War on Drugs,” and the rapid increase

of incarceration than followed was indication that they were winning. Clearly,

inner city minorities were the targets. The new form of modern day slavery was

cheap prison labor in the federal, state, and local systems. To them, me, my

brothers and my organization had to be stopped by any means necessary.



Sterling Daniels is sitting in the courtroom. He is cool, calm, mellow,

and never loses his composure. He understands the game because he has

played it all of his life. When the trial began three months ago, he knew

from the first day that the deck was set and he was in a no-win situation.

He learned from the game that you had to accept the bitter with the sweet.

He was now a pawn in someone else’s game.

The Big Cat had tried to break him down and turn him into a rat. It is

easy for a man to claim that he stands on his morals and principles when

he is on top, but when the trial is under way, that is when he is truly tested.

That is when it is brought to light whether he is one to cling to self or ad-

here to truth. “Don’t you ever disrespect me again. Bring it on. Show me

what you’ve got!” Sterling told the Big Cat.

The judge walks into the courtroom and everyone is quiet as the man

makes his way to his desk. The clerk tells everyone to stand and that the

court is in session. Sterling looks at his mother; he wanted so badly for her

not to come. She is saying her prayers. JoAnne is sitting next to her hold-

ing her hand. She had begged Sterling to stop. Margie was sitting behind

them with tears in her eyes. She had told Sterling that the Feds came to her

house asking about him. How did it come down to this?



Mama: Growing Up in the 60s

Bessie Ma Brooks was born in Marcella, Arkansas. Her mother, Arlene

Brooks, was a hard-working woman who was married to Calvin Brooks. Arlene

spent her time raising her children—El C, Earl, Marlene, Bessie, Calvin, Johnny

Mea, and Eddie Brooks. They all moved up north when they got grown, like

most Blacks in the 50s, seeking better jobs and opportunity.

Bessie married Floyd Daniels and moved to Chicago in 1952. They had three

children—Lloyd, Elaine, and Kirby. She loved Floyd and thought the world of

him but, like most Black men, he left her and the children and moved to Cali-

fornia with a promise that he would come back. It was hard on her, but she was

taught from her mother to work hard and raise her children. She later gave birth

to Sterling, Michael, and Sandra.

Living in the projects was hard, and having to raise six children while hold-

ing a job didn’t make it any easier, but with help from her mother she did a very

good job. She loved her children and made sure that they went to school and

stayed out of trouble. She never had men lying around the house, and always

made sure that the children were eating right.

I was born on June 11, 1954. Being raised by a queen without a king in the

house, my brothers and me never knew how a king truly performs. Even though

my mother did the best a woman can do, she couldn’t change the fact that a

queen can’t raise a king. So I had to find a way to learn how to become a man.

I was raised out of emotions and feelings, which are a woman’s strong

points. If raised by a father, I would have had someone who could groom me to

rule and regulate with the firmness to hold and accept the responsibilities of my

manhood. I would have lived by the rules instead of feelings and emotions. Be-

cause once a man gets caught up in his feelings and emotions, he is at his worst

and he loses his greatest strength: his ability to hold firm. A woman is at her best

when she is arguing or making love, because those are feelings and emotions.

Men don’t fuss or argue. They do as they are governed by rules and regulations.

So when a heated situation occurs, he is already prepared because he knows what

it takes. Men sit down and think. They discuss and reason out situations.

So, when my brothers and I were shorties (young), I would take them to 47th

Street in Chicago. That’s where everyone that was about something in the ‘60s

hung out. You know, in the ‘60s Blacks did not have the opportunities we have

now. Like the game of chess or the game of pool, history plays a large part in

our situation today.

I’m talking about our people as a whole. In every Black community there

are households run by strong Black women, which is cool, but it is our enemy’s

plan and not the plan of God.


Chapter 1

Raised in the Game

PaRt One

Our heroes in the ‘60s were Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain

and so on. There were few Black lawyers, doctors, and politicians. Martin Luther

King Jr. was still marching to help us get equal rights. So coming to 47th Street

and seeing the pimps, hoes, pickpockets, thieves and every hustler in the game

was something that most Black children looked up to.

When I was about 10-years-old, I would sneak out of the house taking my

little 8-year-old brother with me. We would walk around and check out the

scene. He and I were different from our older brothers and sisters. We were what

most Black families call the bad seeds. You know it’s hard for a mother to raise

six children in the inner city in the 60s. So she would send us to Milwaukee,

Wisconsin every summer to stay with our first cousins and her sister Johnny

Mae. She would never let me and Michael go down south to Arkansas to visit

because she always said the white folks would hurt us down there.

Michael and I started going to the Milwaukee Boys Club, on 15th and Center,

with our two cousins Larry and Ronnie. We played pool and swam, but all the

worst kids in Milwaukee were there. So to get the respect we wanted, my brother

and I made most of the kids from our neighborhood come to the club, so that

now, we were the baddest cats there.

At nine-years-old, I learned to shoot pool. I was so good by the age of 12

that I won every pool tournament and had every trophy given out by the Club.

One day my mother brought me some Brogans shoes and blue jeans. I was only

12 years of age. I told my mother I didn’t like wearing blue jeans and Brogans

shoes. She said, “Boy you better get yourself a job if you want to wear what you

want.” That day I decided I was going to make my own money.

The year was 1966 and that’s when I grew from a boy to a man. I started to

help my brother with his paper route for two years. I also helped him with odd

painting jobs and so on. He was the oldest of my brothers, which made him the

father figure in our home. We all loved our mother, but he was extra close to her.

He would give all of his earnings to her.

My mother always believed in us getting a good education. So we all did

pretty well in school and got good grades. But my brother Lloyd was getting into

fights and other kinds of trouble, so my mother sent him to Job Corps when he

was fifteen. I missed him because he always kept me with a few ends to get my

hustle on. At the Corps, he learned several trades so when he came home he got

a good job and helped mama with the bills.

I was going to school every day, getting good grades, but I still kept going

to 47th Street watching the players, hustlers, pimps, and hoes getting their hustle

on. They were the role models of every Black community in the sixties.

From what I could tell, the dudes wanted to be players and the women want-

ed to be hoes. Women’s liberation was just beginning, so women didn’t have too

many opportunities to make money. They were either housewives or hoes.

The streets had rules and codes that you had to follow. I stopped hanging out


ChaPteR 1

GROwinG UP in the 60s

My Grandmother

My Grandfather

with my younger brother and cousins. I told them “I’m not going to keep fighting

and gang banging because it wasn’t putting paper in my pocket. I started hanging

out with the younger players and gamblers instead. I was a young pool shark and

the older players in Milwaukee were staking (betting on) me in the pool halls.

Every weekend I would catch the Greyhound bus from Chicago to Milwaukee.

The price then was only $11 for a round trip.

My mother remarried and we moved from the low-end numbered streets to

the 100 South blocks, when I was 16-years-old. She sent my brother and me

to Milwaukee to stay until she got settled. All of her children were now grown.

My brother Kirby went to the Navy; my older sister Elaine got married and she

moved to Milwaukee with her husband. My younger sister moved to Milwaukee

and started staying with my grandmother. My mother married James Garner,

who was from the west side. They knew each other from the South as kids.

It was ‘69 and back then living in the 100s in Chicago was living high. I

called them the “upper tier” niggers. I didn’t want to have nothing with living

there because you had whites and blacks living together. I was glad to live in

Milwaukee, because it was right where the action was. I started getting my hustle

on then.


Balls and Dice

I was 14-years-old when I started hanging out atAuer Avenue playground

in Milwaukee. I gambled and played basketball from 9 am until 9 pm. Then we

would go to the pool hall.Auer Avenue playground was where every young hus-

tler and thug came to play. My first time gambling, I was doing well and making

me a few ends. I didn’t know it then, but they didn’t like newcomers winning

there. That was when I met Ervin. He was the dude known for taking money.

It was a nice sunny day in July, and there were about twelve guys gambling

in two different crap games. A shorty named Short Dog was on the lookout for

the man (cops). The winners always threw him a bone (dollar) or two. I was

shouting “four, five, six!” and it was in my bank. I had $50 in the bank. By now,

I usually kept a switchblade in my boots, but I had left it at the crib that day. The

man had been running us off the playground a lot lately. They liked getting the

paper guys left behind when they were running. I didn’t want to get caught with

my load.

There were about five or six guys getting down, so it was hard for me to

watch everyone, so I paid Joe Mack to watch my line. I had been making a good

hustle all week. I built up my bankroll to $300. I only brought $25 with me to

start because there were a lot of greasy dudes hanging around hoping to catch

someone slipping. They saw my brother and me put our work in on three dudes

on the basketball court, so most of them knew I didn’t mind or would not tremble

with trouble.

I was on a roll and I noticed the tension in the air. I got a little nervous be-

cause a few guys eased away from the game. I looked around at Short Dog to see

if the man was around. I nodded to him and he nodded back. My eyes went to

this tall slim dude who was watching me for a while. Everybody was calling him

Big Erv. He asked El Roy “what was up.” El Roy said everything was cool and

asked him where he had been. He said he had been in the joint for a year and he

was looking for some action.

Big Erv was a big robust dude. He was about my age but he looked a lot old-

er. I could tell that he had been in a lot of battles by his ancient looking face. He

wore dark slacks with a colorful short-sleeved T-shirt. I could tell that he worked

out a lot. He looked at me. He had an immaculate thin mustache. “What’s up

with you and why are you gambling in my hood?” His voice was bulldog mean

and a cold-hearted expression cast of cement.

“I didn’t know, I had to ask a nigga for permission to gamble with mines.”

“Nigga, break yourself!”

I was nervous because I didn’t have my blade and I was by myself. I searched

him with bouncing eyes to see if he had a piece or something, but one thing my


Chapter 2

Raised in the Game

PaRt One

older brothers always taught us was never to let anyone see fear in you. I stood

up. “Nigga, I’m not giving you a dime. So what’s up?”

Everybody moved out of the way. Big Erv rubbed his chin.

“Nigga, I’m going to whip the shit out of you.”

He put his fists up. Mine went right up too. “Let’s go nigga.” I bet he is

packing. An ass kicking wasn’t shit to me. I had four brothers that I fought with

every day. After he and I got through with this shit, I might get an ass kicking

when I got home.

Big Erv stopped. “Nigga, I was just trying to see if you had any heart. Every-

thing’s cool my man. What’s your name?”


“Where you from?”

“The Chi and I been kicking it off and on in Milwaukee since I was seven.”

He told me he lived around the corner on 23rd and Hopkins St. He said I

could come kick it because he liked my style and we could make a lot of money


We dapped. “What we all standing around for? Let’s get live and get these

dice rolling.” I walked to Erv’s after I got finished. He stayed in a one family

brown house; the block was crowded with little kids playing and families hang-

ing out, smoking joints, and drinking and kicking the bobo.

Hopkins St. was one of the livest areas in the Brew City. You had bars on

every corner, pool halls, restaurants and Auer Ave.. playground. They had more

money coming through there than any outdoor spot around. I walked up to the

steps, looked around, and saw that the grass looked like it hadn’t been cut in

months. But, it was one of the few houses that even had grass. The other cribs

lawns’ were all dirt.

I could hear James Brown’s I Got the Feeling being blasted. The smell of

weed was so strong that I almost got a contact high from just standing there.

There was only one thing that was looking good in the hood, and that was the

cars; 68’ Cadillac Sedan Deville, a drop-top T-Bird that looked like maybe a 63’

but in good condition.

When I walked up the steps and got to the door, I rang the bell once but no-

body responded. A woman next door, nice looking in a red miniskirt, and a white

shirt was showing a lot of skin. She had titties that would shame Pam Grier.

“What’s up baby, you looking for one of the Brushaw brothers? If so, you

got to go to the back of the stairs because his old girl never answers the door.”

I thanked her and strolled to the back where I saw the paint peeling off an old

white garage door. I saw the steps and at the top was a door that looked like it

was open. I walked up the steps and knocked a couple of times. This dude, who

looked like Erv, was sitting on a couch with a girl who looked about 12 or maybe

13. “Push the door and come in,” she said.

“What’s up, is Big Erv here?” The guy on the couch told me he was in the


ChaPteR 2

Balls and diCe

back room. I stood by until he said it was cool.

After a while, he said, “Hey man, you can go in there.” I strutted in the back

saw Erv sitting at a table with a blanket on it. He was playing cards with three

other dudes. One of the cats looked like he could be a younger brother, another

one looked about 15 or 16, and the other one I recognized from the playground.

His name was Trent Taylor. He was dark-skinned and with a beard and a thin

mustache, he looked older than me. He always dressed nice too.

The other one was El Roy. He dressed slick. He always wore black silk shirts

and two-toned pants—dark brown and light brown with some black floor-shine

shoes. El Roy was one of the ugliest guys I had ever seen. He was dark-skinned

with a big, wide nose to go with his big head. His skin was so bad that it looked

like a Nestle Crunch Bar. He was tall, heavy set, and his mouthpiece was so

tight, he could sell honey to bees.

Big Erv looked up and said, “What’s up Sterling Daniels?”

“Everything’s cool. I see you kicking it.” He was just playing some $1 two-

tonk. He introduced me to El Roy, Trent, and his younger brother Franky T.

He said, “That’s my man from the Chi, the dude I told ya I met earlier today at


How did he know my last name was Daniels? I just kicked back and watched

the fellows play. I could see El Roy and Erv were playing together. After they

were done, the players left and Erv and me kicked it. He told me that he met a

few guys in the joint that knew my brother and me from the Boys Club days. “So

that’s how you knew my last name.”

“That’s right, and I know you are straight and got a lot of heart. That’s why

we can make money together.”

I found out that Erv and I had some similarities. Erv was raised without a fa-

ther like most Blacks during the 60s. Erv had an older brother named Earl and an

older sister named Josephine. He also had four younger siblings named Franky

T., Jimbo, Jaime, and Sheba. Earl stayed in Rockford, IL. Josephine stayed on

the east side of Milwaukee. Erv, Jimbo, Franky T., Jaime and Sheba stayed in the

house with their mother. Erv, Jimbo and Franky T. stayed upstairs while the two

younger ones Sheba, and Jamie, stayed downstairs. Erv’s mother worked during

the day and never came upstairs. Erv and Jimbo spent most of their youth in the

juvenile detention facilities. Nobody in their family spent time going to school.

Erv told me he heard I had a good pool game. “It’s all right.”

“Lets go to the pool hall on 25th and Hopkins.” We walked down the block

and I could see why Hopkins St. was so alive. I saw beautiful Cadillacs and

heard music blasting out of every bar. We arrived at the pool hall. It was just

down the street from AO Smith on 27th and Hopkins. AO Smith was a big fac-

tory that ran from 27th and Hopkins up to 35th and Hopkins. It was the biggest

factory in Milwaukee and most of the guys that worked there hung out at the bars

on Hopkins. We walked in the small joint with three pool tables and a jukebox. I


saw an old man with a greyhound dog sitting by him; the dog looked as old as he

did. I saw this one guy that looked about 25-year-old dressed in a pinstriped suit

and shooting pool with an older guy, who was maybe in his mid 50s, wearing

blue jeans and a black silk shirt.

Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through the Grapevine was playing. So Erv and

me shot a few games of pool and kicked it, talking about gambling and hoes. I

told him I stayed with my aunt on 21st and Locust St. just for the summer until

my mother got settled with her husband in Chicago. We shot a few more games

and left the scene. When I arrived at the crib, my aunt Johnny Mae told my

brother and me that my mother wanted us to return Chicago to get registered and

prepare for school.


The Roaring 70s

The 1970s had arrived and the Blacks had more opportunities. Jobs were

plentiful and welfare was paying good—the more kids a woman had, the more

money she got. Dr. King marched to Washington with a dream, but got killed

before he saw the dream happen in the ‘70s. Blacks were living better than they

ever had in America. President Richard Nixon was in office and money was


When my brother and me moved back to Chicago, my mother explained to

us that we had to follow the rules that were set by our stepfather, James Gardner.

He was dark-skinned, maybe 6-feet-tall, very fat, and a nice grade of Black hair.

He was also from Marcello, Arkansas and knew my mother from there. Every-

one in Marcello knew each other. He moved to Chicago in the ‘50s and lived

on the west side most of his life. He worked at a sewage company for 20 years,

and had four children—Kenny, Jimmy, Sue, and Catherine. James knew a lot of

politicians and in those days in Chicago, you could get what you wanted if you

paid the right price.

My older brother Lloyd had a good job. He was working as an engineer for

Altgeld Gardens Homes. Like I said, everything has a price. He got this job with

$1,500. The Gardens was one of the toughest projects in Chicago. It was on the

outskirts in the upper 100s. James’ children stayed with their mother on 85th

and Ada St. We stayed on 113th and Wallace St. Our house was tan brown with

aluminum siding, sun porch, and a large driveway.

The brick houses on the block all looked the same. Fenger High School was

on the corner of 112th and Wallace St. and around the corner, on Union St., was

big beautiful houses. Less than three miles away, there was a small golf course

on Halsted St. My mother had come a long way from the projects to living like

the Jeffersons in the 100s. When we walked into the house, the inside porch had

many big green plants with a couch and two chairs and a table.

From the porch, I entered into the living room, which was beautiful with

beige carpet, many pretty flowers, mirrors, and furniture that looked so slick it

was like what I had seen on TV. It had two bedrooms with a living room, and a

dining room. Then further in the house were a bathroom and the kitchen. And

finally, the master bedroom and another lounging area sat in the back with a

couch, chairs, tables, more plants, and a TV.

Down the steps, in what used to be the basement before my brother remod-

eled it was now another beautiful lounging area, another bathroom, shower, and

a large bedroom. It also had a laundry room with a washer and dryer. My mother

looked happy and it made me feel good to see my mother in this position. I met

James and he was a nice family guy who tried to act like he was hip.


Chapter 3

Raised in the Game

PaRt One

Our stepfather showed us around the house and then she took us to our

rooms. Michael got the bedroom near the dining room and I got the one that

was downstairs with my older brother Lloyd. My brother Kirby had enrolled in

the Navy and my oldest sister Elaine married and moved to Milwaukee and my

younger sister moved with my grandmother in Milwaukee.

I couldn’t wait ‘til the morning to check out my new ‘hood. Most of my

friends from the low end were in the joint. I had me a $250 bankroll so I felt

comfortable. My brother and me kicked it with James, who was a hip square and

was trying to impress us. James’ children came over. One of his boys named Ken

was about the same age as Lloyd, but had a young mindset. He had a potbelly,

dark skin, was about 5’10” and favored Isaac Hayes with short nappy hair. His

sister Susie was my age, tall, about five feet nine inches, brown skin, big titties,

not bad looking, with a big, wide flat butt.

His other son Jason was brown skinned, about a year younger than Michael,

taller than me, about 6’5”(I was now 6’3” and a half), and everyone said that we

looked alike. Jason was also a lot smarter than Kenny or Sue.

They all liked me because I could kick it with anybody. I also wanted to

know what was happening and since they were squares, I had to play the square

role. Ken told me that they had a pool table at his crib, so we went by there to

shoot pool, smoke weed, and drink beer. Ken and Lloyd drank that Wild Irish. I

didn’t because I really wasn’t a drinker.

Sue was all over me. While we were kicking it, she asked about going to the

movies. I told her it would be cool if we went to the movies later. But when we

got home, my mother was a little upset at me. She warned me about Sue saying

that she ain’t nothing. What she didn’t understand was that I wasn’t into her any-

way. She was too slow for me. I wanted a fast woman. So the next day we went

to the movies and kicked it about a lot of square stuff. I was bored and I could

not wait for the movie to end. The next day, I walked through the ‘hood. I saw

Fenger High School and nice houses everywhere. I was hoping I might come

up with a woman with some money around here. It wasn’t nothing happening

nowhere around. Everybody was a square.

I could see that my stepfather wasn’t comfortable with Michael and me. He

always complained about one thing after another.

He was cool with Lloyd because Lloyd made more money than he did being

an engineer at the Gardens. He said it was a lot of action there, but dangerous

because it was a housing project right off the highway. They had two police of-

ficers there, but the closest police station was several miles away. The Gardens

was like a small town in the middle of the highway. He knew a lot of people

there and all the guys working as engineers carried their pistol.

My brother had a .38. He had to empty his clip one day because he had to

go into the basement of one of the buildings to deal with the furnace. He tried

to turn on the lights but they were out. So he fired a few shots before he stepped


ChaPteR 3

the ROaRinG 70s

down to switch the lights and fix the problem. He said a few days ago one of the

engineers got beat with a hammer and got his money taken.

He also had a few women around there he was banging. One of his women

had a card game every Friday night. He told me I could come with him and play

some tonk with the women. They didn’t mind me playing because I was young

and they figured that I didn’t know anything. It was cool, but it was a hard grind

because two of the women were playing together. My ends were getting low and

school was opening from summer vacation soon. So I needed some ends to stock

up my rags.

I asked my mother if I could go to Milwaukee to visit my aunt and sister

before I started school. She gave me her usual speech, telling me to be careful

and to stay out of trouble. My brother dropped me off on 95th and State St. at

the El station and I rode from the El to the Greyhound and was on my way to

The Brew City. I heard that my uncle Jim got a restaurant. I knew it had to be

live. Uncle Jim was my grandmother’s brother. We used to call him Uncle Guns

because while my mother was pregnant with me he went to the joint for murder.

He always drove black Cadillacs and changed them every five years. I was crazy

about his 1960 Cadillac because it reminded me of the bat mobile that Batman

drove. He had a ‘65 and it was close to ‘71, so I knew that it was almost time for

him to get a new one. I never talked about gambling with him, but I knew he was

one of the best. The old guys who staked me shooting pool used to always brag

about how good he was.

His nickname was Tap Out because he always tapped out all the money.

Gambling was one of the three boss games in the streets, and I wanted to learn

it. Tap Out was one of the best in the country. The streets have a lot of games

and everyone is skilled, and you pay your dues learning them. You have thieves,

some are petty and never advance, but then you have the professionals who are

respected because every game has its rules and regulations. There are codes to

follow, and the number one rule is never be a snitch and to learn to accept the

bitter with the sweet. Then you had the stickup man and so on, but the three boss

games were gambling, pimping, and dope selling.

When you master all three of them you are a Boss Player. When I was com-

ing up in the ‘60s, if you were Black you either worked at a factory 9 to 5 or, if

you were lucky, you could play sports, which were few because all Blacks were

great athletes. If you weren’t getting enough finance, however, you weren’t go-

ing anywhere.

So the only way for me to escape the ghetto life was through the streets, and

I wanted to be the best. If Blacks would have had equal opportunity then maybe

I could have had other goals in life. Everything that we have to go through has

been designed. If you have been taught for 400 years that two plus two equals

three, and if I tell you that it equals four then you will laugh at me, but knowl-

edge without faith is like a ship without water. That’s why people laughed at


Noah when he built a ship and there was no water. But he knew what the people

didn’t know. See, I knew I was a boy mastering the ways of a man. God gave

us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen more than we speak. There

is only one thing that God can’t do, and that’s become lower than man himself.

Even in our greatest distress, division and fragmentation we are part of the one-

ness of God.

Black folks before knew this, and they didn’t just ride over here first class;

they had to survive in a ship like sardines. They were beaten, tortured, denied

their families, their rituals, their mother tongue—the drum, and even the pick we

used to comb our hair was seen as a weapon. Regardless, they survived. See, no

matter what, it’s clear that there is an indisputable force that supports life. We

call it God, Allah, Jehovah, Divine Order, it’s the breath of life within each of us;

it’s the love that’s beating in our hearts, breathing as us. It is the created energy

everywhere; present at the same time. This is the mystery of existence.

The founding fathers of the United States of America designed the Constitu-

tion and laws are similar to the Roman Empire. So when the Constitution and

laws were made, Blacks were still slaves. So the Constitution and laws were not

designed for Blacks. In the ‘60s, when I was growing up, Whites and Blacks in

America were segregated. Whites in the south were more straightforward with it.

They stuck to their old ways. Whites in the north did what my mother described

as throwing stones then hiding their hands behind their backs.

Most cities in the northern cities in America had Black families that lived

in the inner city, which were ghettos or hellholes. The Romans did the same

thing to the Jews, separated them and put them in a hellhole. They discriminated

against them, treating them less than a man. So if you design a system to keep

a group of poor people in one area, and discriminate against them, this leads to


Since I had no role models to look up to like doctors, lawyers, or politicians,

the only escape from the ghetto I could see was the streets. That is where I took

it to and wanted to be the best.


Tap Out: Learning the Gambling Game

The sun was shining when I arrived in Milwaukee at 6:45 pm. I went to the

small expensive eating spot in the station and ordered a burger and fries. My

bank was now down to $192. I called my mother to let her know I arrived safely.

I also called my sister Elaine and asked her how she was doing. She was in a

good talkative mood and I enjoyed our conversation.

She asked me to come by later. When I finished, I called my aunt Johnny

Mae and told her to tell Larry I was there and that I would be by in about an hour.

I didn’t want to catch a cab because that would nibble more money from my

bank. I called my sister back and hollered at her husband Leonard to pick me up.

He said he would be right there. Leonard was from Kansas City, Kansas. He was

dark skinned, about 6 feet and 200lbs. He was 10 years older than me and was

cool with me, because I didn’t mind babysitting while he and my sister went out.

One night, when I was baby-sitting, he and my sister came home and got

into a bad argument. It got a little physical, but I kept my cool and didn’t want to

interfere. So I called the man (police) and they settled the situation. He appreci-

ated me for not overreacting. I am a very protective man when anyone touches

my family. “You both had me on the spot, and so I had to do what I believed was

the best in that situation,” I told him.

Leonard pulled up in his ‘66 Brown Sedan Deville Cadillac, with a straw hat,

sunglasses, black slacks, and a blue silk shirt. He was leaning with a joint in his

mouth, jamming on a Cisco Kid eight-track tape. He loved to impress me, and if

you didn’t know him you would think he was a player.

I put my bag in the back and got in the ride. “What’s up? When did you come

up with this slick ride?”

“Man, I finally got settlement from my car accident.”

He asked me how I liked my new stepfather. I said he was cool with me

because my mother was happy, and that meant a lot to me. “He’s cheap, but you

know me; I hold my own. That’s why I’m here to try to shoot a little pool and

make me a few ends to get me some clothes for school.”

He passed me the joint. I pulled and coughed. “This must be some of that

red bud.”

“All you need is half of this and it’ll keep you high for hours,” he said.

I told him all I needed was a few pulls because I had to be straight in case I

ran into some action. So Leonard and me cruised around the city checking out

the women and listening to Get Down by WAR. We were riding down 3rd St.

which is the ho stroll. I needed me a down ho and I could get rich. I forgot about

my aunt’s house.

I asked Leonard where uncle Jim’s restaurant was. He said the joint was on


Chapter 4

Raised in the Game

PaRt One

25th and North Ave. He had been there a few times. I asked him if he could drop

me off there because I had a few words to kick with Tap. He said that’s cool but

I had to call him at home when I was ready to leave because he had to go pick

up the kids.

We cruised down North Ave. and I saw a lot of businesses and bars on every

corner. This must be another ho stroll. We rode past Sears and I saw Tap Out’s

black Cadillac parked by the restaurant on the corner of 25th and North Ave. We

pulled in right behind Tap’s. I got out and told Leonard that I would call him

later and to tell Elaine to call my aunt Johnny Mae and tell her that I was at uncle

Jim’s joint.

I walked to the door and little did I know that this would be the day that

would forever change my life. I looked in the door and saw uncle Jim sitting at

the counter with another dude. Jim was dressed like most players back in the

day—brown pants with suspenders, brown T-shirt with a suit jacket, and black

Stacy Adams. He was dark-skinned, had a bald shiny head that matched the

shininess of his shoes.

The guy sitting next to him was about his age and brown-skinned. He had an

Afro with lots of gray, and a gray beard. He had on blue jeans, a slick T-shirt and

black shoes. Behind the counter was a cute redbone, around 40-years-old with

mature eyes and strong lines in her face, like her life hadn’t been easy. The place

looked clean with five table and four chairs. It has red and white tablecloths to

match the red and white curtains. The woman’s outfit was even red and white

too. A jukebox stood in the corner, and behind the counter I could see potato chip

bags, candy bars, and, an ice-cream freezer. The counter had about ten chairs

around it. It didn’t look like your average soul food restaurant. It was clean, neat,

and stocked up.

I was dressed in my green knit pants, green short-sleeved shirt, with black

floor-shine shoes. I called this my paper chase outfit because it was all green,

like money. I walked through the door and stepped onto the black and white tiled

floor. I walked to the counter. “How you doin’ uncle Jim?

“I’m doing fine, how are you?”

I told him I was doing okay, and that I had just arrived. I let him know

Leonard dropped me off. He asked about my mother and her husband and then

introduced me to his friend Freddy as his business partner. He also introduced

me to Wendy, the woman who was working behind the counter. He asked why I

hadn’t been coming to see him. He stood up and asked Freddy to excuse him, he

was going to go to the back and talk with his nephew.

He got up and I followed him. I noticed that he had a slight limp, but for

60-years-old he looked to be in good shape. We walked to the back through the

kitchen. He opened the curtains and walked through the back room where it had

living room with two couches, a kitchen, and two bedrooms. There was also a

bathroom, another jukebox, and a table with what looked like a pool table cloth


ChaPteR 4

taP OUt: leaRninG the GamBlinG Game

on top of it. All of the windows had been boarded up block any light from the


We sat down at the table and he told me, “Remember when I came by the

house and talked to you and your brothers? I said Lloyd was always going to be

close to his mother and have a good job; Kirby was going to be like his father

and be a bull talker; I said Michael was going to be like his father, a gangster,

and I picked you out because you reminded me of myself. You don’t have that

Brooks blood in you. You have that Pippen blood. I believe the reason you have

our blood in you is because while your mother was pregnant with you, she was

so worried about me because I caught that murder case.”

He explained to me how he caught his case. These guys were gambling with

this mark. They were preying on him for the past few days. So when he came

around and got in the game, the mark was real edgy and upset from losing all

week. He didn’t know they had been playing the mark all week or he wouldn’t

have got in the game. While Tap was winning, the mark was raging and claim-

ing he was cheating. Tap already had his .38 in hand under the table, so when

the mark went into his coat and showed his piece, my uncle Tap shot him twice

and killed the mark.

Even though it was self-defense, Tap Out still got five years for it. I told Tap

that the reason I had come to see him was because I wanted him to teach me the


“First, I want you to know that the game is not free. It is like the old saying,

‘the game is to be sold not told.’ You are my nephew, my blood, but I need you

to understand one thing about me, I have to charge for my lessons and you have

to pay your dues. I live and die by the game and I don’t go for anyone to cross

me, kin or not.”

After running down some of the things that he had to go through, he said that

his biggest mistake was never going to school to learn to read and write. He got

all of his education from the streets. He said gambling was like being an actor;

the better you act the more money you made. The game never changed, only the


The true game is always the same, no matter what city, state, or country.

Once you know the game, you can take it anywhere. And never expose a player.

He told me, if a player gambled with me, he would take every penny in my

pocket because I knew just enough to keep me broke. He ran it down to me about

every top player in Milwaukee from Grease, Big Kay, Jim Danny, Poor Percy,

and the number one player Pee Wee Ferguson.

He said me and my brother’s daddy was all right, but he was more of a

gangster and his temper always kept him in trouble. He said he turned Pee Wee

out when he was a little shorty like me. He said never give anyone everything

because then they won’t need you anymore. So he asked me what was my best

game, and I told him that my hustle was pool. He asked me how many balls I


Raised in the Game

PaRt One

could run. I told him if I busted the balls and I missed, the other person only had

one chance to run the table or else I would win.

“So you shoot one round pool,” he said.

“That’s about it.”

“To be a good hustler you got to be able to play the mark in whatever game

he wanted to play,” he said. “You had to be good with cards, dice, and pool be-

cause then the mark can’t get away from you. You would make more money if

you can win in every game.”

He told me I dressed slick, but that when he was through schooling me, he

was going to want me to dress casual but always look like money. “You can’t

look slick or talk slick because you want to look like a mark with money. I taught

Pee Wee, but I never gave him everything. He used to watch me and his dad and

his uncle. We schooled him so that we could use him to catch marks that were

scared to play us. He was only 15-years-old, so they figured he didn’t know any-

thing, so we put him in on the play.”

You know how the game goes, once a person figures he doesn’t need you

anymore they leave. Jim told me how Pee Wee went on his own.

“You can be sharper than Pee Wee because you got that look and you are

tongue-tied. When you learn to play you will use those gifts to your advantage.

You have gamblers and you have hustlers. The difference is a gambler is like

a habit; he is going to gamble without any control or sense. A hustler or player

gambles like it is a job; which it is when you’re hustling.

“Players only bet when they have the edge, because once you learn the

game, you’re not getting lucky anymore. Players don’t do no square gambling,

even when you’re shooting pool. Always know you are better because it’s all

about the money. That’s the way you will always keep a bankroll.

“Never be greedy. Don’t try to make all the money and give to the streets

because that is who takes care of you. Never cross your partner and never sell

yourself out for small stakes because it will cost you. A square gambles hard and

loses hard when his money is short. This is what I’m going to teach you. It is

going to be with you as long as you live.”

Tap looked at me with an ice-cold stare and studied me. He spoke in a harsh

quiet tone. “Sterling, I’m going to teach you everything I know. This is some-

thing that I wouldn’t do for anyone. I’m getting old and you are coming up, but

if you ever cross me, I promise it will be your last. So the deal is I’m going to

get half of everything you make from this day on. I don’t care where, but I want

mine. I want my cut.”

“Uncle Jim, it’s a deal.”

“I know you will be a fast learner because it is in your blood and you love

money.” Tap then took me downstairs and taught me the game from A to Z, and

he was right; in three hours I was ready to make moves in the field. He had some

action tonight and asked me to hang around. I called my aunt Johnny Mae and


ChaPteR 4

taP OUt: leaRninG the GamBlinG Game

told her that uncle Jim wanted me to help him out at the restaurant and that I was

going to spend the night there. We went up front and I ordered a chicken dinner.

Tap introduced me again to Freddy and told him I was ready to go in the

field. Freddy looked at me and smiled. “Tap, You got a gold mine here if he can

play. He’s got that mark look.”

“I worked with him,” said Tap. “He catches on fast and he has good in-

stincts. We’re going to work with him this weekend and smooth out some of the

rough edges.”

Freddy and I kicked it and he put me up on how to play the marks tonight. He

said that when the bars close, that’s when the crowds arrived. He asked me what

was my bank. I told him I was sitting on $150. He went in his pocket and said,

“Take this bankroll. It’s $500. You need to impress the marks. They’re going to

jump to play you because you are young and they feel you don’t have the sense

they have. The way to handle your average mark is to always agree with him

because your average mark always wants to be right. So if you tell him that he’s

right, you will be his friend. You know a square is cool because he knows who

he is and that makes him very easy to hustle. The worst one is the slick square

that thinks he is hip. He can be handled if you are able to read him because he is

fake and just in the way. We sell liquor in soda cans when the bar is closed. So

give the marks time to get good and high before you talk about gambling. So just

follow my lead and I’ll put you up on the victims.”

So I kicked back and put some coins in the jukebox. I listened to Marvin

Gaye and Curtis Mayfield tunes until the show began. I was only 16-years-old

but I had more knowledge in this game than some of the best in the business. I

had always been cocky and confident, so now with the skills and knowledge Tap

had given me I was ready.

The crowd arrived. If an Oscar had been given for that day I would have

won it. I began the night helping Wendy serve the customers. We had empty

soda cans that we put half-pints of liquor and beer into for the ones who wanted

to drink. I was kicking it and talking jive with some of the marks and when they

got high I flashed the bankroll. We all went to the back and played some cards

and dice.

Tap stayed up front because people knew his rep. It was an older group about

40 and over. They were loud and crazy. Every one was trying to beat me so I was

breaking them slowly but surely. I have never dreamed that money was this easy

to make. When the night was over and the crowd thinned down, Tap, Freddy,

and I went to the back and counted the winnings. I counted out $1,600. It was the

most money I had ever made in my life and I knew there was a lot more to come.

I was on cloud nine. We split it three ways, which gave me $500. Tap told

me I did good, but I still needed a lot of practice. He told me to go in the back

room and get some rest and he’d talk with me in the morning. My legs were tired

from standing all night, so I slowly walked to the back and toward the room.


Raised in the Game

PaRt One

Sleep was going to be my friend tonight.

The room had a TV with a small nightstand at the foot of the bed. The bed

had white sheets with two covers and I went right to sleep. I woke up about 7am,

washed myself up, and went to the front of the restaurant. Tap was sitting at the

counter drinking black coffee and smoking his Camel cigarette. I ordered me

some pancakes and eggs from Wendy.

I asked Tap if he had been to sleep. Tap said that he hadn’t really slept be-

cause he had to go shop and pick up stock later. After breakfast, Tap asked me

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