Valachi Papers, 1968; excerpts; early 1900s Mafia life.

Policy Game

Finally Valachi and Bobby Doyle asked Vito Genovese for permission to enter the already well-established numbers racket. The policy game, as it is sometimes called, is perhaps the simplest form of mass gambling ever devised. The name comes from the penny insurance that was being peddled in the late 1920s and early 1930s; playing the numbers was just like taking out a cheap policy. All a bettor has to do is pick 3 numbers from 000 to 999 which make up the winning combination on a given day. The mathematical odds against this, of course are 1,000 to 1, but the payoff is never more than 600 to 1 and often less.

Policy banks

Peaceful coexistence was merely a step towards total domination of organized crime.
At one time I had around 150 regular customers. I got rid of the ones that were headaches and kept the ones that were no trouble -bookmakers, numbers runners, guys in illegal stuff, maybe some saloonkeepers, that line of people.
Instead of burglaries he was used to, they favored armed robberies embracing everything from subway stations to bank shipments of cash. “They had a lot of nerve, Valachi recalls, ” but no business sense”. I figured it would be a short life staying with them.” He tried to persuade them to adopt his operational methods, breaking into warehouses and lofts at night. Finally they agreed to let him lead in the looting of a clothing store. After picking the lock, Valachi took, most of the gang inside, while stationing two others on the sidewalks as lookouts. But when he returned with an armful of suits, he discovered that his two lookouts, doubtless bored with guard duty, had lined up half a dozen passersby against the wall at gunpoint and were removing their wallets. At once Valachi called a halt to the operation and drove off. “Jesus”, he said to the 2 lookouts. “What are you doing with those people? This ain’t no game. You do that and it ain’t a burglary anymore, its a stickup. Them people can identify us.” “Well”, he was told “we don’t like this kind of work.”
When Schultz moved in there were 30 odd policy banks fiercely competing with one another. He put them together in one combine. His methods were simple. First, he terrorized individual bankers into paying him protection. Then, when he had them thoroughly cowed, he took over their business.

To people he turned down for loads: “All my money was out on the streets”
Valachi always hedged his bets, whether it was in the numbers racket or horse racing. He bet against his bets.
You see it is to their advantage to hide a horses ability whenever they can.
The Narcotics Bureau, unlike the FBI, which tends to look down its nose at it, does not depend on the informant system for much of its intelligence but regularly engages its agents in dangerous undercover work; they are, as a result, a necessarily somewhat more raffish lot, highly motivated, less disciplined, generally more daring and innovation all occasionally corruptible. Above all else, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was the first to recognize the existence of an organization like the Cosa Nostradamus, and no other arm of the law has put more of a crimp in its operations.
During my interviews with Valachi, he could speak with utter dispassion about his involvement in a Cosa Nostradamus contract, his acquisition of a mistress, even his “beefs” with Bender. When he spoke about his horses, he became another person, jumping up from his chair and excitedly pacing his cell, acting out each story, for once eager to relive his past.


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