About once a week, Michael Evans can be seen on Jamaica Avenue hawking his books — one autobiographical and the others a series about a man who kills snitches.
His first book, “It Was All in the Cards: The Life and Times of Midtown Mike,” details Evans’ adventures when he was growing up, running Three Card Monte schemes in Times Square and became reformed.
Evans said the life he was living — driving fast cars, making tens of thousands a dollars a week and wearing expensive jewelry — was the ideal subject matter to be made into a book.
“I grew up in Times Square, so there’s a lot of drama and chaos going on there for a young kid,” Evans said during a recent telephone interview, noting he began the scams in 1978. Writing the book “was a purging. It was very therapeutic at the same time.”
Evans, whose street name was “Midtown Mike,” said he was making $3,000 a week at his peak and it was easy taking money from tourists and anyone else who wanted to try their luck at a game in which the cards were stacked against them.
“You had these tourists walking around with $10,000,” he said. “They didn’t want to leave it in their hotel room.”
Three Card Monte is one of the oldest confidence games employed by a team of people, some of whom act as lookouts for police and others who pretend they are customers.
As unsuspecting people witness the game and see someone, who they do not realize is just a part of the team, making easy money, they wager money that they can pick out a specific card out of three cards moved around by the dealer taking their bets.
But the game operator uses sleight of hand and a variety of tricks to win the game and take the player’s money.
In “It Was All in the Cards,” Evans said he had some close calls with angry customers.
“I have vics [victims] pull out guns, knives, machetes and anything you can imagine to try to get their money back,” he wrote. “One guy I beat out of just 40 measly dollars pulled out a real hand grenade, threatening to blow everybody up if he did not get his money back.”
Evans, who lives on Long Island and was living in the Bronx when he was cheating customers in Times Square, said in his book he was successful running Three Card Monte because he had “the voice of a Southern preacher, the hands of a magician and the gift of gab of a pimp.”
But he said that over the years he decided he did not want to live the life of a scam artist, pointing out he had two young children.
“It was empty. It was an empty existence,” he said.
Evans is now a corrections officer and author.
“It was a hard transition,” he said. “I had to learn the hard way through trial and error. The streets didn’t treat me right. God helped me change my life around, my conscience, my wife and my two sons.”
Besides “It Was All in the Cards,” Evans is the author of the “Son of a Snitch” series, about a man whose father was a snitch and rebelled to become a killer of snitches.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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