Manchester's 'Fast Jack' Farrell pens memoir

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Mon., Dec. 23, 2013
John 'Fast Jack' Farrell is 'The Last Hustler.' Photo courtesy of John Farrell. - Contributed Photo

As a world-renowned dice hustler and card mechanic, John “Fast Jack” Farrell’s life story has played out like a perfectly crafted Hollywood script. From gambling escapades across the country and the globe, to being shot at and beaten, to his acquaintances with the mob and rubbing elbows with some of the biggest celebrities of their time, “Fast Jack” has done it all – and lived to tell his story.

There’s nothing fictional about his tale. "Fast Jack” lived the life in a subculture that very few people are privy to. He’s the real deal. He’s the type of guy that could take your money without you even knowing it during a dice or card game. A master of deception with a quick hand and an even quicker wit, “Fast Jack’s” stage was the backroom dice game or a weekend card game where his main objective was always the same – to get the money.

“I’m recognized as probably the best dice hustler that ever came down the pike,” said Farrell, who is equally strong with cards. 
“I consider myself probably the top guy with cards also, because not only could I beat the game, but beat whoever I’m playing, but I could do it legitimately,” added Farrell.

In an ironic plot twist of fate, it was a Hollywood movie that served as a catalyst for Farrell, 76, to write his autobiography that was released on Nov. 10. Five years ago, Farrell was hired as a technical advisor for the gambling movie, “Yonkers Joe,” in which he also had a cameo role. After nearly 50 years in his line of business, this was Farrell’s first paycheck. “They handed me the pay, I couldn’t believe it.  I said, ‘Wow, I’m a legitimate guy,’” said Farrell.

During the filming of the movie, Farrell was interviewed for behind-the-scenes segments and at the conclusion of questions, Farrell recalled the interviewer saying to him, “Jack, we’re doing the wrong movie here. We should be doing your story because it’s so exciting,” said Farrell. “You should do yourself a favor and go home and write a book.”

And that’s exactly what he did. Starting in May of 2011, Farrell wrote his life story in five months. “It was a joy. I enjoyed it,” said Farrell. “I really enjoyed writing.” The memoir, entitled “Fast Jack – The Last Hustler,” is available on, Farrell’s website and Barnes and Noble.

Farrell will hold a book-signing and question and answer session at Mary Cheney Library on Main Street on Feb. 10, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The book-signing represents a sort of circle of life for Farrell, who was born and raised in Manchester, for it was 50 years prior and just a mere 40 yards from the current Mary Cheney Library where a young Farrell started his gambling career.

Farrell owned a bar across the street from the library in the Sheraton Hotel, which has since burnt down. He used $10,000 that he got from a car accident to buy the bar which he appropriately called Farrell’s. It was here that Farrell learned from an old-time bookmaker and his mentor about gambling.

“To me it wasn’t a crime, I’ll be honest with you,” said Farrell.  “And there was a time in my life when I thought it was legitimate, I did it so much.”

Farrell was a student of his craft and an innovator in his business. He did a lot of research with magnets and figured out how to incorporate magnets into dice. “I would switch in the magnet dice and I’d tell the guys that were with me, come shoot near these magnets, they would be on my body and the dice would roll very naturally,” said Farrell. 

Gambling provided him the opportunity to travel and took him to most of the 50 states and 28 countries. He said it was easy business in Europe, “because I wasn’t dealing with sharp, hip guys.”

His biggest hustle was in Hannover, Germany, over the course of six months when he accumulated around $1 million.  The biggest dice game he won in a single night was in Detroit, where he took home more than $400,000.

On occasion, Farrell would run into celebrities, like the time John Wayne joined in on a dice game at the Screen Actors Guild at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. “We reluctantly beat him because we couldn’t stop and say, 'Hey John, this is not for you,'” said Farrell.

If Farrell ever came across someone that was impeding his business, one of his guys or Farrell himself would slip a horse tranquilizer into the guy's drink. They called this the “main event,” as it would render the person sick for the next few hours.

Farrell said he realized early on in his career that if he was going to stay in business, he had to “rub elbows” with the mafia.  “I knew I had to kick in,” recalled Farrell.  “It was like paying rent.”

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