George E. Smith


George Elsworth Smith lived between 1862 and 1905. He was a reputable American Thoroughbred horse racing aficionado and gambler. He rose to the level of multi-millionaire in late 19th century and 230th century. He was christened `Pittsburgh Phil’ by William `Silver Bills’ Riley, a Chicago gambling veteran, in 1865 to distinguish him from other regular gamblers at Riley’s pool halls. Pittsburgh Phil is recognized by many handicappers as a professional strategist with capability to amass incredible winnings in times when racing stats publication like Daily Racing Form were not readily available. Phil succumbed to tuberculosis in 1905. By this time, he had accumulated a fortune worth $3,250,000. Adjusted value of this value would be US 84,066,667. Many of his racing maxims that were published posthumously forms the cornerstones of the contemporary handicapping skills and concepts.

Elsworth was born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. He was the child of Christian and Elizabeth `Eliza’ Smith. He also had siblings: Elizabeth and Annie (sisters) and William C. Smith (brother). His brother was younger with a few years. Eliza was an immigrant from Ireland while his father came from Baden, Germany and was a carpenter by profession.

Initially, Smith and his family lived in a small farm in Sewickley. They later moved to Allegheny in 1872 when George was only 10 years.  They finally settled at Peasant valley, Pittsburgh across the Ohio River in the current California-Kirk bride area. Just a year after they moved in the area (around 1872 or 1873), Elsworth’s father passed away. This led to Phil’s mother experiencing dire financial strains. This compelled Elsworth to start working at a local Cork company, presumed to be Armstrong Cork Co., for income of $5.

In as much as he had to retain the job, he had ambitions of getting in better paying profession. He decided to be deducting some little amount of money from his weekly wages after giving his mother most of the money to purchase the basic supplies. He used the little cash he managed to hide to purchase gamecocks that he used to train with. He hid the content from his sisters and staunch catholic mother who strongly disapproved anything to do with gambling. He also wagered in Pittsburgh pool halls’ National League Baseball games. He attributed his often sizable triumph to pay raises at the cork factory.

Back in 1870s, the horse races were broadcast via telegraph. The event used to be so colorful such that it soon captured the attention of young Elsworth. He started compiling a crude racing chart composed stockpiled names and times for a year. It was not until the fall of 179 when Smith wagered fop the first time in the horse races and won $38 for his first bet.

The event motivated him to concentrate in gambling. He quit his job at the cork factory convinced that gambling was better paying. In the following two years, he had accrued above $5,000. By 1885, Elsworth was a very reputable gambler but the problem came in that he could not retain his favorable odds since everyone wagered like him.

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