Max "Boo Boo" Hoff was born in 1892 in South Philadelphia, a son of poor Russian-Jewish immigrants. After quitting school, Boo Boo worked for several years in a cigar store where the service also included gambling. His salary was raised from $12 a week to $15 after the proprietor noticed how his amiable personality appealed to customers. But Boo Boo wanted to be his own boss. So, in 1917, he started a gambling operation in the section of Philadelphia now known as Society Hill. There was a poolroom on the first floor and a dice game usually was going full blast upstairs.
Max "Boo Boo" Hoff did considerable business with Max Hassel, whose bootleg beer operation was based in northeastern Pennsylvania, and Mickey Duffy, who operated in Philadelphia and Camden.