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Title: Sharps and Flats - A Complete Revelation of the Secrets of Cheating at Games - of Chance and Skill
Author: Maskelyne, John Nevil
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sharps and Flats - A Complete Revelation of the Secrets of Cheating at Games - of Chance and Skill" ***

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'Then, suddenly and without a moment's warning, Kepplinger was seized,
gagged, and held hard and fast.... The great master-cheat was searched,
and upon him was discovered the most ingenious holdout ever
devised.'--Chap. v. p. 99.]

              SHARPS AND FLATS

          The Secrets of Cheating



           _All rights reserved_

               ALL GAMBLERS
               BY THE AUTHOR


In presenting the following pages to the public, I have had in view a
very serious purpose. Here and there may be found a few words spoken in
jest; but throughout my aim has been particularly earnest.

This book, in fact, tends to point a moral, and present a problem. The
moral is obvious, the problem is ethical; which is, perhaps, only
another way of saying something different.

In the realm of Ethics, the two men who exert, probably, the greatest
influence upon the mass of humanity are the philosopher and the
politician. Yet, strange to say, there would appear to be little that
can be considered as common knowledge in either politics or philosophy.
Every politician and every philosopher holds opinions which are
diametrically opposed to those of some other politician or philosopher;
and there never yet existed, apparently, either politician or
philosopher who would admit even that his opponents were acquainted with
the fact of two and two making four. So much, then, for dogmatism.

In the natural order of events, however, there must be things which even
a politician can understand. Not many things, perhaps; but still some
things. In like manner, there must be things which even a philosopher
can _not_ understand--and a great many things.

As an illustration, let us take the case of 'sharping.' Politician and
philosopher alike are interested in the origin of crime, its
development, and the means of its prevention. Now, even a politician can
understand that a man, having in view the acquisition of unearned
increment, may take to cheating as being a ready means of possessing
himself of the property of others, with but little effort upon his own
part. At the same time, I will venture to say that not even a
philosopher can render any adequate reason for the fact that some men
will devote an amount of energy, labour, perseverance and ingenuity to
the gaining of a precarious living in the paths of chicanery, one-half
of which, if directed into legitimate channels, would serve to place
them in a position commanding both affluence and respect.

To my mind, the only hypothesis which in any way covers the facts of the
case is that some men are _born_ to crime. It is their destiny, and they
are bound to fulfil it.

Whether this hypothesis represents the solution of the problem or not is
a bone of contention over which I am content to allow others to
quarrel, without joining in the fray. I am only concerned with the facts
as we know them--the plain and unmistakable facts that cheating, upon a
gigantic scale, _does_ exist; that the resources available for its
advancement become every day more numerous, whilst the means of its
prevention become more and more inadequate.

A goodly portion of my life has been spent in battling with
superstition, credulity and chicanery in every form. It has been a
labour of love with me. At times I have, so to speak, cried from the
house-top truths so obvious that there hardly seemed any necessity for
calling attention to them, and yet have found some who could not believe
them. Again and again, Time, the prover of all things, has without
exception borne out my statements to the very letter; yet even now there
are some who will prefer to rely upon the word of a charlatan--an
impostor--rather than accept a plain statement of palpable facts at my
hands. It is curious, but nevertheless it is true. It is magnificent,
but it is not common sense. Fortunately, however, there are not many
such, though some there are.

Experience has demonstrated that the ignorance of the public with regard
to the capabilities of trickery is the principal factor in all problems
connected with every kind of deception. If the public only knew a little
more in this respect, the thousand-and-one quackeries which flourish in
our midst could not exist. My self-imposed task, then, has ever been to
endeavour to educate the public, just a little, and to enlighten those
who really seek for truth amid the noxious and perennial weeds of humbug
and pretence. In this, I am happy to say, I have to some extent
succeeded; but there is still much to be done.

This book, then, is but another stone, as it were, in an edifice raised
for the purpose of showing to the world the real nature of those things
which are not really what they appear to be, and practices with the very
existence of which the average man is unacquainted.

Although the immediate practical outcome of this book may be _nil_, I
shall not be depressed upon that account. If it only has the effect of
opening the eyes of the authorities to some extent, and of hinting a
caution to gamblers generally, I shall be content; and, commending it to
the public with this reflection, and with the hope that this much, at
least, may be accomplished, I leave it to its fate.

                                                      J. N. MASKELYNE.
      _February 1894._


    CHAP.                                                     PAGE

       I.  INTRODUCTORY                                          1

      II.  COMMON SHARPERS AND THEIR TRICKS                     10


      IV.  REFLECTORS                                           60

       V.  HOLDOUTS                                             73

      VI.  MANIPULATION                                        112

     VII.  COLLUSION AND CONSPIRACY                            159

    VIII.  THE GAME OF FARO                                    184

      IX.  PREPARED CARDS                                      215

       X.  DICE                                                229

      XI.  HIGH BALL POKER                                     261

     XII.  ROULETTE AND ALLIED GAMES                           267

    XIII.  SPORTING-HOUSES                                     285

     XIV.  SHARPS AND FLATS                                    312

           POSTSCRIPT                                          331



        THE DETECTION OF KEPPLINGER                 _Frontispiece_

    12  'FALLEN ANGELS'                            _to face p._ 46

    15  SCROLL-WORK                                     "       50

    22  PIPE-REFLECTOR IN SITU                          "       66




That 'it requires all kinds of men to make a world,' is an aphorism
which may or may not be gainsaid, according to the aspect in which it is
regarded. For whilst, on the one hand, we are painfully cognisant of the
fact that this world, as we find it, is composed of 'all sorts and
conditions of men,' and among them not a few sorts with which we could
very readily dispense, still, on the other hand, the idea of a world
with some of the existing components omitted is by no means
inconceivable. Do we not, in fact, every day of our lives, meet with
schemes, philanthropic and otherwise, formulated expressly for the
regeneration of man? Yes, we know them of old; those schemes which,
according to their gifted authors, are to elevate mankind to one
universal level of goodness and purity. Sad to say, however, in spite
of these well-meant efforts, continued from time immemorial, mankind
would appear to be in about the same unregenerate condition as ever. The
'kinds of men' seem to multiply rather than to diminish, and the
long-deferred millennium looms as far off in the dim and distant future
as at any period of the world's history.

Accepting, then, this many-sided world of ours as an established fact,
impossible of modification, it is obvious that, to quote another
time-honoured proverb, and say that 'one half the world does not know
how the other half lives,' is to convey but a very feeble and inadequate
idea of the real facts of the case. All things considered, it may be
safely said that the majority know far too little of the means of
subsistence employed by their fellows, and, in consequence, often suffer
for that lack of knowledge. The fact is, too many of us possess the
gentleness of the dove (more or less) without the qualifying and
ever-necessary wisdom of the serpent.

Among the bye-paths of existence, among the various underhand methods of
obtaining a living--sweet little conceptions evolved, presumably, from
the primordial basis of original sin--probably there is none so little
understood by the community at large as the art and practice of
'sharping.' At the same time, it is not too much to say that there is no
subject more worthy of serious consideration, when regarded in the
relation it holds to the moral well-being of mankind in general.

It is, of course, common knowledge that there are in existence
individuals who live by cheating at games of chance and skill, but few
persons have any idea of the extent to which the practice obtains, or of
the number of the professors of this particular branch of swindling.

Possibly, of the work-a-day inhabitants of this planet, nine persons out
of ten of the majority who are 'indifferent honest,' will be inclined to
a belief that sharping, at the worst, can form but a very insignificant
factor in the social problems of modern times. A glance at the contents
of this book, however, will serve to remove that very erroneous
impression. The author is not raising a 'bogey' for the purpose of
pretending to demolish it. The spectre is a very substantial one indeed,
and the task of 'laying' it is far beyond the power of any one man to

The system, in fact, is a gigantic one, and its professors are legion.
It is as thriving an industry (save the mark) as any in the world. It is
as perfectly organised in every department as any legitimate business.
Its markets are regulated by the same inexorable laws of supply and
demand, competition and coöperation, which govern the development of
every branch of commerce. It has its manufacturers, its wholesale
houses, its canvassers and retail dealers, all in regular form. Its
price-lists, descriptive pamphlets, circulars and advertisements are
issued as methodically as those of _bonâ fide_ merchants and traders.
Its ramifications extend to every quarter of the globe.

This book will show that not only is a thriving trade in cheating
utensils carried on openly and unblushingly, but also that there must be
an enormous number of swindlers at large, who live by means of unfair
practices in connection with all forms of gambling; sharps who are still
undetected, and, notwithstanding the vigilance of the authorities, are
still pursuing their calling under the very eyes of Justice.

Startling as these statements may appear to the uninitiated, of their
absolute truth there cannot exist the slightest doubt in the mind of
anyone who will take the trouble to glance through these pages. This
book, in fact, may be regarded as 'The Sharp's Vade Mecum, or a
Theoretical and Practical Treatise on the Art and Practice of Cheating.'
No pains have been spared to make it as complete as possible, and, if
advantage be taken of the instructions it contains, and any person of
dishonest tendencies utilises the same for the purpose of swindling his
fellow-men, it will be entirely the fault of those who have not profited
by the information which the author has given.

That the condition of affairs herein revealed should be found to exist
in the midst of our boasted civilisation is a fact which is, to say the
least, deplorable. Further, it is a fact which urgently demands that
every possible effort should be made towards its mitigation by those
who may find themselves in a position to obtain information respecting
these nefarious practices, and to throw light into the recesses of this
obscure phase of human nature.

By far the major portion of the details given in these pages have never
before been made public. Even among exponents of legitimate legerdemain,
there are very few who have any cognisance of them whatever. It is
obvious that a professional illusionist having a reputation for
'squareness' is at a decided disadvantage in seeking for information of
this kind. The author, for instance, being so well known to the
swindling fraternity as an exposer of frauds, could not possibly have
acquired without assistance the countless minutiæ which have come into
his possession. The very suspicion that he was engaged in such an
investigation would be sufficient to dry up all sources of information,
and to remove all possibility of arriving at anything of moment. He has
therefore to acknowledge his indebtedness for much that is valuable to a
friend who desires to be nameless. In the assumed guise of an English
'sharp,' this gentleman has pursued his investigations to such good
purpose that he has gained a fund of information relative to 'sharps and
sharping,' which may be fairly said to include all the most important
methods employed at the present day. The information so obtained has
been freely drawn upon in the production of this book.

The head-quarters of this abominable system of wholesale robbery are to
be sought for in the land which has bestowed upon civilisation so many
blessings of a similar character. From the spirit-medium to the wooden
nutmeg, they all hail from that most 'go-ahead,' and yet most easily
hoodwinked country, America. True, there are so many dunderheads of all
nationalities who can never realise the truth of that simple maxim which
teaches that 'honesty is the best policy,' and such a very large
proportion of these have turned their steps to America, that it is,
perhaps, hardly fair to regard them as an integral part of the American
nation. Still there they are, and it behoves America to grasp the
situation with a much firmer hand than heretofore, with a view to the
suppression of these pernicious creatures, and of attaining a reputation
more in accord with her honourable traditions--more worthy of the great
names associated with her history.

There is every reason for believing that at the present moment England
is the happy hunting-ground of the swindling fraternity, and for this
reason. In America many of the older frauds are tolerably well-known to
those who are addicted to gambling, but over here most of these things
are absolutely unknown. Even the English sharp himself is in a condition
of unsophisticated innocence compared with his American rival.

It is certain that our ocean steamboats are infested with gangs of men,
provided with these means of relieving their fellow-passengers of
superfluous cash. And in all probability, every one of our 'swellest'
clubs possesses at least one member who makes a good living by the use
of methods and contrivances never dreamt of by his dupes. It is true,
the 'Dudley Smooths' of to-day are no longer cold-blooded duellists who
can over-awe their victims with the dread of sword and pistol, but they
are quite as keen as they ever were, and their resources are infinitely
greater than formerly.

Of course there is not the slightest necessity for anyone, however
foolish, to fall a victim to the wiles of the sharper in any game either
of skill or chance. There is no reason why the greatest simpleton alive
should ever be cheated of his money. There is one golden rule, the
observance of which must utterly checkmate the most cunning swindler. It
is a rule by which the author has always been guided, and one which,
were it universally adopted, would banish the cheat and his
paraphernalia from the face of the earth. It is a system which is easily
learned and which requires no skill in execution. It is simply to
abstain from every form of gambling whatever. Make up your mind that
'you want no man's money, and that no man shall have yours,'[1] and you
cannot come to much harm in this direction.

It would seem, however, that there is a kind of fatal fascination in
gambling which some persons appear to be wholly unable to resist. It is
therefore quite as well that those who _will_ indulge in such an
expensive propensity should do so, at least, with their eyes open. On
this account, if for no other reason, the publication of this book is
fully justified, and any apology for its appearance would be

No attempt has been made to deal with the subject historically. Quite
sufficient scope is afforded for a work of this kind in the undertaking
to set forth an account of such frauds as are practised at the present
day. Our attention therefore will be chiefly directed towards devices
which are of recent invention, together with those that have survived in
practice from former times.

The originals of the various circulars &c., reprints of which are given
in the following pages, are in the author's possession. The names and
addresses of the firms from which they emanate are, however, for very
obvious reasons, omitted from these reprints, though all else is given
verbatim. The illustrations are all taken from actual articles,
purchased for the avowed purpose of cheating by their means. The reader
will thus be enabled to gather some idea as to the amount of misplaced
ingenuity which has been brought to bear upon the production of these
_fin-de-siècle_ appliances for robbing the unwary.

This much, then, having been said by way of introduction, we may at once
proceed to consider systematically the methods of the modern 'sharp;'
and to describe, for the first time in any language, the various
mechanical and other devices he uses, and the manner in which they are


[1] Quotation from the late Earl Fitz-Hardinge, a most ardent sportsman.



In dealing with a subject of so wide a character as that upon which we
are engaged, the difficulty of beginning at the beginning is greater
than may appear to a casual reader. There are so many points from which
it may be attacked. As to treating of all that is known in reference to
it, or tracing it back to the earliest records, that, of course, is out
of the question in the limited space at our disposal. Even were one
historically inclined, who can say where the beginning begins.
Doubtless, one would have to search the geological formations at great
depth in order to discover remains of that man who first conceived the
idea of correcting fickle fortune at the expense of his fellows. If
science ever achieves this discovery, we shall certainly have reasonable
grounds for believing that we have found a very near relative of Adam.

Although the general public have so little acquaintance with the higher
developments of cheating, still, a great deal has been written
concerning some of the more elementary methods. This being so, the
question of what ought to be left out--at what point we ought to take up
the thread of our discourse--becomes of paramount importance. Obviously,
it is useless to repeat what is well-known.

Many of these primitive methods, however, are still so frequently
practised, that this book would be incomplete without some reference at
least being made to the more important among them. Therefore, with a
view to clearing the ground for what is to follow, and for the benefit
of the general reader, this chapter will be devoted to the more familiar
systems of 'sharping.'

There is, perhaps, no field of operation so prolific in specimens of the
genus 'sharp' as a race-course and its approaches upon the occasion of a
popular race-meeting. For our present purpose, therefore, we cannot do
better than to imagine, for the moment, that we are on our way to some
such gathering. Arriving at the London terminus, in good time for our
train, we take our seats in a second-class smoking compartment. Possibly
the only other occupants of the carriage at first are two or three
holiday makers, on pleasure bent. Not really sporting men, but average
citizens, looking forward to the excitement of the race, and also
possibly to the pleasurable anxiety of a little 'flutter,' at long odds
or otherwise.

It is not long before the other seats are all occupied. A man of
decidedly 'sporting' appearance, with a field-glass slung over his
shoulder, and carrying a thick travelling rug, strolls leisurely by the
door, merely glancing in as he passes. In a few moments, however, he
returns, and takes a middle seat in the compartment. Then follow two or
three others, averaging in appearance something between sporting
characters and second-rate commercial travellers. These take whatever
seats may happen to be vacant, and either become absorbed in their
newspapers or enter into conversation with their neighbours, as the case
may be. The experienced reader will have no need to be told that we are
associating with a gang working the 'three-card trick.' The man in
sporting attire is the 'sharp,' and those who accidentally (?) dropped
in after him are his confederates.

No sooner is the train well on its way, than our friend of the
field-glasses takes down his rug from the rack, folds it across his
knees, and producing a pack of cards, selects three--generally a king
and two others--which he throws, face upward, upon the rug.

'Now, gentlemen,' he says, 'I think we'll have a little game, just to
pass the time. Anyhow, if it amuses me, it won't hurt you.' With these
or some such words by way of preface, he takes up the three cards, and
throws them, one at a time, face downward, upon the rug. Then, with much
rapidity, he transposes the positions of the cards several times, and
observes, 'Now, tell me which is the king, and stake your money.'

Having thus attracted attention, he commences again. At this point, one
of the confederates looks calmly up from his paper, and murmurs
something to his neighbour about 'making one's expenses.' Probably,
also, he will produce a couple of sovereigns.

'Now, gentlemen,' continues the sharp, 'there are two cards for
you,'--taking them up--'and one card for me. The king is mine,'--taking
it up--'the ace and the seven are yours.' Then, with everyone in the
carriage following his movements, he again throws the cards down and
manipulates them as before. 'Now, tell me which is my card,' he says.
Nobody responds, however; and the sharp picks up the king, which proves
to be in the position where one would expect to find it. Indeed, the
on-looker who could not follow the king through its various evolutions
would be dull of perception.

Again and again the performance is repeated, and every time the
on-lookers can follow the movements of the king with the utmost ease. At
length, in response to an appeal from the operator 'not to be backward,
gentlemen,' the confederate who produced the sovereigns a little while
ago suddenly dashes one down on the card which all believe to be the
king. The card is turned up, and proves to be the right one,
consequently he receives the amount of his stake.

At the next turn another confederate stakes a sovereign, and wins. The
same thing follows with a third. Then, perhaps, the first stakes two
sovereigns, and again wins. Not only so, but taking advantage of the
obviously unsuspicious nature of the operator, he picks up the card
himself, and in so doing accidentally bends one corner up slightly.

Now everyone has heard of the three-card trick, though not one in a
thousand knows how it is worked. Consequently, the uninitiated among our
associates, finding that they are able to trace the king unerringly,
begin to think that, either this operator is a duffer, or that they are
particularly sharp fellows. Besides, there is the king, going about with
a turned-up corner, and losing money for the performer at every turn.
Small wonder, then, that their cupidity is aroused, and at length one of
them stakes a sovereign on the card with the turned-up corner. And he
wins? Oh, dear no! By some, unaccountable mischance, the king has become
straightened in the course of manipulation, and a corner of one of the
other cards has been turned up. Singular, is it not? Of course the loser
cannot complain, or he would have to admit that he had been trying to
take an unfair advantage of his opponent. Therefore he resolves to trust
entirely to his judgment in the future.

Then, for the first time, apparently, the operator notices the defective
corner and straightens it. Again the cards are thrown down, and the last
player, thinking to retrieve his loss, stakes another sovereign. He has
kept his eyes intently upon the king, as it passed from side to side and
back to the centre. He feels confident of success this time; but there
is a mistake somewhere, for again he loses.

And so the game goes on, with unvarying result. Whenever one of the
first two or three players--the confederates--stakes his money, he
always wins. Everyone else always loses. Eventually, the game is
discontinued; either owing to the fact that no more stakes are to be
had, or that we are approaching our destination.

Upon leaving the train, if we are curious, we may easily discover which
of our late companions are the confederates. They leave the carriage to
all appearance perfect strangers to one another; but follow one of them
at a distance, and it will be found that they are fairly well-acquainted
when not professionally employed.

This trick is an extremely simple one; and is accomplished as follows.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.--Three-card Trick.]

When the cards are taken up, preparatory to manipulation, they are held
as indicated in fig. 1. First, the two indifferent cards are taken, one
in each hand, and next, the king in the right hand. Card No. 2 in the
illustration, therefore, is the king. In throwing down the cards at the
outset No. 1 card is placed in position 1; No. 2 card in position 2; and
No. 3 in position 3. Thus, the king occupies a position between the two
other cards. So far, all is plain sailing, and it is by no means
difficult to trace the movements of the card we are following up,
however deftly it may be manipulated. There is a saying that 'the
quickness of the hand deceives the eye.' That is nonsense. No hand,
however expert, can produce a movement so quick that the eye cannot
detect it. What really deceives the eye in sleight of hand is that some
of the movements are not exactly what they appear to be, their real
nature is skilfully disguised. Of this the three card trick is a good
example. When the sharp observes his pigeon getting ready to be plucked,
he changes his tactics slightly from the straightforward course he has
hitherto pursued. The cards appear to be thrown down in the same manner
as before, but it is not so. In this case, No. 1 card is thrown down in
No. 1 position, as at the outset; but, instead of throwing down No.
2--the king--in No. 2 position, it is card No. 3 which is allowed to
fall, and the king goes finally into position 3. Thus the uninitiated,
instead of following up the king, as they fondly believe, are really on
the trail of card No. 3.

It will be readily understood that the turned-up corner can present no
difficulty to a sharp who has devoted a little practice to its
rectification. The act of throwing down the cards is quite sufficient to
cover all the movement which is necessary.

Instead of ear-marking the card by turning up a corner, the confederate
will sometimes tear off a very minute scrap from his newspaper, and,
wetting it, will attach it to a corner of the card as he turns it up.
When this is done, the operator of course contrives to slip the
moistened fragment from one card to another.

Leaving our three-card acquaintances to their own devices--though,
perhaps, our duty would be to give them into the hands of the police--we
will proceed to the race-course.

Space will not permit us here to consider the numerous evil devices for
acquiring the root of all evil indulged in by race-course sharps. In
fact, these scarcely form part of our subject. Some of them, such as
'telling the tale,' and so on, are more or less ingenious; but at best
they are merely vulgar swindles which involve no skill beyond the
exercise of that tact and plausibility which are common to sharps and
swindlers of every kind.

Pursuing our investigations, then, let us suppose that we now approach
one of the spots where winners and losers, sharps and flats, meet on the
common ground of applying meat and drink to the refreshment of body and
soul. Here, if we are favoured, we may chance to meet with a little
entertainment--intellectual and instructive--provided by the spectacle
of three persons who are engaged in the scientific recreation of
spinning coins upon some convenient corner of table or buffet. Needless
to say, they are two 'sharps' and a 'flat,' and their little game is
'odd man.'

The game is simple, but financially there is a good deal in it. It is
played in this way. Three coins being spun on edge upon a table, it is
obvious that either all three will fall with the same side up--in which
case the spin must be repeated--or, two will fall one way and one the
other. The owner of the latter coin is the 'odd man.' There are two
systems of playing. Either the odd man is out--that is to say, he stands
aside, whilst the other two spin for 'head' or 'woman'--or the odd man
pays. In either case, the loser pays the other two. If fairly played, of
course the chances are equal for all three players. But, alas! even this
apparently innocent game is capable of sophistication.

The method of cheating will be seen at a glance on referring to fig. 2.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--Bevelled Coins.]

A coin which has been slightly bevelled to one side will bear a
superficial examination without creating suspicion as to its
genuineness. If it has a milled edge, it must necessarily be re-milled.
Such a coin, when spun on edge, will always tend to fall in one
direction. The bevelling, as shown in the figure, is exaggerated, for
distinctness' sake; in practice, the angle is very slight.

Two 'sportsmen,' each provided with coins of this description, meet with
a 'mug' and propose spinning for liquid refreshment. If they are pretty
sure of their man they may possibly allow him to win. Afterwards,
however, they lead him on to spin for higher stakes, and then he
invariably loses.

If the game is 'odd man pays,' they spin with coins which will fall
alike; simultaneously changing their coins from time to time, so that
they do not always bring them same side up. This being so, all three
coins must either fall alike, or else the dupe will be the odd man. Then
he pays each of his companions the amount of the stakes. Thus, the
chances are dead against the dupe, for his opponents cannot possibly

When the game is 'odd man out,' the winnings are not made so rapidly;
but at the same time they are quite as certain, and the proceedings are
not so liable to create suspicion. In this case, the sharps spin with
coins which will fall in different directions, and consequently the dupe
is never the odd man. His coin is bound to fall the same way as one of
the others; so he has to spin again with one or other of the 'rooks.' If
the second spin is 'head wins,' the sharp will use a coin which falls
'head.' Here, again, the coins must either fall alike, and the spin be
repeated, or the dupe must lose.

To disarm suspicion, however, the second spin may occasionally be a fair
one; his opponent using a 'square' coin. Even then, the chances are two
to one against him. Supposing the stakes are a sovereign, the loser has
to pay the two winners a sovereign each; and therefore if the dupe loses
he has to pay two sovereigns, whilst, if he wins, he receives only one.
So much, then, for 'odd man.'

If we search the purlieus of the race-course, we are sure to find the
'purse trick' well in evidence. A good many people seem to get a living
at it, yet there is not much mystery connected with it. Its
accomplishment rests purely on sleight of hand. We are all familiar with
the purse purporting to contain a half-crown and a shilling which the
salesman offers to dispose of for the modest amount of sixpence or so.
It is extraordinary, however, how few know wherein the trick lies. For
the benefit of those who are unacquainted with it, the following short
description is given.

The man throws a half-crown and a shilling into a two-penny purse,
and the price demanded for the whole may vary from sixpence to
eighteenpence, according to circumstances. Sometimes the purse, when
purchased, is found to contain the actual amount ostensibly put into it.
'Springes to catch woodcocks!' The purchaser is a confederate. In the
event of a stranger buying it, the contents will prove to be a penny and
a halfpenny. The operator really throws the half-crown and shilling into
the purse several times; turning them out again into his hand, to show
the genuineness of the transaction. Or, he may spin them in the air, and
catch them in the purse by way of variety. But when the time for selling
arrives, although he does not appear to have changed his tactics in the
least, the transmutation of metals becomes an accomplished fact, silver
is converted to bronze.

The man has a money-bag slung in front of him, into which he is
continually dipping his hand, for the purpose of taking out or returning
the coins. This bag seems to contain only silver, but there is a vein of
baser metal underlying the nobler. Therefore, in taking out a
half-crown, nothing is easier than for the man to palm a penny at the
same time. This being done, it is the penny which goes into the purse,
and the half-crown is transferred, for the moment, to his palm; but only
for the moment. It is dropped, immediately, into the bag; so that, by
the time that his hand has fallen to his side, it is empty. That is one
dodge. Another is to take the half-crown and penny together in the
fingers, the penny underlying the half-crown, concealed from view. Then
the penny is dropped and the half-crown palmed as before. Again, the
half-crown and shilling being really in the purse, the man will take
them out with his fingers, apparently for the purpose of showing them to
the multitude, at the same time introducing into the purse three
halfpence which he has held concealed. Then he appears to throw the
silver coins quickly into the purse, but in reality he palms them, the
sound made by the coins in falling being counterfeited by chinking the
coppers which the purse already contains. A variation upon this trick is
sometimes performed with a piece of paper in which is screwed up some
article of cheap jewellery, and into which the coins are supposed to be
thrown, as in the purse trick. These men adopt various methods of
explaining their reasons for selling so much money at so cheap a rate,
one of the most common being that someone has laid a wager that the
public are too sceptical to buy money offered in that manner. Well, such
a wager would be a tolerably safe one; for, as a rule, the public are
only sceptical concerning those things which are genuine. It is
probably because the purse-trick is not genuine that the tricksters find
purchasers. It is always the swindle which takes best with the public.
Certainly, anyone who is taken in over this trick deserves to be.

On our way home in the train we may, perhaps, encounter a party playing
'Nap.' It may be a friendly game, fairly played--or it may not. If it is
not, we shall undoubtedly find that one of the players loses heavily. It
is only penny Nap, he is told. Yes, but one can lose a good deal, in a
small way, even at penny Nap. Especially if the other players know the
best and quickest way of winning.

The most ordinary way of cheating at this game consists of 'putting up'
hands for the dupe and one of the other players. The methods of
accomplishing this manoeuvre will be fully detailed in the chapter on
'Manipulation.' For the present, it is sufficient to say that the cards
are so manipulated that the dupe has always a good hand. So far, this
looks as though matters should prove very favourable to the dupe;
therefore, he frequently goes 'Nap.' It always happens, however, that
one of the other players holds a hand which is slightly better. The dupe
may even hold the ace, king, queen, and knave of one suit, and the ace
of another. By every law of the game he is bound to go 'Nap,' and win.
So he makes his long suit trumps, feeling that he has a 'certainty.'
But when the cards are played, it turns out that one of his opponents
holds five small trumps against his four big ones, and he loses on the
last round.

An incident of this kind is reported, where the dupe, in a two-handed
game, being rendered suspicious by the eagerness of those about him to
wager that he would not make his Nap, instead of leading out his long
suit, made his odd ace the trump, and thereby won. In a game of more
than two players, this could be prevented by one of the others holding
two cards of the same suit as the ace. Moral--Don't gamble with
strangers. It is never safe; particularly in a railway train.

The foregoing being sufficient to give the reader a general idea of the
common sharp and his methods, no more need be said with regard to this
elementary branch of our subject. It will be sufficient to point out
that the sharp usually devotes his entire energies to perfecting himself
in some particular game. Having found his victim, he feigns indifferent
play, and encourages the dupe to 'take him on.' No matter how skilful he
may be, he never allows any evidence of the fact to escape him. One does
not find a card-sharper, for instance, entertaining his chance
acquaintances with card-tricks--at least, not to their knowledge. To use
the language which he would probably adopt, such a proceeding would be
'giving himself away with a pound of tea.' The sharp's motto is, 'Art
is to conceal art;' and his success in life depends very greatly upon
the strict observation of this maxim.

Skill, however, is not the only qualification necessary to the
successful sharp. He must have unbounded self-confidence if his wiles
are to be of any avail. In addition, he must also possess tact and
address, for upon these two qualities will depend the grade of society
into which he will be enabled to carry his operations. Given a liberal
endowment of these two attributes, there is no circle, however high or
however select, into which the sharp will not ultimately penetrate. The
public have occasionally an opportunity of peeping behind the scenes,
but the cases of cheating which come to light bear a very small
proportion to those which are condoned or hushed up, and the number of
these again is nothing when compared with the infinity of cases which
are never discovered.

All the comparatively insignificant matters dealt with so far are of
course common knowledge to many. As before mentioned, however, the
general public know very little of them, otherwise the numbers who gain
a living by such means could not exist. It is for this reason only that
they have been even referred to here. Other and far more ingenious
trickeries call for our attention, and to these we will now pass on.



Probably it was at no very recent date in the history of card-playing
that some genius first recognised the advantage which would accrue to a
player who could devise some means of placing a distinctive mark on the
back of each card, imperceptible to all but himself, to indicate its
suit and value. Every card-player must at some time or other have
exclaimed mentally, 'Oh, if I only knew what cards my opponents hold!'
There one has, then, the origin of marked cards. The sharp, above all
others, desires to know his opponent's cards. It is almost a necessity
of his existence; and in his case it is certainly true that 'necessity
is the mother of invention,' and 'knows no law.' Whatever the sharp may
find necessary he is sure to acquire, and will not be scrupulous as to
the manner of its acquisition.

The systems of card-marking are as numerous as they are ingenious. They
vary from a mark which covers the greater portion of the back of the
card to a mark which is invisible. This latter may not appear to be of
much utility, but it must be borne in mind the sharp is not restricted
to the use of the sense of sight only. Sometimes, indeed, it is
necessary for him to know the cards without looking at them, and then a
visible mark would be of no possible use to him.

So numerous, indeed, are the systems of marking--almost every
card-sharper, worthy of the name, having a system peculiar to
himself--that it is impossible to give a tenth part of them. To attempt
to do so would be to weary the reader, and, further, it is unnecessary.
All these various systems are capable of general classification, and a
few leading instances will suffice to give the key to the whole. For
brevity and convenience, then, we will consider the subject under the
following heads:--

        A--General principles of marking.
        B--The marking of unprinted backs.
        C--Marking by dot and puncture.
        D--Cards marked in manufacture.
        E--Shading and tint-marking.
        F--Line and scroll work.
        G--Cards marked whilst in play.

§ A--_General principles of marking._--Whatever method of marking may be
adopted in the preparation of 'faked' cards or 'readers,' however
recondite that method may be, it is referable to one or other of two
general principles. That is to say, either the cards have each a
distinctive mark placed in some convenient position, or the mark is
similar in every case, the indication being given by the position which
it occupies. Some systems are based upon a combination of the two
principles; but all are developments of either one or the other. When
the mark, whatever it may be, is placed at one end of the card, it is of
course necessary to mark both ends.

The chief desideratum in marking, of course, is to produce work which is
easily decipherable to the trained eye of the expert, but which
nevertheless is invisible to others. How well this has been accomplished
will be seen from the examples which follow. Many of the specimens given
herein have been submitted to experts who have been allowed to retain
them as long as they pleased, and have been returned with the statement
that to all appearance the cards have not been tampered with, no mark
being discoverable. This being the case, what chance has a player of
detecting the falsification, in the very cursory examination which is
possible during play? As the reader will perceive, there is no
difficulty in marking cards in such a manner as will arouse no
suspicion. Anyone could invent a system which no one but himself could
decipher, and which would defy detection. The only difficulty is to read
the marks with speed and accuracy. In many games it is only necessary to
know which are high cards and which are low; then the matter is
considerably simplified. In some games it is not even necessary to know
the suit of the cards, and thus the case is simplified still further. It
is rarely, indeed, that the sharp requires to know all the cards.
Generally speaking, if all the picture-cards and the aces are marked,
that will give him all the advantage he needs. The rest may be left to
chance and good play. In fact, the sharp uses trickery as little as
possible; he never overdoes the thing. Whilst he is winning, he is, as a
rule, content to win fairly, for the most part. His subtle methods are
reserved--or should be, if he knows his business--for occasions when
chance is against him. The fewer are the cards which are marked, the
less the chance of detection, and the less the marks are resorted to the
better. Obviously, the man who has it in his power to stock his hand
with high cards at will, need never be in a hurry to win. The game is in
his hands. The sharp who uses marked cards will always contrive to 'work
in' those he has prepared when possible, but failing this, he is
generally in a position to mark all the cards he wishes to know during
the course of the game, as we shall see further on.

§ B--_The marking of unprinted backs._--It might very naturally be
supposed, that the application of any system of marking to the backs of
those cards which are of an even tint, without pattern, would be a very
difficult operation. Such, however, is by no means the case. One might
think that any mark, however slight, placed upon the plain white back of
a 'club-card,' must inevitably be discovered sooner or later. Such an
idea, nevertheless, would indicate a very scant acquaintance with the
resources which are available to the card-sharper.

One of the earliest methods of marking of which there is any record was
used in connection with this class of card. The incident is related by
Houdin, whose account of the matter is to the following effect.

A card-sharper having been detected in cheating, a great quantity of
cards were found in his possession. The authorities, thinking that there
might possibly be some preparation or falsification of them, sent them
to Houdin for examination. To all appearance, however, the cards were
perfectly genuine. He could detect nothing amiss with them. But
notwithstanding the negative result of his investigation, he felt
morally certain that they must have been tampered with in some way. He
therefore persevered in his efforts to solve the problem, but several
weeks elapsed, and still he found himself exactly in the position from
which he started. At length, disgusted by such prolonged and repeated
failure, he flung a pack of the cards carelessly across the table at
which he was sitting. Then, in an instant, the long-sought revelation
was presented to his view. The cards were marked, and in a manner
sufficiently ingenious to arouse the investigator's enthusiasm at the
time, although the method employed might not be thought so very high
class nowadays. We have advanced since then.

The cards in question were of the ordinary glazed kind, and lying at
some little distance upon the table the light from the window was
reflected from their backs. This circumstance disclosed the fact that
each one had a small unglazed spot upon it, placed in such a position as
to indicate the suit and value. Fig. 4 will explain the system at a

The glaze is removed by the simple expedient of putting a drop of water
upon the required spot, and blotting it off after a few seconds. Such a
mark is quite invisible under ordinary circumstances, but when the cards
are held at a suitable angle to the light, the unglazed spot is readily

This, of course, is not the only method of producing the desired effect.
Sometimes the glaze is removed by means of a sharp knife.

Another plan is to produce a shallow concavity at the proper position by
laying the card upon its face and pressing upon it with the rounded end
of a penholder or some similar and convenient instrument. In fact,
anything which will cause a little variation in the reflection of the
light from the back of the card will suffice.

The cards above referred to were merely 'picquet' packs. Therefore there
was nothing lower than the 'seven.' If it is necessary to mark a full
pack, the lower cards may be marked with two dots, as shown in fig. 4.

When unglazed, or 'steam-boat' cards were in general use, a very
efficient mode of marking was devised. It was done by ruling lines on
the backs with a piece of paraffin wax. Fig. 3 shows the arrangement.

This method is of course the converse of the foregoing, the object of
using the wax being to impart a glaze where none previously existed. As
before, these marks are only decipherable when the cards are held at a
proper angle.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--Unglazed Cards.]

Cards marked as in fig. 3 would answer perfectly for a game such as
'poker,' where the suit is of no consequence. If it is required to give
both suit and value, another mark--a dot for example--could be added,
the position of which would give the necessary indication. The ace, it
will be observed, is not marked. In most systems, either the ace or the
two is indicated by the absence of marking. The same thing applies to
the suits, it is only required to mark three out of the four.

§ C--_Marking by dot and puncture._--The main outlines of this method
will be understood from what has already been said. If the unglazed
spots are represented by minute dots, the principle is practically the
same. The only difference is in connection with marking by puncture. In
this case the mark is made by pricking the card with a very fine needle
upon its face. This raises a minute point or 'burr' upon the back, which
can be detected by passing the thumb across the back of the card whilst

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--Divisions indicating suit and value.]

If a plate of metal the size of a playing-card is divided at each end
into parallelograms, after the manner shown in fig. 4, these divisions
will represent the positions occupied by the puncture or dot in
representing the various suits and values. A small hole being drilled in
the centre of each parallelogram, the plate will serve for a 'template'
by means of which the cards may be pierced in the correct places. The
plate is laid upon the face of the card, and a fine needle is pricked
through the proper hole, just far enough to raise the necessary
projection on the back of the card. One point at each end, then, will
serve to mark all the cards of a picquet pack. If those cards which are
lower than seven have to be marked, two points may be taken. For
instance, a point in the top left-hand corner, together with one three
divisions further to the right, will indicate the six of clubs. A point
in the second space on the same line, with one in the fifth space, will
represent the five of clubs, and so on. This is a very good system of
marking for many purposes. It takes only a short time to mark the whole
pack; the marks are invisible, and will escape the closest scrutiny. But
great practice is necessary to render the touch sufficiently acute, and
the perception of the small differences sufficiently delicate, to read
the marks with precision.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.]

Another method whereby a single dot is made to represent both suit and
value of any card is illustrated in fig. 5. In every ornamental back
almost, there is some portion of the pattern which is more or less of a
fan-shaped or radial design. If this should happen to contain thirteen
divisions, nothing is easier than to assign to each one a value, and
thus the entire suit is represented by merely varying the position of
the dot. The suit is given by placing the dot nearer or farther from
the centre. Fig. 5 is a diagram which illustrates this method in its
simplest form. A dot placed outside the periphery of the design stands
for 'spades,' one just inside for 'hearts,' half-way between the two
lines for 'diamonds,' and close to the inner circle it means 'clubs.'
The value or 'size,' as it is called, is shown by the radial line,
opposite which the mark is placed. Having followed this explanation, the
reader will at once perceive that the dot marked _a_ (fig. 5) represents
the two of diamonds.

Of course it frequently happens that there is no part of the pattern
which contains thirteen divisions. Then, either more than one design
must be used, or the form of the mark must be varied. Supposing there
are only six divisions available for the purpose, the six highest cards
can be indicated by a dot, the six next in order by a small dash, and
the last by a minute cross.

§ D--_Cards marked [Illustration: squiggle] in manufacture._--Given the
original conception of marked cards, and their practical application to
the needs of the sharper, the next step is, obviously, the production of
such wares commercially. The desirability of being able to open a new
pack of cards and find them ready prepared for use, was too palpable to
be overlooked.

For a long time the existence of such cards was kept profoundly secret
among a very few sharpers, and those 'in the know' reaped a rich
harvest. Nowadays, however, these things are, comparatively speaking,
'common objects of the sea-shore.'

Fig. 6 is a reproduction of the first pattern ever supplied, ready
marked, by the makers.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.]

The distinctive marking was arranged by causing the end of the scroll,
marked '_a_,' to assume various forms, and point in different

This card did very well for a time; but the mark was very obtrusive and
the pattern became obsolete, being discarded, in fact, for improved
forms which were of later invention.

The next step in the way of improvement came with the introduction of
the plaid-back cards, at one time largely used. It was soon discovered
that these lent themselves readily to the purposes of falsification, and
the result was the invention of a mark both easy to read and not liable
to detection. Like so many other good things, it is marvellous in its
simplicity. It is based partly upon modification of the pattern, and
partly upon the position occupied by the mark. Fig. 7 illustrates a
complete suit of these cards.

The higher cards commence with a set of five parallel lines, placed
somewhat to the left of the top right-hand corner. The space between the
first and second lines is increased to indicate an ace; between the
second and third, a king; between the third and fourth, a queen; and
between the fourth and fifth, a knave. For the ten, nine, eight, and
seven, the pattern is so arranged that the indicating lines terminate at
the corner of the card. These being similarly treated, correspond with
the four cards of that group. The six, five, four, and three, are
respectively given by a similar band, which is so placed that it
terminates upon the right hand side of the card, immediately below the
top corner. The two is known by the fact of the card being unmarked;
that is to say, the lines of all the bands are an equal distance apart,
and are not tampered with in any way.

The suit is given by a band of lines, terminating some little distance
below the top left-hand corner, on the left of the card. The first space
(counting from the top) being widened, signifies a diamond; the second,
a heart; the third, a club; and the fourth, a spade. If the reader has
made the progress in 'sharping' which might reasonably be expected at
this stage of his instruction, he should have no difficulty in
distinguishing the suit of the ace in fig. 7. It is evidently the ace of

[Illustration: FIG. 7.]

This pattern is of especial value to the man who can deal 'seconds,'[2]
as in giving off the 'draft' at poker, and so on, by keeping the pack
spread out a little, he can read off the values of the first four or
five cards. That is the great advantage in having marks which come quite
close to the edge.

We will conclude this subject of printed backs with a description of one
of the best designs ever made (fig. 8). This pattern is particularly
easy to read, even at a considerable distance, yet it is certainly not
liable to detection by the uninitiated. To anyone who knows the
secret, it appears strange that a pack of these cards may be given to a
novice for examination, with the information that they are marked, and
he will never find anything wrong with them. He may even examine them
with a microscope, yet he will see nothing amiss. The reason is that he
does not know what to look for. Most probably he will expect to find
dots or marks, _put on_ the card by hand. He might thus detect 'scroll
work,' examples of which are given further on, though most likely
'shading' would escape his notice from the fact that it is something for
which he is not prepared.

In this instance the distinguishing marks are two in number, one for
suit and one for value. These are respectively indicated by variations
in the form of the two small sprays in the left hand corner, round which
lines have been drawn in the upper card (fig. 8).

[Illustration: FIG. 8.]

The lower of the two sprays is caused to show the suit by being curved
up or down, or having its termination formed into a suggestion of a
spade or a heart, as will be seen on reference to the figure.

The upper spray is variously altered to denote the values. Thus:

[Illustration: FIG. 9.]

Cards marked in printing have of late years been virtually abandoned in
America, owing to the fact that they are readily detected, even by those
who are utterly unable to discover the marks. The general appearance of
the cards is sufficient to show their origin. In the first place, the
ink with which the cards are printed is as a rule very inferior; and
secondly, the 'ace of spades' has NOT the maker's name upon it. As the
maker himself would say--'What do _you_ think?'

Fig. 10 is a comparison of the ace of spades from a genuine pack with
that from a pack of manufactured 'marked backs.' It will be seen that
the marked card bears the title of a purely hypothetical 'Card Company.'

[Illustration: FIG. 10.

Genuine Card. Manufactured Marked-back.]

By referring to the price-lists given towards the end of this book, one
finds that the price at which they are quoted is by no means exorbitant,
when one bears in mind the risk which the maker runs, and the fact that
he has to go to the expense of fifty-two plates for printing the backs,
as against the one only which is required for genuine cards. In revenge,
and to keep down the cost of production, he uses ink of a very inferior
quality to that employed by good firms. Thus, the cards are rendered
open to suspicion from the first, and no doubt this has much to do with
their falling into disuse.

In America their employment is confined chiefly to mining camps, where
one may still find 'saloons' which are stocked entirely with this kind
of 'paper,' as the cards are called.

England, however, must be a fine field for them, as card players here
are really so ignorant that the subtle methods of cheating would be
thrown away. The best work is not necessary, and the sharp who went to
the trouble of adopting it would be simply wasting his substance on the
desert air. There is little doubt that these cards are largely used over

§ E--_Shading and tint-marking._--Manufactured cards having fallen into
comparative desuetude, the reasonable inference is that they have been
supplanted by something better; and such is the fact. In the hands of
the best men they have been superseded by genuine cards, marked
(generally by the sharp himself) either with 'shading' or 'line-work.'

The earliest method of shading, so far as can be ascertained, consisted
of the application to plain-backed cards of an even tint which, being
rendered more or less deep, denoted the values of certain cards. This
tint was produced by rubbing the card with a rag, lightly impregnated
with plumbago, until the required depth of tint was obtained. This
imperfect method, however, has gradually developed into others which can
hardly be said to leave anything to be desired--at least from the
sharp's point of view.

At the present time shading is principally confined, if not entirely so,
to ornamental backs. It is effected by applying a faint wash of colour
to a fairly large portion of the card. This colour of course must be one
which approximates to the tint of the card, and further, it must be one
which will dry without removing the glaze.

Just as there has been continual warfare between the makers of heavy
guns and the inventors of armour-plating, so there has been a long
struggle between the playing-card manufacturer and the professional
gambler. Whilst the latter has been engaged in the endeavour to concoct
a stain with which he could shade his cards without spoiling the enamel
or altering the colour, the former has done his best to circumvent the
sharp's endeavours by compounding the glaze of ingredients which will
spoil the 'little game.' For some time the manufacturer triumphed, and
it became known that Hart's red 'Angel-backs' were unstainable. Alas!
however, vice--and, shall we say science--was victorious, and one can
now buy a fluid warranted to stain any card for a mere trifle.

These fluids are nothing more than solutions in spirit of various
aniline dyes. For red, aurosine is used, and for blue aniline blue.
Stafford's red ink, diluted with spirit, produces a perfect stain for
red cards. Others as good can be made with the 'Diamond' dyes.

A suitable solution having been obtained, the cards are shaded, either
by putting a wash over a certain spot or by washing over the whole of
the back with the exception of one spot. The latter method is the better
of the two in many respects, as the cards can be distinguished at a
distance of two or three yards, and yet will bear the strictest
examination, even at the hands of one who understands the former method.
In fact, the closer one looks at the cards the less likely one is to
discover the mark, or, as the sharp would say, to 'tumble' to the

The directions for use issued with the shading fluids will be found on
page 302.

As the delicate tints of shaded work are lost in reproduction,
satisfactory examples cannot be given. On the opposite page, however,
will be found an illustration of one method of shading the familiar
'angel-back' card represented in fig. 11.

[Illustration: FIG. 11.--Angel-back.]

The shading in fig. 12 has been considerably exaggerated, to render it

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--'FALLEN ANGELS']

The little 'angel' (_a_, fig. 11) is made to indicate the value of the
cards by shading the head for an ace; the right wing for a king; the
left wing for a queen; the right arm for a knave, and so on. The two is
not marked.

The suit of the card is denoted by shading various portions of the
foliated design adjacent to the 'angel' (_b_, fig. 11).

With the exception of the exaggerated shading, these marks are
facsimiles of those upon a pack purchased from one of the dealers, all
of whom supply them. Although the cards can be bought ready shaded, most
sharpers prefer to do them for themselves. Therefore, they merely buy
the marking-fluids, and invent their own marks.

§ F--_Line and scroll work._--This is the kind of marking which is
adopted by the most expert among card-sharpers. When well done it can
hardly be detected even by another sharper.

This system may be briefly summarised as follows. Some convenient
portion of the card-back is selected--a flower or some similar device in
the pattern, for instance--and a shading consisting of very fine lines,
in imitation of the normal shading of the pattern, is used, its position
indicating the value of the card. A specially prepared 'line-work fluid'
is used, and the work is put on with a fine pen or, better still, with a
fine sable pencil. In using a pen there is always a danger of scratching
the enamel, but by the use of a 'photographic sable,' such as retouchers
employ, this is obviated.

In order to imbue the reader with a due appreciation of these works of
art, our first example shall be one of a very obvious character; one
that could only be used in a 'soft game.'[3] We shall then have an
opportunity of comparing it with one or two of the masterpieces of the
century, and, looking back upon the earlier pages of this book, we can
reflect upon the manner in which the science of card-sharping is
progressing, like other and more legitimate sciences.

A portion of the pattern, consisting of five projections, is usually
chosen in line-marking, and the line-work is applied in the following
manner. The first projection, or petal, on the left, is shaded to denote
an ace; the second a king; the third a queen; the fourth a knave; and
the fifth a ten. Then for a nine, the first and second are shaded; for
an eight the second and third; and so on to the six. Lastly, taking the
foliations in groups of three, the first three represent the five; the
second, third, and fourth, the four; and the third, fourth, and fifth,
the three. The two is not shaded.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.]

In the case of the card which is reproduced in fig. 13, the spray of
leaves marked _a_ would be chosen to indicate the values. The spray _b_
would be shaded to denote the suit. Reference to fig. 14 will serve to
make this clear.

[Illustration: FIG. 14.]

Having mastered this elementary method, we will now turn to some of the
finest work that has ever been put upon cards. Fig. 15 illustrates five
cards of the 'angel-back' pattern. These are respectively the king,
queen, knave, ten, and nine. It is not too much to say that the mark
would never be discovered without assistance being given, by one
previously acquainted with it.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.--SCROLL-WORK]

In this example the spray marked _c_ (fig. 11) is chosen, and marked in
a manner of which fig. 16 is a magnified diagram.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.]

As a concluding example of line-work, if the reader will turn back to
fig. 8, he will find, in each corner of the pattern upon the card, a
leaf with five points, an ivy leaf in fact. In marking a genuine
card of this pattern, this leaf would be selected for the purpose, and
shaded with line-work after the manner of fig. 17.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.]

_Cards marked whilst in play._--We now arrive at the last subdivision of
this branch of our subject, and perhaps the one which will prove most
generally interesting, viz. the possibility of placing distinctive marks
upon the cards during the course of the game. The average reader may
probably be surprised to learn that such a practice has been resorted to
by sharpers from time immemorial. Further, its accomplishment presents
not the slightest difficulty, in fact it is the simplest thing in the

The earliest method appears to have been that of raising a slight burr
upon the edges of the cards with an instrument provided--perhaps for
that purpose(?)--by Nature, to wit, the thumb-nail. This and other
primitive methods alike have been superseded by others more scientific.
Therefore we will not waste our time in detailing such elementary
matters, but pass on to the means used at the present day.

One of the simplest appliances is the 'nail prick,' quoted in the
price-lists at half a dollar. This is simply a tiny piece of metal,
carrying a point, which is held when in use under the thumb-nail of the
right hand. With this point the cards can be pricked without
observation, in positions which will indicate the suit and value. It is,
however, not much used.

Pricking the cards is a method chiefly employed by men who can deal
'seconds.' The sharp will prick the corners of all the aces and court
cards, or as many of them as happen to fall into his hands, from time to
time; and whilst dealing, he can feel the little projection caused by
the prick, and hold these cards back till they could be dealt to
himself. One who did this every time it came to his turn to deal must
inevitably win all the money sooner or later. No sharp, however, would
be insane enough to arouse suspicion in this manner.

The most refined and scientific method of pricking the cards is by means
of an ingenious little appliance, known as the 'poker-ring.' This is an
ordinary finger-ring, having attached to it upon the under side a
needle-point of about one sixty-fourth of an inch in length (fig. 18).
In the illustration, the length of the point is exaggerated.

[Illustration: FIG. 18.]

As the cards are held in the hand, the corner of any one which it is
desired to mark is simply pressed against the point with the thumb of
either hand. Thus with one hand the sharp is enabled to mark any card he
chooses, under the very eyes of his adversaries, and without a single
suspicious movement being observable.

But the greatest advance in this direction was made when the art of
marking cards with shade-work was discovered. It was found that a little
aniline colour, taken upon the tip of the finger, could be transferred
to the back of a card slightly deepening the tint in the spot to which
it was applied. The colour was at first derived from a piece of blue
aniline pencil, carried in the pocket, and upon the point of which the
finger was secretly rubbed. As far as one can ascertain, the English
sharp has not progressed beyond this point in his professional
knowledge. In America, however, it is otherwise. Across the water,
superior intelligences soon concocted a coloured paste which would
answer the purpose much better. Scooping a hole in a piece of cork, the
cavity was filled with the composition, and the cork was sewn inside the
lower edge of the waistcoat. In this position the colour was convenient
to the hand.

The idea thus conceived has been improved upon until one may say that
this method has reached perfection in the form of appliances known as
'shading boxes.'

[Illustration: FIG. 19.]

These implements of chicanery, of which fig. 19 is an illustration, are
little nickel-plated boxes, which are completely filled with the
coloured composition. In the centre of the lid is a slot through which
the colour is pressed. The finger being passed over this slot, takes up
a little of the colour. The base of the box is pierced around the
circumference with small holes, for convenience in sewing it to the
inside of the waistcoat or underneath the flap of a side pocket, as may
be preferred. The boxes are generally used in pairs, one containing red
composition and the other blue. With these two colours, almost every
coloured card can be marked. The paste for refilling the boxes is
supplied separately, or, if the sharp is acquainted with its
composition, he may make it for himself. Here is the recipe.

Olive oil, stearine, and camphor are incorporated in a melted condition
with aniline of the required hue. The mixture is then poured out upon a
level surface and allowed to cool. When cold it is worked up with the
blade of a knife upon a sheet of white paper, to get rid of the
superfluous oil. It is then ready for use.

Marking placed upon cards in this way can be instantly removed by merely
rubbing the card upon the table-cloth.

It is worthy of note that these boxes are considered to be so good that
they are not included in the catalogues of dealers in so-called
'sporting-goods.' They are kept as a secret among those who are 'in the

These convenient little articles, then, bring us to the end of the
systems of marking. It only remains to instruct the neophyte who has
followed the course of our lessons so far, in the methods of utilising
the marks when once they are placed upon the cards.

Those familiar words of the great artist who said that the medium he
employed in mixing his colours was 'brains,' may find an echo in the
directions for playing marked cards. They must be used with intelligence
or not at all. Indeed, great circumspection is requisite in utilising
the information which the marks provide. In a game of whist, for
instance, a thorough-paced player would at once detect any glaring
peculiarity of play resulting from knowledge surreptitiously acquired.
One may know, perfectly well, which card in one's hand would win the
trick, but it is not always advisable to play it. Tact and judgment,
added to a thorough acquaintance with the rules of the game which is
being played, are necessary adjuncts to the successful employment of any
system of cheating.

In a round game, when it is your turn to deal, you may read the cards as
you deal them; and in this way know the hands of your opponents, or at
any rate the principal cards. In a single-handed game you can remember
the whole of your antagonist's cards, but with more than two players it
is not advisable to attempt to commit to memory more than one hand.
That, preferably, should be the hand of the 'flattest man,' the
'greatest mug,' the man who is playing highest, or your most dangerous
opponent. With a little practice the top card of the pack can be read,
just before it is dealt. There is plenty of time for this whilst the
previous card is on its way to the table. In a game such as Poker, where
the suit is of no consequence, you simply repeat to yourself the value
of the card as you deal it, and from your knowledge of the game you may
deduce the discards from that particular hand. Then, in giving off the
'draft'--_i.e._ the cards to replace those which have been discarded,
and which, of course, you have not seen--you read the cards as they are
given out. In this way you can form a tolerably accurate opinion as to
what cards that hand finally contains. If your hand happens to be
better, you can bet against this particular player, continually raising
the stakes until all the other players are 'raised out.' That is to say,
they do not feel inclined to risk so much money on their hands, and
therefore they throw them down, and leave the game, for the moment, in
the hands of the two highest players.

A knowledge of the top card may be utilised in dealing 'seconds.' The
top card, being one which you require, may be kept back until it comes
to your turn either on the deal or the draft. This, however, is a very
bad way of using marked cards. It is sure to be detected sooner or
later, and then your only course will be to 'clear out' from the scene
of your former victories. Whilst, if you confine your attention to the
use of the information given by the marks, trusting to your wits rather
than to the deftness of your fingers, you will not only win but 'last.'

Working with shaded cards, in which the shading occupies the greater
portion of the card, many of your opponents' cards can be read as they
hold them in their hands; especially where they are held spread out, as
is so often the case in England.

Whatever may be the game, marked cards will often enable you to win
where you otherwise would lose, so long as due care and judgment are
exercised. For example, at Vingt-et-un, you will always know whether it
is advisable to draw another card or not. You will not stand in doubt as
to the card you will get. At Baccarat you will know what cards you have
given the players, and what you will draw if you take one. Too many
false drafts, however, are liable to create suspicion; so in this game
you must be careful in your proceedings. At Loo, you will have a strong
advantage, as you will always know the contents of the hand upon the
table, and when to take 'miss.' In games such as 'Banker' or 'Polish
Bank,' which consist of betting that you have in your hand a card (not
seen) which will beat one that has been turned up, you have to contend
with no uncertainty whatever.

Having pursued our subject to this point, it cannot be denied that we
have learnt something of great importance, viz. that among the
advantages enjoyed by us in this nineteenth century, we must not
overlook those embodied in the fact, that not only are marked cards
articles of commerce, readily obtainable at the right places, but we
have also the means of falsifying genuine cards, of any pattern, at a
few minutes' notice. Even failing this, we have at our command means of
marking all the cards which it is necessary to know whilst under the
very noses of our antagonists.

The practical philosopher--if such exist--whilst meditating upon the
benefits accruing to mankind from civilisation, should by no means
forget that, in one notable instance at least--card-playing to
wit--civilisation has provided the means of eliminating from the affairs
of life the undesirable and inconvenient element of chance. There is no
such thing as chance, says the predestinationist; and certainly in some
cases the truth is with him.


[2] _Vide_ Chapter VI., 'Manipulation.'

[3] This expression does not apply, as might be imagined, to the
comparative simplicity of the game, but rather to the positive
simplicity of the players.



Although there can be no question as to the utility of marked cards in
the hands of the sharper, it frequently happens that he is unable to
avail himself of the advantages presented by their employment. It may
be, perhaps, that he is so situated as to be compelled to use genuine
cards belonging to someone else; and that, the comparatively scanty and
hurried marking supplied by means of poker-ring or shading box will not
provide him with all the information imperatively demanded by the nature
of the game in which he is engaged. He may, perhaps, be playing in
circles where the devices of marking, and the methods of accomplishing
it, are well known. For many reasons the use of marked cards may be too
risky to be ventured upon; or the cards themselves may not be available
at the moment. Again, the sharp may not have taken the trouble to master
any system of marking; yet, for all that, he requires a knowledge of his
opponent's cards just as much as his more talented brother of the pen,
the brush, and the needle-point. How then, it may be asked, is he to
obtain this knowledge? Simply--very simply. The sharp needs to be hard
pressed indeed, to be driven to the end of his tether.

Marked cards being out of the question, it is possible to obviate to a
great extent the necessity for them by the use of certain little
instruments of precision denominated 'reflectors,' or, more familiarly,
'shiners.' These are not intended to be used for the purpose of casting
reflections upon the assembled company. Far from it. Their reflections
are exclusively such as have no weight with the majority. They, and
their use alike, reflect only upon the sharp himself.

These useful little articles are constructed in many forms, and are as
perfectly adapted to the requirements of the individual as are the works
of Nature herself. Just as man has been evolved in the course of ages
from some primitive speck of structureless protoplasm, so, in like
manner, we find that these convexities of silvered glass have
crystallised out from some primordial drop of innocent liquid, more or
less accidentally spilled upon the surface of a table in years gone by.

Such, then, was the origin of the reflector. The sharp of long ago was
content to rely upon a small circular drop of wine, or whatever he
happened to be drinking, carefully spilled upon the table immediately in
front of him. Holding the cards over this drop, their faces would be
reflected from its surface, for the information of the sharp who was
dealing them.

Times have advanced since then, however, and the sharp has advanced with
the times. We live in an age of luxury. We are no longer satisfied with
the rude appliances which sufficed for the simpler and less fastidious
tastes of our forefathers; and in this respect at least the sharp is no
exception to the general rule. He, too, has become more fastidious, and
more exacting in his requirements, and his tastes are more expensive.
His reflector, therefore, is no longer a makeshift; it is a
well-constructed instrument, both optically and mechanically, costing
him, to purchase, from two and a half to twenty-five dollars. Not
shillings, bear in mind, but dollars. Think of it! Five pounds for a
circular piece of looking-glass, about three-quarters of an inch in
diameter! The fact that such a price is paid is sufficient to indicate
the profitable character of the investment.

The first record we have of the employment of a specially constructed
appliance of this kind describes a snuff-box bearing in the centre of
the lid a small medallion containing a portrait. The sharp in taking a
pinch of snuff pressed a secret spring, the effect of which was to
substitute for the portrait a convex reflector. The snuff-box then being
laid upon the table the cards were reflected from the surface of this
mirror, giving the sharp a reduced image of each one as it was dealt. A
device of this kind may have passed muster years ago, but it could
never escape detection nowadays. At the present day card-players would
be, unquestionably, 'up to snuff.'

Among the more modern appliances, the first to which we shall refer is
that known as the 'table-reflector.' As its name implies, it is designed
for the purpose of being attached to the card-table during the game. It
is thus described in one of the price-lists.

'_Table-reflector._--Fastens by pressing steel spurs into under side of
table. A fine glass comes to the edge of table to read the cards as you
deal them off. You can set the glass at any angle or turn it back out of
sight in an instant.'

From the many samples similar to the above with which one meets
in 'sporting' literature, the legitimate inference is that
punctuation-marks are an expensive commodity in certain districts of

[Illustration: FIG. 20.]

The reflector to which this paragraph refers is illustrated in fig. 20.
It is a neat little contrivance, nicely finished and nickel-plated.

The mirror _m_ is convex, forming as usual a reduced image of the card.
A represents the position of the reflector whilst in use. B shows the
manner in which it is turned back, out of the way and out of sight. The
hinge is fitted with light friction-springs, which enable the mirror to
retain any position in which it may be placed.

The correct way to 'play' the reflector is to press the steel point into
the under side of the table, just sufficiently far back to bring the
hinge about level with the lower edge of the table top. Whilst in use,
the mirror, contrary to what one might suppose, is not inclined
downwards, but the inclination given to it is an upward one as in the
illustration. Thus, whilst the sharp is leaning slightly forward, as one
naturally would, whilst dealing, the cards are reflected from the mirror
as he looks back into it.

Used in this manner, the reflector can be played anywhere, and even
those who are familiar with 'shiners' will 'stand' it. Inclined
downwards, it may be easier to use, but in that case the dealer would
have to lean back whilst distributing the cards. A proceeding such as
that would be liable to attract attention and to arouse suspicions
which, all things considered, had better be allowed to slumber if the
sharp is to maintain that mental quietude so necessary to the carrying
out of his plans. It is possible of course that nothing of the kind may
occur, but, on the other hand, it might. One cannot be too careful, when
even the most innocent actions are apt to be misconstrued. The world is
so uncharitable, that a little thing like the discovery of a bit of
looking-glass might lead to a lot of unpleasantness. Who knows?

Should anyone happen to come behind the dealer whilst the mirror is in
view, it can always be turned out of sight with the little finger in the
act of taking up one's cards from the table, or by sitting very close it
can be altogether concealed.

Another very efficient form of reflector is one so constructed as to be
adaptable to the interior of a pipe-bowl. It consists of a small convex
mirror, similar to the one used in the table reflector, which is
cemented to a piece of cork shaped to fit inside the bowl of an ordinary
briar-root pipe (fig. 21).

[Illustration: FIG. 21.]

Such a device is more adapted to the requirements of the second or
third-rate sharper, as it would not be available in a circle of
cigarette-smoking 'Johnnies.' It is used in the following manner.

The 'shiner' is carried separately from the pipe, and held until
required in the palm of the hand, with the cork downwards. The sharp
having finished his pipe, stoops down to knock out the ashes, upon any
convenient spot. As the hand is again brought up to the level of the
table, the glass is pressed into the bowl of the pipe with the thumb.
The pipe is then laid upon the table, with the bowl facing towards its
owner, a little to the left of where he is sitting. In this position the
mirror is visible to no one but the sharp himself. He is therefore at
liberty to make the freest use of it without exciting suspicion in the

[Illustration: FIG. 22.--PIPE-REFLECTOR _IN SITU_]

Fig. 22 is a photograph of pipe and mirror _in situ_, which will give a
far better idea of the convenience of this arrangement than any amount
of explanation could possibly enable the reader to form. The card which
is seen reflected in miniature was held at a distance from the mirror of
about six inches.

Among the various forms in which reflectors are supplied, there are some
attached to coins and rouleaux of coins of various values. Also there
are some so constructed as to be attached to a pile of 'greenbacks' or
bank-notes. The manner in which these are used will be readily
understood, therefore there is no need to do more than refer to them. In
addition to these, there is the appliance described in the catalogue
as--'Reflector, attached to machine, can be brought to palm of hand at
will.' This will be found described in the chapter on 'holdouts,' to
which class of apparatus it properly belongs.

The smallest and most difficult to use of all reflectors is one the very
existence of which is but little known, even among sharps, viz. the
tooth-pick reflector. In this instance the mirror is a very tiny one
adapted to lie at an angle within the interior of a large quill
tooth-pick. With the exception of its size, it is similar in other
respects to the pipe-reflector already described. Needless to say, the
extreme minuteness of the image formed by so small a mirror entirely
precludes its use except by a sharp who is an expert indeed, and one
whose vision is of the keenest description: _m_, fig. 23, indicates the
position occupied by the mirror within the interior of the quill. The
noble bird--typical of all gamblers--from whose pinion the feather has
been extracted for so unworthy a purpose, might well exclaim, 'To what
base uses may we come!'

[Illustration: FIG. 23.]

The operator who has adopted this form of instrument will enter the room
where card-players are assembled, chewing his tooth-pick after the
approved Piccadilly fashion of a few years ago. Having taken his place
at the table, he throws down the tooth-pick in front of him, with the
pointed end turned towards him. His mirror then comes into play, in the
same manner as that of the pipe-reflector aforesaid.

One form of reflector which is very useful to the sharp in a
single-handed game, is that mentioned in one of the catalogues as being
intended to stand behind a pile of 'chips' or counters upon the table.
It may appear to the uninitiated that there would be great difficulty
in concealing a mirror in this way. Such, undoubtedly, would be the case
if only one pile of chips were used. By placing two piles side by side,
however, the difficulty disappears. With counters, say, an inch and a
quarter in diameter, there is ample space behind two piles, when
standing close together, to accommodate and conceal a tolerably large
reflector, as such things go.

The mirror in this case is mounted somewhat after the fashion of a
linen-prover; and precisely resembles a small hinge. The hinge being
opened, reveals the reflector. It is set at a suitable angle and simply
laid upon the table, either behind the rouleaux of counters, as
explained above, or behind a pile of bank-notes, as may be most
convenient. If the sharp should unhappily be compelled to part with
either counters or notes--a circumstance, by the way, which should never
occur in the ordinary course of events--though accidents will happen now
and then--the reflector can be closed up and secreted in an instant.

It is a neat little device, and one well worthy the notice of intending
purchasers. (_See advt._)

In connection with sharping of any kind, as in every other branch of
art, whether sacred or profane, legal or illegal, one fact is always
distinctly noticeable. No matter what improvements may be made, or what
amount of complexity may be introduced into any system, or into the
appliances which have been invented to meet its requirements, the
practice of its leading exponents always tends towards simplicity of
operation. To this rule there are very few exceptions. The greatest
minds are, as a rule, content to use the simplest methods. Not the
easiest, bear in mind, but the simplest. The simple tools are generally
more difficult to use with effect than the more elaborate ones. The
great painter with no other tools than his palette-knife and his thumb
will produce work which could not be imitated by a man of inferior
talents, although he had the entire stock of Rowney or Winsor and Newton
at his disposal. So, in like manner, is it with the really great expert
in sharping. With a small unmounted mirror, and a bit of cobbler's wax,
he will win more money than a duffer who possesses the most perfect
mechanical arrangement ever adapted to a reflector. It is the quality of
the man which tells, not that of his tools.

It may perhaps be asked then, if the simplest appliances are best, why
is it that they are not generally adopted, in place of the more
complicated devices. That, however, is just the same thing as asking why
an organ-grinder is content to wind out machine-made airs during the
whole of his existence, rather than to devote his time to the far less
expensive process of learning to play an instrument. The answer is the
same in both cases. It is simply that machinery is made to take the
place of skill. The machine can be obtained by the expenditure of so
much or so little money, whilst the skill can only be obtained by a
lifetime of practice. Your duffer, as a rule, does not care about hard
work. He prefers a situation where all the hard work is put out, and the
less irksome is done by somebody else. Hence the demand for
cheating-tools which will throw the responsibility of success or failure
upon the manufacturer, leaving the operator at liberty to acquire just
as much skill as he pleases, or to do without skill altogether if he
thinks fit.

According to one of the leading experts in America, the above-mentioned
bit of cobbler's wax, in conjunction with the plain unmounted mirror, is
by far the best method of employing a reflector. The mirror is simply
attached, by means of the wax, to the palm of the hand near the edge;
and when it is fixed in this position, the little indices, usually found
upon the corners of modern playing-cards, can be read quite easily.
Furthermore, so situated, the reflector is quite secure from

The majority of sharps, however, appear to strike the happy medium
between the simplicity of this device and the complexity of the
'reflector attached to machine.' Thus, it is the table-reflector which
appears to be the most popular for general use, although from its nature
it is not well-adapted for use in a round game. There are too many
people to the right and left of the operator. For a single-handed game,
however, where the sharp has no opportunity of 'getting his own cards
in,' it is invaluable.

Supposing, then, for the moment, gentle reader, that you were a sharp,
your plan of working the table-reflector would be as follows. You would
find your 'mug' (first catch your hare), and perhaps you might induce
him to invite you to his club. Having got your hand in to this extent,
doubtless you would find means of persuading him to engage you in a game
of cards, 'just to pass the time.' He thinks, no doubt, that he
is perfectly safe, as the club cards are being used, and moreover
being in all probability what is known in 'sporting' circles as a
'fly-flat'--that is, a fool who thinks himself wise--he imagines that he
knows enough about cheating to 'spot' anyone who had the audacity to
'try it on' with him. Now, if there is one thing more certain than
another, it is that a sharp is always safest in the hands of a man who
thinks he knows a lot. The event will nearly always prove that his
knowledge is limited to an imperfect acquaintance with some of the older
forms of manipulation; things which have been discarded as obsolete by
all practical men. Therefore, if he anticipates cheating at all, he
prepares himself to look out for something vastly different to what is
about to take place. His mind running in a groove, he is preoccupied
with matters which are of no importance to him; and thus falls an easy
prey to the sharper.

In such a case, then, you have a 'soft thing.' You select a table which
affords you the opportunity of securing a nice, convenient seat, with
your back to the wall. You fix your 'shiner' just under the edge of the
table, and engage your 'pigeon' in a single-handed game of poker. If you
are worth your salt, you ought to pluck him--nay, _skin him_, for all he
is worth.



The term 'Holdout' is the name given to a mechanical contrivance,
constructed with the object of enabling the card-sharper to 'hold-out,'
or conceal one or more cards, until such time as he finds that they will
be useful to him by turning the balance of fortune in his favour at some
critical point of the game. They are obviously unavailable in those
games where the whole pack is distributed among the players, as the
cards abstracted must in that case necessarily be missed.

It will be seen, then, that although the name may appear clumsy and
puerile, it is notwithstanding well chosen and expressive. The gambler
'holds out' inducements to the cheat; the market, provided by cheating,
'holds out' inducements to the manufacturer; the manufacturer 'holds
out' inducements to purchase his machines; and the machines themselves
'hold out' inducements which very few sharpers can resist. It is like
the nursery-rhyme of the dog that was eventually 'purwailed on' to get
over the stile.

As far as we have yet travelled upon our explorations into the regions
of fraud and chicanery, yclept 'sharping,' our path has been,
comparatively speaking, a rosy one. The way has been by no means
intricate, and the difficulties we have had to encounter have been but
few. At this point, however, the course runs through a region which is,
to some extent, beset with thorn and bramble, in the guise of mechanical
contrivances having a more or less complex character. The non-technical
reader, however, has no cause for being appalled at the nature of the
ground which he is invited to traverse; the author undertakes to render
his travelling easy, and to put him through, as it were, by
'Pullman-Express.' One should always endeavour to popularise science
whenever the opportunity serves. The mechanically minded reader,
at any rate, will revel in the examples of human ingenuity--and
corruptibility--which are here presented for the first time to his
admiring gaze.

As in all other instances of means well-adapted to a given end, these
utensils of the holdout persuasion have taken their origin from
extremely simple and antiquated devices. Perhaps we are not correct in
saying 'extremely antiquated,' since 'Cavendish' is of opinion that
cards have not been invented more than five hundred years. Those,
however, who attribute their invention to the Chinese, æons before the
dawn of western civilisation, will be inclined to the belief that the
'Heathen Chinee' of succeeding ages must have coerced the smiles of
fortune, with the friendly aid of a holdout, centuries before the
discovery of the land of that instrument's second or third nativity.

As to this debatable point, however, there is very little hope that we
shall ever be better informed than at present. It belongs to the dead
things of the dead past; it is shrouded in the mist of antiquity and
buried beneath the withered leaves of countless generations; among which
might be found the decayed refuse of many a family tree, whose fall
could be directly traced to the invention of the deadly implements known
as playing cards. Do not let the reader imagine for a moment that I am
inveighing against the use of cards, when employed as an innocent means
of recreation. That is not my intention by any means. Such a thing would
savour of narrow-mindedness and bigotry, and should be discouraged in
every possible way. The means of rendering our existence here below as
mutually agreeable as circumstances will permit are by no means so
plentiful that we can afford to dispense with so enjoyable a pastime as
a game of cards. It is not the fault of the pieces of pasteboard, that
some people have been ruined by their means; it is the fault of the
players themselves. Had cards never been invented, the result would have
been very similar. Those who are addicted to gambling, in the absence
of cards, would have spun coins, drawn straws, or engaged in some other
equally intellectual recreation. When a man has arrived at the state of
mind which induces him to make 'ducks and drakes' of his property, and a
fool of himself, there is no power on earth that can prevent him from so

But to return. The earliest account we have of anything in the holdout
line is the cuff-box described by Houdin. I for one, however, am
inclined to think that there is a slight tinge of the apocryphal in the
record as given by him. My reason for this opinion is twofold. In the
first place the description is singularly lacking in detail, considering
Houdin's mechanical genius; and secondly, the difficulty of constructing
and using such an apparatus would be for all practical purposes
insuperable. I should say that Houdin had never seen the machine; and
that he trusted too implicitly to hearsay, without exercising his
judgment. Of course there is nothing but internal evidence to support
this view; still, I cannot help believing that part at least of the
great Frenchman's account must be taken 'cum grano.' In any event,
however, we are bound to admit that something in the nature of a holdout
was known to some persons in the early part of the present century.

Houdin entitles the device above referred to--'La boite à la manche;'
and his description is to the following effect.

A box sufficiently large to contain a pack of cards was concealed
somewhere in the fore part of the sharp's coat-sleeve. In picking up the
pack, preparatory to dealing, the forearm was lightly pressed upon the
table. The box was so constructed that this pressure had the effect of
throwing out the prepared or pre-arranged pack previously put into it,
and at the same time a pair of pincers seized the pack in use, and
withdrew it to the interior of the box, in exchange for the one just
ejected. In his autobiography, Houdin recounts an incident in which this
box played a prominent part. A sharp had utilised it with great success
for some time, but at last the day came when his unlucky star was in the
ascendant. The pincers failed to perform their function properly, and
instead of removing the genuine pack entirely, they left one card upon
the table. From the description given of the apparatus, one may imagine
that such a contingency would be very likely to arise. The dupe of
course discovered the extra card, accused the sharp of cheating--and not
without reason, it must be admitted--challenged him to a duel, and shot
him. Serve him right, you say? Well, we will not contest the point.

The substitution of one pack for another appears to be the earliest
conception of anything approximate to the process of holding-out cards
until they are required. All sorts of pockets, in every conceivable
position, appear to have been utilised by the sharps of long ago, for
the purpose of concealing the packs which they sought to introduce into
the game. This necessarily could only be done at a period when
plain-backed cards were generally used. The sharp of to-day would want a
goodly number of pockets, if it were necessary for him to be able to
replace any pattern among the cards which he might be called upon to

Holding out, however, in the true sense of the term, became a power in
the hands of the sharp only with the introduction, and the reception
into popular favour, of games such as Poker, in which the cards are not
all dealt out, and the possession of even one good card, in addition to
a hand which, apart from fraud, proves to be decent, is fraught with
such tremendous advantages to the sharp who has contrived to secrete it.

The earliest example of a card being systematically held out until it
could be introduced into the game with advantage to the player, is
probably that of the sharp who, during play, was always more or less
afflicted with weariness, and consequently with a perpetual desire to
stretch himself and yawn. It was noticed after a while that he always
had a good hand after yawning; a singular fact, and unaccountable.
Doubtless the occultists of that day sought to establish some plausible
connection between the act of stretching and the caprices of chance. If
so, there is very little question that, according to their usual
custom, they discovered some super-normal, and (to themselves)
satisfactory hypothesis, to account for the influence of lassitude upon
the fortunes of the individual. In accordance with the usual course of
events in such instances, however, the occult theory would be unable to
retain its hold for long. The super-normal always resolves itself into
the normal, when brought under the influence of practical common-sense.
In this particular case the explanation was of the simplest. Having
secreted a card in the palm of his hand, the sharp, under cover of the
act of stretching, would just stick it under the collar of his coat as
he sat with his back to the wall. When the card was required for use, a
second yawn with the accompanying stretch would bring it again into his
hand. This, then, was the first real holdout--the back of a man's coat

Since that time the ingenuity of the cheating community has been
unremittingly applied to the solution of the problem of making a machine
which would enable them to hold out cards without risk of detection.
That their efforts have been crowned with complete success we have the
best of reasons for believing, inasmuch as holdouts which can be used
without a single visible movement being made, and without the least fear
of creating suspicion, are articles of commerce at the present moment.
You have only to write to one of the dealers, inclosing so many dollars,
and you can be set up for life. No doubt you can obtain the names and
addresses of these gentlemen without difficulty; but since the object of
this book is not to supply them with gratuitous advertisement, their
local habitation will not be given herein, although their wares are
prominently mentioned.

In order that the reader may fully appreciate the beauty and value of
the latest and most improved devices, we will run lightly over the gamut
of the various instruments which have been introduced from time to time.
This course is the best to pursue, since even among the earlier
appliances there are some which, if well-worked, are still to be relied
upon in certain companies, and indeed _are_ relied upon by many a sharp
who considers himself 'no slouch.'

There is every reason to believe that the first contrivance which proved
to be of any practical use was one designated by the high-sounding and
euphonious title of 'The Bug.' Your sharp has always an innate sense of
the fitness of things, and an unerring instinct which prompts him to
reject all things but those which are beautiful and true. Ample evidence
of this is not wanting, even in such simple matters as the names he
gives to the tools employed in his handicraft.

'The Bug' would appear to be an insect which may be relied upon at all
times, and in whose aid the fullest confidence may be placed. In fact,
there is a saying to the effect that the bug has never been known to
fail the enterprising naturalist who has been fortunate enough to secure
a specimen, and that it has never been detected in use.

[Illustration: FIG. 24.--'The Bug.']

This entomological curiosity is illustrated in fig. 24, and is thus
described in the catalogue of one indefatigable collector.

'The Bug.' A little instrument easily carried in your vest pocket, that
can be used at a moment's notice to hold out one or more cards in any
game. Simple yet safe and sure. Price $1,00.

Such then are the general characteristics of the species; but since the
reader will probably desire a more intimate acquaintance with its habits
and its structural details, the following description is appended.

In its essential features the bug is simply a straight piece of
watchspring, bent--as Paddy might say--at one end. The end nearest the
bend is inserted into the handle of a very small shoemaker's awl. There
is nothing else 'to it' whatever. The point of the awl is stuck into the
under side of the table, in such a manner that the spring lies flat
against the table top, or nearly so, the point of the spring projecting
beyond the edge of the table to the extent of about one-eighth of an

The cards having been dealt out (say for Poker), the sharp takes up
those which have fallen to his hand, and stands them on edge upon the
table, with their faces towards him, holding them with both hands. The
card or cards which he wishes to hold out are then brought in front of
the others, and with the thumbs they are quietly slid under the table
between it and the spring. In this position they are perfectly
concealed, and may be allowed to remain until required. When again
wanted, these cards are simply pulled out by the two thumbs, as the
sharp draws his other cards towards him with a sweeping motion. Thus, by
selecting a good card here and there, as the succeeding hands are
played, the sharp acquires a reserve of potential energy sufficient to
overcome a great deal of the inertia with which he would otherwise be
handicapped by the fluctuations of fortune.

The next form of holdout which falls beneath our notice is that known as
the 'Cuff Holdout.' Let us see how the genius of the maker describes it.

'Cuff Holdout. Weighs two ounces, and is a neat invention to top the
deck, to help a partner, or hold out a card playing Stud Poker, also
good to play the half stock in Seven Up. This holdout works in shirt
sleeves and holds the cards in the same place as a cuff-pocket. There is
no part of the holdout in sight at any time. A man that has worked a
pocket will appreciate this invention. Price, by registered mail,

The cuff-pocket, above alluded to, was a very early invention. As its
name indicates, it was a pocket inside the coat sleeve, the opening to
which was situated on the under side at the seam joining sleeve and
cuff. In fig. 25 '_a_' denotes the opening of the pocket.

[Illustration: FIG. 25.]

In a game of Poker it would be employed as follows. Whilst shuffling the
cards, the sharp would contrive to get three of a kind at the top of the
pack. He would then insert his little finger between these three cards
and the rest, the pack being in the left hand. Then holding his hand in
front of him he would reach across it with the other, for the
(apparently) simple purpose of laying down his cigar, upon his extreme
left, or if he were not smoking he might lean over in the same manner to
'monkey with his chips' (_i.e._ to arrange his counters). In this
position the orifice of the pocket would come level with the front end
of the pack, the latter being completely covered by his right arm. This
would give him an opportunity of pushing the three selected cards into
the pocket, where they would remain until he had dealt out all the cards
and given off all the 'draft' except his own. Still holding the pack in
his left hand, and his hand in front of him, he would again cross his
right hand over, this time for the purpose of taking up and examining
his own hand of cards, which he had taken the precaution of dealing well
to the left, to give him an excuse for crossing his hands. He would then
remove the cards from the cuff-pocket to the top of the pack, and lay
the whole down upon the table. His manoeuvring having been successful
so far, he would now throw away three indifferent cards from his hand
and deliberately help himself to the three top cards of the pack. These,
of course, would be the three (aces for preference) which he had
previously had concealed in the pocket. Thus, he is bound to have a
'full,' in any case. If he had been so fortunate as to possess another
ace among the cards which fell to his hand on the deal, he would have a
'four'; which can only be beaten when 'straights' are played by a
'straight flush'--in other words, a sequence of five cards, all of the
same suit. His chances of 'winning the pot,' then, are infinite as
compared with those of the other players.

The great disadvantage of the cuff-pocket was the difficulty of
removing the cards when once they had been put into it. To facilitate
their removal, therefore, the pocket was sometimes provided with a
slide, having a projecting stud, which could be drawn with the finger.
This would throw the cards out into the hand.

This description will serve to enlighten the reader as to the advantages
to be gained by substituting the cuff-holdout in place of the pocket
which it is intended to supplant. It fulfils its purpose in a much more
perfect manner, being far easier to use, and requiring less skill on the
part of the operator.

[Illustration: FIG. 26.]

Referring to fig. 26, it will be seen that this instrument consists
practically of a pair of jaws, which, being movable, will separate
sufficiently to allow a card to be held between them. These jaws are
drawn towards each other by means of an elastic band slipped over them.
Elastic is the material commonly used in the springs of holdouts, being
readily replaced when worn out or otherwise deteriorated. The projecting
lever situated at the side of the machine is for the purpose of
separating the jaws when the cards are to be withdrawn. The act of
pressing it to one side releases the cards, and at the same time throws
up a little arm from the body of the holdout, which thrusts them out.

The machine is strapped around the fore-arm with the jaws underneath,
and is worn inside the sleeve of the coat or, if playing in
shirt-sleeves, inside the shirt-sleeve. Acting from the inside it will
hold a card or cards against the under surface of the sleeve, in which
position they are concealed from view by the arm. The hands being
crossed, as in the case of the cuff-pocket, the cards are simply slipped
between the jaws, where they are held until required. The hands being
crossed for the second time, the lever is pressed and the cards fall
upon the top of the pack, which is held underneath at the moment. This
operation is termed technically 'topping the deck.' Fig. 27 shows the
manner in which the cards are held by this machine.

[Illustration: FIG. 27. Showing card held under the arm.]

An extremely simple form of appliance, and one which may be utilised
with effect, is that known as the 'ring holdout.' It is merely a small
piece of watchspring fitted with a clip, enabling it to be attached to
an ordinary finger-ring. Between this spring and palm of the hand the
cards are held (fig. 28).

[Illustration: FIG. 28.--Ring Holdout.]

With a little practice the deck may be topped, hands made up or shifted,
and cards held out in a manner which is far safer and better than any
'palming,' however skilfully it may be done. Needless to say, the cards
used must not be too large, or the operator's hand too small, if this
device is to be employed.

We now come to the subject of coat and vest machines, among which are to
be found some of the finest examples of mechanical genius as applied to
the art of cheating.

The earliest vest machine was a clumsy utensil covering nearly the whole
of the wearer's chest. It was called--not inaptly--by the gambling
fraternity of the time the 'Breast-plate.'

Like all other ideas, however, which contain the germ of a great
principle, this conception has been improved upon, until it has
developed into an invention worthy of the noble end which it is intended
to fulfil.

In its latest and most improved form, as widely used at the present day,
it is illustrated in fig. 29.

As a thorough acquaintance with the construction and working of this
machine will be of great assistance to us in arriving at an
understanding of those which follow, we will go into it somewhat
exhaustively with the aid of the lettering in the illustration.

[Illustration: FIG. 29.]

Referring then to fig 29, _a_ is a slide which is free to move in the
direction of the length of the base-plate _b_. It is held in position
and guided by means of fittings which pass through the slot cut in the
base-plate. This slide is composed of two thin plates of metal between
which the cards are held as shown, and is protected by the cover _c_,
which is removable, and which is hinged when in use to lugs provided for
the purpose upon the base-plate. The ends of base-plate and cover
farthest from the hinge-joint are each pierced with a row of small
holes. These are to facilitate the sewing of the apparatus to the
divided edges of a seam.

Attached to the upper surface of the slide will be seen thin strips of
metal, bent into somewhat of the form of a bow. In practice these are
covered with cloth, to prevent the noise they would otherwise make in
rubbing against the cover. As the slide moves forward into the position
it occupies in the figure these projecting strips, pressing against the
cover, tend to thrust base-plate and cover apart. This action separates
the edges of the seam to which those parts of the apparatus are
respectively sewn, and provides an aperture for the entrance or the exit
of the slide, together with the cards it is holding out. As the slide
returns to the other end of the base-plate, the cloth-covered strips
fall within the curvature of the cover, thus allowing the edges of the
seam to come together; and when the slide is right home, the central
projecting strip passes beyond the hinge-joint, thus tending to press
the free ends of base-plate and cover into intimate contact. The opening
which has been fabricated in the seam is thus securely closed, and
nothing amiss can be seen.

The to-and-fro movement of the slide is effected in the following
manner. Attached at one end to the base-plate is a flexible tube _d_,
consisting simply of a helix of wire closely coiled. Through this tube
passes a cord _e_, one end of which is led around pulleys below the
base-plate, and attached to the slide in such a manner that, when the
cord is pulled, the slide is drawn into the position shown. To the other
end of the cord is fastened a hook for the purpose of attaching it to
the 'tab' or loop at the back of the operator's boot. It may be here
mentioned that the cord used in this and all similar machines is a very
good quality of fishing-line. The slide is constantly drawn towards its
normal position within the machine by the piece of elastic _f_. The
band _g_ with the buckle attached is intended to support the machine
within the coat or vest.

The foregoing description necessarily partakes of the nature of Patent
Office literature, but it is hoped that the reader will be enabled to
digest it, and thereby form some idea of this interesting invention.

Although it is both a coat and vest machine, this apparatus is more
convenient to use when fastened inside the coat, as the front edges of
that garment are readier to hand than those of the waistcoat. The edge
of the right breast is unpicked, and the machine is sewn into the gap.
The flexible tube is passed down the left trouser-leg, inside which the
hook hangs at the end of the cord ready for attachment to the boot.

When the operator is seated at the table, he seizes a favourable
opportunity of hooking the cord to the loop of his boot, and all is
ready. Having obtained possession of the cards he wishes to hold out, he
holds them flat in his hand, against his breast. Then, by merely
stretching his leg, the cord is pulled, the seam of the coat opens (the
aperture being covered, however, by his arm) and out comes the end of
the slide. The cards are quietly inserted into the slide; the leg is
drawn up, and--hey, presto! the cards have disappeared. When they are
again required, another movement of the leg will bring them into the
operator's hand.

One can readily see how useful a device of this kind would be in a game
of the 'Nap' order. Having abstracted a good hand from the pack (five
cards 'never would be missed') it could be retained in the holdout as
long as might be necessary. Upon finding oneself possessed of a bad
hand, the concealed cards could be brought out, and the others hidden
until it came to one's turn to deal, and then they could be just thrown
out on to the pack.

The price of this little piece of apparatus is $25.00, and, doubtless,
it is worth the odd five, being well made and finished up to look
pretty. In fact, it is quite a mantelboard ornament, as most of these
things are. Evidently, the sharp, whilst possessing the crafty and
thieving instincts of the magpie, has also the magpie's predilection for
things which are bright and attractive. Therefore his implements are
made resplendent with nickel and similar precious metals. Although
electroplating or something of the kind is necessary to prevent rust and
corrosion, one would be inclined to think that articles which are
intended to escape observation would be better adapted to their end if
they were protected by some method just a trifle less obtrusive in its
brilliancy. However, that is not our business. If the buyers are
satisfied, what cause have _we_ to complain?

The 'Kepplinger' vest or coat machine, which is referred to in the
Catalogue (p. 293), is exactly the same thing as that just described,
with the addition of Kepplinger's method of pulling the string, which
will be described further on.

The 'Arm Pressure' vest machine, mentioned in the same Catalogue, is a
modification of the old 'Jacob's Ladder' sleeve holdout, to which we
shall have occasion to revert presently. In an earlier edition of the
Catalogue the arm-pressure machine is thus eulogised:--

'New Vest Machine. Guaranteed to be the best Vest Machine made. This
machine weighs about three ounces, and is used half-way down the vest,
where it comes natural to hold your hands and cards. The work is done
with one hand and the lower part of the same arm. You press against a
small lever with the arm (an easy pressure of three-quarters of an inch
throws out the cards back of a few others held in your left hand), and
you can reach over to your checks or do anything else with your right
hand while working the Hold-Out. The motions are all natural and do not
cause suspicion. The machine is held in place by a web belt; you don't
have to sew anything fast, but when you get ready to play you can put on
the machine and when through can remove it in half a minute. There are
no plates, and no strings to pull on, and no springs that are liable to
break or get out of order. This machine is worth fifty of the old style
Vest Plates for practical use, and you will say the same after seeing

The statement guaranteeing this to be the best vest machine ever made
has been expunged of late, as will be noticed in the reproduction of the
Catalogue upon page 294. In reality it is not nearly so efficient as the
Kepplinger, all statements and opinions to the contrary notwithstanding.
Its construction will be readily understood from the description of the
'Jacob's Ladder' which follows next in order.

This brings us, then, to the subject of sleeve machines, or appliances
whereby the sharp, like Ah Sin, the 'Heathen Chinee,' who understood so
well 'the game he did not understand,' is enabled to have a few cards up
his sleeve. 'Up his sleeve!' How those words suggest the explanation so
often given by the innocent-minded public to account for the
disappearance of the various articles which slip so nimbly through a
conjurer's fingers. And yet, if they only knew it, that is about the
last place in the world that a conjurer, as a rule, would use as a
receptacle for anything. Of course there is no Act of Parliament to
prevent him, should he desire to do so; but that's another story. With
the sharp, however, there are several Acts of Parliament to prevent
_him_ from using his sleeve for any such purpose; and yet he often
resorts to it. How true is the saying that 'one man may steal a horse,
whilst another may not look over the hedge.'

[Illustration: FIG. 30.]

[Illustration: FIG. 31.]

As far as can be ascertained, the 'Jacob's Ladder' was the forerunner of
all other sleeve holdouts. It was fastened to the under side of the
fore-arm, and worked by pressure upon the table. Its construction was
essentially that of a pair of lazy-tongs, arranged as in figs. 30 and
31. The base-plate carrying the working parts was curved so as to lie
closely against the arm and hold the machine steady whilst in use. The
'lazy-tongs' device was fixed to the base-plate at one end, the other
being free to move, and carrying the clip for the cards. Situated at an
angle above the 'tongs' was a lever, also attached at one end to the
base-plate, the other end terminating in a knob. Half-way down this
lever was hinged a connecting-rod, joining the lever with the second
joint of the 'tongs.' Pressure being applied to the knob, the
connecting-rod would force out the joint to which it was attached; and
the motion being multiplied by each successive joint, the clip was
caused to protrude beyond the coat cuff. In this position the card could
be inserted or removed as in the cases already noticed. The clip was
returned to its place within the sleeve by means of a rubber band.

Some of these 'Jacob's Ladder' sleeve machines are made to work by
pulling a string, after the manner of the coat and vest machine already
described. Those advertised at $50.00 are of this description.

The advantage of a machine of this kind is of course found in the fact
that the cards are brought directly into the hand. This particular form,
however, was very difficult to use, as the cards were always liable to
catch in the cuff, a circumstance which is obviously much to the
detriment of the apparatus. There is also the further disadvantage of
being compelled to wear an abnormally large shirt-cuff, which in itself
would attract attention among men who had their wits about them.

The enormous facilities for unostentatious operation afforded by a
machine working inside the sleeve were too readily apparent to allow of
the sleeve holdout falling into disuse. It was the kind of thing which
must inevitably be improved upon, until it became of practical utility.
And such has been the case. The very finest holdout the world has ever
seen is that known as the Kepplinger or San Francisco. This machine in
its latest forms is certainly a masterpiece. Yet so little appreciation
has the world for true genius, that the inventor of this marvellous
piece of apparatus is practically unknown to the vast majority of his

Kepplinger was a professional gambler; that is what _he_ was. In other
words, he was a sharp--and of the sharpest.

As to the date at which this bright particular Star of the West first
dawned upon the horizon of 'Tom Tiddler's Ground' deponent sayeth not.
Neither have we any substantial record of the facts connected with the
conception and elaboration of that great idea with which his name is
associated. Of its introduction into the field of practical utility,
however, and its subsequent revelation to the fraternity to whom its
existence was of the utmost consequence, the details are available, and
therefore may be revealed. The event occurred in this wise, as follows,
that is to say:--

In the year of grace 1888, Kepplinger, the inventor, gambler and cheat,
was resident and pursuing his daily avocations in the city known
colloquially as 'Frisco.'

Now it is a singular feature of human nature that, whatever a man's
calling may be, however arduous or exacting, he becomes in course of
time so much a creature of habit that he is never really happy apart
from it. One may suppose that it is the consciousness of ability to do
certain things, and to do them well, which accounts for this fact. At
any rate, the fact remains. We are all alike in this respect--especially
some of us. The barrister at leisure will prefer to sit in Court and
watch another conducting a case; the actor with an evening to spare will
go and see someone else act; the omnibus-driver with a day off will
perch himself upon a friend's vehicle, and ride to and fro; and the
sharp will infallibly spend his leisure moments in gambling. When there
are no dupes to be plundered, no 'pigeons' who have a feather left to
fly with, the 'rooks' will congregate in some sequestered spot, and
enjoy a quiet game all to themselves. And they play fairly? Yes--if they
are obliged to do so; not otherwise. They will cheat each other if they
can. Honour amongst thieves! Nonsense.

In 1888, then, Kepplinger's relaxation for some months consisted of a
'hard game' with players who were all professional sharps like himself.
The circle was composed entirely of men who thought they 'knew the
ropes' as well as he did. In that, however, they were considerably in
error. He was acquainted with a trick worth any two which they could
have mentioned. However much the fortunes of the others might vary,
Kepplinger never sustained a loss. On the contrary, he always won. The
hands he held were enough to turn any gambler green with envy, and yet,
no one could detect him in cheating. His companions were, of course, all
perfectly familiar with the appliances of their craft. Holdouts in a
game of that description would have been, one would think, useless
incumbrances. The players were all too well acquainted with the signs
and tokens accompanying such devices, and Kepplinger gave no sign of the
employment of anything of the kind. He sat like a statue at the table,
he kept his cards right away from him, he did not move a muscle as far
as could be seen; his opponents could look up his sleeve almost to the
elbow, and yet _he won_.

This being the condition of affairs, it was one which could not by any
stretch of courtesy be considered satisfactory to anyone but Kepplinger
himself. Having borne with the untoward circumstances as long as their
curiosity and cupidity would allow them, his associates at length
resolved upon concerted action. Arranging their plan of attack, they
arrived once again at the rendezvous, and commenced the game as usual.
Then, suddenly and without a moment's warning, Kepplinger was seized,
gagged, and held hard and fast.

Then the investigation commenced. The great master-cheat was searched,
and upon him was discovered the most ingenious holdout ever devised.

What did the conspirators do then? Did they 'lay into him' with cudgels,
or 'get the drop' on him with 'six-shooters'? Did they, for instance,
hand him over to the Police? No! ten thousand times no! They did none of
those things, nor had they ever any intention of doing anything of the
kind. Being only human--and sharps--they did what they considered would
serve their own interests best. A compact was entered into, whereby
Kepplinger agreed to make a similar instrument to the one he was wearing
for each of his captors, and once again the temporary and short-lived
discord gave place to harmony and content.

Had Kepplinger been content to use less frequently the enormous
advantage he possessed, and to have exercised more discretion in
winning, appearing to lose sometimes, his device might have been still

It was thus, then, that the secret leaked out, and probably without the
occurrence of this 'little rift within the lute'--or should it be
_loot_?--the reader might not have had this opportunity of inspecting
the details of the 'Kepplinger' or 'San Francisco' holdout.

This form of sleeve machine will be easily understood by the reader who
has followed the description of the coat and vest holdout already given
upon referring to fig. 32 upon the opposite page, the illustration being
a diagrammatic representation of the various parts of the apparatus.

[Illustration: FIG. 32.]

It is evident that we are here brought into contact with a greater
complexity of strings, wheels, joints, tubes, pulleys, and working parts
generally than it has hitherto been our lot to encounter. There is,
however, nothing which is superfluous among all these things. Every
detail of the apparatus is absolutely necessary to secure its
efficiency. The holdout itself, _a_, is similar in construction to the
coat and vest machine, except that it is longer, and that the slide _b_
has a greater range of movement.

The machine is worn with a special shirt, having a double sleeve and a
false cuff. This latter is to obviate the necessity of having 'a clean
boiled shirt,' and the consequent trouble of fixing the machine to it,
more frequently than is absolutely necessary.

It will be seen that the free ends of the base-plate and cover, instead
of being pierced with holes, as in the vest machine, are serrated,
forming a termination of sharp points (_p_). These are for the purpose
of facilitating the adaptation of the machine to the operator's
shirt-sleeve, which is accomplished in the following manner. In the
wristband of the inner sleeve a series of little slits is cut with a
penknife, and through these slits the points upon the base-plate are
thrust. The base-plate itself is then sewn to the sleeve with a few
stitches, one or two holes being made in the plate to allow this to be
done readily. Thus the points are prevented from being accidentally
withdrawn from the slits, and the whole apparatus is firmly secured to
the sleeve. In the lower edge of the false cuff slits are cut in a
similar manner, and into these the points of the cover are pushed. The
cuff is held securely to the cover by means of little strings, which
are tied to holes provided for the purpose in the sides of the cover.
These arrangements having been made, the shirt, with the machine
attached, is ready to be worn. The operator having put it on, takes a
shirt stud with rather a long stem, and links the inner sleeve round his
wrist. Then he fastens the false cuff to the inner sleeve by buttoning
the two lower stud-holes over the stud already at his wrist. Thus, the
inner sleeve and the cuff are held in close contact by the base-plate
and cover of the machine. Finally, he fastens the outer sleeve over the
whole, by buttoning it over the long stud which already holds the inner
sleeve and the cuff. Thus, the machine is concealed between the two
sleeves. If one were able to look inside the operator's cuff whilst the
machine is in action, it would appear as though the wristband and cuff
came apart, and the cards were protruded through the opening. The
points, then, are the means whereby the double sleeve is held open while
the machine is in operation, and closed when it is at rest.

From the holdout, the cord which works the slide is led to the
elbow-joint, where it passes around a pulley (_c_). This joint, like all
the others through which the cord has to pass, is what is known as
'universal'; that is to say, it allows of movement in any direction.
From the elbow to the shoulder the cord passes through an adjustable
tube (_d_). The telescopic arrangement of the tube is to adapt it to
the various lengths of arm in different operators. At the shoulder-joint
(_e_) is another universal pulley-wheel, which is fastened up to the
shoulder by a band of webbing or any other convenient means. At this
point begins the flexible tube of coiled wire, which enables the cord to
adapt itself to every movement of the wearer, and yet to work without
much friction (_f_). The flexible tube terminates at the knee in a third
pulley (_g_), attached to the leg by a garter of webbing. The cord (_h_)
now passes through an opening in the seam of the trouser-leg and across
to the opposite knee, where through a similar opening projects a hook
(_i_), over which the loop at the end of the cord is placed.

It must not be imagined that the sharp walks about with his knees
tethered together with a piece of string, and a hook sticking out from
one leg; or even that he would be at ease with the knowledge of having a
seam on each side unpicked for a distance of two inches or so. That
would be what he might call 'a bit too thick.' No; when the sharp sits
down to the table, nothing of any such a nature is visible. Nor when he
rises from the game should we be able to discover anything wrong with
his apparel. He is much too knowing for that. The arrangement he adopts
is the following:--

At each knee of the trousers, where the seams are split open, the gap
thus produced is rendered secure again, and free from observation, by
means of the little spring-clip shown in fig. 33. This contrivance is
sewn into the seam, being perforated to facilitate that operation. When
closed, it keeps the edges of the opening so well together that one
could never suspect the seam of having been tampered with. When it is
required to open the gap, the ends of the clip are pressed with the
finger and thumb (B, fig 33). This instantly produces a lozenge-shaped
opening in the seam, and allows of the connection between the knees
being made.

[Illustration: FIG. 33.--Seam-clips, A and B.]

When the sharp sits down to play, then, he first presses open these
clips; next, he draws out the cord, which has hitherto lain concealed
within the trouser-leg, and brings into position the hook, which,
turning upon a pivot, has until now rested flat against his leg: lastly,
he passes the loop at the end of the cord over the hook, and all is in
readiness. These operations require far less time to accomplish than to

The sharp being thus harnessed for the fray, it becomes apparent that by
slightly spreading the knees, the string is tightened, and by this means
the slide within the body of the holdout is thrust out, through the
cuff, into his hand. The cards which he desires to hold out being
slightly bent, so as to adapt themselves to the curve of the cuff, and
placed in the slide, the knees are brought together, and the cards are
drawn up into the machine.

At the conclusion of the game the cord is unhooked, and tucked back
through the seam; the hook is turned round, so that it lies flat; and
finally the apertures are closed by pressing the sides of the clips

There is one point in connection with the practical working of the
machine which it may be as well to mention. The pulley _g_ at the end of
the flexible tube is not fixed to the knee permanently, or the sharp
would be unable to stand up straight, with the tube only of the
requisite length; and if it were made long enough to reach from knee to
shoulder whilst he was in a standing position, there would be a good
deal too much slack when he came to sit down. This pulley, therefore, is
detachable from the band of webbing, and is fixed to it when required by
means of a socket into which it fits with a spring-catch.

Such then, is the Kepplinger holdout; and the selling-price of the
apparatus complete is $100.00. If there were any inventor's rights in
connection with this class of machinery, doubtless the amount charged
would be very much higher. Governments as a rule, however, do not
recognise any rights whatever as appertaining to devices for use in the
unjust appropriation of other people's goods or money--at least, not
when such devices are employed by an individual. In the case of devices
which form part of the machinery of government, the Official Conscience
is, perhaps, less open to the charge of prejudice and narrow-mindedness.
What is sauce for the (individual) goose is not sauce for the
(collective) gander. However, two wrongs would not make a right, and
perhaps all is for the best.

Before leaving the subject of holdouts, there is one other form to which
it is necessary to refer, viz. the table holdout. It is thus described
by the maker:--

'_Table Holdout._--Very small and light. It can be put under and removed
from any table in less than half a minute. Works easily from either
knee. It will bring three or more cards up into your hand and take back
the discards as you hold your hands and cards in a natural position on
top of the table.'

This 'contraption' is an extremely simple thing, its recommendation
being that it accomplishes mechanically what the 'bug' requires
manipulation to effect. It is constructed on the same principle as the
ordinary vest machine, and is fastened to the under side of the
table-top by means of a spike, in a similar manner to the table
reflector. The string which works the slide terminates, at the end which
is pulled, in a hook having a sharp point. The machine being fixed under
the table ready to commence operations, the pointed hook is thrust
through the material of the trousers just above one knee. When the slide
is required to come forward, the knee is dropped a little; and, upon
raising the knee again, the slide is withdrawn by its spring, as in all
similar arrangements.

By this time the reader will be in a position to understand the nature
of the 'reflector on machine,' referred to in the last chapter, without
needing to be wearied with further details of this particular kind.

Having thus glanced at all the principal varieties of the modern
holdout, with one or two of the more ancient ones, it only remains to
add a few general remarks to what has been said.

Each class of machine has its own peculiar advantages and disadvantages.
Each sharp has his own peculiarities of taste and his own methods of
working. Therefore, there is no one kind of appliance which appeals
equally to all individuals. Some will prefer one machine; some another.
That, of course, is the rule in the world generally. A great deal also
depends upon the manners and customs of the country in which the
machine is to be used.

[Illustration: FIG. 34.--Poker player's method of holding cards.]

For instance, how many card-players are there in England who hold their
cards in the manner represented in fig. 34? Very few, I take it. Yet it
is a very good method of preventing others from seeing one's hand.
Further, it is the correct way to hold the cards when using the
Kepplinger sleeve-machine. The cards are placed flat in one hand, the
fingers of the other are pressed upon them in the centre, whilst the
thumb turns up one corner to allow of the indices being read. To adopt
this method in England, however, would be to arouse suspicion at once,
merely because it is unusual. Therefore the vest machine is the best for
the English sharp; although no holdout can compare with the Kepplinger
in a game of Poker in America.

Although most of these contrivances are simple in operation, the reader
must not run away with the idea that their use entails no skill upon the
part of the sharp who uses them. That would be far too blissful a state
of affairs ever to be achieved in this weary world, where all is vanity
and vexation of spirit. Certainly, they do not demand the dismal hours
of solitary confinement with hard labour which have to be spent upon
some of the manipulative devices and sleight-of-hand dodges; but still
they require a certain amount of deftness, which can only be acquired by
practice. The following instructions will represent the advice of an
expert, given to a novice who proposed to try his hand with a machine at
the game of Poker:--

'Practise at least three weeks or a month with the machine, to get it
down fine [i.e. to gain facility of working, both of machine and
operator]. Don't work the machine too much. [Not too often during the
game.] In a big game [that is, where the stakes are high] three or four
times in a night are enough. NEVER play it in a small game [because the
amount that could be won would be incommensurate with the risk of
detection]. Holding out one card will beat any square game [honest play]
in the world. Two cards is very strong; but can easily be played on
smart people. Three cards is too much to hold out on smart men, as a
'full' is too big to be held often without acting as an eye-opener.
Never, under any circumstances, hold out four or five. One card is
enough, as you are really playing six cards to everyone else's five.
This card will make a 'straight' of a 'flush' sometimes; or, very often,
will give you 'two pair' or 'three' of a kind. If you are very expert,
you can play the machine on your own deal; but it looks better to do it
on someone else's.'

Having digested these words of comfort and advice--precious jewels
extracted from the crown of wisdom and experience--we may proceed on our
way invigorated and refreshed by the consciousness of having acquired
knowledge such as rarely falls to the lot of man to possess.


[4] Even the modern sharp sometimes uses a method quite as simple. He
will put the cards he wishes to hold out under his knee-joint, and when
he requires to use them, he will hitch his chair closer to the table,
taking the cards into his hand as he does so. This device is called in
France the 'coup de cuisse.'



Many readers upon the occasion of their taking up this book for the
first time will be under the impression, doubtless, that the most
important revelations it contains will prove to be those connected with
the manipulative devices employed by card-sharpers and others in
cheating the simple-minded and unwary. But, whatever preconceptions upon
the subject may have existed, the details of mere manipulation are far
from being those of the most consequence to the sharp in the exercise of
his profession. This, of course, must be understood to be simply a
general statement which does not apply to particular cases. The
low-class English sharp, for instance, relies almost entirely upon
certain forms of sleight of hand to deceive the senses of his dupes.
Again, there are some tricks and dodges which are practised by even the
most high-class cheats. The rule is, however, that mere sleight of hand
is to a great extent obsolete; at least, among those who seek to swindle
really good card-players. The methods of legerdemain are more the
common property of the multitude than formerly, and this fact tends to
operate very largely to the detriment of the sharp. With the legitimate
_prestidigitateur_ it is otherwise. It is true, some persons are in a
position to form a better idea as to how his tricks are accomplished
than was the case in years gone by; but even then, there remains the
advantage that they are better able to appreciate his deftness and his
ingenuity. Therefore, he is rather benefited than otherwise by the
spread of this particular form of knowledge. It is the poor sharp who
has suffered through the enlightenment of the public. His lines have
fallen in rough places of late years; yet it can hardly be said that he
has not proved himself more than equal to the occasion. When checkmated
in one direction, he is generally capable of creating a diversion in his
own favour in another.

In card games especially there is always a risk in resorting to
manipulation nowadays. There is the ever-present possibility of some one
among the cheat's antagonists having sufficient knowledge to detect him
in his manipulation of the cards. He is haunted by the fear that sharp
eyes are watching his every movement, and he knows full well that he can
accomplish nothing in this way without some movement which a trained eye
would instantly detect. Once detected in cheating, his reputation is
gone. He can no longer hope to find dupes among his former
acquaintances. He must seek 'fresh fields and pastures new.' However
precious reputation may be to an honest man, it is a thousand times more
so to the sharp. Once his reputation is gone he has to depend upon
chance custom; whereas he might otherwise have a nice little circle of
regular clients, at whose expense he could live in ease and comfort.

As a professional sharp remarked to a young friend, to whom he was
giving lessons in the art of cheating: 'The best gamblers [they don't
call themselves sharps] play with fair cards only; and, by being
wonderfully keen card-players, make their brains win, instead of
cheating with the pack. They play in partnership (secret), and are
invincible, as they know all the various swindles and so can protect
themselves from being cheated. The most successful men are among this
class, although nearly all of them can do the finest work with a pack of

'The next best class are those who play marked cards well, many of them
using cards that no one not acquainted with the work could find out in a
lifetime. [Instance, the scroll-work on p. 51.] These men, if they can
only get their own cards into a game, are sure to win.

'Then, after these, come the class of "second dealers," "bottom
dealers," and men who habitually do work with the pack to win. _These
men always get caught in the long run._'

Such, then, being the case as evidenced by the word of an expert, one
may form some idea of the relative value of manipulation as compared
with other methods in the hands of the card-sharper.

To deal thoroughly with this branch of our subject would require a
text-book of sleight of hand, as nearly all the tricks of 'hanky-panky'
could be made to serve the purposes of cheating. But since so many
excellent treatises of that kind are readily accessible to the public,
it would be superfluous to do more than give the reader a general idea
of those methods which the sharp has made peculiarly his own. Even among
those which are here represented, there are many devices which are
rapidly becoming obsolete, and others of which it is very doubtful how
far they are used at the present moment. In sharping, like everything
else, 'the old order changeth, giving place to new.' However, the reader
must judge for himself as to what devices would be likely to deceive him
personally, and that will help him to an understanding of what would
probably have the same effect upon others. Thus he will be able to
arrive at a tolerably approximate estimate of the probabilities in
connection with the use or disuse of any individual trick. The author,
being too old a bird to be caught with any such chaff, is really not so
competent to form an opinion upon the subject. In his case familiarity,
if it has not bred contempt, has at least deadened the due appreciation
of the relative merits and advantages of the various trickeries. They
all appear of the same tint against the background of past experience,
each one possessing but little individuality of its own. With the
reader, however, it is in all probability different. Assuming that he
has merely a casual acquaintance with manual dexterity of this kind he
will come fresh to the subject, and therefore to him the details will
assume their proper relative proportions.

To begin, then, with the oldest and most simple manipulations, our first
topic is that of the 'Bottom Deal.' This trick, simple as it is, is the
very stronghold of the common English sharp. In whatever game he is
playing, he seizes the opportunity afforded by picking up the cards
preparatory to dealing to place certain cards which would form a good
hand at the bottom of the pack, and in shuffling he takes good care not
to disturb them. But there is still the 'cut' to be thought about. Well,
we shall see later on how the effects of the cut are to be obviated. In
the meantime, however, it is evident that if the cards were cut and
piled in the ordinary manner, those cards which the sharp had so
carefully preserved at the bottom would be brought to the centre. That
would never answer his purpose; so, when the cut has been made, if the
game is one which does not necessitate the dealing out of the entire
pack, he simply takes up the bottom half of the pack, leaving the other
on the table. Then, holding the cards as in fig. 35, he proceeds to
deal. From this point the trick, as its name suggests, consists of
dealing the bottom cards, either to himself or, preferably, to a
confederate, in place of the upper cards which should justly fall to
that hand.

[Illustration: FIG. 35.--Bottom Deal.]

From the position in which the cards are held it will be seen that, as
each card is dealt, the finger and thumb of the dealer's right hand fall
respectively below and above the pack. It is, therefore, entirely
optional whether he shall take the top card with his thumb, or the
bottom one with his finger. When a card has to be dealt, then, to
himself or to his confederate, as the case may be, it is the bottom one
which is taken; to the other players the top ones are dealt out. When
quickly done, it is impossible to see whether the card comes from the
top or the bottom, although the manner of holding and dealing the cards
would imply that the bottom deal was being resorted to: the cards which
come from the bottom, being pulled upwards, appear to come from the top.
It can always be detected, nevertheless, by the different sound made by
a card when brought from the bottom. There is just a slight click, which
is distinctly audible, and easily recognised. The reader should try it
for himself, and note the effect referred to. After a few minutes'
experience he would never afterwards be mistaken in deciding as to
whether a card was dealt from the top or bottom of the pack. A sharp who
uses the bottom deal rarely employs any other form of manipulation

We now pass on to the trick known as 'Dealing Seconds.' The trick is so
named because it consists of dealing out the second card from the top
instead of the top one. It is particularly useful in connection with
marked cards, where of course the top card can be read, and very often
the second one also.[5] The effect in this case is that the sharp can
always retain the better of the two top cards for himself. Suppose,
then, there are four players. The sharp, commencing to deal, notices
that the top card is a knave, whilst the second is a three. He therefore
deals the second card to the player immediately to his left. It may then
appear that the second card now is a king; and, consequently, the sharp
deals the top card to the second hand, leaving the king on top. If the
card which is now second in the pack is lower than the king, the third
player receives that card; but if the second should prove to be an ace,
the king goes to the third player, and the ace to the sharp himself. It
may happen, however, that the sharp, having dealt round to the three
players in this manner, finds that the second of the remaining cards is
of more value to him than the first. In that case, of course, he would
deal himself the second. Thus it is seen that the sharp has really had a
choice of five cards on one round of the deal; and the larger the number
of players, the greater his choice, although he may at times have to
choose between two cards which would answer his purpose equally well. If
he is thus compelled to give away a good card he should dispose of it
where it is likely to do him least harm, if he can contrive to do so.
Besides marked cards, there are other methods of discovering the value
of the top card and, consequently, the advisability of dealing seconds,
as we shall see presently.

The trick of dealing the second card is very easily learned. Take a pack
of cards in your left hand, in the manner usually adopted in dealing,
with the thumb lying across the middle of the pack. Then with the thumb
advance the two top cards slightly to the right. This being done, it
will be found that these two cards can be taken between the thumb and
middle finger. With the second held by the tip of the middle finger,
advance the top card a little further to the right. The cards will now
be in a position frequently adopted in dealing, the top card being
sufficiently forward to be grasped by the right finger and thumb. So
far, there is nothing unusual in the operations; but this is where the
trick comes in. If the middle finger of the hand holding the cards is
advanced, the second card, resting upon its tip, will be advanced also;
and if at the same time the thumb is drawn back, the top card is
withdrawn with it. It is now the second card which is the more advanced
of the two, and consequently the card which would be taken by the right
hand in dealing. In fact, the two cards can be rubbed together by the
finger and thumb, alternately advancing and receding. If the second card
is to be dealt, then it is pushed forward and the top one is drawn back,
the movement being masked by a slight dropping of the arm towards the
operator. Of course the change in the position of the cards is not made
until the instant the right hand reaches the pack to take the card. Thus
the entire operation appears to consist of one movement only. An expert
'second-dealer' will place a known card on top of the pack and deal the
whole of the other cards from beneath it, leaving that card in his hands
at the finish; and this without any manipulation being visible to any
but the sharpest vision.

The utility of the second-dealing method of procedure, it is evident,
depends greatly upon the fact of having a knowledge of the top card.
With marked cards the acquiring of this knowledge can present no
difficulty, and even with genuine ones the difficulty is by no means
insuperable. All that is necessary is to reach over to the left, keeping
the cards in front of one, with the top card drawn off a little to one
side, so as to have the index in the corner visible from below, and a
sly peep will do the trick. There are innumerable excuses available to
account for the reaching over, as we have already seen in the case of
the cuff holdout. Given the fact that there is something to the left of
the operator which must be reached with the right hand, the rest is
easy. The act of leaning to one side effectually covers the slight
tilting of the left hand which enables the under side of the cards to be
seen. There used to be an old American colonel (the numerical strength
of officers in the American army must have been extraordinary at some
time or another) at one of the best London clubs who was very partial to
the use of this trick. He would lay his cigar upon the table, well over
to his left, and then, bending down to get it, he would note both top
and bottom cards, in the manner described.

Simple as this dodge may be, it is unquestionably of great service at
times. Take, for instance, the case of the dealer at Poker. After he has
dealt the cards, but before giving off the draft, he leans over to pick
up his hand, and in so doing sees the 'size' of the top card of the
'deck.' Upon inspecting his hand, he can tell whether the top card will
be of use to him or not. If it is, he can easily hold it back until he
can take it for himself; if not, he very generously lets someone else
have it.

For the benefit of those who may not know the game of Poker, and in
England there are many who do not, I may illustrate the great utility of
knowing the top and bottom cards by a reference to the results
attainable by such means in the familiar game of Nap. Suppose that you
are playing a single-handed game, and it is your turn to deal. You note
the top and bottom cards. If they happen to be decent ones, both of the
same suit, you hold back the top card, and give your opponent the
second. The top one then comes to you. You now give your opponent the
card next in order, and deal the bottom one to yourself. The rest of the
cards may be left to chance, until the five are dealt out to each hand.
The consequence of this manoeuvre is as follows. You are sure of
having two good cards of one suit, and it is about an even chance that
among the other three will be another of the same kind. Therefore, you
are pretty certain of a long suit to lead from. Your chances, therefore,
are a long way better than your opponent's. If, however, on the other
hand, you find that the top and bottom cards are small ones, and of
different suits, you may make your opponent a present of them. They may
of course prove useful to him; but the chances are that they do not.
But, whatever happens, you know the value of two cards out of his five;
a fact which may have considerable influence upon the result of the
hand, as all 'Nappists' will admit. Necessarily there is nothing of real
certainty about this achievement; but, still, the player who knows the
top and bottom cards, even though he is not skilful enough to dispose of
them to the best advantage, gathers in a goodly proportion of the
chances of the game which do not belong to him by right.

We now come to the consideration of methods employed by the sharp in
manipulating the cards to his own advantage during the process of
shuffling, and of preventing the overthrow of his plans by the
disarrangement introduced into the result of his efforts in the fact of
the cards having to be cut by an opponent. However carefully he may
contrive to arrange the order of the cards, the cut would obviously
upset his calculations. Therefore, in addition to some method of placing
the cards in order, he must also have a ready means of rendering the cut
inoperative. We have already seen how the bottom-dealer dodges it; and
now we will look into one or two other systems, most of them equally
simple, and all of them equally effective.

We will suppose for the moment that the cards have been arranged in, or
at any rate not disarranged by, the shuffle. The sharp lays the pack
upon the table; his opponent lifts up the top half and lays it down
near the bottom half. In the natural course of things the sharp should
now take up the bottom half, place it upon the top half that was, close
the cards together, and commence to deal. If this were done, the cards
which he required to have on top would now be in the middle of the pack,
and all the trouble he had devoted to their disposition would be wasted.
So he is compelled to adopt some means of restoring the cards to their
former position. In accomplishing this there are several courses open to
him. The simplest and most barefaced method, and yet one which will
escape detection nine times out of ten, is the following. The cards
having been cut, and the two halves of the pack having been placed side
by side in the usual manner, the sharp picks up the bottom half with the
right hand, as though he were about to place it upon the other; but
instead of so doing, he deliberately puts it into his left hand. Then
picking up the top half, he adds it to the other, in the position it
originally occupied. There is absolutely nothing in this but impudence,
and yet the dodge will nearly always pass muster. Try it the next time
you are playing cards, and you will find that nobody will notice it if
it is done with apparent carelessness. Even though someone did perceive
that the cards were in the same order as formerly, the sharp could
always apologise for his inadvertence and suffer them to be cut again.

Another very simple method is to cross the hands, picking up the right
half of the pack with the left hand, and the left half with the right
hand. Then uncrossing the hands, the two halves are put together in
their former order. The crossing of the hands tends to confuse the mind
of an onlooker, so that he really does not know which hand contains the
half that should be placed on top.

The reader must distinctly understand that such open and palpable
deceptions as these two last would only be practised by the very lowest
class of sharps. A good man would scorn the action.[6] With regard to
the methods resorted to at any time very much depends upon the class of
sharp and the intelligence of the company in which he happens to find
himself. The employment of simple trickeries like these in a card party
of 'smart' players could only be attended with modified success, very
modified indeed. If the players were smart, the sharp would smart. This
joke is not copyright, but it is logical nevertheless.

The 'pass,' which is the essence of so many card-tricks, is another
means of restoring the order of the cards after they have been cut.
Since it is explained in every book on conjuring, however, we will only
just glance at it. For a fuller description the reader may be referred
to Professor Hoffman's admirable treatises.

In making the pass the two halves of the pack are picked up in the order
they should rightly assume after being cut, care being taken however
that there is a slight division maintained between them. For instance,
the bottom half is placed upon the top one as it lies upon the table
perfectly level sideways, but projecting over one end about a quarter of
an inch. The pack is now put into the left hand, and in the act of
levelling up the two halves the little finger is inserted between them.
Meanwhile the sharp engages the other players in an animated
conversation. Then just before dealing, apparently with the object of
again levelling the cards, he covers the pack with his right hand. In an
instant the cards appear to pass through one another, and the half which
was uppermost before cutting is in that position now. The action is
simply this. The little finger of the left hand being between the two
halves of the pack, that which is above for the moment is held by the
little finger and the other three. The lower half is gripped by the
thumb and fingers of the right hand. Then by slightly opening the left
hand and closing the right, the two halves are drawn asunder.
Immediately reversing the motion the two halves come together again with
their respective positions reversed. The movement necessary to effect
this operation is covered by a slight dropping of the hands at the
critical moment. This is called the 'double-handed pass,' as both hands
are used to effect it.

There are also various single-handed passes available to the expert, but
these are more difficult to accomplish neatly, and cannot be so readily
disguised. If used at all they are accompanied by a movement of the hand
from the operator, as in pointing at something or in shaking the wrist
clear of the cuff to give freedom of arm during dealing. The simplest of
these passes is made by holding the cards between the thumb and the last
three fingers of the left hand, a slight division between the two halves
of the pack being maintained at the thumb side. The lower half is now
dropped into the palm, and with the forefinger it is turned up towards
the thumb. The upper half is now released and allowed to fall upon the
fingers which are extended for its reception. Finally, the lower half is
dropped upon the upper one and the original order is restored. Much
practice, of course, is required to perform this operation with ease and

Another form of pass may be accomplished in putting the cards from the
right hand into the left. The pack is held in the right hand, with the
upper half slightly advanced, and the lower nipped in the thumb-joint.
The left hand, instead of taking the whole pack, merely takes the upper
half. The right, in levelling the cards, deposits the lower half upon
the upper.

It must be forcibly impressed upon the reader that under no
circumstances whatever is it possible to make the pass without that
device being detected by an expert who is looking for it. Even half a
glance at the operator's movements would arouse suspicions which could
not be easily allayed. It is therefore a dangerous proceeding at any
time for a sharp to indulge in. It is possible that through inattention
the expert may not actually see the pass made; but the accompanying
movements are sufficient indication of what is going on to anyone who
'knows his way about.' In days gone by, the pass was a power in the
hands of the sharp; but now, alas, it is only of occasional use, and the
risk it involves is very, very great.

Another method of dodging the cut is to take the half of the pack which
should finally be on the top, but which the sharp desires to be
underneath, holding it by the thumb and three last fingers of the right
hand, with the forefinger bent, and its back resting upon the back of
the top card. The cards, being thus removed from the table, are now held
entirely by the forefinger and the other three, the thumb being taken
away. The second half of the pack is now taken up between the thumb and
forefinger; at the same instant, the other cards being slipped
underneath instead of on top as they should be. Skilfully and quickly
done, this plan is very deceptive, as such things go.

Rather than resort to any method of restoring the order of the cards
after they have been cut, it is far preferable for the sharp to so
arrange matters, if possible, that the act of cutting should bring
those cards uppermost which are required to be at the top. In a
single-handed game, by keeping strict watch upon the direction of his
opponent's gaze, he may be enabled to find an opportunity of making the
pass; but in a round game, someone is sure to be looking at the cards,
and the pass becomes much too risky to be attempted. Therefore, in a
case of this kind, the sharp will endeavour to manipulate the cards in
such a way that the cut merely serves the purpose of removing certain
cards, which are placed above those he needs, uppermost.

[Illustration: FIG. 36.--The Bridge.]

The commonest plan in use for this purpose is the device known as the
'Bridge.' This architectural contrivance consists of either bending the
two halves of the pack in opposite directions, or bending one half, and
leaving the other straight (fig. 36). The trick derives its name from
the curvature thus produced.[7] In the illustration, the cards which are
required to be on top are the straight ones now lying underneath. An
unsuspicious player, being called upon to cut the pack, will undoubtedly
lift off the bent half, owing to the division existing between it and
the other. Then there is no need of the pass, or anything of the kind.
The sharp has 'forced the cut.' Considering how well-known the bridge
is, it is extraordinary how often it is successful. The fact is, the
players are not looking for it; they assume that they are playing with
honest men, and upon that assumption the sharp in great measure relies.

The bridge is specially useful in cases where a confederate is available
to cut the cards. Then the bridge need not be so much arched. The very
slightest bend is sufficient, as the 'confed.' will be careful to cut at
the right place. The 'end-bridge' is a variety we shall have to touch
upon later on, and other dodges for attaining the same end as this one
will be described in the chapter on 'Prepared Cards.'

Working backwards, then, from the end to the means, we arrive by a
natural transition to the methods of manipulation employed in securing
an advantageous disposition of the cards. Among these, a prominent place
is occupied by what are known as 'false shuffles.' These are of three
kinds. The first is the shuffle which leaves undisturbed the previous
arrangement of the entire pack. The second is that which affects only
part of the pack, allowing the rest to retain its original order. The
third is the variety which effects the systematic disposition of the
cards in a manner which will bring good hands to the sharp and his
accomplices, if such there be, or at any rate either to the sharp
himself or to an accomplice.

By way of familiarising the reader with these processes, we will just
glance through the older forms of all three kinds. It must be distinctly
borne in mind, however, that the modern methods of shuffling have
rendered most of these obsolete. They have been replaced by improved
manipulations, as we shall see later.

Of the first kind of these shuffles there is a great variety. They are
simply manipulations which appear to be shuffles, but in reality are not
so. We will investigate one of them. The pack is taken in two halves,
one of which is held in each hand. From the right hand half about half a
dozen cards are pushed off and placed _beneath_ those in the left hand.
Then, from the left hand, three cards say are pushed off and placed
beneath those in the right hand. This process is continued, always
putting more cards from right to left than _vice versa_, until the whole
pack appears to have been shuffled into the left hand. This looks
exactly like a genuine shuffle. In fact, most persons upon having it
explained to them will say that the cards really _are_ shuffled, but it
is not so. The effect produced is that of a simple cut. If the bridge is
made before commencing, the process can be continued until the top card
has resumed its former place. Then it will be found that there has been
absolutely no disarrangement of the cards whatever.

This shuffle is particularly useful at the beginning of a game when the
sharp contrives to get the deal, or upon the introduction of a fresh
pack of cards. Gamblers are superstitious as a rule, and when their
'luck is out,' which is generally the case when they happen to be
playing with a sharp, they will sometimes seek to improve it by changing
the cards. Now, even a new pack can be opened for the purpose of
arranging the contents, and sealed up again so neatly that there is no
evidence of its ever having been tampered with. Then, supposing the
sharp to be a member of a club, the person who purchases the club cards
may be a confederate, and thus the cards which are apparently fresh from
the maker may have been falsified in any desired manner.[8] Whatever
method may have been adopted to arrange the pack, the foregoing shuffle
will not disturb it. The cut is rendered inefficient by either of the
methods given, and all is happiness and prosperity.

The second form of false shuffle is quite as easy to accomplish as the
first. All that is necessary is to take care that the part of the pack
which is required to be kept intact should not be disturbed. The rest of
the cards may be shuffled to one's heart's content. The sharp, having
noted certain cards among those which have been played that would be of
service to him in some way or another, in picking them up contrives to
place them all together at the top or bottom of the pack. Then in
shuffling he avoids all interference with those cards. A good plan is to
put the cards on top and lay the pack upon the table. Then with the
right hand lift up the top cards, and, with the left, cut the remainder
in two and shuffle one portion into the other. This will pass for a
genuine shuffle almost anywhere. Selected cards, placed above or below
the pack, are called 'top-stock' or 'bottom-stock,' as the case may be.
They are useful for a variety of purposes, as will be readily
understood. The effect of the holdout when used in the game of Poker, as
described in the last chapter, is to work the top-stock for draught. The
shuffle just dealt with would work the top-stock for deal.

The last of the three kinds of false shuffles enumerated is of course
the most generally useful in almost any game. Take whist for example.
How pleasant would it be to be able to deal oneself, or one's partner, a
hand containing nearly all the trumps. Well, that is a thing which is
quite possible of accomplishment and by no means difficult. The cards
are simply arranged during the shuffle. It is what is called 'putting
up' a hand, and this is how it is done.

As the tricks are played in the previous hand you notice those which
contain a preponderance of the best cards of one suit, say diamonds. You
keep an eye particularly upon the four tricks which would make the best
hand, viz., those which contain the highest cards. It is your turn to
deal. You pick up the tricks as they lie upon the table or are passed to
you, keeping those you require slightly separate from the rest as you
gather them up, and finally place them at the bottom of the pack, with
the little finger of your right hand inserted between them and the cards
which are above. You now proceed to shuffle. The first operation is to
put all the cards above your little finger into the right hand. Thus you
hold the cards you require in your left hand, but there are sixteen of
them, and you only want thirteen. Therefore you push off three of them
into the right hand. Now you are ready to make your final arrangements.
With the thumb of your left hand slip off one card from that hand on to
those in the right. Then with the thumb of your right hand slip that
card together with the three immediately below it _under_ the cards in
the left. Again you slip one from the left on top of those in the right,
and again place that card with the three next to it under the left hand

This action is repeated until only three cards remain in the right hand.
Arriving at this point care must be observed. You have of course borne
in mind the necessity of having the bottom card, which will be the
trump, of the same suit as that which preponderates in the number
selected, and have arranged matters accordingly. Now, with only three
cards in the right hand, there remain two of the selected cards above
those in the left which have not been handled. The second of these two
will be the one required for the trump card, in this case a diamond.
Therefore you put the first one on top of the three remaining in the
right, and the second one below them. Then the whole five are put at the
bottom of the pack and the shuffle is complete. You evade the cut by
whichever method suits your opportunities best, and upon dealing, all
the selected cards fall to yourself.

The above is a shuffle which is easily acquired, and when done neatly
and quickly, the effect is very good. It looks exactly like a genuine
shuffle. The only difficult part of the manipulation is placing the four
cards from right to left. There is not much time to count them. With a
little practice however, the operator can _feel_ that the right number
of cards go into the other hand. The best practice is to pick out all
the cards of one suit, and shuffle them into the others in the manner
described. Then when the cards are dealt out, it will be seen at once
whether the shuffle has been correctly performed or not. The passing of
the cards from side to side must be quickly done, and without pausing
between the movements, if the trick is to escape detection.

This one instance will serve to give the reader the basis of all the
other shuffles in which the cards are arranged. They all consist in the
main principle of placing certain cards all together in some convenient
position in the pack, and then arranging them with a proper number of
indifferent cards between each one and the next. The nature of the game
of course decides the manner of their arrangement.

The reader may very possibly find some difficulty in quite grasping the
details of these explanations, but if he will take a pack of cards and
follow the instructions step by step they will all become clear. If
these older forms of shuffling are thoroughly understood, it will be a
great help towards arriving at the full significance of the more modern
manipulations which are about to be described.

At the present day the foregoing trickeries would be inadmissible owing
to the fact that only the most juvenile card players would ever use the
form of shuffles they involve. No _player_ would ever think of taking
the two halves of the pack, one in either hand, when about to shuffle.
That style of thing is quite out of date. Indeed in a smart game the
dealer would not be even allowed to raise the cards from the table when
shuffling, although in the ordinary way they are more often than not
simply shuffled from one hand into the other.

The principal shuffles of modern times are three in number:--

        1. The 'Over-hand Shuffle.'
        2. The 'Riffle' or 'Butt-in Shuffle.'
        3. The 'Écarté Shuffle.'

The over-hand shuffle is that in which the cards are taken in the left
hand and shuffled, a few at a time, into the right. It is familiar to
all, and requires no more than the mere mention of it to recall it to
the reader's mind.

The riffle, or butt-in, as it is called in America, is the shuffle in
which the pack is laid upon the table, the top half is taken off with
the right hand and laid near it. The fingers of either hand then press
upon the cards of the respective halves of the pack, whilst the thumbs
'riffle' or bend up the corners of the cards, allowing them to spring
down, one or two at a time, from right to left alternately, those of one
side falling between those of the other. Finally the cards are levelled
up and the shuffle is complete.

The écarté shuffle is one in which the cards are laid on the table with
one side of the pack facing the operator. The top half of the pack, or
rather less, is taken off with the right hand and shuffled into the
remainder of the cards held by the left as they lie upon the table.

In those cases where the dealer is not allowed to shuffle the cards in
his hands, the riffle or the écarté shuffle is used. A variety of the
riffle called the French shuffle is sometimes adopted in which a half of
the pack is taken in either hand, the two halves resting upon the table
at one end and inclined towards each other, a few cards at a time being
allowed to fall from either side alternately.

With these higher class shuffles then, it is evident that more improved
methods of manipulation must be adopted to render them amenable to the
purposes of cheating. We have therefore to examine the means employed by
the sharp (1) to keep intact a pre-arrangement of the cards, (2) to
leave undisturbed a certain portion of the pack which has been 'put up'
or 'stocked,' and (3) to put up hands or arrange the cards to suit his
own purposes. The corollary to these manipulations is necessarily the
means of nullifying the effect of the cut which follows as an inevitable
consequence upon the shuffle; except, of course, in those cases where a
player is content to 'knock' instead of cutting. This 'knock' is an
American institution, and consists of merely rapping the top of the pack
with the knuckles. It signifies that the player does not wish to cut,
and is frequently practised by the sharp's accomplice, when he has one,
to avoid disturbing the order of the cards.

To retain the original order or pre-arrangement of a whole pack, the
riffle is the shuffle that is generally used; the modification referred
to in the last paragraph but one being the most convenient form for the
purpose. The top half of the pack being taken in the right hand, and
those of the bottom half in the left, the cards are riffled together
upon the table. If the pack were levelled up, the shuffle would of
course be effectual; but it is in the act of levelling that the trickery
is introduced. As the cards rest in front of the operator, those of one
side alternating with those of the other, they are covered by his hands,
the thumbs being towards him, the three first fingers of each hand on
the opposite side of the pack, and the little fingers pressing upon the
ends of the right and left halves respectively. In this way the cards
are just straightened merely, but not closed up. A turn of the hands,
from the little fingers outwards, throws the two packets of cards at an
angle one to the other, the thumbs now resting upon the corners nearest
the operator. The little fingers are then closed in towards the thumbs.
This has the effect of pushing the cards of each packet diagonally
across those of the other. Those of the right half pass against the
thumb of the left hand, whilst those of the left half pass in a similar
manner across the right thumb. Thus the cards simply pass from either
hand into the other. The top half of the pack is now held by the fingers
and thumb of the _left_ hand and _vice versa_. The two packets are now
quickly separated, and that in the left hand is placed above that in the
right. The whole of the cards are therefore in their original positions,
although they appear to have been perfectly shuffled. The passing of the
cards across is to give the appearance of closing them together;
whereas they really pass right through into the opposite hands. Quickly
done, this shuffle is most deceptive, but the whole operation should not
occupy more than a couple of seconds. It can always be detected by one
who knows it, on account of the necessity of turning the two halves at
an angle; otherwise it is perfect. It cannot be very successfully
performed with a full pack, but with an écarté pack of 32 cards it is
very simple.

To allow a certain number of cards to remain undisturbed is a
comparatively simple matter in any shuffle. It is only necessary to see
that they _are_ undisturbed. In the over-hand shuffle they may be placed
either at the top or bottom of the pack, passing them all together from
the left hand into the right. When they are at the top, the approved
method is to slip off at once, into the right hand, as many of the top
cards as may be necessary to insure that the whole of the selected cards
are together. This packet is held by pressing the cards endwise between
the forefinger and the root of the thumb. The remaining cards are then
shuffled _on to the forefinger_, thus maintaining a slight division
above those which have been put up. The final movement of the shuffle is
to part the pack at this division, and return the top cards to their
original position.

In the riffle shuffle it is quite as easy to retain the position of any
cards which may require to be kept in view. If they are at the bottom
of the pack, they are simply riffled down upon the table before any
others are allowed to fall, and the rest of the cards are shuffled above
them. If they are at the top, they are held back until all the other
cards have fallen. In either case, the cards of one half are simply let
down sooner or more slowly than those of the other, according to whether
the stocked cards are at the top or the bottom.

In the écarté shuffle, the proceedings are a little more complex. It
would never do to coolly ignore a certain portion of the pack in
shuffling; therefore the observers have to be thrown off the scent. This
is done by means of the manipulation known as 'the French card-sharper's
shuffle,' which is accomplished in the following manner. The pack lies
upon the table before the operator, with the stocked cards on top. With
the thumb and _second_ finger of the right hand, he seizes a sufficient
number of the top cards to be sure of having the selected ones all
together, and lifts them up, at the same time moving his hand away from
him so as to leave the pack unobstructed by the cards just raised. Then
with the thumb and _first_ finger of the left hand, he takes up a
similar packet of cards from the pack, leaving probably about a third of
the pack still remaining on the table. Now comes the trick. The right
hand packet is placed under the cards just raised by the left thumb and
forefinger, and is immediately gripped by the _middle_ finger and thumb
of that hand. Meanwhile, the left-hand packet is taken by the right
thumb and forefinger, and moved aside. The two packets have thus changed
hands, the top cards being now in the left. In this position they are
held by the left finger and thumb, whilst the right hand shuffles the
second packet into the cards remaining on the table. This process is
gone through several times and the cards appear to be thoroughly well
shuffled. Nevertheless, it is evident that the top cards have remained
intact throughout.

Before passing on to the third form of false shuffle, by means of which
cards are put up or stocked, it is necessary at this point to refer to
the device known as the 'end-bridge,' a thing which is commonly used at
the present time to force the cut at a given point in the pack. Any
false shuffle is manifestly useless without some resource of this kind.
As the reader is doubtless aware, it is a common practice among card
players, at the conclusion of the shuffle and before giving the pack to
be cut, to part it at about the middle and place the lower half above
the upper. This seems to have become quite the orthodox termination of
any shuffle; just a final cut as it were to finish. It is in this final
cut that the end-bridge is generally made. We will suppose that the
stocked cards are at the top of the pack. The top half is taken by the
thumb and second finger of the right hand and drawn off; the cards being
held near the corners at one end, the forefinger meanwhile resting upon
them between the second finger and thumb. In the act of drawing off the
cards they are pressed between the thumb and finger, so as to bend them
slightly concave at the back between the corners by which they are held.
The bottom half of the pack is then placed above the upper one, the
curvature of which produces a slight division between the two halves at
one end. The other end not having been tampered with it can be turned
towards the players with impunity. The cards being levelled, they are
laid on the table in such a position that the player who is to cut will
take them by the ends; and it is almost certain that he will cut at the

By way of example, then, the French card-sharper's shuffle in its
entirety would consist of the following movements. (1) The top cards are
lifted by the right hand, and the second packet raised by the left. (2)
The top packet is placed under the second one, and gripped by the left
hand. (3) The right hand seizes the second packet, and takes it from
above the top one, which remains held by the left thumb and finger. (4)
The second packet is shuffled into the cards remaining on the table, and
the top packet is dropped upon the whole. (5) The pack is parted by
drawing off the upper half with the thumb and second finger of the right
hand; at the same moment the bridge is made, the upper half is put under
the lower, and the cards are given to be cut. Thus, both the shuffle
and the bridge are included in one complete operation.

We now come to the modern methods of 'stocking,' or 'putting-up' hands.
This, of course, includes the third form of false shuffle. The simplest
method of stocking is accomplished in the act of picking up the cards
from the table preparatory to shuffling, and is very useful in a game
such as Nap. The player who is about to deal notes among the cards lying
upon the table those which would provide him with a good hand. With each
hand he seizes one of them and immediately after takes up as many
indifferent cards as there are players besides himself. He has then two
cards 'put up.' Again he picks up two more good cards in the same way,
and follows up with the proper number of indifferent ones, as before. He
has now four cards out of the five he requires. With one hand therefore
he picks up the remaining card, with three others, and puts all the
cards thus taken up into one hand. The rest of the pack may be picked up
anyhow, care being taken to keep the arranged cards on top. Then comes
the shuffle. The first thing to be done is to put on the top of the
selected card, which is uppermost, a similar number of indifferent cards
to that which is between each of the selected ones, viz., as many as
there are players besides himself. Thus the cards he wants will come to
him on the deal. The rest of the shuffle is immaterial, so long as the
'stock' is not interfered with. The end-bridge may be worked for the
cut, and all being well, he will have the hand he prepared for himself.
Some men can do this picking-up with incredible rapidity and without
exciting the least suspicion on the part of their opponents.

Where the over-hand shuffle is used, the best way of putting up a hand
is by means of the process which is called 'milking-down.' This is a
manipulation which is both simple and effective. The cards required to
be put up are placed all together at the bottom of the pack, which is
then taken endways between the thumb and fingers of the left hand ready
for shuffling, and the 'milking' commences. We will suppose the game to
be Nap, and that three are playing. The dealer having put the selected
cards at the bottom in the course of gathering the pack together,
prepares to perform the over-hand shuffle as above indicated. With the
thumb of his right hand he takes off one card from the top of the pack,
whilst at the same moment and in the same movement the middle finger
draws off one of the selected cards from the bottom. At this point then
he has two cards in his right hand; one of those he has chosen, and an
indifferent one from the top of the pack above it. But there are three
players, so he must have two cards between each of his own and the next,
therefore he draws off another from the top, over the two he already has
in the right hand. Again he draws off together a card from the top and
bottom, and over these places another from the top. This is repeated
until all the hand is put up, and then the remainder of the pack is
shuffled on to his forefinger in the manner previously described in
connection with the over-hand shuffle. The stock is brought to the top,
the pack is parted, the bridge made, and the cards are given to be cut.

Milking-down was originally used by Faro-dealers for the purpose of
putting up the high and low cards alternately. The high ones being put
all together at the top of the pack, for instance, and the low ones at
the bottom, they were drawn down in pairs with great rapidity and thus
alternated. Nowadays, however, the process is used for putting up hands
for most games.

It is in connection with the riffle that the most skilful putting-up is
accomplished, but much practice and experience are required to enable
the manipulation to be performed with certainty. In theory, however, the
process is simple. It consists of riffling between the selected cards
the proper number of indifferent ones. Suppose that in a game of Nap the
required cards have been put at the top of the pack. The cards are
divided and riffled, taking care that none are allowed to go between the
selected ones except the first and second, which must have the proper
number between them. If there are three players, this number will, of
course, be two. All that is necessary to effect this is to hold up the
top card with one thumb, and the last two cards of the other half with
the other thumb. The two cards are allowed to fall upon the second of
the selected cards, and the top one is dropped over them. It is with the
second and following riffles, however, that the difficulty comes in. In
the second riffle, four cards have to be held up and two dropped under
them. In the third riffle, seven cards have to be held up, and in the
fourth, ten. The fifth riffle merely puts two cards above the top
selected card, and the shuffle is complete. The great difficulty is to
know that the right number of cards is held up each time, and that the
right number is put between them. It seems almost impossible that it can
be done with certainty, but there are plenty of sharps who can do it
readily enough without any mistake whatever. In fact, some are so
skilful with this shuffle that they can find any cards they please by
looking at the turned-up corners, and place them in any position they
please within the pack.

In the game of Poker, when the pack has been stocked for draft, either
at the top or the bottom, after the cut the sharp will place the two
halves together in the proper manner, but leaving a little break between
them. Thus he is enabled to know when the stocked cards are being given
off and who has them. Or he may manage to hold back any that would be of
use to him. If the cards are held inclined slightly upwards, he may
frequently be enabled to draw back the top card as in the 'second-deal,'
and give off the next ones.

There is a single-handed pass sometimes used to bring the stock to the
top, which is performed under cover of the right arm whilst reaching to
the left. The cards are held upon a level with the table-top, and as the
arm passes over them, those which are above the stock are pressed with
the fingers of the left hand against the right elbow. Thus they are held
for the moment whilst the others are drawn from beneath, and as the
right arm returns, the stocked cards are brought to the top. In this way
the entire operation is performed under cover of the arm, and is
therefore undiscernible.

Where a confederate is available to cut the pack, there is a form of
false cut which appears to pass muster in America pretty well. It
consists of merely grasping the pack in both hands, lifting it off the
table, and pulling it apart, so to speak. The half which comes from the
bottom is drawn upwards, thus appearing to come from the top, in the
same manner as the cards in the bottom-deal. At the same time, the top
half is drawn downwards, appearing to come from the bottom. Then, when
the two halves are put together in their original position, it looks as
though the lower half had been put upon the upper. Quickly done, this
ruse is fairly successful.

Another form of false cut is somewhat similar in effect to the French
card-sharper's shuffle, and is used to retain a 'top stock' in its
place. A third of the pack, or thereabouts, is taken off with the right
hand, and the remainder is cut in two with the left. The top cards are
now placed upon those which remain on the table, the second lot are
thrown down beside them, and upon these the other two packets are placed
as one, bringing the top cards into their original position. Thus,
whilst the pack is really cut into three, the only effect of the cut is
to bring the bottom cards into the middle; a result which is of no
consequence where only a top stock is concerned.

We may conclude the present chapter with a description of the system of
cheating known as 'Counting-down.' This is a method which is not by any
means so familiar to the masses as those with which we have just been
dealing. It is one of those devices which seem to lie within the
borderland between honesty and dishonesty; although, when one
understands its real nature, there is no question as to the fact that it
really _is_ cheating, and nothing else. It is the most scientific mode
of swindling, in games where only a few cards constitute a hand, that
has ever been devised, and it is so good that it almost defies
detection, even at the hands of an expert. It is just that one word
'almost,' however, which qualifies its absolute perfection. There is
always some weak point in a trick, however good.

Counting down is one of those operations which depend more on memory
than sleight of hand. It requires long practice and much skill, but the
skill is rather mental than manipulative. It is necessary that the sharp
who practises it should be able to memorise instantly as many cards as
possible. Comparatively few persons can remember more than five cards at
a glance. Not one in a thousand can remember ten. There are some,
however, who can remember the order of a whole pack of fifty-two cards,
after seeing them dealt out rather slowly. Needless to say there are not
many individuals of the latter class. All, however, use some system of
artificial memory. Without something of the kind, counting-down would be

The object of this system, of course, is to enable the sharp to know the
sequence of a certain number of cards which are to be introduced into
the play, and thus to be certain of their value, and also of the hands
in which they are to be found. The possession of this knowledge is of
the utmost importance sometimes.

As a readily understood and familiar example, let us suppose that the
sharp is engaged in a single-handed game of Nap, and that he can
remember twelve cards, together with the order in which they occur. His
first duty will be to note the manner in which his opponent usually
cuts, whether near the middle of the pack, near the top or the bottom.
Most people have some peculiarity in this way which may be relied on.
Suppose then the sharp finds that the other man's cut is generally
pretty well in the centre. When it is his turn to deal, in the act of
shuffling he will place twelve cards in rapid succession at the bottom
of the pack, at the same time holding the pack so that the faces of the
cards are visible. He notes these twelve cards, and the order in which
they occur. At the conclusion of the shuffle he leaves just so many
cards over them as he thinks the other will take off in the cut;
consequently, after cutting, those cards will be at the top or nearly
so. If the sharp is fortunate the cut will come into the first one or
two of them, and then when the cards are dealt, he knows by looking at
his own hand precisely what cards his opponent holds. If his own hand
will allow him to 'go more' than his opponent feels inclined to risk, he
will do so, if not he allows his opponent to play. In either case he
knows perfectly well what the result of the hand will be before a single
card is put down. Of course if the case should be that he is playing
against an unmistakable 'Nap' hand, and that he has no cards the skilful
playing of which will prevent the other man from winning, he is bound to
accept the inevitable. But it is obvious that the advantages he enjoys,
compared with his antagonist, are enormous.

With a sharp who works the bottom-deal, the memorising of five cards
only is sufficient. He notes the five cards and leaves them at the
bottom of the pack which is given to be cut. After the cutting, he picks
up the bottom half of the pack, leaving the other upon the table. If
the five cards at the bottom are good ones he deals them to himself, but
if, on the contrary, they are little ones, which would make a bad hand,
he deals them to his opponent. He will always let the opponent have them
unless they are exceptionally good, because it is worth more than half
the game to know what cards one has to contend with.

It is in the game of 'Poker,' however, that counting-down is of the
greatest assistance. The cards are dealt round five to each player, and
we will suppose it is the sharp's turn to deal next. He throws his hand,
face downwards, on the table, and puts the rest of the pack on top of
it. He therefore knows the five bottom cards of the pack, having
memorised his hand. Even though some of the other players may understand
counting-down, no one will suspect that any trickery is in progress, as
the whole proceeding is quite usual and perfectly natural.

Having the whole of the cards in a heap in front of him, the sharp now
takes them up to straighten or level them, somewhat ostentatiously
keeping their faces turned well away from him, so that he cannot see a
single card. He does not overdo this appearance of honesty however. That
would be almost as fatal as an appearance of cheating.

The cards being straightened, the shuffle has now to be accomplished. In
this case it will be one of the second, or partial order. The sharp
takes good care, in riffling down or what not, to leave undisturbed the
five cards he has memorised, and finally to have them in such a position
within the pack, that the cut and deal will leave them at the top. His
object, of course, is to have the choice of those five cards in the
draft. If he has been fortunate in his manipulation, the card which
comes to him on the last round of the deal will be one of those five. In
that case he knows the value of the two or three top cards, and looking
at his hand he can tell whether either of them will be of use to him
when it comes to his turn to draw. If so, in giving off the draft to the
other players, he may, if opportunity serves, hold back the card or
cards he requires. Then the other hands being complete, he can throw
away a corresponding number of indifferent cards from his hand and take
the selected ones for himself. Generally speaking, this method will
enable him to retain and utilise a card which, otherwise, he would have
thrown away as being useless, and very often enable him to make 'two

It is manifest that however skilfully this may be done, there is a
strong element of uncertainty attaching to the result. The player who
cuts the pack may not divide it in the right place by a card or two, and
therefore it might happen that the whole of the five cards may be
distributed in the deal. But it is bound to come right sometimes, and
then it is worth all the trouble and annoyance of the previous
failures; but whether it is successful or not, it is done as a matter of
routine, and if only for the sake of practice, every time the sharp has
to deal. He cannot exercise himself too much in such a difficult
operation. Still there is a good bit of chancework about it which is not
at all acceptable to the sharp, and to obviate this two sharps will
often work in secret partnership. The dealer, having memorised his own
hand, which he has plenty of time to do thoroughly, waits until his
partner's cards are done with. When that moment arrives, the accomplice
passes his cards to the dealer in such a way that their faces can be
seen. These must be remembered at a glance. The dealer has now ten cards
to work with instead of five, and thus the chances are far more than
proportionately greater. Some of the known cards are _sure_ to be at the
top of the pack, ready for the draft, and looking at the last card which
has fallen to him on the deal, the sharp can tell what they are. If, in
addition, it is the confederate who cuts the cards, of course the game
becomes too strong to be beaten. He is sure to cut the pack at the right

If the sharp is a fine shuffler, with a good memory, well-trained in
this class of work, he can dispense with an accomplice, and do quite as
well without one. Supposing it to be his turn to deal next, he looks at
his hand, and if the cards he holds are not of much consequence, he
'passes,' that is, he stands out of the game for the time being.
Meanwhile he gathers up the pack and discards, and keeping the faces of
the cards turned away from him he evens them up in readiness for the
deal. Then he waits until the two or three hands that are being played
are called or shown up. With a glance, he remembers as many of these
cards as he conveniently can, places them either at the top or bottom of
the pack and 'holds' them during the shuffle, arranging their position
in the pack as in the former cases.

The last card which comes to him on the deal being one of these, he
knows the sequence of several of the top cards which remain in the pack.
Consequently he not only knows what he is giving off in the draft to
others, but also what remains for him when it is his turn to draw. If,
then, it suits him best to discard, as to which he does not stand in
doubt as the other players do, he throws away according to the nature of
the cards he will have to draw from the pack to replace his discards. It
really is just the same thing as though he had two hands dealt to him
instead of one. He has the opportunity of making his selection from at
least twice as many cards as either of his opponents.

Unless the reader should happen to be himself a high-class sharp, he can
have no idea of how well this is done by some men who make it their
speciality. It is a method which renders a good shuffler--expressive
term--with a good system of artificial memory, well-nigh invincible at
such a game as Poker. Counting-down is simple, when you can do it; it is
impossible of detection by ordinary players, and best of all, _even
smart gamblers will stand the work_. After that no more need be said
about it.

From the contents of this chapter, the expert reader will see that in so
far as manipulation pure and simple is concerned, the sharp of to-day is
in a position very little better than that of his prototype of fifty
years ago. If we except the improved methods of 'stocking' and so on,
which have resulted from the introduction of new shuffles and certain
methods of preparing the cards, there are hardly any new developments to

That this should be so, and indeed must of necessity be so, will be
evident to anyone who has made a study of card-tricks. There are only
certain manipulations possible in connection with fifty-two pieces of
pasteboard. Generations of keen intellects have already made a study of
their possibilities; and like the 'old poets, fostered under friendlier
skies,' these have stolen all the best ideas from their unhappy
successors. And the worst of it is the ideas have become more or less
common property.

To invent a new deception in the way of the manipulation of cards is for
all the world like trying to make a new proposition in 'Euclid.' That
ancient humb--philosopher I should say--has covered the whole ground;
much to the disgust of that hypothetical example of encyclopædic
information known as 'any schoolboy.' In our time we have all of us
tempered our regret that so great a philosopher should ever die, with
the far greater regret that he should ever have lived. His loss would
have been 'any schoolboy's' infinite gain. Well, man is born to Euclid
as the sparks fly upward, and there is no dodging the difficulty.

It is just the same in the fraudulent manipulation of cards. All that
can be done has been done. If it were not so the sharp would be the
gainer, therefore it is better as it is.

Nowadays, however, it is quite possible to be a first-rate sharp without
being capable of performing the simplest feat of dexterity. This sounds
very much like saying that a man might be a thorough mathematician
without knowing the multiplication-table, but the cases are not exactly
upon all fours. It is quite possible to reason logically without having
made the acquaintance of that maid of mystery 'Barbara'; and it is quite
possible in like manner to be able to cheat without having recourse to
manipulation. It is a thing which is not necessary, and more often than
not it is attended with the risk of detection.

The sharp has gone further afield in the augmentation of his resources.
He has pressed into his service every device that human ingenuity can
conceive or rascality execute, every contrivance that skill can
produce, and even the forces of Nature herself have been made to serve
his ends.

Meanwhile the unfortunate dupe has been laying the flattering unction to
his soul, that given the understanding of certain primitive forms of
manipulation, he has nothing else to fear. Much he knows about it!

There is no fool like the fool who imagines himself wise, and there is
no dupe like the 'fly flat,'--the man who 'thinks he knows a thing or

Well, it is not the fault of this book if he is not henceforth a wiser
and a richer man.


[5] See fig. 7.

[6] The terms 'good man' and 'cunning cheat' must here be considered as

[7] The curve of the upper cards, as shown in the figure, is much
exaggerated. It is, really, very slight.

[8] See Chapter VII.--'Collusion and Conspiracy,' p. 173 _et seq._



The words which head this chapter are hard words. One cannot deny it.
They are intended to be so. Being so, they belong to the class of
utterances which, according to the sages, 'break no bones.' This may be
true enough even of collusion and conspiracy. But in all conscience, or
the lack of it, these have broken hearts and fortunes enough to
compensate for any amount of merely physical incapacity.

There cannot be the slightest doubt that a large proportion of the
cheating which goes on, in what is called polite society, is
accomplished by these means. The high position of the players is,
unfortunately, no guarantee of fidelity. One may be cheated anywhere,
even in exclusive clubs of the most _recherché_ character, as many know
to their cost. Practically, there is no high and dry rock upon which the
gambler can perch, and say to the tide of cheating--'Thus far shalt thou
come, and no farther.' He is not safe anywhere, for he can never tell
who may not be tempted, at some time or other, to resort to dishonest
practices. The sharp is not always a professional; he may, now and then,
be an amateur. Where the stakes are heavy, the temptation to take an
unfair advantage of an opponent is occasionally too great for some to
resist; especially where no risk of detection is run in so doing.
Accidental circumstances will sometimes give a player overwhelming
advantages in the play, of which none but he are aware; and who shall
say that he will not avail himself of the opportunity which chance has
thrown in his way? Against this sort of thing, however, there is no
other safeguard than the watchfulness of the players. Where, then, is
the 'game,' the amusement, if one has to play, armed at all points, as
it were, and living in dread of pickpockets?

It is not with this sporadic kind of cheating, however, that we now have
to deal, but with the systematic banding together of individuals to
swindle at play. As a notable example of this kind of thing, the reader
will do well to peruse the recital of the following incident, which
occurred a few winters ago at one of the leading clubs in the West End
of London.

At this club a very favourite game was écarté, played generally 'à la
galerie.' That is to say, the bystanders were allowed to bet among
themselves, or with the players, as to the result of the game. In this
case, the lookers-on form themselves into two parties, one behind each
player, and lay wagers upon the chances of their respective champions.

The doings of this club, then, afforded an opportunity for cheating
which was too good to be missed. Certain unprincipled members therefore
proposed, and managed to get elected, two clever French card-sharpers.
The method of procedure adopted was to place these two men opposed to
each other at a card-table, and let them play écarté. As large a
'gallery' as possible was assembled, and then the fun began. There was
nothing of refinement or delicacy of operation in the method employed.
All that took place was simply that one or the other of the players lost
to order. According to how the betting ran, that is to say, according to
the player whose winning would put the most money into the pockets of
the conspirators, so would the result of the game be. Certain signs were
made to the players, unobserved of the outsiders, and in response to
these signs the game was made to go in one direction or the other.

The favourite plan appeared to be for all the conspirators to station
themselves behind one of the men, and, of course, other members of the
club who wished to join in had to take up their position behind the
other. The secret brotherhood then made as many bets with those across
the table as they could. When this had been effected, their player was
sure to win. If the cards were not running favourably to him, he would
put up hands for himself, make the bridge, and give the cards to be cut.
No doubt, out of pure courtesy, his opponent would obligingly cut at the
required place. At the end of the evening the proceeds were divided
among the conspirators.

Well, this little game had gone on for some time, and had doubtless been
the means of putting in circulation a good deal of capital which
otherwise would have remained locked up, when a most unforeseen and
regrettable incident occurred. Among the newly-elected members of the
club was one who had some little knowledge of sleight-of-hand. Chancing
to be a spectator of the proceedings one evening, he at once 'tumbled to
the bridge.' He might well do so, for, as one of the fraternity
remarked, the players had latterly become so secure in the ignorance of
the members that, owing to their carelessness, the structure referred to
had become not so much a bridge as a veritable 'Arc de Triomphe.'
Through the enlightenment which was thus brought about, the matter came
to be laid before the committee. The result was that Écarté à la Galerie
was prohibited. Those who are familiar with club matters will doubtless
remember the circumstance, and know the club to which allusion is made.

A very necessary adjunct to collusion of almost any kind is some system
of secret telegraphy. With such a system in operation between two or
more players who are in secret partnership, there are many games in
which winning can be made a certainty. The telegraphy, of course, is
seldom of a character which would permit those acquainted with it to
indulge in secret gossip, but for the most part consists of signs which
indicate the names of the cards. Generally speaking there will be two
classes of indications, one for suit, and one for value. For instance,
if the player who is signalling is seen to lay his right hand open upon
the table, that may serve to indicate hearts; if the hand, instead of
lying flat, is resting upon its side, that may mean spades; if clenched
flat on the table, clubs may be signified; and finally, if clenched and
thumb upwards, that may denote diamonds. The values of the cards are no
less easy to indicate. If the telegraphist looks upwards, that may mean
an ace; if downwards, a king; if to the left, a queen; if straight in
front of him, a knave; if to the right, a ten; with head on one side,
and looking upward, a nine; ditto, and looking to the right, an eight;
ditto, and to the left a seven, and so on through the whole number.
There is no difficulty in arranging a system of this kind, to be worked
either by word or sign, and such systems if carefully thought out are
very difficult to detect.

Suppose two partners at whist are in collusion and one of them is about
to lead. The other may desire him to lead clubs. He may, therefore,
address to anyone in the room a sentence beginning, 'Can you tell
me----' The initial letter of the sentence indicates the suit which he
desires his partner to lead. If he wanted diamonds he would say 'Do you
know----' &c. If it was necessary to call for hearts he would observe,
'Have you seen----' &c. Lastly, if spades were in requisition he would
ask some question beginning, 'Shall you have----' These things are all
very simple, but they mean a great deal, sometimes, in a game of cards.

Another system of signalling sometimes adopted is to indicate the fact
of certain cards being held by the position in which the cards are laid
upon the table. The person signalling, having looked at his hand, wishes
to let his accomplice know that he holds a certain card of importance in
the game. Therefore, whilst waiting till the other players have sorted
their hands, he closes up his cards for the moment, and lays them before
him on the table. The manner of their disposition will give the required
cue, or, as it is called, 'office.' The end of the cards farthest from
the operator may be taken to represent a kind of pointer, which is set
opposite to some particular figure upon an imaginary dial, supposed to
be drawn upon the table. Several cards can be indicated in this way, and
for others additional factors can be introduced. For instance, the cards
may be spread a little, the top card may project a little to one side or
over one end, or the operator may keep his fingers resting upon the
cards. In fact, the variety of signals is infinite. From the laying down
of a cigar to the taking up of a glass of wine, from the opening of the
mouth to the stroking of the chin, every movement, however simple and
unsuspicious, can be made the means of cheating at almost any game. A
code of signals to indicate every card in the pack, and no more
difficult to decipher than the Morse code in telegraphy, can be arranged
by anyone in five minutes. Indeed, the Morse code itself can be used in
connection with what the French sharps call 'La dusse invisible,' a
system of signalling to an accomplice by pressure of the foot under the
table. In using this system care must, of course, be taken not to tread
on the wrong person's toes.

An instance of card-sharping, involving the use of secret telegraphy,
once came under the author's notice, in connection with the projected
exposure of a noted card-sharp. The circumstances of the case arose in
the following manner.

It is well known that one of the most able and uncompromising among
exposers of fraud at the present day is Mr. Henry Labouchere, M.P., the
Editor and Proprietor of 'Truth.' In the columns of that widely read and
influential publication, the trenchant criticisms and fearless
utterances of 'Scrutator' have done yeoman's service in the cause of
truth and justice.

The author has had the privilege upon several occasions of being
associated with Mr. Labouchere in the running to earth of impostors of
various kinds, and one of those occasions was in connection with the
case of the sharp above referred to. Some of the details will doubtless
occur to the minds of those who recollect the name of the man known as
Lambri Pasha. It is advisable to say 'known as,' for whether his real
name was anything resembling that there is nothing to show. If there is
one thing which one may be inclined to believe more than another, it is
that although Lambri the man may have been, Pasha he certainly was not.

This man Lambri, then, an Italian by birth and a sharp by profession,
had carried on his operations upon so large a scale as to bring himself
prominently before the notice of 'Scrutator.' As usual in such cases,
'Scrutator' proceeded to make short work of him.

At the time referred to, this Lambri happened to have a quarrel with one
of his accomplices, and in revenge this man revealed to Mr. Labouchere
the entire _modus operandi_ of the means used by his employer to cheat
the gamblers in those high circles to which he had obtained access.

This being the case, the author was approached by Mr. Labouchere with a
view to arranging a plan of action whereby the arch swindler might be
caught red-handed, and the exposure made complete. The following scheme
was accordingly devised. The author, in the guise of a country squire
supposed to be of great wealth, was to be presented to Lambri, and
invited to join in the game of baccarat, specially arranged for the
'staging' of the little drama which was to follow.

Needless to say it was not proposed that the author, although armed,
should be alone in a venture which promised to result in violence of a
more or less pronounced type. Among the other guests it was arranged to
have some whose daily avocations were not altogether unconnected with
Scotland Yard.

Lambri's system was an exceedingly simple one. It was worked with the
assistance of a confederate, and baccarat was the game principally
favoured. In this game three packs of cards are used in combination,
forming one large pack of 156 cards. It is obviously impossible to hold
this bulky pack in the hands with any degree of convenience whilst the
cards are being shuffled; therefore the shuffle is accomplished by
standing the cards on edge upon the table with their faces turned away
from the dealer, and in this position they are mixed together. Lambri,
having taken the 'bank,' would proceed to shuffle the cards in the
manner described. During this operation, and as the various cards were
brought to the front, the confederate, who had taken up a convenient
position, would indicate to his principal their value by means of a code
of signals arranged for that purpose. From the explanations already
given the reader will have no difficulty in deducing the manner in
which the cards were put up for the advantage of the 'bank.'

In order to detect this manoeuvre, then, it would be necessary to
watch the proceedings from the commencement, note the arrangement
adopted, and at the right moment give the signal for seizing both cards
and dealer.

Preparations having been made for carrying this plan into effect, and
all due precautions having been taken, it was hoped that Lambri would
quietly walk into the snare which had been set for him. 'The best laid
schemes,' however, 'gang aft agley.' Whether the confederate had played
fast and loose with both sides, which is more than probable, or whether
information had leaked out through some other channel, it is impossible
to say. Certain it is, however, that Lambri obtained an inkling of what
was in progress, and took steps--or rather, 'made tracks'--accordingly.
The day previous to that decided upon for the exposure the accomplice
received a telegram from Paris informing him that the object of our kind
attentions, owing to pressure of important business, would be detained
there for some weeks.

There can be no doubt that the affairs which so suddenly called him to
Paris were both pressing and important; for, to all appearance, they
have occupied his attention ever since. That appointment has never been
kept, and, so far as can be ascertained, he has never from that date to
this put in an appearance in England. To all his former friends and
acquaintances he is 'lost to sight,' though, to a great many of them, he
undoubtedly is 'to memory dear,' and _very_ dear.

A sharp may generally be trusted to arrive at a sound decision in all
matters affecting his own interests; and it certainly cannot be said
that 'Lambri Pasha' has proved himself to be an exception to the rule.

At baccarat collusion and conspiracy are generally used for the purpose
of 'rooking' some particular individual of the pronounced 'Juggins'
type, and the plan of operation is somewhat as follows.

We will suppose that the field of action is the card-room of some small
club, where baccarat is played clandestinely, and for heavy stakes.
Among the members who are addicted to this pastime there is one
youngster with more money than brains, and several of the reverse
characteristics. Half a dozen of these latter habitués of the club will
sit around a table prepared for the game in an upper chamber, waiting
the advent of their victim. Upon the table in front of the dealer is the
shoe containing the proper number of packs: the cards being arranged, we
will say, to give six winning coups to the bank, and then to lose right
out to the end. They are not playing--far from it, although the table
may be strewn with money. Theirs is a waiting game for the present, and
they are passing the time as best they can.

When the dupe arrives at the club it is whispered to him that there is a
little game in progress upstairs. His arrival is signalled to the
conspirators, and by the time the innocent fledgling reaches the room,
there is a game apparently in full blast. The new-comer sees that the
bank is winning every time. At the end of the six winning coups the
dealer says he has won enough, or makes some other excuse for retiring
from the game. A new dealer is therefore required, and it does not need
much persuasion to induce the 'mug' to take the bank. There is a
superstition to the effect that banks which commence luckily for the
dealer will continue so to the end, and the unfortunate youth never
suspects that it is a 'put-up job' for him. Consequently he sits down to
play, and naturally he loses everything to the end of the deal. The
'Juggins,' however jubilant he may have been, soon finds that he has no
cause for rejoicing. You see, when a man takes the bank in the middle of
a game he cannot have the cards shuffled, but must take them just as
they lie on the table, and continue the game from the point at which the
last dealer left it. If proceedings of this kind are not to be
stigmatised as wholesale robbery, it is difficult to see how they are to
be described.

The most common method of cheating at poker in clubs and private houses
alike, but particularly in good society, is one which is accomplished by
means of collusion, and in connection with that process of the game
known as 'raising out.'

In poker, the bets of the players are raised in rotation around the
table, and the players who wish to remain 'in'--that is to say, those
who do not wish to forfeit what they have already staked--must all have
equal stakes in the pool. Now, unless a man has a particularly good hand
he is not disposed to risk too much upon its chance of winning;
consequently, when the stakes have risen to a certain amount, he will
stand out rather than go beyond what he has already risked.

Two men, then, in secret partnership, upon sitting down to play, will
contrive to get the man with most money, or the best player (their
greatest antagonist) between them. Therefore, if these two men
systematically raise their bets, whether they have good hands or not,
they must eventually reach the point at which the other players will 'go
out.' If the man between them wishes to remain in, he must make good,
or, in other words, bring his stakes up to an amount equal to those of
the conspirators. This he may do for some time, but sooner or later the
game will become 'too hot' for him and he will go out. He is between two
fires, and stands no chance whatever. Then, everyone else having gone
out, the game is in the hands of the two sharps, and they can finish it
in any way they think best. They may keep on raising each other for a
time, until at last one of them refuses to stake another 'chip,' and
throws away his hand, and then the other simply takes the pool. Or one
of them may 'call' the other, and upon seeing the hand may throw his own
away without showing it, the inference being that it is not so good as
that of his supposed antagonist. There is really no need for the other
players to see either of the hands. They cannot be called, because one
or the other of them is always raising his stakes, and until the stakes
are made good without anyone raising, the call is not complete and no
hands are shown. Then, when all the other players are 'raised out,'
there is nobody left to call upon them to show their hands. At the end
of the evening, of course, they divide the spoil.

These things may all appear to be very simple, but they are extremely
difficult of detection by outsiders. Indeed, it is the very simplicity
of collusion that constitutes the great charm of its employment, and the
great safeguard against its detection. Unlike manipulation, it can be
accomplished by anyone and gives far less indication of its existence.
The only drawback to it is that where there is a conspiracy there is
always a chance of rogues falling out, and honest men being put in
possession of the truth.

In every kind of game, and in every department of trickery, collusion
has been utilised as a ready means of arriving at the consummation of
the sharp's desires. It is seldom, indeed, that a scheme of any
magnitude is devised without more than one person concerned in it; and
the accomplices have assumed every kind of guise, tinkers, tailors,
soldiers, sailors, waiters, club-porters, card-canvassers, and even
officers of justice. There is no end to the disguises in which these
individuals have appeared, and apparently no limit to their ingenuity.

One of the most immense frauds ever perpetrated in connection with
sharping, and in which the fewest persons were concerned, was that
recorded by Houdin. At the outset it was entirely conceived and executed
by one sharp alone, although another took part in it at a later stage,
much to the disappointment of the original promoter of the scheme. As
this incident is of interest, and exhibits in a striking manner the
possibilities of cheating which exist at all times and in all places,
the reader shall have the benefit of its perusal. Although the events
happened many years ago, the story is not very well known, and is well
worthy of retelling.

At the date of the narrative, Havana, according to the historian, was
the place most addicted to gambling of any in the world. As he also
observed, that was not saying a little. And it was in that haven of
delight that the occurrences related took place.

A Spanish sharp, named Bianco, purchased in his own country a tremendous
stock of playing-cards; and, in view of the undertaking in which he was
about to embark, he opened every one of the packs, marked all the
cards, and sealed them up again in their wrappers. This he did so
skilfully that there was no evidence of the fact that the packages had
ever been tampered with. The stupendous feat involved in a proceeding of
this kind being successfully accomplished, the cards were shipped off to
Havana and there disposed of to the card-dealers at a ruinous sacrifice.
So good indeed were these cards, and so cheap, that in a very little
while the dealers could not be induced to purchase those of any other
make. Thus after a time there were hardly any cards circulating in the
place other than those which had been falsified by Bianco.

The sharp, it may be imagined, was not long in following upon the track
of his cards; and being a man of good address, he contrived to obtain
introductions into the best society. He played everywhere, of course,
and where he played he won. Hardly ever being called upon to use any
cards but his own, it is not surprising that he should rapidly acquire
wealth among people whose chief recreation appeared to be gambling. To
avert suspicion, however, he was careful to complain constantly of the
losses he had sustained.

Among the various clubs in Havana was one which was of the most
exclusive kind. The committee was so vigilant, and such great
precautions were taken to prevent the admission of doubtful characters,
that hitherto it had been kept free from the contamination of cheating.
Into this club, however, Bianco contrived to effect an entrance, and
carried on his operations therein with much success. He was destined,
notwithstanding the zeal of the committee, to remain alone in the field
but a very short time. Another sharp, a Frenchman this time, contrived
also to obtain admission to the club; and he, too, set to work to
prospect the country, thinking that he had possessed himself of a
gold-mine as yet unexploited.

Accordingly, this second adventurer, Laforcade by name, seized a
favourable opportunity of appropriating a quantity of the club cards.
These he took home with him for the purpose of marking them, intending
to return them when marked to the stock from which they had been taken.
One may imagine the man's surprise upon opening the packs to find that
every card had already been marked.

Evidently, then, somebody had been before him, and Laforcade determined
to find out who it could be. He made inquiries as to where the cards
were obtained, and, purchasing some at the same place, found that these
also were marked. In fact, every pack that he could procure had been
tampered with in like manner. Here then was a gigantic swindle, and he
determined to profit by it. He would let the other man do all the work,
but _he_ would share in the profits. If the other man, whoever he might
be, would not listen to reason, he would threaten to hand him over to
the police.

Having arrived at this decision, he set to work to watch the play of the
various members of the club, and, naturally, the invariable good fortune
of Bianco could not fail to attract his attention. Keeping strict watch
upon that gentleman's proceedings, Laforcade soon arrived at the
conclusion that Bianco, and no other, was the man of whom he was in
search. He therefore took an early opportunity of engaging his
brother-swindler in a quiet game of écarté, whilst no other members of
the club were present.

The game was played, and Bianco won, as a matter of course. Then, as
usual, the winner asked his opponent if he was satisfied, or whether he
would prefer to have his revenge in another game. Much to his surprise,
however, instead of saying simply whether he preferred to play again or
not, the loser coolly rested his elbows on the table, and regarding his
adversary composedly, gave him to understand that the entire secret of
the cheerful little deception which was being practised was in his
possession. This, of course, came rather as a bomb-shell into Bianco's
camp, and reduced him at once to a condition in which any terms of
compromise would be acceptable, in preference to exposure and

Matters having arrived at this point, Laforcade proposed terms upon
which he was willing to come to an understanding with the Spaniard.
These were, briefly, that Bianco should continue his system of plunder,
on condition that he handed over to his fellow-cheat one-half of the
proceeds. These terms were agreed to, and upon that basis of settlement
the agreement was entered into.

For some time after this all went well with the two swindlers. Laforcade
established himself in luxury, and gave his days to pleasure. Bianco ran
all the risk; the other had nothing to do but sit at home and receive
his share of the profits. It is true he could keep no check upon his
associate, to see that he divided the spoil equitably; but, holding the
sword of Damocles over him, he could always threaten him with exposure
if the profits were not sufficiently great.

At length, however, Bianco began to tire of the arrangement, which
perhaps was only natural. Besides, the supply of marked cards was
beginning to run short, and could not be depended upon much longer. This
being so, the prime mover of the plot having won as much as he possibly
could, promptly vacated the scene of his exploits.

The unfortunate Laforcade thus found himself, as the Americans say,
'left.' The prospect was not altogether a pleasant one for him. He had
acquired expensive tastes which he might no longer be enabled to
indulge; he had accustomed himself to luxuries he could no longer hope
to enjoy. He had not the skill of the departed Bianco; yet,
nevertheless, he was compelled to (metaphorically) roll up his sleeves
and work for his living. Things were not so bad as they might have been.
There was still a good number of falsified cards in use; so he
determined to make the best possible use of his opportunities while they

He therefore set to work with ardour, and success largely attended his
efforts. At last, however, the crash came. He was detected in cheating,
and the whole secret of the marked cards was brought to light.

Even in this unfortunate predicament Laforcade's good-fortune, strange
to say, did not desert him. He was taken before the Tribunal, tried, and
_acquitted_. Absolutely nothing could be proved against him. It is true
the cards were marked, but then, so were nearly all the others in
Havana. Laforcade did not mark them, as was proved in the evidence. He
did not import them. To all intents and purposes he had nothing to do
with them whatever. It could not even be proved that he knew of the
cards being marked at all. Thus the case against him broke down utterly,
and he got off scot free. It is, nevertheless, presumable that he did
not long remain in that part of the world. As to what became of Bianco,
nothing is known. Possibly his record concluded with the familiar words
'lived happily ever after'; but most probably not. The end of such men
is seldom a happy one.

The recital of the above-mentioned circumstances will serve to
accentuate the contention that it is impossible wholly to guard against
cheating. Here was a case in which the utmost caution was observed, in
order to exclude cheats and impostors from a club; and yet it is seen
that, within a very short time, two men of the sharp persuasion
contrived to effect an entrance. If this is possible in the case of a
club, where there is not only a committee to investigate the _bona
fides_ of every applicant for membership, but also a large body of
members presumably alive to their own interests who have to be satisfied
of the fitness of the candidates for election, what chance has a mere
private individual of protecting himself against the sharp and his
insidious ways? Those two men, Bianco and Laforcade, must have had
friends among the inhabitants of Havana, friends who would have been
horrified to know the real character of those whose intimacy they found
so agreeable. Among the dupes of those two adventurers there must have
been some who would have resented bitterly any aspersion of the honesty
of their associates. We have seen the return they gained for their
friendship, and what has happened once may happen again.

There is only one course to pursue of which it can be said that it is
absolutely safe. It is an extremely objectionable one, no doubt; but we
are speaking, just now, of absolute safety. There is nothing for it but
to _suspect your best friend, if he is a gambler_. The desire for gain
affects equally the high and the low. The instinct of theft is rife
alike in rich and poor. To use a colloquialism, all are tarred with the
same brush. The only difference is that what is called stealing in the
poor starving wretch who takes a loaf, to save the parish the expense of
a funeral, becomes, in the case of his more fortunate and richer
fellow-sinner, merely a little intellectual peculiarity, which is
dignified with the name of kleptomania. The poor man envies the rich man
his wealth; the rich man envies the poor man his solitary ewe lamb.
Instances of this kind have never been wanting at any time in the
world's history, and even in matters of everyday life; but once a man
becomes a gambler, there is every prospect that his desire for gain will
eventually overmaster all the finer feelings of his nature. You doubt
it? Well, search the columns of your newspaper, and every day you shall
find at least one case where some foolish fellow has stolen property, or
money, entrusted to his care, and has devoted the proceeds of his theft
to gambling purposes. There is every reason in the world for suspecting
anyone of dishonesty who is found to have taken to gambling. If it is
not so, then all history lies, and past experience counts for nothing.

Closely allied to the subject of conspiracy is that of the maintenance
of places in which gambling is systematically carried on, in defiance
of the law, and in spite of the utmost watchfulness of the police. It is
true that one of the most familiar head-lines upon the newspaper
placards is: 'Raid on a Club! The accused at Bow Street.' Every week our
attention is attracted by some announcement of that kind, made in
letters six inches high. But we hardly ever give the matter a second
thought; the whole thing is too common an occurrence. Yet not one tithe
of these gambling-dens is ferreted out. Crushed here to-day, they spring
up there to-morrow. They are perennial. Like the phoenix, they arise
from their own ashes--but under another name. And where the players are
to be found, there will the sharps be gathered together. That is a thing
which goes without saying, and is open to no manner of doubt.

In these cases, of course, both sharps and flats are drawn together by
one common bond of union--that of defeating the aim of the law for the
suppression of gaming-houses. The dupe merely sees in the efforts of the
Government to protect him from the consequences of his folly an
unwarrantable interference with the liberty of the subject. Therefore,
he conspires with the sharp to run counter to the law, and thus plays
right into the hands of his natural enemy. That he suffers in
consequence is no one's fault but his own; unfortunately, it is not he
alone who suffers. Those who are nearest, and should be dearest, to him
are those who suffer most.

The devices resorted to by the occupants of clandestine gaming-houses in
order to conceal all traces of the appliances used for the purpose of
gambling would fill many volumes in their description, but as they do
not form part and parcel of our subject we cannot enter into an account
of them. Probably one of the most ingenious ideas ever conceived for the
immediate removal of all signs of gaming apparatus in the event of a
police raid, was that which was actually utilised at a so-called club a
good many years ago. The plan was briefly this. Upon the fire in the
card-room a large kettle of water was kept constantly boiling,
ostensibly for the purpose of diluting the ardent liquors imbibed by the
members. The whole of the gaming utensils, dice-boxes and everything
else, were made of one of the alloys known as fusible metals, which melt
at a lower temperature than boiling water. An alloy of bismuth, tin,
lead and cadmium can be made to melt at a far lower temperature than
that of boiling water. In the event of a raid being made upon the club,
then, the whole of the appliances were put into the kettle, where they
at once melted, and even though any one looked in the kettle during the
search there was nothing to be seen.

It is in places of this kind where collusion and conspiracy are most
rampant. Those who have the ability to devise methods of cheating the
police may well be supposed to have sufficient ingenuity to cheat the
players. Those who _must_ gamble, therefore, should be very wary when
they entrust themselves and their money to the tender mercies of the
society encountered at such resorts. With this word of caution we will
bring the present chapter to a conclusion.



Faro may almost be said to occupy in America the position of a national
game. The methods of cheating used in connection with it are so numerous
and so ingenious that it becomes really necessary to devote an entire
chapter specially to them. Since there are parts of the world, however,
outside America where the game is little known, and since it is
necessary that the reader should understand something of it to enable
him to follow the explanations, the first step must be to give some
little idea of the nature of the game and the manner in which it is
played. The following paragraphs, then, will contain a brief description
of its salient features, and also of the apparatus or tools which are
required in playing it.

We will commence with the accessories first. These are: (1) the
faro-box, (2) the check-rack, (3) the cue-keeper, (4) cue-cards, (5) the
shuffling-board, (6) the layout, and (7) the faro-table. These, together
with a pack of playing-cards, constitute the apparatus employed. Let us
take the various items in their order as given.

1. _The faro-box._--This is a metal box in which the cards are placed,
face upwards, and from which they are dealt one at a time. Fig. 37
illustrates the back view of such a dealing-box.

[Illustration: FIG. 37.]

It will be seen that the box is open at the back, and cut away at the
top sufficiently to allow a large portion of the face of the top card to
be visible. The plate forming the top overlaps the front side about
one-eighth of an inch, and below its front edge is a slit, only just
sufficiently wide to allow one card at a time to be pushed out, so that
the cards are bound to be dealt one by one, and in the order they occupy
in the pack. They are slipped out by the thumb, which presses upon them
through the aperture in the top plate. The cards are inserted through
the back, and constantly pressed upwards by a movable plate or
partition, below which are springs sufficiently strong for the purpose.

It is presumable that the object of this box is to prevent any
possibility of the cards being tampered with. That it not only can be
made to fail in this purpose, but also to play directly into the hands
of the cheat, we shall see later on.

2. _The check-rack._--This is a polished wooden tray, lined with
billiard-cloth. It is used by the dealer, to contain his piles of
counters and his money. It stands at his left hand, upon the faro-table,
during play.

3. _The cue-keeper, or cue-box._--This is a piece of apparatus used for
the purpose of recording the cards as they are played, and is under the
control of a man who is specially told off to attend to it. By its means
at any stage of the game the players can see at a glance what cards have
already been played, and what remain in the pack. It is constructed upon
the principle of the ancient 'abacus' or 'obolus,' and consists of a
framework of wood, supporting thirteen wires, upon each of which slide
four small balls (fig. 38).

[Illustration: FIG. 38.]

Opposite each wire there is attached to the framework a miniature
reproduction of one of the cards of a suit. In faro, as in poker, the
suit of any card is of no importance. For all practical purposes the
pack may be considered as consisting simply of four aces, four kings,
four queens, and so on. Therefore, no record is kept of the suits of the
cards which have been played, but only of their values. The position of
the balls at the commencement of the game is at the left hand side of
their respective divisions, as shown in the illustration. When a king,
for example, is drawn out of the box, one ball, opposite the miniature
king on the cue-keeper, is slipped to the right, and so on until all the
fifty-two cards have been played, when, of course, the whole of the
balls are at the right of the apparatus. The person who registers the
progress of the game with this accessory is styled the 'case-keeper.'

4. _Cue-cards._--These are small cards upon which are printed the names
of the thirteen cards, a space being left opposite each name, for the
purpose of enabling the players to check off the cards as they are
played. They are sometimes used in place of a case-keeper; but, even
where a case-keeper is employed, they are utilised by the players for
recording the winning and losing cards. Any card which wins is marked
with a cross, and one which loses is marked with a nought. Fig. 39
represents a cue-card which has been partially filled up in this way,
and the cards which have been played so far, it will be noticed, are
readily distinguishable. The cards lost are two queens, two nines, two
sevens, and three sixes. Besides showing what cards have been lost and
won, the cue-card also tells what cards have yet to be played. Thus, at
the stage of the game indicated in fig. 39, there are still remaining in
the dealing-box one queen, one nine, three eights, two sevens, two
fives, four fours, and three twos. This convenient record prevents the
possibility of a player betting upon cards which have already been


        | Ace   + + + +   Eight +       |
        | King  + + + +   Seven 0 0     |
        | Queen 0 0 +     Six   0 0 0 + |
        | Knave + + + +   Five  + +     |
        | Ten   + + + +   Four          |
        | Nine  0 0 +     Three + + + + |
        |             Two +             |

FIG. 39.]

The case-keeper and cue-cards were primarily introduced with the object
of keeping a check upon the dealer, and of preventing him from using a
pack containing more than fifty-two cards, or in which there was not the
right number of each value. We shall see presently how he manages to get
over that difficulty.

5. _The shuffling-board._--This is a thin slab of wood or metal, covered
with billiard-cloth. It stands in front of the dealer, and upon it are
placed the faro-box and the piles of winning and losing cards. It is
upon this board, also, that the cards are shuffled; hence its name.

6. _The layout._--The designation of this adjunct to the game is derived
from the fact that it forms that part of the table upon which the
players 'lay out' their stakes. Usually it is a green cloth, having
painted upon it a representation of the thirteen cards of one suit (see
diagram of the faro-table, fig. 40).

7. _The faro-table._--This is simply an oblong table, having a recess or
cavity cut out in the centre of one of the long sides. In this recess
the dealer sits, being thus enabled to be as near to the layout as
possible, and at the same time to have all his appliances within easy
reach. Fig. 40 will give the reader a clear idea of the relative
positions occupied by the dealer, the players, and the various component
items of the apparatus.

[Illustration: FIG. 40.--The Faro-Table.

    A, shuffling-board.
    B, faro-box.
    C, pile of losing cards.
    D, pile of winning cards.
    E, check-tray.
    F, case-keeper.
    G, layout.
    H, dealer.
    I, I, I, I, I, players.]

The appliances above described being available, the game is played in
the following manner:--

At the termination of a deal the cards are all lying face upwards upon
the shuffling-board in two heaps at 'C' and 'D,' and the faro-box is
empty. Without taking the cards off the table, but simply turning them
back upwards, the dealer mixes the two heaps together. The pack is then
cut and placed with the faces of the cards upwards in the dealing-box.
The players then stake their money, placing their stakes upon the layout
over the card which they think will win. Each player, of course, may
select any card he pleases, irrespective of the fact that another player
may choose to bet upon the same card. In fact, they can all back the
same card if they like. This, however, is a case which is rather rare,
anyhow at the outset of a game. Meanwhile the top card of the pack has
all along been visible to the players, through the aperture in the top
of the box. This card, therefore, counts for nothing, and no bets can be
made with respect to it. From the top card downwards, the cards
alternately win for the players and the 'bank,' or dealer. The second
card, then, when displayed will win for the players.

All the bets having been made, the dealer draws off the top card and
discloses the face of the second. The top card is placed upon the
shuffling-board in the position indicated by 'C' (fig. 40), and those
players who have staked their money upon the card in the layout which
corresponds in value to the card which is now seen through the window of
the dealing-box will have to receive from the dealer the amount of their
stakes. If no player has bet upon that card the dealer of course has to
pay nothing.

The dealer has now to draw off another card from the box and display the
face of the third. As explained above, this card will win for the bank.
The second card is therefore drawn off, and placed upon the
shuffling-board at 'D,' and the players who have staked their money upon
the card representing the one which is now visible will lose their
stakes to the dealer.

The two cards thus played constitute what is called a 'turn.' After each
turn the dealer pays the money he has lost and receives what he has won.
All money staked upon cards other than those which have either won or
lost remains undisturbed upon the layout. The players are then at
liberty to rearrange their bets in any manner they may think fit, and
the game continues. Again the top card is removed from the box,
revealing a fourth, and placed upon the card already at 'C.' As before,
those who have staked upon the card now showing in the box receive the
amount of their bets in due course. And so on until no more cards remain
in the box.

There is one advantage enjoyed by the dealer in which the other players
do not participate. When it so happens that both cards of a 'turn' are
of the same value, both kings, for instance, such an occurrence is
termed a 'split,' and a split means that the bank loses nothing, but, on
the contrary, takes half the money, if any, which is lying upon the
card of that value in the layout. This advantage or _refait_ gives the
bank a preponderance of the chances to the amount of about three per

The above is the simplest form of the game; but, in reality, it is
usually played in a more complicated manner. For instance, the players
can 'string their bets'; that is to say, they can bet on more than one
card at a time. A counter placed between any two cards signifies backing
either of the two cards to win, and then the player will win if either
of those cards wins, or lose if either loses, and so on. A single
counter may be so placed as to back all the high cards to win, and the
low ones to lose, or _vice versa_. By 'coppering,' or, in other words,
placing a special counter called a 'copper,' upon his stake, a player
can bet that any card will lose instead of win.

With this short explanation of the game, we will proceed to consider the
various methods of cheating at faro.

The swindling which is practised in connection with this game, and for
which it affords ample scope, may be divided into two kinds. Firstly,
where the players cheat the bank; and secondly, where the bank cheats
the players. This latter class may again be considered under two heads,
viz. cheating with fair cards and fair boxes, and cheating by means of
prepared cards and mechanical arrangements connected with the faro-box
and other appliances of the game.

We will take, first of all, the methods employed by the players to cheat
the bank. This is done where the players are professional sharps who
have contrived to 'put up a mug' (_i.e._ to persuade a dupe) to take the
bank. The general practice is for one of the conspirators to have a room
of his own laid out for the game, and into this very private room the
victim is decoyed. In a case of this kind the 'rig is worked,' or in
other words the swindle is perpetrated, by means of a dealing-box, so
constructed as to enable the players to know what cards will win for
them, and what will win for the bank. With this knowledge they run no
risk of staking their money on the wrong cards. The contrivances for
effecting this desirable result are known as 'tell-boxes.' Broadly
speaking, these are of two kinds, the 'sand-tell' and the 'needle-tell.'

The sand-tell box is so called because it is used in conjunction with
prepared cards, which have been 'sanded' or roughened on one side, or
both sides, as the case may be.[9] The cards which are intended to
'tell' are left smooth on their faces; all the others are slightly
roughened on both sides. The effect of this mode of preparation is that,
whilst the cards which are roughened on both sides will tend to cling
together, any card which lies immediately upon the smooth face of a
'tell-card' will slip easily.

[Illustration: FIG. 41.]

The box with which these cards are used is shown in fig. 41, which
represents a section taken through the centre of the box, from top to
bottom. Referring to 'A' in the illustration, _s_, _s_ are two of the
springs which press upwards upon the partition _p_, this in turn keeping
the cards tightly pressed against the top of the box, in which the
aperture or window _w_ is cut. These details are of course common to all
dealing-boxes, as already explained. The trickery, however, in this
instance is in connection with the front side of the box. Instead of
being of an equal thickness all round, the front is made double. That is
to say, an additional plate of metal is put inside the box, covering the
whole of the front plate, except that it does not reach the top by the
thickness of two cards.

'B' in the illustration represents an enlarged sectional view of the
mouth of the box. The additional plate is shown at _a_; _b_ is the
normal thickness of the front, and _c_ is the slit through which the
cards are pushed out.

The prepared cards being put into a box of this description, the effect
produced in dealing is as follows. If the third card from the top is one
of those which has been roughened on both sides, the second card will
adhere to it; consequently the act of drawing off the top card will not
cause the second to alter its position in the box. If, however, the
third card should happen to be one of the tell-cards, whose face has
been left smooth, the top card will draw the second one a little
distance to the right over the top of the plate _a_. The second card,
however, cannot be drawn right out, because the slit _c_ is not wide
enough to allow more than one card to pass at a time. It is obvious,
then, that if the players have some means of knowing whether the second
card moves or not, they can tell whether the card immediately underneath
it is a tell-card or the reverse.

On reference to the illustration it will be manifest that the actual
distance moved by the second card when drawn aside in this way can only
be very slight. Indeed, it would not do to allow of much movement, or
the dealer might notice it. Therefore, special means have to be adopted
to enable the sharps to detect the small difference in the position of
the cards. The necessary indication is readily obtained by means of what
are known as 'sighters.' These are simply minute dots upon the faces of
the cards. Upon each card one of these dots is placed, in such a
position that when the card comes to the top the dot will be close to
the edge of the aperture, but if the one below it is a smooth or
tell-card, the slipping sideways of the card brings the dot away from
the edge, and it appears farther to the centre of the opening. Fig. 42
is a diagram representing the top of a sand-tell box under both
conditions. The dot marked _m_ is the sight. In practice, it is much
finer than here shown, being in fact only just visible. 'A' indicates
the position of the dot when the card below happens to be one which has
been roughened. 'B' shows the card drawn to one side, bringing the dot
away from the edge, thus intimating the fact that the card immediately
underneath is a tell-card, the face of which has been left smooth.

[Illustration: FIG. 42.]

The general practice is to make all the court cards 'tell.' The
advantage thus gained is that it is not necessary to bet on any
particular card, but simply to back the high cards to win and the low
ones to lose, or _vice versa_. This is not so liable to cause suspicion
as having all the aces, for instance, to tell. In a case of this latter
kind, the slipping of the card would indicate that the next card to be
revealed would be an ace; therefore, if the conspirators are to win, at
least one of them must bet upon an ace turning up. Whereas, if all the
picture cards are made to tell, not only are there more tell-cards in
the pack, but it is only necessary for one player to bet upon the high
cards generally. The box simply tells them that a high card will show
next, and they make their bets accordingly.

Of course, it would never do for all the players to stake their money
alike. That would let the cat out of the bag, with a vengeance. No; if
the next card is to be a high card, one of them will bet upon the high
cards; the others will bet upon particular small cards, avoiding the
high ones. They cannot possibly lose on the next card, because they know
that it is not one of the low cards which comes next.

It will be remembered that, in the description given of the game, we saw
that the bets are made just before the dealing out of each pair of cards
or 'turn.' Therefore the indication given by the tell-box is only of use
to the players before a turn commences, that is to say, before the
first card of the pair is shown. They cannot change their bets until the
second card of the pair is shown and the turn is played. Therefore,
supposing the box indicates that the first card of the next turn, the
one that wins for the players, is a court card, and that one of the
players has consequently backed the high cards, the others must be
careful how they arrange their bets. It may happen that one of them has
put his money upon a card which will be the next to turn up; and this
being the one which wins for the bank, that stake will be lost.
Therefore, they have to arrange matters so that the highest stake which
can possibly be won by the dealer is less than that of the player who
has staked his money upon the card or cards which they know will win on
the first draw. Or it may be that the other players will 'copper' their
bets upon the low cards and thus play for absolute safety.

These manoeuvres are necessary, and are here pointed out because they
may be of assistance as a guide to the investigation of suspected cases
of cheating by the means just described. If it should be found that, in
a game of faro, it constantly happens that one of the players--not
necessarily the same player--always wins on the first card of a turn,
and that on the second card the others either do not lose at all, or, at
any rate, that the amount which either of them loses is less than that
which the other has won, it may be safely inferred that cheating is in

The second kind of tell-box, which is used for the same purpose as that
we have just investigated, we have already referred to as the
'needle-tell.' This box is also used with prepared cards, but the
preparation is of a very different kind. In this instance there is no
roughening of the surfaces of the cards, but those which are required to
tell are cut to a slightly different shape to the others. In some
respects the needle is an improvement upon the sand-tell; the cards are
more easily shuffled than is the case with the 'sanded' ones, the
clinging of which might arouse suspicion with an intelligent dealer. The
dealing-box, however, is more complicated in its construction.

The tell-cards are cut with a slight projection at one end. Fig. 43 will
give an idea of the exact shape. The projecting end will be noticed at
_a_. Needless to say, in the cards actually used the defect in the card
would not be more pronounced than is absolutely necessary.

[Illustration: FIG. 43.]

The dealing-box is so constructed that when either of the tell-cards
arrives at a certain position (usually the fourth or eighth card from
the top) the projecting corner presses against a light spring and causes
a little 'needle' or point to project from the side of the box.
Frequently one of the rivets with which the box is put together is made
to push out a little. Whatever the index may be, however, it does not
move sufficiently to attract attention. It is only those who are looking
for it who know when it 'tells.' A movement of one thirty-second of an
inch is ample for the sharp eyes of the swindlers to detect.

The mechanism of the needle-tell, however, is not used solely in
connection with cases where the players cheat the bank, it also forms a
very necessary accessory to the 'two-card' box to be presently
explained. Then it is used to let the dealer know when he is coming to
the 'odd,' or fifty-third card.

Having thus elucidated the comparatively simple methods used to cheat
the dealer, we now proceed to investigate the more complex devices
employed in those cases where the bank cheats the players. As stated in
the earlier part of this chapter, the players may be swindled either
with fair cards and a fair dealing-box, or by means of mechanical

When the dealer elects to cheat without the use of mechanism, he is, of
course, compelled to resort to manipulation, and to 'put up' the cards
in such a way that they will help him to win. The reader will doubtless
remember that in the description of the game 'splits' were mentioned as
winning for the dealer. That is, when both cards of a turn are of the
same value, the dealer takes half the money staked on the card which has
split, or turned up twice in succession, the suits, of course, not
counting. It is obvious, then, that if the dealer in shuffling the pack
can contrive to put up a number of cards in pairs of the same value, his
chances of winning are greatly enhanced. Splits, therefore, are the
stronghold of the faro dealer's manipulation. If he can only make them
plentiful enough without leading the players to suspect anything wrong,
he is bound to win in the long run, and to win plenty.

Whilst dealing out the cards in the first game, the dealer determines in
his own mind what cards he will make split in the second game. We will
suppose he has just drawn a nine from the box, and that this card has to
go into pile 'C' (fig. 40). Now, by the laws of the game he is bound to
place this card upon the top of the pile to which it belongs, therefore
he does so. He may, however, with apparent carelessness, place it just a
little on one side, so that he can distinguish it from the other cards.
He now waits for the appearance of another nine, and this time one
which will have to go into the other pile, 'D.' This one is disposed in
the same manner. He has in sight, therefore, two cards of the same
value, and if these two cards can be brought together during the
shuffle, they will constitute a split. Seizing a favourable opportunity
in evening up the two piles of cards, he may skilfully 'strip' the two
nines--that is, draw them out from the others and place them at the
bottom of their respective piles. There is no fear of losing them now;
they are always to hand when required.

It is not necessary, however, that the cards should be put at the
bottom. So long as they are each in the same position, in the pile to
which they respectively belong, that is all the dealer needs. Suppose
the ninth card from the bottom of pile 'C' to be a king, all the man
wants is to have the ninth card of pile 'D' a king also. If, therefore,
the ninth card of that heap is placed a little to one side, and all the
succeeding cards are put above it in like manner, that will leave a
division in the pile, into which a king can be stripped at a convenient

If the players are sufficiently lax to allow the dealer to throw the
cards carelessly into two heaps, instead of making two even piles, the
case is, of course, much simplified. He has only to put the cards
directly at the bottom or wherever else he may desire to have them.

Given the fact of certain cards having been placed in pairs, one of
each pair in the same position within its pile, the problem which
presents itself for solution is, How can the dealer shuffle the two
piles one into the other, so as to bring the proper cards together? In
short, How are the splits put up?

[Illustration: FIG. 44.]

This is accomplished by means of what is called the 'faro dealer's
shuffle.' It must not be thought that this manipulative device is
essentially a trick for cheating; on the contrary, it is an exceedingly
fair and honest shuffle, provided that there has been no previous
arrangement of the cards. By its use, a pack which has been divided into
two equal portions may have all the cards of one half placed alternately
with those of the other half at one operation. In faro, the manner of
dealing the cards necessarily divides them into two equal parts. This
being the case, they are taken up by the dealer, one in each hand.
Holding them by the ends, he presses the two halves together so as to
bend them somewhat after the manner shown in fig. 44, in the position
'A.' The halves are now 'wriggled' from side to side in opposite
directions, with what would be called in mechanism a 'laterally
reciprocating motion.' This causes the cards to fly up one by one, from
either side alternately, as indicated in the figure at 'B.' Thus it is
evident that those cards which have been placed, with malice
aforethought, in corresponding positions in the two piles, will come
together in a shuffle of this kind, and form splits. This shuffle is a
very difficult one to learn; but with practice and patience it can be
accomplished, and the cards can be made to fly up alternately, without
any chance of failure. A dealer, skilled in the devices we have just
touched upon, can put up four or five splits in one deal, if he thinks
it advisable so to do. By the use of such means he is also enabled to
arrange the cards so as to checkmate any player who may appear to be
following some particular system of betting. Finding that the players
are, on the whole, inclined to back the high cards, the dealer may so
arrange the pack that the low cards only win for them, the high ones
falling to the bank. In this, however, he runs a great risk. It may
happen that the players, finding themselves constantly losing on the
high cards, may alter their mode of play, and back the low ones. That
would be bad for the bank unless the dealer had a mechanical box which
enabled him to alter the run of the cards. Such boxes, however, are
obtainable; and their description is included in the branch of our
subject which treats of cheating the players by means of mechanical
contrivances, and to which we now proceed.

In cases where the dealer uses apparatus for cheating, his requirements
are three in number. Firstly, he must have what is known as a 'two-card'
dealing-box, that is, a box which will allow him, whenever he pleases,
to withdraw two cards at one time, instead of compelling him to deal
them singly. Secondly, he must have an 'odd,' or fifty-third card.
Lastly, he requires a mechanical shuffling-board, which adds the 'odd'
to the pack, after the cards have been counted at the commencement of
the game.

The two-card box is one of the most expensive cheating tools a sharp can
use. The prices charged for them are something exorbitant, as may be
seen on reference to the catalogues. To be of any use, however, they
must be well-made, and then they will earn their cost in a very little
time. Badly-made, the sharp would find that, however cheap they appeared
to be, they would really be the most expensive and ruinous contrivances
he had ever known. They are made in many varieties, and known by as many
poetic names, but the effect is the same in all cases. Pressure being
applied to some part of the box, the mouth is caused to open
sufficiently wide to allow two cards to be drawn out together. The best
boxes are those high-priced commodities of which the catalogues say that
they will 'lock up to a square box.' This does not mean a rectangular
box, but a box that will bear examination. 'Fair' and 'square,' in this
instance, mean the same thing. The only fault in the description is that
the box, being false, cannot possibly become genuine with any amount of
locking. It should be said that when locked it _appears_ to be genuine,
and may be examined without fear of the trick being detected. Some boxes
are made to lock by sliding them along the table. The bottom moves a
little, this movement serving to fix all the movable parts. Some are so
arranged that they are always locked. That is their normal condition, so
they can be examined at any time. When it is required to widen the mouth
and allow two cards to pass out together, a small piece of wire, or
'needle' as it is called, is made to rise out of the shuffling-board or
table; this, pressing against one of the rivets, or into a little hole
in the bottom of the box, unlocks the mechanism for the moment. Another
form of the two-card box is one which has the bottom plate made of very
thin metal, the 'springing in' of which, when pressed upon in the
centre, unlocks the 'fake.' Some of the forms which unlock by sliding on
the table are the most complicated, requiring sometimes three movements
to free the working parts and allow the slit to widen. The movements,
of course, have to follow in proper succession, as in any other kind of
combination-lock. This prevents any accidental unlocking of the box
whilst it is in the hands of strangers.[10]

At the beginning of the game, then, the cards are counted to make sure
that there are the proper number, and we will suppose that the
dealing-box is a two-card with needle-tell attachment. One of the cards
in the pack, therefore, will be cut with the projecting corner. We will
suppose it to be the king of diamonds. Another king of diamonds, also
cut to 'tell,' is held out in the mechanical shuffling-board. Whilst
shuffling the cards, the dealer causes the holdout to add the 'odd' card
to the pack. Thus there are two kings of diamonds in use.

The cards being put into the dealing-box the game begins. The dealer
keeps his eye upon the needle-tell, and meanwhile unlocks the mechanism
of his box; that is, if it is made to lock, which is not necessarily the
case, although safer. When the needle indicates the fact that one of the
duplicate cards--in this case a king of diamonds--is immediately below
the top card in the box, the dealer has to be guided by circumstances.
If the card will win for him, well and good. He deals the cards as they
should be dealt and the king falls to him. It is evident that it would
never do to have two kings of diamonds turn up in the game, the
cue-keeper and cue-cards would record five kings. So the dealer still
watches the needle, and when he finds that the second king of diamonds
is the top card but one, he exerts the necessary pressure upon the box
to widen the slit. Then, instead of withdrawing only one card two are
passed out together, and placed as one upon one of the piles. This
squares accounts with the case-keeper.

It may happen, of course, that when the first of the tell-cards comes to
the top it would lose for the dealer. In that case he would work the
'squeeze,' and deal out the odd card with the one above it. Then he has
to take his chance with the second of the duplicates, and the game
becomes simply what it would be if honestly played. The advantage to the
dealer resulting from the employment of the 'odd' is that it provides
him with the means of winning, or at the worst prevents him from losing
on one turn of the deal. This may not seem very much, but added to the
chances of splits turning up it really means a great deal.

When the dealer is a proficient in sleight-of-hand he will carefully
note the line of play adopted by certain 'fat' players, or, as the
unenlightened would say, players who bet heavily. During the next
shuffle he will put up the cards so as to cause these 'fat' men to lose,
and somewhere about the middle of the pack he will place the 'odd.' Or
it may be he will so arrange matters that the shuffle and the cut will
bring one of the duplicate cards about a third of the way down the pack
and the other a third of the distance from the other end. Thus he will
have two opportunities of withdrawing two cards at once, either of which
he can use as may suit him best.

Supposing that hitherto the heaviest betting has been on the high cards,
the dealer will put up the pack in such a way that only the low ones win
for the players. That is to say, the cards will come out alternately
high and low, the high ones falling to the bank. As the game proceeds
the first of the tell-cards by degrees comes nearer and nearer the top,
and the dealer looks out for the needle-tell to indicate its approach.
By this time, perhaps, the players may have noticed that the high cards
are losing, and therefore may have altered their play, betting now upon
the low cards. If this is so, the bank will begin to lose, but not for
long. When the tell-card has become the second from the top the dealer
manipulates the two-card device and draws out two cards at once. The run
of the game is now altered. The cards still come out alternately high
and low, but the high cards now go to the players. As they have taken to
betting on the low ones they lose in consequence. If, however, the
players show no signs of changing their mode of betting when the first
tell-card nears the top, the dealer does not alter the run of the cards,
but goes straight on. When he comes to the second duplicate card he
must deal out two at once, or the 'odd' would be discovered.

The cases given above are put in the simplest form, for clearness; but
it must not be imagined that anyone investigating a suspected case of
cheating would find the cards arranged to come out always high and low
alternately. The dealer knows better than to risk anything of that kind.
He would be caught directly. The cards are merely put up in a general
sort of way, so as to give a preponderance in one direction or the
other; the dealer being at liberty to alter the general run of the cards
at either of the two duplicates. Of course he might even have two extra
cards in the pack, these and their duplicates being tell-cards. That
would give him a choice of two out of four opportunities of altering the
run; but the more devices he employs the greater the chances of
detection. One turn in the deal is plenty. It gives the dealer all the
opportunities he needs; and in the long run he is bound to win. It is
said that in some 'skin' houses in New York decks of 54, 55, or even 56
cards are frequently played on soft gamblers.

It is possible for the dealer and players alike to be in a general
conspiracy to cheat the bank. The dealer is not necessarily the banker.
The bank may be found by anyone; the proprietor of the gambling saloon,
for instance. But a dealer would be very foolish to cheat his employer.
In a private game, if a dupe can be put up to find the bank in money,
that is all right for the sharps. They are, one and all, at liberty to
go in and win--and they do.

The reader may be interested in knowing that in America some of the
dealers who are employed by proprietors of gambling houses, or saloons
as they are called, will demand a salary of four or five thousand
dollars. It is said that a very expert dealer is worth that amount per
annum, and that he can get it. It strikes one as being a somewhat high
rate of pay for a man whose sole duty is to shuffle and deal out cards
for a few hours a day, if that _is_ his sole duty. Suspicious
persons--and there are a few such in the world--might be tempted to
believe that there is more in the dealer's duties than meets the eye,
and a 'darned sight' more. Whatever opinion may be entertained upon the
subject, we can all join, at any rate, in hoping for the best, and in
praying for the _bettor_. Though when a man is idiot enough to lose his
money, as some do day after day, in a game where his own common sense
ought to tell him that he stands every chance of being cheated, he may
be looked upon as a hopeless case. There is nothing that will ever knock
intelligence into him, or his gambling propensities out of him. The only
system of treatment that could be expected to do him any good would be a
lengthened course of strait-waistcoat, to be repeated with additions
upon any sign of a recurrence of the malady.

Two or three years ago an Englishman won 5,000_l._ in one year at the
Cape, in a sort of rough-and-tumble game of faro. He ran the bank
without either cue-cards or case-keeper, and also without a dealing-box,
as in the prehistoric times in America before the losses experienced by
those who 'bucked against the tiger' forced these implements into use.
He dealt the cards out of his hand. The miners played against him for
gold-dust and he nearly always won. His operations were of the most
primitive kind. He simply had a lot of packs of cards, apparently new,
but which had been opened and arranged. Some were packed for the high
cards to win; some for the low ones. He would take a pack down, give it
a false shuffle and begin to deal it. If he wanted to alter the run of
the cards, he could at any time do so by merely dropping the top card on
the floor. This he did very cleverly, and nobody noticed it, because the
floor was always littered with used cards. Having no case-keeper to
record the game, the missing cards were never missed. What about the
poor miners? Well, they _must_ have been flats if their equilibrium
remained undisturbed through a lively game such as that. They deserved
to lose all that the dealer won.

This sharp is now in England 'mug-hunting.' He is at present acting as
bear-leader to a young man who has just come into 1,700_l._ a year. He
makes most of his living at 'lumbering' and 'telling the tale,' and his
stronghold is the bottom deal. The writer has great pleasure in
acknowledging his indebtedness to him for much of the information as to
the methods of the common English sharp. He is a swindler, but a most
agreeable and gentlemanly one.

This _Faro_ is a hard-hearted monarch whose constant delight appears to
be a slaughter of the innocents; though one can hardly suppose that his
victims are often the heirs male of Israel. Be that as it may, however,
Faro's victims can hardly hope for succour from a daughter of Faro, for
his only offspring are greed and fraud. And those who bow the head and
bend the knee to Faro are simply ministering to these two, his children.
Those who waste their substance on Faro are merely forging fetters for
their own limbs, and giving themselves body and soul to a taskmaster
from whose thraldom they will find it difficult to escape.

To descend from metaphor to matter of fact, there is no game which gives
freer rein to the passion of gambling than faro. There is no game in
which money is lost and won more readily. Above all, there is no game in
which the opportunities of cheating are more numerous or more varied. If
these are qualities which can recommend it to a man of common sense,
call me a gambler.


[9] See Chapter IX.--'Prepared Cards.'

[10] See reprint of dealer's advertisement, p. 300.



Although, in the course of our previous wanderings among what may be
aptly described as 'The Groves of Blarney,' we have already encountered
many examples of the various preparations used by the dwellers therein
to add new beauties to their everyday requisites, there still remain
some to be investigated. These philosophers, in searching for their form
of the universal 'alkahest,' which turns everything they touch to gold,
have contrived to learn many things, besides those we have already
looked into. It behoves us, therefore, to follow in their footsteps as
far as may be; and, before finally quitting the subject of
playing-cards, to complete our information respecting these beautiful
and--to the sharp--useful appliances.

We have seen how much may be accomplished by means of judicious
preparation of the cards. That is not a discovery which can be ascribed
to the present generation of sinners, or the last, or the one before
that. No man can say when preparation was first 'on the cards.' Some of
the devices contained in this chapter are as old as the hills; others
are of a more recent date; but, old or new, this book would be
incomplete without some description of them. The very oldest are
sometimes used even now, in out-of-the-way corners of the world, and
among people who are possessors of that ignorance of sharping which is
not bliss, at least if they happen to be gamblers.

One of the oldest methods of preparing cards for the purposes of
cheating was by cutting them to various shapes and sizes. That this plan
is still adopted the reader already knows. We have now to consider the
means whereby the sharp is enabled to alter the form of the cards in any
way he pleases, with neatness and accuracy.

[Illustration: FIG. 45.]

The most primitive appliance used for the purpose is what is now known
as a 'stripper-plate.' It consists of two steel bars, bolted together at
each end, the length between the bolts being ample to allow a
playing-card to be inserted lengthwise between the bars, and screwed up
tightly. Fig. 45 illustrates a device of this kind, with a card _in
situ_, ready for cutting. Across the centre of the top plate a slight
groove is filed, to facilitate the insertion of the card in a truly
central position. The edges of the two plates or bars are perfectly
smooth, and are formed so as to give the required curve to the card
when cut. In the illustration, the side of the card when cut would
become concave. The cutting is managed by simply running a sharp knife
or razor along the side of the arrangement. This takes off a thin shred
of the card, and, guided by the steel plates, the cut is clean and the
edge of the card is in no danger of becoming jagged.

The most modern appliance of this kind, however, will be found quoted in
one of the catalogues under the name of 'trimming-shears.' These shears
are not necessarily cheating-tools; they are largely used to trim the
edges of faro-cards, which will not pass through the dealing-box if they
are damaged. The shears for cleaning up cards in a genuine manner,
however, are only required to cut them rectangularly. In the case of
those used for swindling they must cut at any desired angle.

These shears consist of an oblong block of wood, into which a steel bar
is sunk along one edge, carrying a bracket which supports the
cutting-blade, working on a pivot at one end (fig. 46). The edge of the
steel bar and the blade which works in close contact with it form
respectively the lower and upper halves of the shears. Upon the upper
surface of the wooden block two guide-plates are fixed, by means of
thumb-screws. These plates are adjustable to any angle within certain
limits, and are for the purpose of holding the cards in position whilst
being cut. The guide-plates being set at the necessary angle, the card
about to be cut is pressed against them with the left hand, whilst the
right brings down the knife, and cuts off one edge. Fig. 46 shows a card
in the act of being cut. Each card being held against the guides while
cutting, uniformity of the whole is secured. When one side of each card
has had a shaving taken off, if it is desired to trim the opposite side
as well, the guides are adjusted to give the required width, and a
second cut is taken.

[Illustration: FIG. 46.]

Shears of this kind, of course, will not cut the sides of the cards
concave; but a very good substitute for convex sides may be made by
taking two cuts on each side, at a very slight angle one to the other,
taking more off the corners than in the centre. There is no need to
impress upon the reader that the defective form of the card is not made
sufficiently pronounced to be noticeable. The two cuts do not meet in
the middle to form a point; the apex of the angle, so to speak, is cut
off, leaving the central portion of the side flat, and square with the
ends of the card.

Square-cornered playing-cards of course will show no signs of having
been trimmed in this way; but those with round corners are bound to do
so, however slight a shaving may have been removed from the side. In
trimming these for cheating, therefore, the sharp has to employ, in
addition to the shears, what is called a 'round-corner cutter.' This is
an instrument which restores the circular form of the corners, which
otherwise would show the point at which the shears cut through them. It
is simply a sort of punch, which cuts the corners, one at a time, into
their original shape, and gives them their proper curve.

So much, then, for the tools. We have next to consider the various forms
given to the cards, and the uses to which they are put when thus

The simplest device connected with cards which have been trimmed is that
known as the 'large card.' As its name implies, it is a card which is
left slightly larger than the rest of the pack. All the others are
trimmed down, either slightly narrower or shorter, or smaller
altogether. This is a very primitive dodge, and one seldom resorted to,
in the ordinary way, nowadays. Its object is to give the sharp either a
ready means of forcing the cut at a given point in the pack, or of
making the pass at that point, if the cut does not happen to be made in
the right place. The cards being manipulated so as to arrange them
according to some particular system, the large card is placed at the
bottom, and then the pack is divided at about the middle, and the top
half put underneath. The pack is straightened, and laid on the table to
be cut. Not suspecting any trickery, it is almost certain that the dupe,
in cutting, will seize hold of the large card, which is now in the
centre of the pack, and cut at that point. This brings the cards again
into the positions they occupied relatively at first. If the cut,
however, should not happen to be made at the 'large,' the sharp has to
make the pass, and bring that card once more to the bottom. No modern
sharp of any standing would use such a palpable fraud, even among the
most innocent of his dupes. It is a long way behind the times, and was
out of date years ago.

Another form of card which at one time was largely used, but which has
become too well-known to be of much service, is the 'wedge.' Wedges are
cards which have been cut narrower at one end than the other, the two
long sides inclining towards each other at a slight angle. The cards
when cut in this way, and packed with all the broad ends looking the
same way, cannot be distinguished from those which are perfectly square;
but when some are placed one way and some the other, there is no
difficulty in telling 'which is which.' Before these cards became
commonly known, they must have proved very useful to the sharp. If he
wished to force the cut at any particular place, he had only to place
the two halves of the pack in opposite directions, and the cut was
pretty sure to be made at the right point. If he wished to distinguish
the court cards from the others, all he had to do was to turn them round
in the pack, so that their broad ends faced the other way. If he wished
to be sure of making the pass at any card, by just turning the wide end
of that card to the narrow ends of the others he could always feel where
it was, without looking at it. In fact, the utility of such cards was
immense, but it has long been among the things that were. Now, the first
thing a tiro in sleight-of-hand will do, on being asked to examine a
pack of cards, is to cut them and turn the halves end for end, to see if
they are 'wedges.' Needless to say, they never are.

The only case in which it is at all possible to use cards of this kind
at the present day is in a very, very 'soft' game of faro, where the
players do not ask permission to examine the pack. The dealer has the
sole right of shuffling and cutting the cards; therefore if he has the
opportunity of using wedges, nothing is easier than to have all the high
cards put one way, and the low ones the other. Then in shuffling he can
put up the high cards to lose or win, and, in fact, arrange the pack in
any manner he likes. There is very little safety, however, in the use
of wedges at any time. Practical men would laugh at the idea of
employing them.

The concave and convex cards cut by means of the stripper-plates,
described earlier in this chapter, are still in use to a limited extent.
The common English sharp employs them in connection with a game called
'Banker.' He 'readies up the broads,' as he terms it, by cutting all the
high cards convex, and the low ones concave. There is also another game
known as 'Black and Red,' in which the cards of one colour are convex,
and the other colour concave.

The most commonly used form of cards, however, is that of the
'double-wedges' or 'strippers,' cut by means of the trimming-shears, and
which have been already described. The name of 'strippers' is derived
from the operation which these cards are principally intended to
facilitate, and which consists of drawing off from the pack, or
'stripping,' certain cards which are required for use in putting up
hands. Suppose the sharp is playing a game of poker, and, naturally, he
wishes to put up the aces for himself, or for a confederate. He cuts the
aces narrow at each end, and all the other cards of the same width as
the ends of the aces. This leaves the sides of the aces bulging out
slightly from the sides of the pack, and enables him to draw them all
out with one sweep of his fingers during the shuffle. Then they are
placed all together, at the bottom of the pack, and can be put up for
deal or draft, or they may be held out until required.

'End-strippers' are a variety of the same kind of thing, the only
difference being that they are trimmed up at the ends, instead of at the

It is only in England and other countries where the spread of knowledge
in this direction has been limited to the sharps themselves, the general
public remaining in ignorance, that strippers are employed. They would
be instantly detected among people who have learnt anything at all of

Trimming is not the only method of preparing cards for cheating
purposes; there are others of much greater delicacy and refinement.
Witness the following, which is culled from the circular issued by one
of the 'Sporting Houses':--

'_To smart poker players._--I have invented a process by which a man is
sure of winning if he can introduce his own cards. The cards are not
trimmed or marked in any way, shape or manner. They can be handled and
shuffled by all at the board, and without looking at a card you can, by
making two or three shuffles or ripping them in, oblige the dealer to
give three of a kind to any one playing, or the same advantage can be
taken on your own deal. This is a big thing for any game. In euchre you
can hold the joker every time or the cards most wanted in any game. The
process is hard to detect, as the cards look perfectly natural, and it
is something card-players are not looking for. Other dealers have been
selling sanded cards, or cheap cards, with spermacetia rubbed on, and
calling them professional playing or magnetic cards. I don't want you to
class my cards with that kind of trash. I use a liquid preparation put
on with rollers on all cards made; this dries on the cards and does not
show, and will last as long as the cards do. The object is to make
certain cards not prepared slip off easier than others in shuffling. You
can part or break the deck to an ace or king, and easily "put up three,"
no matter where they lay in the deck. This advantage works fine
single-handed, or when the left-hand man shuffles and offers the cards
to be cut. These cards are ten times better than readers or strippers,
and they get the money faster. Price, $2,00 per pack by mail; $20,00 per
dozen packs. If you order a dozen I will furnish cards like you use.'

The gentle modesty and unassuming candour of the above effusion, its
honest rectitude and perfect self-abnegation, render it a very pearl of
literature. It is a pity that such a jewel should be left to hide itself
away, and waste its glories upon the unappreciative few, whilst
thousands might be gladdened by the sight of it and proceed on their way
invigorated and refreshed. Let us bring it into the light and treasure
it as it deserves.

As the talented author above quoted suggests, there are several methods
of achieving the object set forth, and causing the cards to slip at any
desired place, apart from the much vaunted 'liquid preparation put on
with rollers' the secret of which one would think that he alone
possessed. We will just glance at them all, by way of improving our
minds and learning all that is to be learnt.

The earliest method of preparing a pack of cards in this way certainly
had the merit of extreme simplicity, in that it consisted of nothing
more than putting the pack, for some time previous to its use, in a damp
place. This system had the further advantage that it was not even
necessary to open the wrapper in which the cards came from the maker.
When the cards had absorbed a certain amount of moisture, it was found
that the low cards would slip much more easily than the court cards. The
reason for this was, that the glaze used in 'bringing up the colours' of
the inks used in printing contained a large proportion of hygroscopic or
gummy matter, which softened more or less upon becoming moist. The court
cards, having a much greater part of their faces covered with the glaze
than the others, were more inclined to cling to the next card, in
consequence. Therefore the task of distinguishing them was by no means

Not satisfied with this somewhat uncertain method, however, the sharps
set to work to improve upon it. The next departure was in the direction
of making the smooth cards smoother, and the rough ones more tenacious.
The upshot of this was that those cards which were required to slip were
lightly rubbed over with soap, and those which had to cling were treated
with a faint application of rosin. This principle has been the basis of
all the 'new and improved' systems that have been put before the
sharping public ever since. Either something is done to the cards to
make them slip, or they are prepared with something to keep them from

When the unglazed 'steam-boat' cards were much in use the 'spermacetia'
system, referred to in the paragraph quoted a little while ago, was a
very pretty thing indeed, and worked well. The cards which it was
necessary to distinguish from the others were prepared by rubbing their
backs well with hard spermaceti wax. They were then vigorously scoured
with some soft material, until they had acquired a brilliant polish.
Cards treated in this manner, when returned again to the pack, would be
readily separable from the others. By pressing rather heavily upon the
top of the pack, and directing the pressure slightly to one side, it
would be found that the pack divided at one of the prepared cards. That
is to say, the cards above the prepared one would cling together and
slide off, leaving the doctored one at the top of the remainder.

With glazed cards, if they are required to slip, the backs are rubbed
with a piece of waxed tissue paper, thus giving them an extra polish;
but the better plan is to slightly roughen the backs of all the others.
They may be 'sanded,' as in the case of those used for the sand-tell
faro-box. This simply means that the backs are rubbed with sand-paper.
In reality, it is fine emery-paper that is used; any sand-paper would be
too coarse, and produce scratches.

There still remains to be considered the method of causing the cards to
cling, by the application of that marvellous master-stroke of inventive
genius, the 'liquid preparation,' as advertised. It may be hoped that
the reader will not feel disappointed on learning what it is. The
wonderful compound is nothing more or less than very thin white hard
varnish. That is all. It may be applied 'with rollers,' or otherwise,
just as the person applying it may prefer. The fact of certain cards
being treated with this varnish renders them somewhat 'tacky,' and
inclined to stick together; not sufficiently, however, to render the
effect noticeable to anyone who is not looking for it. But, by
manipulating the pack as before directed in the case of the waxed cards,
the slipping will occur at those cards whose backs have not been
varnished. The instructions sent out with the cards mentioned in the
advertisement will be found reprinted at p. 304; therefore, since it
would be presumptuous to think of adding anything to advice emanating
from the great authority himself, we may leave him to describe the use
of his own wares.

Having thus said all that is necessary to give the reader sufficient
information for his guidance in any case of sharping with which he may
be brought into contact, we may bring this chapter to a close; and, in
so doing, conclude all that has to be said upon the subject of cheating
at cards. We have been compelled to dwell somewhat at length upon
matters which are associated with cards and card-games only, because so
large a proportion of the sharping which goes on in the world is
card-sharping. Almost everyone plays cards, and so many play for money.
Therefore, the sharp naturally selects that field which affords him the
widest scope and the most frequent opportunities for the exercise of his
calling. Card-sharping has been reduced to a science. It is no longer a
haphazard affair, involving merely primitive manipulations, but it has
developed into a profession in which there is as much to learn as in
most of the everyday occupations of ordinary mortals.

With this chapter, then, we take a fond farewell of cards, for the
present; and having said 'adieu,' we will turn our attention to other



With this chapter we strike out into fresh territory. We have passed
through the land of those who trust their fortunes to the turn of the
card, and arrive now among the aborigines, whose custom is to stake
their worldly possessions upon the hazard of the die. As to which custom
is the more commendable of the two, it is somewhat difficult to decide.
They are both 'more honoured in the breach than the observance.'
Readily, as we have seen, the innocent pieces of pasteboard are made to
serve the purposes of cheating; and no less readily are the tiny cubes
of ivory or celluloid falsified, and made the instruments of dishonesty.

This of course is no secret. The name of 'loaded dice' is familiar to
all; but it is the name alone which is familiar; the things themselves
are, to the vast majority of mankind, absolutely unknown. In some
respects it is quite as well that it should be so; but it is far better
that these things should be generally understood, and that the signs and
tokens of their existence and their employment should be known to all.
In this chapter then, we shall deal with the subject in its entirety,
describing the different systems of cheating, and some of the so-called
games to which these methods are applied.

Broadly speaking, cheating at dice maybe classed under two heads--the
manipulation of genuine dice, and the employment of unfair ones. From
this it will be gathered that the 'loaded dice,' so often spoken of, are
by no means necessary to the sharp who has made this line of business
his speciality. Loaded dice, in fact, are very puerile contrivances,
compared with some of the devices which are about to be brought to the
reader's notice. They are one of the landmarks of cheating, it is true;
but they are not the high-watermark, by any means. The modern sharp has
to a great extent risen above them, although they are still useful to
him at times. They have one very great defect--they will not 'spin'
properly; and that militates very greatly against their use, in circles
where the players are at all 'fly.'

We will first devote our attention to the means of cheating with fair
dice; and the reader will learn that the thing which may have appeared
to him as being difficult of accomplishment is really a very simple
matter indeed. This branch of the art is known to its professors as
'securing,' and consists of a plan of retaining certain dice. One is
held against the inside edge of the box, whilst the other is allowed to
fall freely into it. In this way one of the dice is not shaken at all,
and falls on the table in the same position as it previously occupied.
In order that this may be accomplished satisfactorily, it is necessary
to use a suitable dice-box; therefore, we will inspect one of the kind
generally used by professional dice-players in this country. Before
proceeding further, however, it may be as well to inform the reader that
the information here given, with regard to dice and their manipulation,
has been had upon the authority of one of the leading English sharps,
and may be said to fairly represent the present state of the science.

[Illustration: FIG. 47.]

The dice-box referred to above is illustrated in section in fig. 47. It
is simply the usual form, with the interior corrugated to insure the
thorough turning about of the dice. The only preparation in connection
with it is that the flat inside rim or lip, marked 'A' in the figure,
is roughened by rubbing it with coarse glass-paper. This gives it a kind
of 'tooth,' which prevents the dice from slipping when they are
'secured' against it.

A box of this kind being to hand, nothing further in the way of
apparatus is required for the operation of securing. All else depends
entirely upon practice. As the dice are taken from the table one of them
is secured, and the others are thrown into the box. An expert will use
three dice, securing one and letting the others go, but it requires some
skill to pick up three dice in the proper manner and without fear of
dropping them all. Therefore a novice will use only two. The process is
carried out as follows:--

The dice are laid upon the table side by side. The one farthest from the
operator is placed with the ace uppermost, consequently the six is upon
the face which lies on the table. This is the die which is about to be
secured. The first two fingers of the right hand are now laid flat upon
the dice, and between these two fingers the dice are taken up by their
right-hand edges.


[Illustration: FIG. 48.]

They are now pushed well home by the thumb:--

[Illustration: FIG. 49.]

The die nearest the operator is now allowed to fall into the dice-box,
whilst the other is retained:--

[Illustration: FIG. 50.]

The box is next taken in the right hand, the fingers lying flat over the
mouth of it, and the thumb holding it at the bottom.

[Illustration: FIG. 51.]

In the act of closing the fingers of the right hand over the box, the
die which has been retained is firmly pressed between the second finger
and the inside edge of the box. In this position it is completely hidden
by the forefinger, and is there held whilst the box is shaken. If the
forefinger were raised the die would appear situated in this manner:--

[Illustration: FIG. 52.]

The sharp, however, is particularly careful _not_ to raise his
forefinger; that is not 'in the piece' at all. The box is now shaken,
and of course the die which is not secured is heard to rattle within it.
Finally, the hand is turned round so that the mouth of the box is
downwards and the backs of the fingers rest upon the table.

[Illustration: FIG. 53.]

After the box has thus been turned upside down, then comes the crucial
point of the whole operation. If the fingers are not carefully removed
the secured die will not fall upon the face intended. The proper method
of 'boxing' the dice upon the table is to remove the fingers in the
following order. Firstly, the second and third fingers are opened,
allowing the loose die to fall upon the table. Then the first and second
fingers are gently opened, easing the secured die, as it were, into its
position of rest. Lastly, the forefinger is moved to the edge of the
box, at the same time withdrawing the second finger entirely, and the
box is let down over the two dice. It is immediately lifted up and the
score is recorded. There is nothing at all suspicious in any of these
movements; they are quite the usual thing, or appear so when quickly
performed, the only difference between the genuine shake and the false
being the retention of the one die. Of course, it is necessary that the
entire operation should occupy the least possible time, the hands being
kept somewhat low and the dupe seated upon the right-hand side of the

The secured die naturally falls with the six uppermost, whilst the loose
one cannot show less than one. Therefore the sharp cannot throw less
than seven with two dice. That is the lowest score possible for him to
make, whilst the dupe may throw only 'two.' Now, in an infinite number
of throws with two dice 'seven' is the number of pips which will be the
average for each throw. Sometimes, of course, only two pips will be
thrown; sometimes both sixes will come uppermost, making twelve pips
together. But with one die secured in such a manner as to fall six, the
average of an infinite number of throws is necessarily very much
increased, because it is impossible to throw less than seven. The
chances of the two players bear no comparison, and the dupe is bound to
be beaten. For instance, the chances of throwing twelve by the player
who secures one die are as one to six--that is to say, they are six to
one against him, whilst the chances against the player who goes to work
fairly are _thirty-five to one_. This will serve to give the reader some
idea of the value of one secured die out of two in use.

Passing on to the use of unfair dice, we find that there are three
kinds employed at the present day. Firstly, there are those whose faces
do not bear the correct number of pips, and which are known as
'dispatchers.' Secondly, we have those which are weighted at one side,
and tend to fall with that side downwards, such being the well-known
'loaded dice.' Lastly, there is the variety bearing the name of
'electric dice,' which are the most modern development in this
department of cheating. We will take the varieties seriatim.

1. _Dispatchers._--These are of two kinds, called 'high' and 'low'
respectively, in accordance with the fact of their having an aggregate
of pips either higher or lower than should be the case. They owe their
origin to the fact that it is impossible to see more than three sides of
a cube at one time. In making a high dispatcher, then, any three
adjacent sides are taken and marked with two, four, and six pips
respectively. That side of the cube which is immediately opposite to the
one with six pips, instead of being marked with one, as it should be, is
marked six also. The side opposite the four is marked four, and that
opposite the two is marked two in a similar manner. Therefore, no two
sides which bear the same number of pips are ever seen at one time, the
duplicate marks being always on opposite sides of the die. In a low
dispatcher the process is precisely the same, but the sides are numbered
with one, two and three pips, instead of two, four, and six. It is
evident, then, that a high dispatcher cannot throw less than two, whilst
a low one cannot throw higher than three. Therefore, if the sharp throws
with one genuine die and one high dispatcher, he cannot throw less than
three, and the chances are 17·5 to 1 against his throwing anything so
low. If, in addition to using a high dispatcher himself, he gives his
dupe a low one[11] and a genuine die to use, the throw of the two dice
cannot be higher than nine, and the chances are 17·5 to 1 against its
being so high. In fact, in an infinite number of throws, the sharp will
average over thirty per cent. better than his opponent. This being the
case it is obvious that the game can only go in one way, and that way is
not the dupe's.

2. _Loaded dice._--These commodities are found to be thus described in
one of the price-lists:--

'_Loaded dice._--Made of selected ivory loaded with quicksilver, and can
be shaken from the box so as to come high or low, as you wish. With a
set of these you will find yourself winner at all dice games, and carry
off the prize at every raffle you attend. Sold in sets of nine dice,
three high, three low, and three fair. Price per set, complete, $5.00.'

These are the most superior kind of loaded dice. They are made by
drilling out two adjacent spots or pips at one edge of the die, filling
in the cavity with mercury, and cementing it up fast. The commoner
description of these things are made by filling the holes with lead
instead of mercury.

As before mentioned, these dice have the disadvantage that they will not
spin upon one corner as genuine ones will; consequently a person who
suspects that they are being used can easily discover the fact, if he is
knowing enough to try them. This defect led to the invention of the
third kind of false dice, which we are about to investigate.

3. _Electric dice._--These will be found quoted in one of the
catalogues, together with the special tables to be used with them.

[Illustration: FIG. 54.]

The dice themselves are made of celluloid, and their construction will
be readily understood with the aid of the illustration given at fig. 54.
The first operation in making dice of this kind is to bore out a
cylindrical cavity almost completely through the die, the mouth of this
cavity being situated upon the face of the die which will bear the six
pips, and the bottom almost reaching to the opposite face, upon which is
the ace.

At the bottom of the cavity, and consequently immediately within the die
above the single pip or ace, is put a thin circular disc of iron. The
greater part of the cavity is then filled in with cork, leaving
sufficient depth for the insertion of a plug, which effectually closes
up the aperture, and upon the outer side of which are marked the six
pips appertaining to that face of the die. Before this plug is fastened
into its place, however, a small pellet of lead, of exactly the same
weight as the iron disc, is pressed into the upper surface of the cork,
and there fixed. Finally, the plug bearing the six pips is cemented into
its place, and the die is complete. Apparently, this plug is cemented in
with celluloid, the same material as that used in fabricating the die
itself, and the joint is so well and neatly made that it is invisible,
even though examined with a powerful lens.

The _rationale_ of this construction is as follows. The iron disc and
the leaden pellet, being immediately within opposite faces of the die,
will exactly balance each other, and thus the die can be spun or thrown
in exactly the same manner as a genuine one. The lead and iron, however,
being so much heavier than the material of which the body of the die is
supposed to consist, would cause the weight of the die to be very
suspicious, were it not for the fact that the interior is almost
entirely composed of a still lighter material--cork. Therefore, the
completed die is no heavier than a genuine one of the same size and
appearance. In fact, these dice will bear the strictest examination, in
every way--except one, viz. the application of a magnet.

The word magnet gives the key to the employment of these so-called
electric dice. The technical reader will at once grasp the idea thus
embodied, and will need no further description of the details of
working. For the benefit of those who are unacquainted with electricity
and its phenomena, however, it is necessary to explain the nature of an
electro-magnet. If a bar of soft iron is surrounded by a helix of
insulated copper wire, and a current of electricity is passed through
that wire, the iron instantly becomes converted into a magnet for the
time being. But directly the contact at one end of the wire is broken,
and the current is for that reason no longer permitted to flow, the iron
loses its magnetism and resumes its normal condition. If, therefore, a
bar of this kind is connected with a battery in such a way that the
current can be controlled by means of a push, similar to those used in
connection with electric bells, the otherwise inert bar of iron can be
converted into a magnet at any instant, and allowed to resume its former
state at will.

Now, the table with which these electric dice are used is so constructed
that, immediately below its surface and within the thickness of the wood
itself, there are concealed several electro-magnets such as have been
described. At some convenient spot in the table, at the back of a drawer
or elsewhere, the battery supplying the current is hidden. The key or
push controlling the current takes the form of a secret spring in the
table-leg, so placed as to be within easy access of the operator's knee.

The result, then, is obvious. Among the dice in use are one or more of
the 'electric' variety. When the dupe throws them, he has to take his
chance as to how they will fall, and as long as the sharp is winning he
will do the same. _But_ directly he begins to lose, or to find that he
is not winning fast enough to please him, the sharp presses the secret
spring with his knee when it is his turn to throw, and--click!--the
false dice turn up 'sixes.' The magnets, of course, attract the iron
discs, drawing them on to the table, and the sixes being upon the
opposite sides of the dice naturally fall uppermost. The operator has
only to trouble himself with regard to two points--he must press the
spring at the right moment, and release it before trying to pick up the
dice afterwards. Should he neglect this latter point, he will have the
satisfaction of finding the dice stick to the table. In all other
respects, he has only to 'press the button,' and electricity will 'do
the rest.'

The publication of this book, however, will once and for all render the
use of electric dice unsafe under any conditions. The moment the outer
world has any idea of their existence, the game is too risky to be
pleasant to any sharp. A little mariner's compass, dangling at the end
of a stranger's watch chain, or carried secretly, will serve to reveal
in an instant the true nature of the deception which is being practised
upon him by his host. It is sad that the diffusion of knowledge should
be accompanied by such untoward consequences; but we can hardly hope
that the sharps will die of disappointment or despair, even though dice
were undoubtedly doomed to detection and disaster, and had dwindled into
disuse. (Alliteration is the curse of modern literature.)

Unfair dice are seldom submitted for inspection, as may well be
imagined, particularly those of the dispatcher kind. The greatest donkey
in existence would at once find that the number of pips upon the faces
of these latter was incorrect. Therefore they are always introduced into
the game whilst the play is occupying the dupe's undivided attention,
and the manner of their introduction is that embodied in the process
known as 'ringing-in.' This is done at the moment when the dice are
taken up in order to throw them into the box. It is only possible to
change one die, the others are allowed to fall into the box in the usual

Supposing that two dice are being used, two fair ones will be employed,
and with these the dupe will throw. The sharp, however, has a false die
concealed in his right hand, and held in the thumb joint. He picks up
the two fair dice from the table, in the manner described in 'securing,'
and allows one of them to fall into the box. Then, of course, he has
still two dice in his hand, one genuine one between his fingers, and one
false one held by his thumb. In figs. 55 and 56, _a_ is the genuine die
and _b_ is the false one.

[Illustration: FIG. 55.]

[Illustration: FIG. 56.]

At the same instant that the first die is allowed to fall, the false die
_b_ is dropped into the box also (fig. 56).

[Illustration: FIG. 57.]

Immediately the false die is released the two fingers holding the second
genuine one are turned inwards (fig. 57), and the die is taken into the
thumb-joint, in the position formerly occupied by the false one. The
whole of this manipulation is performed in the act of throwing the dice
into the box. The false die is dropped into the box, and the genuine one
put into its place at the root of the thumb in one movement only, and
the exchange is instantaneous. The fingers are well bent before any of
the dice are dropped, so that the second genuine die has the least
possible distance to travel in its movement towards the thumb-joint.

From the manipulations outlined above, the reader will observe that the
skill required is less in the case of dice than in that of cards; but he
must not run away with the idea that, because the methods of swindling
with dice are comparatively simple, the dice-sharp requires but little
practice to enable him to carry out his operations successfully. That is
by no means the case. It is frequently the amateur's lot to find that
those things which appear simplest in theory are the most difficult in
practice. The sharp who seeks his fortune by manipulation of the
'ivories' has to devote many weary hours to the acquisition of deftness
in the manoeuvres which he intends to employ.

We may now proceed to consider the application of the foregoing
principles to the purposes of cheating, and see how they are employed in
actual practice. In this we cannot do better than follow the sharp's
operations in connection with one or two games which are commonly
played. This will serve to give the reader a more adequate conception of
the manner in which this style of cheating is conducted. The games
selected for this purpose, then, are: 'Over and under seven,'
'Yankee-grab' or 'Newmarket,' 'Sweat,' and 'Hazard.'

_Over and under seven._--This is a game which is played with a 'layout,'
or painted cloth, upon which the players place their stakes. The form
most generally used is divided in the following manner:--


        |       |  3 to 1  |       |
        | Under |          | Over  |
        |       |  against |       |
        | SEVEN |          | SEVEN |
        |       |   SEVEN  |       |

FIG. 58.]

The players having placed their stakes upon either of the three
divisions they may individually choose, the 'banker' shakes two dice in
the box and throws them out upon the table. If the throw proves to be
over seven, those players who have put their money upon 'over seven' in
the layout receive the amount of their stakes, whilst those who have bet
upon the other squares will lose to the banker. In the same way, if the
throw is under seven the players who have backed 'under seven' will win.
If, however, the throw should prove to be exactly seven, those players
who have staked upon the centre square of the layout will receive three
times the amount of their stakes. A little reflection will show that
even in a fair game, if players can be found to back the '3 to 1 against
seven' square, the bank has a large percentage of the chances of the
game in its favour. Indeed, in an infinite number of throws, the banker
stands to win two-fifths of all the money staked upon the centre square.
The chances against seven turning up are really 5 to 1, and not 3 to 1.

Cheating at this game may be done either by the banker or the players,
although at first sight it would appear that the players can have no
opportunities for cheating the bank as they have nothing to do with
handling the dice. When the bank cheats the players the methods employed
are as follows. The banker notes the disposition of the bets upon the
layout and reckons up the amounts upon the various squares. His policy,
of course, is to let that square win which has the least staked upon it.
If he can always do this his gains must obviously be always greater than
his losses. If the 'under seven' division has the least stakes he will
secure one of the dice to fall with the ace uppermost. Then the throw
must prove to be either seven or under. If the division of the layout
which has least money on it is the 'over seven,' a die is secured in
such a manner as to fall with the six uppermost, and in this case the
throw must be either seven or over. If the bets upon both 'under' and
'over' squares are equal he has no need to trouble, as he can neither
win nor lose with those squares. If either of them turns up, the money
simply passes across the table from one side to the other, whilst the
bank takes whatever may have been staked upon the centre square. Even
though the players always staked an amount which should equalise the
bets upon the 'over' and 'under' divisions, they would lose to the bank
one fifth of their stakes in the long run because the seven would turn
up on the average once in six times, and then those two divisions would
both lose.

The banker always shakes the box quietly, so as not to give any
indication of the fact that only one die is rattling about within it. At
the same time he keeps up a running fire of remarks such as, 'Any more?'
'Over wins!' 'Under pays the over,' 'The little seven wins!' &c. This is
the approvedly professional way of conducting the game, all others are
spurious imitations, and cannot be recognised by true 'sports.'

Another method of cheating the players is to ring in a loaded die which
will fall six. If the highest betting is found to be over seven, this
die is secured so that it shall fall ace uppermost, and then the throw
can only be seven or under. If on the other hand the highest betting is
'under seven,' the dice are simply shaken without securing, and the
result must be seven or over. If there is heavy betting upon the 'seven'
or central division of the layout a two or a three is secured upon the
genuine die, and this will make the throw necessarily over seven. As a
rule, however, the central or '3 to 1 against' square does not require
much attention from the sharp. The chances are always five to three in
his favour. If the players persistently bet upon the high square of the
layout, the sharp will just ring in a loaded die that falls with the ace
up, to save himself trouble. When this is done, the throw can manifestly
never be _over_ seven.

In cases where the players cheat the bank, it generally happens that the
banker is not a professional, but a novice who has been put up or
persuaded to accept the position for the time being. A party of sharps
will always get a 'mug' to take the bank if they can. Securing, in an
instance of this kind, is impossible; the cheating must be done by
contriving to introduce into the game either a dispatcher or a loaded
die. The latter is the safer thing to do, because a dispatcher will not
bear even a moment's attentive examination. The ringing-in is done by
officiously picking up the dice for the next throw, tossing them
carelessly into the box, and handing the whole over to the banker. If
well done, the exchange is imperceptible, and it is highly improbable
that it will be noticed. The bets, of course, will be made according to
the nature of the die which has been rung in. If it is made to fall
high, the bets are put upon the 'over seven' division; if it falls low,
they are put on 'under seven.' Naturally, the players allow the bank to
win occasionally, in order to avoid suspicion. Finally, and before
quitting the game, a genuine die is rung in, replacing the false one.
There are not many chances in favour of the bank with this method of

_Yankee-grab or Newmarket._--This game is played with three dice, and
the object in view is to get nearest to an aggregate of eighteen pips;
or in the English Colonies, where the 'ace' or single pip counts seven,
to throw the nearest to twenty-one. Each player has three throws. At the
first throw he picks out the highest number thrown, and puts that die
aside. Then he throws with the two remaining dice, puts aside the higher
as before, and throws again with the remaining one. The number thrown
this last time, together with the numbers shown by the dice which have
been put aside from the two former throws, will constitute that player's
score. This is done by all the players in rotation, and the highest
score wins all the stakes. Any player may, however, elect to throw with
one die only for each throw if he chooses.

Cheating at this game is obviously easy. It may be done either by
securing, by the use of loaded dice, or by ringing in dispatchers. It is
of course necessary to have some means of distinguishing the dispatchers
from the fair dice if the cheating is done by those means. In picking up
the dice from the table, the sharp whose turn it is to throw will change
one of them for a high dispatcher. When the throw is made, the false die
is very likely to be the highest; but if it is not, so much the better
for the sharp, as he has it available for the next throw. Supposing it
to be the highest, he will apparently toss it carelessly aside, but in
reality, he changes it again for the genuine die which has meanwhile
been held in his thumb-joint. The genuine die is turned over to show the
same value as that given by the dispatcher in the throw. The other
players will not mind the careless handling of the die, as the value has
already been called; the only object in putting the dice on one side
being to act as markers, and prevent any dispute as to the value of the
previous throws. The same thing is done in the succeeding throws; the
dispatcher going into the box all three times. At the conclusion of the
throws, the false die is exchanged for the genuine one it has replaced
for the time being.

If the sharp prefers to use securing instead of false dice, he may
secure a six upon one die at each of the first two throws; but the third
throw must be left to chance. If the last die were to be secured, there
would be none left to rattle in the box. A case has been known where a
man even secured the last die; but he had an arrangement sewn into his
coat-sleeve, to counterfeit the noise made by the die in the box.

In using loaded dice at Yankee-grab, the best plan is to have three
which will all fall 'sixes.' In order to avoid the suspicion which must
inevitably be created by the fact of the three dice turning up six each
at the first throw, a low number is secured upon one of them in the
first and second throws. This puts the other players off the scent, at
the same time insuring three sixes for the sharp. This is a very
ingenious expedient.

A good way of finishing a game, where the sharp has been securing and
where the dupe has had ample opportunities of assuring himself that only
fair dice are being used, is for the sharp to palm a dispatcher in the
right hand, and deliver himself thus:--'My dear fellow, you have lost a
lot.' (Here he pats the dupe on the shoulder with the hand which has the
dispatcher palmed within it.) 'I will tell you what I will do. I will go
double or quits with you, on three throws each, with one die.' The dupe
usually jumps at the chance of thus winning back what he has lost; the
sharp rings in his dispatcher, and of course the 'mug' loses.

In using a dispatcher the sharp always puts the box down with the left
hand; this leaves his right hand free to ring the changes. Whatever
manipulation he may be engaged upon, he does everything slowly, easily,
and deliberately. When tossing the selected die on one side after a
throw and ringing in a square one to replace the loaded die or
dispatcher, he takes care of course to turn it with the same side up
that the other fell. This prevents any dispute as to the score, when all
three throws have been made. At all times he gauges the mental calibre
of his dupe, and operates in the manner which is most likely to be
successful. Above all, he never neglects the golden rule of his
profession--'Always work on the square as long as you are winning.'

_Sweat._--This is a game which is almost as charmingly artistic as its
name, and one which is particularly lovely for the banker. It also has
the merit of extreme simplicity, and although cheating is hardly
necessary as a rule, still there are times when it may be resorted to
with great profit to the sharp. It is played with a layout arranged in
the following manner:--


        |  1  |  2  |  3  |
        |  4  |  5  |  6  |

FIG. 59.]

The banker shakes up three dice in the box, and the numbers thrown win
for the players. Those who have staked their money upon the numbers
which have turned up receive the amount of their stakes; the bank takes
all that has been laid upon the figures not represented in the throw. If
two dice fall with the same number uppermost, those who have staked upon
that number will receive twice the amount of their bets. If all three
dice turn up the same, that number is paid three times over.

It does not require a great mathematician to see that even at the best
of times there is an overwhelming percentage of the chances in favour of
the banker. It is five to three that he wins any individual bet; the
player has only three chances--those provided by the three dice, whilst
the bank has the chances resting upon the remaining five squares of the

If we suppose, for example, that the bets upon all the squares are of an
equal amount, which is just about the most unfortunate arrangement for
the banker, the worst that can happen to him is that all three dice turn
up differently. Then the players who have staked upon the winning
numbers will receive the stakes of those who have lost, the bank gaining
and losing nothing. If two of the dice turn up the same number, the
banker receives four shillings, say, and pays three. If all three dice
turn up the same, he pays three shillings and receives five.

Cheating is introduced into this game by the banker in the case of a
player persistently backing a high number time after time, the method
being to ring in a dispatcher which will fall low. This will materially
lessen the player's chances. If in addition to this a low number is
secured upon one of the other dice, the chances against the player
become five to one. If the player should happen to be backing a low
number, of course a high dispatcher would be used and a high number
secured upon the other die.

_Hazard._--This is a game in which the electric dice are particularly
useful to the sharp. It is played with four dice, only two of which,
however, are used at one time. The player has the option of throwing
with any two of the dice, or exchanging them for the other two whenever
he pleases. There are two kinds of throws which must be specially
mentioned in connection with this game, viz. those which are called
respectively 'crabs' and 'nicks.' A player is said to throw a crab when
the dice turn up either 'pair sixes,' 'pair aces,' or 'deuce and ace.'
These throws instantly lose the stakes or 'set-money.' A nick is thrown
when the aggregate number of pips turned up amounts to eleven or seven.
Either of these numbers being thrown, the player throwing wins the

Apart from a nick or a crab, the first throw made by the player is
called the 'main,' and he must go on throwing until one of three things
happens. Either he eventually throws a crab and loses, or he throws a
nick, or he throws a number corresponding to that of his main. In the
event of either of the two latter events occurring, he wins the stakes.
In the case of a player winning with a nick, however, he still goes on
throwing; when he wins or loses in any other way, the throw passes to
his opponent.

When the main is either four or ten, the chances against his throwing it
again before either a nick or a crab turns up are in the ratio of two to
one. Against five and nine the chances are as six to four. Against eight
and six the probabilities are six to five. Obviously, then, the best
main to throw is either eight or six, and if the sharp can contrive to
make his main either of these two numbers, he stands a better chance of
winning than one who does not. He may therefore, for instance, ring in a
loaded die to fall four, and secure the other die to fall two, leaving
the following throws to chance. Having thrown a main of four or ten, he
might secure a six in the latter case or an ace in the former; this
would render his chances of throwing the same number again about equal.
The most certain method of cheating, however, and that which leaves no
uncertainty as to the result, is to ring in a loaded die to fall six,
and secure either an ace or a five upon the other. This obviously
results in a 'nick,' and wins the set-money.

Where electric dice are used, cheating at this game is the simplest
thing imaginable. One pair of dice being made to fall six and the other
one, they may be combined to give any desired result. If the sharp uses
a pair, one of which will fall six and the other turn up one, the
application of the current will cause him to throw a nick whenever he
pleases. If he gives his dupe a pair which can be made to fall both
sixes or both aces, the sharp can force his opponent to throw a crab
every time if he chooses to do so. And yet there are some who will argue
that science has conferred no real benefit upon humanity. Those people
are certainly not sharps--they are undoubtedly flats of the first water.

Before concluding the present chapter, it behoves us to attend, for a
moment, to the methods of falsification connected with that well-known
little device, the 'dice-top' or 'teetotum.' It deserves just a slight
mention, although the fact that it is not of great importance is
evidenced by the very terse reference made to it in the various
catalogues. This is what one of them says upon the subject:--

'_Dice Tops._--For high and low. Sure thing. Made of best ivory, $4.
Black walnut, just as good, $1.25.'

From even this scanty information, however, we may gather two things.
Firstly, that the top can be made to fall either high or low, as
required--consequently there is some trick in it; and, secondly, that
the trick, whatever it may be, does not depend upon the material of
which the top is made, since black walnut is just as good as ivory.
Better, in fact, because cheaper. The little instrument itself is shown
in the adjoining illustration.

[Illustration: FIG. 60.]

Here then we have a little hexagonal top, with dice-spots upon its
sides. It is spun with the thumb and finger, and the number of spots
which fall uppermost in the genuine article, at the time of its running
down, depends entirely upon chance. Not so, however, with the tops
advertised as above. They can be made to fall in any desired manner. The
spindle, instead of being fixed, as it should be, can be turned round
within the body of the top. Attached to one side of the spindle, within
the top, and revolving when the spindle is turned, there is a small
weight which can be set to face either of the sides. The side opposite
which the weight is allowed to remain is the one which will lie upon the
table when the top comes to rest.

These teetotums are largely used in the States to 'spin for drinks,' and
a very favourite way of working them is as follows. A man will enter
some bar whilst the bar-keeper is alone, custom being slack. He produces
one of the little articles referred to, and having initiated the
bar-keeper into its capabilities, induces him to purchase it. In all
probability the bar-keeper sets to work with his new toy, and wins many
a drink in the course of the next few weeks. After awhile, however, two
accomplices of the man who 'traded' the top will present themselves at
the bar, pretending to be more or less intoxicated. Naturally, the
bar-keeper thinks he has a safe thing, and tries the dice-top upon them.
They lose a few bets, then pretend to lose their temper, and want to bet
heavily upon the results given by the top. To this, of course, their
dupe has not the least objection; he is only too ready to fall in with
their views. But in the meantime, one of them, under pretence of
examining the top slightly, contrives to ring in another of exactly
similar appearance, but which is set to fall low when the spindle is
turned to face in the same direction as that given to the other when
intended to throw high. The bar-keeper thus falls an easy victim to the
snare. Turn the spindle as he may, the top absolutely refuses to fall in
the direction he requires.

This, then, exhausts all we have to consider with reference to dice and
their manipulation. If we have not learnt very much in this branch of
the art of cheating, it is because there is not very much to learn.
Simple as the devices are in this kind of sharping, they are largely
utilised, even at the present day, and notwithstanding the fact that
'palming' and kindred methods of concealing small articles are so
generally understood. The great point in the sharp's favour, in this as
in all other manipulations, is that his dupes are not expecting
trickery, and consequently do not look for it. It is highly probable
that as much money has changed hands over games of dice as in connection
with any other form of gambling, horse-racing, perhaps, excepted. Years
ago, of course, the dice-box was a much more familiar object than at the
present day; still even now it flourishes with undiminished vitality in
many parts of the world. Well, those who deal with the dice will always
pay dearly for experience, which may be bought _too_ dearly sometimes.
_Caveat emptor._



The game of 'high-ball poker' is one which is essentially American, both
in origin and character. It is somewhat simpler than the proper game,
but possesses no particular advantages over poker, as played with cards,
beyond the fact of its comparative simplicity. On the other hand, the
appliances required for playing it are more expensive, and not nearly so
convenient. Possibly the original idea of its introduction arose from
the fact that the fraudulent manipulation of the cards, in the other
game, had become notorious, and it was hoped that this kind of thing
would be obviated by using balls instead. It is far more likely,
however, that this variety of the game presented certain advantages to
the sharp which the other did not possess, and hence its popularity in
certain quarters. It would be unwise, however, to hazard an opinion one
way or the other. All we need trouble ourselves about is that cheating
at this game is both simple and tolerably safe. No special skill is
required on the part of the sharp, and very little special apparatus, to
enable him to win whenever he pleases, and as long as he can get people
to play with him.

The game is played with a leathern bottle, something like those used in
'pool,' but smaller in the neck. Into this bottle are put twenty-four
balls about an inch in diameter, each of which is numbered upon a facet,
the numbers running from one to twenty-four consecutively. The players
sit round the table, and the bets are arranged in the same manner as at
poker. The player whose turn it is to deal shakes up the balls in the
bottle, and deals one to each player, himself included, no player being
allowed to see the balls which are dealt to the others. The players look
at the balls they have received, each one noting the number which has
fallen to him, and coming in or declining to play accordingly, stake
their bets. This being done, a second ball is dealt to each player, and
the two balls thus received constitute his hand. The betting now
proceeds as at poker, the rules being precisely the same, except that
the balls rank according to their numerical value, and that the
complications arising from 'pairs,' 'threes,' 'fours,' and 'flushes,'
cannot arise. Those who have bad hands will fall out of the game for the
time being, sacrificing the stakes they have put into the pool, whilst
those who consider their hands good enough to bet on will remain in and
'raise' each other. If one player can so increase the stakes as to drive
all the others out, he will take the pool without showing his hand; or
a player may be 'called,' and then the hands are shown, the best one
winning the whole of the stakes.

The reader will perceive that cheating might be practised in connection
with this game in a variety of ways. The dealer, in putting the balls
into the bottle, might contrive to secrete a high number, which could be
held out for a time, and afterwards rung in to his own hand, in place of
a low one. In a conspiracy of two or three players, nothing could be
easier than for them to signal to each other the value of their hands,
and thus arrive at a fairly approximate knowledge of what hands they
might have to contend with. They could then act in accordance with the
information thus gained, and either stand out or raise the other
players, as the nature of their hands may dictate. If, in addition to
this, each of the conspirators was provided with duplicates of two or
three of the highest numbers, the one who had the best hand could
substitute for the lower number in his hand the highest number in either
of the hands held by his accomplices, and thus, in all probability,
constitute himself the winner, the accomplice meanwhile substituting his
best number for that discarded by his partner in the conspiracy. They
would not require many duplicate balls each; just two or three of the
highest numbers would be quite sufficient.

There are, however, great objections to any manipulation of this
kind; more particularly since cheating can be accomplished, by
mechanical means, in a much more simple and effective manner. The
method of cheating usually adopted, therefore, takes the form of a
'bottle-holdout,' which can be caused to retain any of the highest
numbers and to deliver them to either of the players, at the will of
the dealer.

[Illustration: FIG. 61.]

This holdout is, of course, within the bottle itself, and is operated by
pressure upon the slightly flexible sides. Fig. 61 is an illustration of
a bottle of this kind, part of one side being cut away to allow the
holdout to be seen. A represents the position of the various parts at
such times as the holdout may be either inoperative or containing the
balls. B will serve to indicate the position they assume when the sides
are pressed, and the holdout is either receiving or delivering the

The holdout itself consists of a kind of scoop, pivoted to a bracket in
such a way that it will either turn up against one side of the bottle,
or lie open beneath the neck. This scoop _a_ has a projecting tail-piece
or lever, against which a spring _d_ constantly presses, and retains the
scoop in contact with the side of the bottle. To the end of this lever
is jointed a rod _c_, the further end of which just reaches across to
the opposite side of the bottle. It is obvious, then, that if the bottle
is squeezed by the dealer, the pressure being applied to the point of
contact with the rod, and to some point behind the bracket to which the
scoop is pivoted (between _b_ and _d_, in short), the end of the lever
will be pressed towards the side of the bottle, and the scoop will
consequently be turned down into the position shown at B. The whole of
the working parts, together with the inside of the bottle, are painted
black, in order to prevent any possibility of the device being seen by
looking down the neck.

In returning the balls to the interior of the bottle, the dealer
carefully notes their value. The low ones are allowed to fall in the
proper manner, but when a high one is dropped inside, the bottle is
squeezed in the manner above indicated, the scoop comes down, and that
ball therefore falls into the holdout. Then in dealing the device is
utilised in the same way. The low balls are dealt to the dupes, but in
the act of dealing to a confederate, or to himself, as the case may be,
the bottle is pressed and high balls only are dealt. As a rule one ball
only is held out.

There is not very much in this game beyond the ingenuity of the holdout
employed, and the money which may be won by its means. But since the
necessity of including it among the explanations given in this book is
obvious, and since there is no definite section of the subject to which
it can be referred, it has had to receive, however unworthily, the
distinction of having a chapter to itself.


[11] This would be far too risky a proceeding for a sharp to indulge in
as a rule. He _might_ do so, however, if he got hold of a very great



Roulette, and the various modifications of the game, which have been
introduced from time to time, have all had, to a greater or less extent,
a fascination for the gambler. That roulette itself still maintains a
prominent place among the multitudinous methods of dissipating wealth to
which gamblers are addicted, can be fully vouched for by those who have
visited the gaming-tables of such a place as Monte Carlo. Despite the
efforts of civilisation, 'the man that broke the bank,' or is said to
have done so, is still prominent among us; but the bank that broke the
man is, unfortunately, much more in evidence.

The methods of play adopted by the great gaming establishments of the
world are unquestionably as fair as the nature of things will allow them
to be. No man can run an establishment of any kind without profit, and
the profits of these gaming-houses result from the apparently small
chances in favour of the bank which are universally allowed. The fact
that the _apparently_ small chances against the players as a body are
not generally recognised as being in reality great, cannot be said to be
the fault of the bankers themselves. They build palatial edifices, lay
out luxurious gardens, pay their crowds of retainers handsome salaries,
and still have profits sufficient to bring them in princely incomes, the
entire expenses of the whole being defrayed at the cost of the players,
and through the medium of those insignificant chances in the bank's
favour. It is strange that the players cannot see it, but they do not
seem to realise that it is they themselves who pay for these things; or,
if they do see it, they play with the wild hope of being among the few
fortunate ones and sharing in the plunder. Taken as a whole, it may be
estimated that the profits of these places amount to five per cent. or
over of every pound that is staked upon the tables. That is to say,
every player who places a sovereign upon the green cloth puts,
definitely and unmistakably, at least a shilling into the pockets of the
proprietors, who have, in the long run, absolutely no risk whatever.
They have merely to furnish the accessories, and the players will
provide all the rest, simply paying their money to the bank and taking
all the risk themselves. No player can gain at the expense of the bank;
if one should happen to make his fortune at play, he can only do so by
the ruin of some other player. That is the plain state of the case, and
there is no getting over it.

It is not, however, with the so-called genuine gambling concerns that we
have now to deal, but with the little hole-and-corner dens which may be
found in various parts of the world, and particularly in the two
continents of America. In such as these the roulette-table is frequently
a familiar object, and very often it is not quite such a genuine piece
of apparatus as it appears. Those who may not happen to be acquainted
with the arrangement should understand that it is an oblong table,
having a circular cavity at one end, in which the roulette revolves. The
roulette (literally 'little wheel') is simply a revolving disc
surrounded by a number of cavities into which a ball is allowed to roll.
These cavities are numbered, and those who have staked upon the number
of the particular hole into which the ball finds its way receive their
stakes back, together with an amount equivalent to the money they have
staked multiplied by the number of holes remaining vacant in the
roulette, _minus_ a certain percentage which is reserved in favour of
the bank. This is the essential principle of the game, though in reality
it is played with many complications of chances, into which it is not
necessary here to enter.

Cheating in connection with the roulette-table is accomplished by means
of a 'faked' or falsified roulette. This is arranged so that the numbers
around the periphery are not consecutive, but alternately high and low.
Indeed, this is the usual arrangement, therefore there is nothing
suspicious in that fact. The numbered divisions into one of which the
ball eventually rolls are formed by equidistant copper bands, set
radially from the centre of rotation; and, in the false roulette, the
copper partitions are so constructed as to be movable in two sets, one
moving one way, and the other in the opposite direction. Each alternate
partition belongs to the opposite set to its two immediate neighbours,
consequently the movement of the partitions alternately in opposite
directions tends to widen one set of cavities and narrow the others. If,
then, the original width of the cavities was only just sufficient to
allow the ball to drop into either of them, a very slight movement in
one direction or the other will serve to prevent the ball from falling
into any cavity of one set, whilst allowing it readily to enter either
of the other set. Before spinning the roulette, then, the man whose
place it is to do so notes the disposition of the bets. If they are
principally staked upon the high numbers, he just gives a little twist
to the centre of the roulette, in the direction which slightly closes
the high numbers and correspondingly opens the low ones. Then the high
numbers are bound to lose. Should the bets, on the other hand, be
principally upon the low numbers, the spindle is turned in the other
direction, thus closing the low numbers and opening the high ones. In
this way the bank can never lose by any possible chance. The movement
given to the alternate partitions is, of course, very slight,
one-sixteenth of an inch being ample for the purpose.

To enable the reader to better understand the principle involved in this
system of cheating, we will investigate its application to a simple
modification of the roulette which is sometimes used, and which affords
great convenience for the method of falsification we have been
considering. This is a wheel composed of a circular centre-piece, with
two flat circular plates larger in diameter than the centre or 'hub,'
one being fixed above and the other below it. Radially between these
flanges, and at equal distances apart, are fixed partitions, which thus
convert the periphery of the wheel into a number of chambers or
divisions. A (fig. 62) represents the plan of a wheel of this kind, and
B shows the same in elevation.

[Illustration: FIG. 62.]

Now, these radial partitions mentioned above are not all fixed to the
wheel in the same manner. Each alternate one is attached to the centre
or hub, and the others are fixed to the flanges or cheeks. C in the
illustration represents the latter, and D the former. The two halves of
the wheel C and D being put together, they appear to constitute a
genuine wheel such as A. It is obvious, then, that if these two halves
can be made to move just a little in opposite directions around their
common centre, each alternate division will become slightly narrower or
wider than its immediate neighbours, as the case may be. Then, if the
divisions are numbered alternately high and low, it stands to reason
that the high numbers can be closed and the low ones opened, or _vice
versa_, at will. In the illustration, E represents the wheel after the
two sections have been turned one upon the other in this way. It will be
seen that _n_ is a narrow division, and _w_ a wide one; whilst right and
left of these the divisions are alternately wide and narrow. A wheel of
this kind would be mounted upon a spindle, in the centre of a circular
depression in the table-top. After it has been set spinning, a ball is
thrown into the circular hollow, down the sloping sides of which it
rolls, and finally arrives in one of the divisions of the wheel, in this
case entering by the periphery. In order to give the thing more the
appearance of a game of skill, a wheel of this kind is sometimes mounted
at one end of a sort of bagatelle-table, and, whilst it is spinning, the
players are allowed to drive the ball into it with a cue from the far
end of the table, each player in succession taking his turn at the ball.
Needless to say, however, this plan presents no particular advantage to
the player. If he has backed a high number, and the high numbers are
closed against him, it is evident that he cannot possibly cause the ball
to enter the division he requires, do what he may.

It should also be noted that in the roulette the divisions, in addition
to being numbered alternately high and low, are also alternately
coloured red and black, and the players have the option of betting upon
either colour. That is to say, if the ball rolls into a red division,
irrespective of its number, those who have staked upon the red will
receive the value of their stakes, whilst those who have wagered upon
black will lose their money. Even in this case, however, the chances in
favour of the bank will tell in the long run, because the 'zeros,' the
numbers reserved for the bank, are neither red nor black, and if the
ball enters a zero neither red nor black will win. The alternate
arrangement of the red and black divisions will indicate, at once, that
the same device which controls the entrance of the ball into the high or
low numbers can also be made to cause either red or black to win, at the
pleasure of the bank. In that case there is not much need to trouble
about the effect of 'zero' one way or the other.

A gentleman, well known in artistic circles, has favoured me, through a
mutual friend, with the following interesting account of a swindle
perpetrated in connection with roulette here in London. He entitles it
'A True Gambling Experience'; and it is here given as nearly as possible
in his own words.

'Some time ago, a friend of mine wrote to me, asking if I would like to
go to a gamble at the rooms of a Mr. X----, who had acquired a certain
notoriety by gaining large sums at Monte Carlo. Indeed, his name was
mentioned almost daily in the London Press. I went, and the game of
roulette was played, the guests being regaled at about midnight with a
most excellent supper and "Pol Roger" _ad lib._

'The company was mixed--a few men from club-land, a well-known
money-lender, and two fair ladies. One lady was our hostess, the other
was the celebrated Baroness ----. The game was played quite fairly, the
board being one of those ordinarily used in England, with one "zero."
The stakes were limited to 20_l._ upon the even money chances.

'At the end of the evening, our host--the much-talked-of gentleman of
Monte Carlo--who had won about 1,000_l._ during the sitting, appointed
another evening, and asked me if I would mind taking the bank. I
consented, provided that I might stop when I had lost as much as I cared
to risk. This was acceded to, and I took the bank on the following week,
when I arose a loser of some 300_l._, but had such consolation as was to
be derived from partaking of a supper similar in character to the first,
everything being absolutely _en prince_. A game of baccarat followed,
and a friend of mine was fortunate enough to win some hundreds from our
host. I myself, having settled up all my losings at roulette, was a
gainer of fifty sovereigns or so. At the end of the evening, our host
excused himself from payment, on the ground that he had had a very bad
week racing, and had a very heavy settlement to make on the Monday, "I
know," he said, "you and your friend will not mind waiting until next
week, when we will have another evening." Of course we agreed to wait
until the next meeting.

'Some days after, I had a letter from Mr. X----, stating that he had
much pleasure in sending me a cheque (enclosed), and remarking that he
intended having an evening at the rooms of a friend of his, near
Charing Cross. The evening arrived, and I duly wended my way to the
address Mr. X---- had given me. I found about twenty people assembled,
among them my friend and another man I knew. I went up to the former and
asked him if Mr. X---- had paid up the money he owed him. "Oh yes," he
said, "he has paid me in those," pointing to a heap of counters in front
of him. The game had commenced when I arrived, and I noticed that the
limit of the stakes was double that of the former occasions, viz. 40_l._
upon the even money chances. I further noticed that a Frenchman (who
could not speak a word of English) was turning the wheel, and Mr. X----
was acting as "croupier." The board was not similar to that used on
former occasions.

'The game proceeded, the Frenchman rolling the ball, and Mr. X----
raking in the losing and paying out the winning stakes. Every now and
then a man would retire hard hit, whilst others were constantly
arriving. Business was brisk, a good trade was being carried on, but
nobody knew how certain the bank was of winning. A Rothschild could not
have stood against that board, as I afterwards discovered.

'Presently, one of the players got up and said, "I think that is seven
hundred I owe you, X----," and proceeded to try and write a cheque for
the amount upon a blank sheet of paper; but finding he could not write
distinctly, he called to the money-lender, who filled in the body of
the cheque, and then the half-tipsy punter signed it and left. Several
large cheques were paid to X---- upon various players taking their
departure; and I, having lost 10_l._ punting in sovereigns, wrote a
cheque for that amount. In the meantime, my friend who had been paid by
X---- some hundreds in counters, as before mentioned, had lost them all,
and had a debit of about 400_l._ against him. He was staking the maximum
each time on either red or black. Sometimes he had a maximum on one of
the other chances. The luck (?) was dead against him, and he only won
once in every three or four coups. He came into the next room with me
and had a brandy and soda. "My luck is terrible," he said, "awful! but I
am going to sit it out. The chances must average up presently." Such,
however, was not the case. He lost more and more, whilst beads of
perspiration stood upon his forehead.

'Relaxing for a moment my attention from my friend and his play, and
glancing at the roulette revolving, I noticed the ball roll into
division No. 3, red. Strange to say, however, when the roulette came to
rest, the winning number proved to be No. 26, black. Even then the
thought did not occur to me that there was anything wrong; but shortly
afterwards a similar event occurred, and _then_ I felt sure there was a
swindle somewhere. I went into the cloak-room where we had left our
outer apparel, and putting on my opera hat and cape, returned to the
scene. I pulled my hat well over my eyes and watched the board. Having a
quick eye, and being used to roulette, I soon fathomed what is possibly
the most beautiful swindle ever invented. The partitions which form the
divisions into which the ball runs were constructed in one piece and
movable, altogether apart from the numbers between which they were
situated. In pressing upon the roulette to stop its motion in the usual
manner, a sort of ratchet movement could be actuated which would turn
the whole of the divisions round, carrying the ball with them, from one
number to the next. Thus red could be turned into black, manque into
passe, or pair into impair, according to the manner in which the stakes
were placed.

'I was so completely upset by my discovery of this colossal swindle that
I unfortunately committed a _faux pas_ which enabled the gang to escape
punishment. After I was thoroughly certain of the _modus operandi_, I
looked round the room to see what help was at hand in the event of a
tussle; but, not liking the look of the crowd, I decided to obtain
assistance from the outside. Before doing so, I felt that my clear duty
was to speak to the host, who had lent his rooms to Mr. X----. I
motioned him apart, and on telling him that I wished to speak to him
privately, he took me into his bedroom. "Mr. Z----," I said, "I think it
my duty to tell you that this game is a gigantic swindle. The men who
have lost have been cheated out of their money," and I described the
process to him. "It cannot be true," said he, "I have known X---- for
years, and have been engaged in several large financial transactions
with him, and I would stake my life upon his integrity." "Well," I said,
"that may be so, but I am certain of what I say, and I shall prevent all
the payment I can. As for my cheque of 10_l._, I shall stop it at the
bank." (That cheque has never been presented from that day to this).

'I went out into the passage, leaving Z---- in his bedroom, and at that
moment the well-known Mr. ----, F.R.C.S. was admitted at the door. I
whispered to him, "Play small and watch it," and went off for a
detective. I was afterwards informed by my "sawbones" friend that play
was stopped directly I left.

'The rest of the tale is soon told. I met my unfortunate friend outside
his house, and found he had ended in losing 1,300_l._ His state was
truly pitiable, and his relief was great when I told him that he need
not pay a penny, as he had been duped.

'The next day private detectives were busy; but, unfortunately, the
mechanical board had escaped them, and Mr. X---- and his confederates
had cleared out of London.

'Would you believe it? X---- went to a well-known firm of solicitors,
and wanted to commence an action against me; but they advised him to
refrain from so doing.

'I traced many of the punters who had lost money that evening, and
stopped the payment of very much that would otherwise have found its way
into the pockets of the swindlers. The men whose interests I thus
protected never thanked me. All I contrived to do for myself was to make
many enemies. For the future I intend to leave the exposure of swindlers
to those who are accustomed to that kind of work.'

Under the general term of 'spindle-games,' a great variety of revolving
wheels and pointers is sold. In all cases the 'game' consists of betting
against the bank, upon the chances of a ball rolling into a certain
compartment, or of a pointer coming to rest opposite a certain number or
division upon a dial. Countless are the dodges and devices resorted to
with the object of controlling the chances or of removing them
altogether. Things of this kind are commonly used for the purposes of
cheating at race-meetings and horse fairs 'out west.' We have already
seen how anything in the nature of a roulette can be sophisticated so as
to give the bank every advantage, and insure certain loss to the
players; and from this we may judge that something similar is possible
in the case of a pointer or 'spear.' Indeed, the possibilities in this
direction are endless, and all sorts of brakes and such devices for
bringing the pointer to rest at a given spot have been invented. As an
example we will investigate one system, which is in all probability the
most ingenious ever devised, and which is but little known.

Some years ago, the head of a well-known firm of electricians and
experimentalists in Manchester was approached by an American, with a
view to their undertaking the manufacture of a piece of apparatus, part
of the drawings for which he submitted. The firm agreed to make what was
required, and the work was commenced. As to what the apparatus could
possibly be, or for what use it was intended, the manufacturers were
completely in ignorance. Never having had experience of anything of the
kind before, the whole thing was a mystery to them: all that they could
infer from the utterances of their customer was that it was something in
the nature of an experiment, and one which was of the greatest
importance. Expense was absolutely no object whatever; all they had to
concern themselves with was to see that the apparatus was thoroughly
well and accurately made, and in accordance with the drawings given

The contrivance itself was a sort of circular table-top; but, instead of
being made of one solid thickness of wood, it was constructed in three
sections or layers. The top and bottom pieces were simply plain discs,
whilst the central one was a ring. These, being fastened together, made
a kind of shallow box, the interior of which could be reached by
removing either the top or bottom of the whole arrangement. Into this
internal circular cavity was fitted a disc of such a size that it was
capable of turning freely within the table top without rattling about.
Radially from the centre of this disc were cut about six or eight slots,
at equal distances from each other, and sufficiently large to contain
each a bar-magnet. The magnets being fixed into their respective slots,
the disc carrying them was placed into the cavity prepared for its
reception, and the outer wood-work was firmly glued together. To all
outward appearance, then, the thing became simply a table-top, made in
three thicknesses, the 'grain' of the middle thickness crossing that of
the other two; an arrangement often adopted in cabinetwork to prevent
warping. In the under side of the table-top, however, there was cut a
small slot, concentric with the outer edge. This gave access to the
movable piece within the interior, and a small stud was fixed into that
piece, projecting a little beyond the under surface, so that by its
means the inner piece could be revolved a short distance to the right or

This incomprehensible scientific instrument having been completed to the
satisfaction of the American gentleman, it was taken away by him, and
the firm expected to hear nothing more of it. In this, however, they
were mistaken. A few days afterwards their customer again called upon
them, bringing with him another drawing, and requesting them to make
this second device in accordance with his instructions. The drawing
presented for the inspection of the firm this time was a representation
of a very heavy iron pointer, so constructed as to revolve upon a pivot
at its centre. Strange to say, the length of the pointer was just about
equal to the diameter of the internal disc of the table-top previously
made. The head of the firm began to 'smell a rat.' That pointer had
served to point out to him the solution of what was previously
inexplicable. Having formed his own conclusions, he openly taxed the
American with having lured him into making an apparatus for cheating.
Perfectly unabashed, the man admitted the soft impeachment, and quite
calmly and collectedly revealed the full particulars of his system, as
though it were nothing at all unusual, and quite in the ordinary way of

It appeared that this innocent form of amusement was intended to be
taken 'out west,' and brought into action principally at horse-fairs.
The table-top which the firm had made was destined to be covered with
green cloth, in the centre of which a circle was marked out, its
circumference being divided into spaces coloured alternately black and
red. The number of these spaces was twice that of the magnets within the
table. Thus, by moving the stud projecting below the table-top the
magnets could be made to lie beneath either colour whilst the proprietor
_lied_ over the whole. Obviously, then, the iron pointer would always
come to rest above one of the magnets, and in this way the colour at
which it was allowed to stop could be decided by the operator. His plan
of working was simply to note which colour had the most money staked
upon it, and set his magnets so as to cause the pointer to stop at the
other. Using an apparatus of this kind, the man had already made
thousands of dollars; and he only required this improved and perfected
machine to enable him to go back and make thousands more. The Americans
are pretty generally regarded as being a smart people--but are they? In
some ways, perhaps.

All this being explained to the head of the Manchester firm, the natural
exclamation which fell from him was, 'But suppose anyone among the
bystanders happened to bring out a mariner's compass?' It appeared,
however, even in that case, that all was not lost, and that the swindler
would be equal to the occasion. Quietly putting his hand between his
coat-tails, he drew out a neat little 'Derringer,' about a foot long,
and observed, 'Wal, _sir_, I guess that compass would never git around
_my_ table. You kin bet on _that_.' That's the sort of man _he_ was.



We now come to a consideration of the so-called 'sporting-houses,'
otherwise, the firms who supply sharps with the appliances and tools of
their craft. These places are many, and, as a rule, prosperous. Their
dealings in 'advantage goods,' as these things are called by the
fraternity, are of course 'under the rose,' and the real nature of their
business is covered by the fact that they are supposed to be dealers in
honest commodities of various kinds. Some of these people keep
'emporiums' for the ostensible sale of genuine gambling appliances, such
as faro-tables, billiard-tables, dice, cards, &c. Others will run
businesses which are far removed from anything in the nature of
gambling. The cheating business is, of course, kept in the background,
although no great secret would appear to be made of it; the inference
being, one may suppose, that it is not criminal to sell these things,
although it is undoubtedly so to use them.

Until quite recently it was no uncommon thing to find advertisements in
certain of the American newspapers, to some such effect as 'Holdouts
and other Sporting Tools.--Apply to Messrs. So-and-So,' giving the name
and address. An advertisement of this kind would, of course, be simply
Greek to the majority, although the sharps would understand its meaning
readily enough. Upon applying to the advertiser, a sharp would receive a
voluminous price list, setting forth the manifold beauties and
advantages of the wares at his disposal, and showing conclusively that
no other dealer had things so good to sell, and that the advertising
firm was the most fair dealing and conscientious in the world, if their
own account of themselves might be trusted.

The first specimen of these literary and artistic productions to which
we shall refer is a very exhaustive affair; so much so, in fact, that
space will not allow it to be reprinted in its entirety. Besides
cheating appliances it quotes all kinds of genuine gambling tools, which
are of no importance to us in our present inquiry. Such parts, then, as
have no reference to cheating have been excised, to avoid crowding these
pages with unnecessary matter. The reader who has conscientiously
followed, and taken pains to understand the explanations contained in
previous chapters, will have no difficulty in arriving at a very fair
notion of the various items given, and the significance of much that,
otherwise, would possess no meaning for him. This catalogue is issued by
a firm in San Francisco.


     (_Name_)   &  (_Name_), COMPANY.

     Sporting Goods.

     (_Address_)     STREET,


     All orders MUST be accompanied by a deposit, and no order will
     be entertained unless the deposit is indorsed or sent with the
     order, to show a guarantee of good faith. On small orders send
     the full amount, and thus save the double charges.

     Goods sent C. O. D. ONLY where a deposit comes with the order
     or guarantee from the Express Agent. All remittances can be
     sent by Express, Mail, Post Office Order, Stamps, or Registered

     All business strictly confidential, and all inquiries answered
     by return mail.


     _Always say whether you want Letters and Goods sent by Mail or

     (_Name and Address_.)


      DEALING-BOXES, plated                                $10 00
         square, heavy German silver                        16 00
             "    "   "   "  plated                         20 00
         plated, sand tell                                  15 00
         heavy German silver, sand tell                     20 00
            "     "     "  plated, sand tell                25 00
         side lever, heavy plated                           50 00
         square, size-up                                    60 00
         end squeeze, plain                                 75 00
          "   "  and lock up                               100 00
          "   "  plain, to squeeze top and bottom           85 00
          "   "  lock-up, to squeeze top and bottom        100 00
         balance top, plain                                 75 00
          "      " to lock up                              100 00
         end squeeze, lock-up and size-up                  125 00
          "    "       "       "  needle                   125 00
         latest style combination box, to work in four
           different ways, size-up, end squeeze, and
           needle, to lock up to a square box              175 00
         shuffling board with needle                        12 50
         needle for table                                    2 50
         very latest combination box to work in five
           different ways, size-up, sand tell, end
           squeeze, and needle, lock-up to a square box    200 00

    In ordering, state exactly the kind of top that is desired,
    also if the box is to have bars inside or to be without bars.

    Our boxes are made with a view to simplicity, durability, and
    finish, are guaranteed to work perfectly, and pronounced by
    experts to be the best in the United States.

    Boxes of any style made to order and repaired.

    We are constantly making improvements in this line.

    Lever boxes altered into end squeeze.

       TRIMMING SHEARS, metal block                         $40 00
           metal block, to cut, size-up, and the odd         50 00
           latest improved, with extra set screw             65 00

       LEVER PATTERN, metal block                            40 00
           to cut, size-up, and the odd                      50 00
           latest improved, with extra set screw             65 00
           metal block, small size, suitable for travelling  35 00
                 "       "     "       "    to
             cut, size-up, and the odd                       45 00
           latest improved, to cut, size-up, and the odd,
             with extra set screw, and attachment, to
             hold monte cards while trimming                 75 00

    In ordering shears or lever-pattern trimmers, state what kind
    and style you want.

       TRIMMING PLATES (new style), our own design, to
           cut any size card, rounds or straights. A
           knife, razor, or any other sharp instrument
           can be used                                       $7 50

       CUTTER, for cutting round corners on cards
             (something new), our own invention              20 00
           for the odd only                                  20 00

    Trimming shears sharpened and squared equal to new at short

    You can do more and better work with our shears and trimmers
    than any other manufactured in the United States. They are made
    of the very best materials, and under our personal supervision.
    The cutting parts are made of the finest steel, and forged by
    hand, making them all that could be desired.

       SHUFFLING BOARDS, very thin iron, broadcloth
             cover                                           $3 00
           for the odd                                       15 00

       FARO DEALING CARDS, best quality, either
           squared or unsquared, per dozen                   15 00
         per deck                                             1 25
         best quality, cut for size-up                        1 75
         cut in any form, either wedges, rounds, and
           straights, end strippers, or any other kind,
           ready for use, per deck                            2 50

    In ordering cards cut, always send a king or ace that fits your
    box, or if your box is numbered, send the number, and state
    particularly how you want them done.

    Cash is required with all orders for trimmed cards.

       HIGH-BALL LAYOUTS, 3 by 4 feet                        $6 00
         Other sizes and styles painted to order.

       HIGH BALLS, walrus ivory, each                           20
         boxwood                                                10

       HIGH-BALL BOTTLES, leather, two in set, one
           square, $2 50, one holdout $7 50                  10 00


       FARO TABLES                               $75 00 to $100 00

       POKER TABLES, our own invention                      250 00

       DICE TABLES, electric, complete, our invention       150 00

       POKER and DICE TABLE combined                        350 00

       GRAND HAZARD DICE TABLE, electric, complete,
           our own invention                                175 00

       ELECTRIC DICE, 1/2 inch, each                          2 50

       IVORY DICE TOP, to throw high or low as required,
           and one square to match                            7 00

       IVORY DICE, 1/2 inch, round or square corners, each      25
           9/16 inch, round corners, each                       35
           5/8   "      "      "      "                         45
           3/4   "      "      "      "                         80

       IVORY DICE, 7/8 inch, round corners, each              1 25
                    1   "      "      "      "                2 00
         Horse for crap game, 1/2 inch, per pair                50
         for top and bottom and 3 fair                        1 00
         3 high, 3 low, and 3 fair loaded (Eastern), per
           set                                                6 00
         loaded, our own manufacture, 1/2 inch, each          2 50
           "      "   "      "        5/8     "               2 75
           "      "   "      "        3/4 or 7/8 inch, each   3 00

    In ordering dice, please state which side you want to come up;
    also state if you want a square set to match. All kinds of
    ivory dice made to order.

       BONE DICE, per dozen                           25c. to 50c.

       DICE BOXES, leather                           25c. and 50c.
         smooth inside                                       $1 00


       KENO, consisting of globe and stand, 100 cards,
           pegging boards, 100 pegs, ball board, 90
           walrus balls and buttons, very fine              $70 00
         with boxwood balls, very fine                       60 00
         with walrus globes, plain globe                     50 00
         with boxwood balls, plain globe                     40 00

       INDICATORS, for registering cards sold                10 00

       PULL-UP PEG BOARD, for 100 cards                      20 00

       KENO CARDS, 9 rows, 5 in a row, 100 cards             15 00

       KENO GLOBE, for holding out extra balls               65 00


       VEST HOLDOUT, our own pattern                        $25 00

       SLEEVE HOLDOUT             $25 00, 30 00, 50 00, and 150 00

       TABLE HOLDOUT, to work with the knee                  15 00

       THE BUG, to hold out extra cards from the table        1 00

       TABLE REFLECTOR                                        5 00

       REFLECTOR, in seven half-dollars                       7 50
           "      in one half-dollar                          2 50

       REFLECTOR, in one dollar                              $3 50
           "      in pipe                                     5 00
           "      to work on any ring                         2 00
           "      to fasten to greenbacks                     2 00
           "      plain                                       1 50
           "      attached to machine, can be brought
           to palm of hand at will                           25 00

       DUMMIES, to imitate a stack of twenties, used to
           show in bankers' or money-brokers' windows,
           to represent $100                                 $2 75
         to represent $200                                    3 25
          "     "     $300                                    3 75
          "     "     $400                                    4 00
          "     "     $500                                    5 00

       NAIL PRICKS, each                                        50

       ACID FLUID, for shading cards, 3 colours, very
           fine and entirely new, complete with directions,
           per set, 6 bottles                                 5 00
         single bottle, any colour                            1 00


       Per dozen                                            1 0 00
       Per deck                                               1 00
       Glazed backs, round corners, per dozen               1 4 00
          "     "      "      "      "  deck                  1 25
         By mail, 5 cents per deck extra.

       STRIPPERS, cut to order for any short game, per
           dozen                                              7 00
         cut to order for any short game, per deck              75
         By mail, 5 cents per deck extra.

    In ordering these cards, state what kind of card preferred, and
    be particular to give full directions--just what you want them
    for, and what cards you want stripped.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next catalogue to which we refer hails from the State of New York,
and is that from which extracts have been made during the progress of
this book. It is particularly amusing, and deserves careful perusal on
that account.


    The finest machine in this country. All late improvements,
    better made than some machines that are sold for $300. A better
    machine than the Kepplinger, of San Francisco, holdout. Made of
    fine and light pen steel, and works as well in shirt sleeves as
    with a coat on. The machine is fastened in a double shirt
    sleeve. The cards go in between the wristband and cuff. The
    wristband and cuff closes up when the cards are in, and anyone
    may look up your sleeve to your elbow and cannot see anything
    wrong. The holdout is worked by spreading your knees. The
    string runs through steel tubing that has capped pulley wheel
    joints. The string cannot bind or catch, and will work smoothly,
    easy, and noiselessly, every time alike. Give length of arm and
    size of shirt worn when ordering. Price, $100. Will send one
    C. O. D. $75, with privilege to examine, on receipt of $25.


    New, never before advertised. Made on same principle as the
    sleeve holdout, and works by spreading knees. String goes
    through adjustable tubing. Vest closes up tight when cards are
    in, and looks to be all buttoned up tight. Works equally well
    in coat. (This is almost a nickle-in-slot machine, and I
    will guarantee perfect satisfaction to anyone that wants a
    first-class vest or coat holdout.) Sent in vest all ready to
    put on and work. Price $75. Will send one C. O. D. $60,
    privilege to examine and try in express office, on receipt of


    Very light and compact, works under any ordinary cuff. Cards
    come out to palm of hand and go back out of sight. Works
    automatically by resting arm on edge of table. Also a good
    machine to cap the deck with. Price $30. Sent C. O. D. $20,
    privilege to examine, on receipt of $15.


    This machine weighs about three ounces, and is used half way
    down the vest, where it comes natural to hold your hands and
    cards. The work is done with one hand and the lower part of the
    same arm. You press against a small lever with the arm (an easy
    pressure of three-quarters of an inch throws out the cards back
    of a few others held in your left hand), and you can reach over
    to your checks or do anything else with the right hand while
    working the holdout. The motions are all natural, and do not
    cause suspicion. The machine is held in place by a web belt;
    you don't have to sew anything fast, but when you get ready to
    play you can put on the machine, and when through can remove it
    in half a minute. There are no plates, no strings to pull on,
    and no springs that are liable to break or get out of order.
    This machine is worth fifty of the old style vest plates for
    practical use, and you will say the same after seeing one.
    Price $15. Will send one C. O. D. $10, with privilege to
    examine, on receipt of $5. Will send one by registered mail on
    receipt of price, with the understanding that you may return it
    in exchange for other goods if not perfectly satisfactory.


    Same price and style as the arm pressure vest machine. (This
    holdout is the lightest and smoothest working arm pressure
    sleeve holdout made.)


    Light and compact, can be put on or taken off in two minutes,
    works by raising and lowering your arm. A good machine for
    small games. Sent by registered mail on receipt of the price.


    Lightest made, fastens by patent steel claw. Can be put under a
    table and taken off instantly, as there are no screws or
    anything to fasten permanently. Works by knee, and brings the
    card up on top of the table. Price $20. Sent C. O. D.,
    privilege to examine, on receipt of $5.

    _Notice._--I can make this holdout or my stud poker holdout,
    either one, to work a fine reflector for reading the cards, at
    same price.


    I have invented a process by which a man is sure of winning if
    he can introduce his own cards. The cards are not trimmed or
    marked in any way, shape, or manner. They can be handled and
    shuffled by all at the board, and, without looking at a card,
    you can, by making two or three shuffles or ripping them in,
    oblige the dealer to give three of a kind to any one playing,
    or the same advantage can be taken on your own deal. This is a
    big thing for any game. In euchre you can hold the joker every
    time, or the cards most wanted in any game. The process is very
    hard to detect, as the cards look perfectly natural, and it is
    something card-players are not looking for. Other dealers have
    been selling sanded cards, or cheap cards with spermaceti
    rubbed on, and calling them professional playing or magnetic
    cards. I don't want you to class my cards with that kind of
    trash. I use a liquid preparation put on with rollers on all
    cards made; this dries on the cards and does not show, and will
    last as long as the cards do. The object is to make certain
    cards, not prepared, slip off easier than others in shuffling.
    You can part or break the deck to an ace or king, and easily
    'put up threes,' no matter where they lay in the deck. This
    fine advantage works fine single handed, or when the left-hand
    man shuffles and offers the cards to be cut. These cards are
    ten times better than readers or strippers, and they get the
    money faster. Price $2 per pack by mail, $20 per dozen packs.
    If you order a dozen, I will furnish cards like you use.


    Weighs two ounces, and is a neat invention to top the deck, to
    help a partner, or hold out a card playing stud poker; also
    good to play the half stock in seven up. This holdout works in
    the shirt sleeve, and holds the cards in the same place as a
    cuff pocket. There is no part of the holdout in sight at any
    time. A man that has worked a pocket will appreciate this
    invention. Price, by registered mail, $10.


    Fits under any ring worn on third finger. A fine thing to top
    the deck. You can hold as many cards as you wish in your hand,
    and no one will mistrust you, as your fingers will be at
    perfect liberty, and it is not necessary to keep them together
    as you have to do when palming. Price, by registered mail, $3.


    Very small and light. It can be put under and removed from any
    table in less than half a minute. Works easily from either
    knee. It will bring three or more cards up into your hand, and
    take back the discards as you hold your cards and hands in a
    natural position on top of the table. It is the best table
    holdout made. Price, by registered mail, $10. Will send one
    C. O. D., with privilege to examine, on receipt of $3.


    A little instrument, easily carried in your vest pocket, that
    can be used at a moment's notice to hold out one or more cards
    in any game. Simple, yet safe and sure. Price 50 cents.


    For line or scroll work. Any one can apply it with a fine steel
    pen or camel's hair brush. This ink dries quickly and does not
    require any rubbing. Will guarantee it to be the best ink made.
    Price $3 per bottle. Two bottles, red and blue, $5. Best
    shading colours, $2 per bottle.


    Fastens by pressing steel spurs into under side of table. A
    fine glass comes to the edge of table to read the cards as you
    deal them off. You can set the glass at any angle or turn it
    back out of sight in an instant. Price $4.


    First quality cards, hand marked, $1 50 per pack, $14 per
    dozen. First quality cards, shaded plain or fine, $11 per
    dozen. I can mark any style card you use if ordered by the
    dozen packs. Strippers cut just as you want them. Price $1 per


    Made of selected ivory loaded with quicksilver, and can be
    shaken from the box so as to come high or low, as you wish.
    With a set of these you will find yourself winner at all dice
    games, and carry off the prize at every raffle you attend. Sold
    in sets of 9 dice, 3 high, 3 low, and 3 fair. Price, per set
    complete, $5.


    For high and low. Sure thing. Made of best ivory, $4 Black
    walnut, just as good, $1 25.

    Eagle claw, to hold out cards in shirt sleeve. Price $5.

    Knee holdout, to hold out cards from edge of table. Price $2

    Prong, improved, to use as cuff pocket. Price $4.

    New method of marking cards like scratch work. This work leaves
    a white line or mark on the card that cannot be shaded. Price
    of material, tools, and full directions, $10, This is the kind
    of work good men have been trying to get for some time.


    It will _pay_ any man that plays cards to come and see my work.
    I will meet you at Chatham, New York, and will pay all expenses
    if I don't show you the _best_ goods made. If you want any
    reference regarding my standing, write to ---- Bros., merchants,
    or any business firm of this town. They don't recommend
    advantage goods, but they will tell you that I am good for all I
    advertise to do. If you want to get a holdout or anything in the
    sporting line that you have ever seen used or advertised, write
    to me about them and see how my prices compare with others. I
    know all about every kind of advantage ever advertised, and am
    getting new ones every day, but only advertise those I know to
    be practical. If you send me an order, no matter how large or
    small, I shall try to give you the worth of your money, so that
    you will send again. I am the only manufacturer of holdouts in
    this country. I am the only man who makes the holdouts he
    advertises for sale himself. I will bet $500, ---- to hold the
    money and decide the bet, that no other dealer advertising
    advantage goods can make a sleeve or vest machine themselves as
    good as either of mine. If you play cards it will pay you to
    come here and see my machines work. I will pay all expenses if I
    cannot show you the best holdouts made. Send money by registered
    letter, postal note, or money order on Chatham, New York. Send
    all orders to ----.

       *       *       *       *       *

The educated man who does not smile at the bombast and 'Yankee-brag'
contained in the above, surely cannot have his risible faculties
developed in any degree whatever.

The next catalogue we shall notice comes from New York City itself, and
is couched in the following terms:--


    Round corners, big squeezers, first quality linen stock,
    warranted. Price, per pack, $1 25; six packs, $7; one dozen
    packs, $12.


    These cards are by far the finest-marked cards ever printed,
    and are fully equal in every way, quality of stock, print, and
    finish of both back and face, to any first quality square card

    This fills the long-felt want among the sporting fraternity,
    and it is the best offer ever made to club-rooms and private
    parties. They are new, and never before this season been placed
    on the market.

    They are especially adapted for fine work, and great care
    has been given to the marking of both size and suit, and
    it is almost an impossibility to find the marks and earn the
    combination without the key and complete printed instructions
    which we send with every pack; but when learned they are as
    easily read from the back as from the face.

    Nos. 1, 2, and 5 are marked in all four corners alike, so as to
    be readily played by either right or left-hand players and are
    marked on an entirely different principle than old style
    stamped cards.

    Attention is requested to our 'Montana,' No. 3, and to our
    'Star,' No. 4. We furnish them in the colours mentioned and
    used in all games throughout the entire country. Order the
    cards by the numbers directly over them. Price, per pack, $1
    25; six packs, $7; one dozen packs, $12.

    We can furnish square cards to exactly duplicate Nos. 1, 2,
    and 5, at $3 per dozen, by express.

    Strippers of all these cards, for poker and all games,
    furnished with either fair or marked backs. For prices and
    particulars see our circulars. Address all orders to ----

       *       *       *       *       *

The following is a hand-bill issued by the same firm as the last, and
specially addressed--


    We handle, and keep constantly in stock, all the latest and
    best combination boxes, both end squeeze, top balance, lever
    and side movement, etc., etc., but we make a speciality of our
    own boxes, and recommend them to any one needing a _good
    reliable box, that can be depended on at all times_. These
    boxes are simple, durable, and by far the best boxes ever
    placed on the market. We make them up perfectly plain, without
    bars, have the bottom movement (entirely new), and they can be
    locked to a dead square box by a table movement which cannot be
    detected. We make our boxes up to lock by three combinations,
    and we _guarantee them in every way_.

       End squeeze, three combinations                $100 to $125
        "     "     without bottom movement                    100
       Top Balance, bottom movement, three combinations        100
       Needle or 'spur tell' for the odd, bottom movement       65
         "    "     "    "   without bottom movement            50

    We also make an end squeeze that no one can tell from a square
    box, as the end of box is immovable, the metal of the end being
    thinner than rest of box, being able to spring or give as it is
    pressed, and doing the work. This is one of the finest boxes
    ever made. Price $100.

    We also make plain tell boxes, without bars, _which can be
    charged_ [query '_changed_'] from a square to a tell box in an
    instant without the possibility of detection, and we will
    guarantee that no one can find the combination. (Do not
    confound these with the ordinary lock-up sand tell box.)

    Our boxes are perfect in every particular, and will do the
    work. The cards for these boxes are specially prepared by a
    machine which takes the place of sand and all kinds of
    preparation. They are by far superior to any cards sanded or
    prepared by hand. Our manner of preparing cards for these boxes
    is by having the twelve paint cards prepared, so by playing in
    the high card _the money is won without creating suspicion_, by
    being always actually on the card with the work on.

       Price                             $25
       With six packs prepared cards      35

       *       *       *       *       *

These are the instructions sent out with the fluids used for marking
cards. The spelling must not be criticised. It is similar to that of the


    'Take the color that comes nearest to the color of the card you
    want to use it on, put a few drops in an empty bottle, and
    dilute with Alcohol untill you get a Shade as near like the
    Card as possible. To avoid spilling, as sometimes happens in
    trying to pour or drop, the dye may be lifted out of the
    bottles with the brush, by repeatedly dipping the brush into
    them, and then wiping the brush on the mouth of the empty
    Bottle. It is better to put the Alcohol into the empty bottle
    _first_, then when you lift the dye out on the brush you can
    dip the brush right in the Alcohol, and tell better when you
    have the right shade. As you mix the colors, try them on a
    surface like that on which you may intend to use them, in this
    way any shade may be obtained. Always bear in mind that the
    Colors show _deeper_ when _moist_, (as is the case when they
    are first put on), and become fainter as they dry, and when dry
    if they are _too light_, go over them again. Eveness is more
    apt to be obtained by using a little lighter shade of color
    after the first application.

    'A little care and practice will enable any one to handle these
    colors satisfactorily.

    'In marking you can pick out any number of figures from four
    to six, having them as near the upper left hand corner as
    conveneient, a Flower which has 5 leaves is best, or the right
    number of figures in a circle.

    'Shade all the figures except No. 1, leaving it light or
    natural for the Ace, No. 2 light for King, No. 3 light for
    Queen, No. 4 for Jack, No. 5 for 10 spot, 1 & 2 light for 9
    spot, 2 and 3 for 8, 3 and 4 for 7, 4 and 5 for 6, 5 and 1 for
    5, 2 and 5 for 4, 2 and 4 for 3, and 3 and 5 for 2. In doing
    _very nice work_ we shade the entire back of the card _except_
    the _figure_ which denotes the size and suit.

    'For suit pick out two figures near those you use for size,
    and have _both dark for Clubs_, and both light or natural for
    Diamonds, have one of them dark for Spades; and the other dark
    for Hearts. With six figures the combination runs similar to
    the five figures which we have ezplained, and a four figure
    runs the same down to the seven spot. After a little practice
    you will see many ways of marking your cards.

    'The Dyes we use are the Diamond Package Dyes, and can be had
    of most any Druggist. Make the Dyes according to Directions on
    the package, using only one _half the quantity of water_
    directed, and strain through a cloth, if there is any sediment
    in the dye after adding the Alcohol strain it again as it is
    necessary to have it as clear as possible. Do not try to use
    the dyes without the Alcohol, or it will be a failure, as it is
    the Alcohol which causes the Dye to strike into the card.
    Always keep the bottles well corked when not using them.
    Brushes and bottles should be kept clean, and if the brushes
    are washed in water, they must be thoroughly dried before
    using, as water will blister smooth, calendered surfaces. Never
    let your brush get dry when using, but dip it occasionally,
    care being taken not to have too much on the brush, and use
    immediately, if the alcohol evaporates from the dye it makes a
    much eifferent colour.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The foregoing price-lists, &c., as may be expected, are all printed. It
is not always, however, that the dealer in 'advantages' goes to the
expense of print in connection with the documents he issues; he
sometimes uses the cyclostyle or mimeograph, particularly in the case of
directions for use accompanying the various articles in which he deals.
When, in this way, he has no longer the friendly aid of the compositor
or the printer's reader, his vagaries of grammar and construction are
revealed in all their primitive innocence. To commence one of his
sentences is like embarking upon an unknown sea, or following a
half-beaten track through a desert. Onward the course runs, apparently
for ever, and no man can tell when the end is coming, or what it is
likely to be. Pelion is piled upon Ossa, and Parnassus is over all.

A few days ago two or three of these documents were sent to be copied
out in type, so as to be somewhat legible for the printer; and, as an
evidence of their singularly explicit nature, it may be mentioned that
the typist was under the impression that they were all parts of one
document, and copied out the whole as one, without break from beginning
to end. Such a thing, of course, was quite excusable under the
circumstances, as the reader may judge from the following example of how
not to do it. The entire manuscript consists of one sentence only, so
far as punctuation is concerned, and is supposed to contain directions
for the use of the prepared cards mentioned upon pp. 223-227. It runs to
this effect:--

     'Directions.--When you part the pack to shuffle press down a
     trifle and the cards will part to an Ace (the Ace will be on top
     of the lower part) put that part with the Ace on top and part
     again to another Ace now shuffle in all but the four top cards,
     part the cards again to the third Ace and shuffle in all but the
     top four cards, then put three cards on top of the last Ace
     (this puts up three Aces with three cards between them and three
     on top and is for a four handed game) if one more or less than
     four are playing shuffle in one more or less cards, (always have
     as many cards between and on top of the Aces as there are
     players excluding yourself) when the left hand man deals and
     offers the cards to you to cut you can shuffle them up in the
     same way (but you must put "one less" card on top of the three
     Aces to get the Aces yourself)'

Presumably this is the end of the 'instructions,' as there is no more
matter to follow; but one cannot be surprised that an unhappy typist,
endeavouring to make sense of it, should follow straight on to the next,
under the impression that the general effect of disjointedness thus
produced was part and parcel of the whole occult scheme.

The directions sent out with the 'Jacob's Ladder' vest machine are very
similar in character to the last. There is, however, one 'full-stop' in
this case, probably the one which the typist was looking for. This is
the manner in which the dealer instructs the purchaser in the use of his


     'Fasten the Belt around your waist so that the Machine will
     come on left side far enough from the edge of Vest to let the
     cards go back out of sight. Pin the under lap of Vest on the
     edge to the belt opposite the third or middle button, if you
     are a large man or if you want the mouth of the M- to come out
     farther, turn down the screw on front part of Lever, to hold
     out 3 cards place them back of a few others held in left hand
     with a break or opening between them on the lower ends, press
     against the lever with the lower part of arm and as the mouth
     of the M- comes out to the edge of Vest put the cards in (let
     your little finger come against the lower side of the mouth)
     this will be a guide and you can put the cards in without
     looking down, (a good way is to reach over to your checks or to
     "put up" with right hand while working the Machine) less than a
     1/2-in. pressure will throw out the cards'

The instances above quoted will be sufficient to give the reader a fair
notion of the barefaced manner in which these nefarious dealings are
carried on. There is no beating about the bush in any instance; no
hiding away of the real intent with which the goods are supplied. They
are not called cheating-tools in so many words, but no attempt is made
to smother up the actual nature of the articles. The dealer does not say
'Special Cards,' or 'Comical Cards,' or anything of the kind. He puts
the matter plainly before his customers, and says, 'Our Latest Marked
Back Playing Cards!' There is no mistaking his meaning; he is proud of
it, and likes to let the world know the kind of things he has to sell.

'And where are the police all the while?' you ask. Echo answers 'Where?'
and that is the only reply which is forthcoming. They must know of these
places where the implements of robbery are made and sold; yet, as a
rule, they appear to take no notice of what is going on. Now and again,
in those places where the regulations are particularly strict, they have
a spasmodic burst of activity; and then the dealers lie low for awhile,
until all is quiet again. Occasionally it may happen that some dealer,
whose advertisements have become too flagrantly palpable, is pounced
upon and compelled to desist; but even when such a person is obliged to
close his business altogether, he simply migrates to the next State, and
supplies his former customers through the medium of the Post Office.
Very little hardship is entailed upon him, as those who deal with him
are necessarily scattered far and wide in various parts of the world,
and the stock is not very difficult to remove.

The 'Express Offices' in America must surely know all about this kind of
traffic, since they allow the swindling machinery to be tried in their
depôts. The C.O.D. system is ample evidence of their connivance.

In sending marked cards through the post, a whole pack is seldom
despatched in one parcel. As a rule they are sent a few at a time. This
proceeding avoids the payment of duty upon them, effecting a
considerable saving sometimes. Other articles are described as sample
parts of machinery, and duty is paid upon them in accordance with their

The system upon which the business of these firms is conducted shows
that not only have they sound commercial instincts, but also that they
know their customers particularly well, and have had experience of the
class of people with whom they have to deal. They are prepared to send
their goods on approval at any time, but on condition that they receive
a certain amount of cash with the order, or at any rate the equivalent
of cash, and a guarantee of payment of the balance on delivery. The fact
is, they take good care to let no article go out of their hands until
they have been paid a little more than it is really worth; and,
therefore, if the sharp who purchases it should prove so forgetful of
his obligations as to neglect payment of the remainder, the dealer still
makes a profit. As one firm states upon the cover of its price-list, _We
will not deviate from the above terms_--and they don't. Cash on delivery
is what they require, or, as it is usually abbreviated, 'C.O.D.' There
is a good deal of C.O.D. about these transactions, in more ways than

In spite of their supposed 'cuteness' one often finds that sharps are
as apt to be inveigled into the purchase of worthless articles by means
of bogus advertisements as any of their dupes. In certain of the
American papers the following advertisement was at one time often

'Electric cards, as used by professional gamblers. $1,00, &c. Apply--.'

On sending his money to the dealer, the sharp would receive a common
pack of cards, with the same instructions as those sent out with the
varnished cards which slip at the aces (p. 304). A separate slip was
enclosed, however, which informed him that these cards would only retain
their electricity for twenty-four hours. He was, therefore, advised to
buy a battery wherewith to recharge (?) them; for the sum of $30.00.
When he had made this additional purchase, he found what a little
knowledge of electricity would have told him at first, that he had been
'had on toast.' Honour among thieves, again!

Among the dealers in 'advantages' there are some humourists. One man who
kept an 'emporium' for the sale of these things in New York City, but
who was moved into an adjoining State by the police, used to have his
envelopes embellished by the semblance of a bull dog, and the motto 'We
still live.' Not bad, is it?

The price lists issued by this same individual were in the form of
pamphlets, and contained very exaggerated descriptions of his apparatus
and the results produced thereby. Interspersed with the more prosaic
details of his wares, one found now and again wise saws or proverbs,
altered to suit the tastes of his patrons. Some of the choicest of these
'modern instances' ran as follows:--

'A bug is far above rubies.'

'A holdout in the vest is more use than snide jewelry in the pocket.'

'Get proper tools and use them with discretion, and you will win and

And so on. This kind of thing exhibits the lighter and brighter side of
the sharp's nature with much vividness.

The reader may have noticed, at the end of one of the price-lists, that
the dealer is able to give references as to his trustworthiness to
respectable firms 'who don't recommend advantage goods.' This will not
be a matter for surprise when it is understood that the man is supposed
to be an honest tradesman carrying on a reputable business. In all
probability his referees would have no idea as to the sort of person to
whose _bona fides_ they are attesting. On the other hand, of course,
they may know all about it, in which case they are manifestly no better
than the man they are recommending. Still, even in that event, the
reference is quite good enough for the sort of people who are likely to
be buyers of swindling apparatus. The author has a few dollars' worth of
this kind of thing; so perhaps the reader may be inclined to observe
that 'Dwellers in glass houses,' &c. However, that's another matter.
This book would never have been forthcoming if the author had any
objection to a few pounds finding their way into the pockets of those
who don't deserve them. The end must justify.

The fact that these people should be allowed to carry on their trade in
the way they do is nothing short of a standing disgrace to America and a
satire upon civilisation. All men have an admiration for America, though
some may only half express it. Let her only be true to herself, true to
her traditions, and true to her _origin_; let her deal firmly with
those who mar her fair fame; let her learn to cherish that which is best
and brightest among her children, and she will one day become the glory
of the world--but that day is not yet.



Now that we have reached the final stage of our inquiry, the reader
having been put in possession of all the facts which are material and of
importance in connection with it, nothing more remains than to take a
brief review of our position, as it were, and see precisely how we
stand--to regard the question of gambling as a whole, in fact, and see
what conclusions we may arrive at with regard to it, when it is viewed
with the eye of common sense, and in the light of the knowledge we have
obtained. Every subject, of course, has many aspects, and gambling may
be regarded from many different standpoints. In this last chapter, then,
and with the reader's permission, I will take the liberty of regarding
it from my own; and, no objection being raised to the proposal, I should
prefer to regard these concluding remarks as being made confidentially,
so to speak, between the reader and myself. If, in delivering myself of
what remains to be said, I should appear to speak either egotistically
or dogmatically, I crave pardon beforehand, and beg the reader to
believe that, if I am inclined to emphasise any particular point
bearing upon the matter in hand, it is because I feel strongly with
reference to it, and not because I wish to pose in the eyes of the world
as a champion of right and an opponent of wrong.

Fear has been expressed, in some quarters, that the publication of the
secrets contained in this book will be the means of increasing the
number of sharps; that I am simply providing a manual for the
instruction of budding swindlers. This may appear very cogent reasoning
to some; but, for all that, it is very poor logic, in reality. In fact,
a more groundless fear could not be entertained. It would be as
reasonable to say that the manufacture of safes and strong-rooms, and
the increase of safeguards against thieves, will tend to augment the
number of burglars. Or, to come nearer to the point at issue, one may as
well assert that the exposure of spiritualistic frauds has increased the
number of 'mediums.' The subject of spiritualism affords a most striking
proof of the absurdity of such a contention. Contrast the state of
affairs twenty-five years ago, before the crusade against spiritualistic
humbug, with that of the present day. Then, dozens of impostors were
doing a thriving business. The medium was as much in demand as the most
popular society entertainer, and could command larger fees. Spiritualism
was a fashionable amusement; the drawing-rooms of the aristocracy were
constantly being darkened for séances. Now, only two or three miserable
rogues, without ability to earn a living in any other way, are dragging
out a wretched existence in the East End of London, giving séances in
back parlours, and charging a fee of a shilling a head. Even in America
things are not much brighter for the medium. Compare Dr. Slade's success
in London with his sad end in America, a few weeks ago. In fact, the
business is utterly ruined; those who have sufficient ability have
become conjurers and 'exposers of spiritualism'; others have become
gambling sharps and 'hypnotic subjects.' These facts constitute a
complete answer to the assertion that this book will tend to increase
the practice of sharping. I maintain that no young man's education
should be considered complete without some knowledge of the capabilities
of trickery; for, without it, he may be imposed upon by any charlatan.

Apart from the question of sharping, and with reference to the fallacies
indulged in by gamblers at large, there are, among a multiplicity of
others, three which demand our special attention, and with which I
particularly wish to deal. These three mistaken, though very commonly
entertained notions, constitute the very basis of what is called fair
gambling. They are these:--

    1. That gambling is essentially honest.

    2. That a bet may be fair to both parties.

    3. That betting on fair odds, the chances of each bettor will,
    in the long run, so equalise themselves that neither can win
    nor lose, in an infinite number of bets.

Now, what I undertake to show may be summed up in three statements,
which can be put _per contra_ to the others, viz.:--

    1. That gambling is essentially dishonest.

    2. That a bet may be _unfair_ to both parties, but cannot
    possibly be fair to more than one, and that only at the expense
    of gross injustice to the other.

    3. That a protracted run of betting gives the gambler no more
    chance of winning, or of recouping his losses, than he has in
    making a single bet.

Here, then, I bring the whole gambling fraternity--sharps and flats
alike--about my ears. But, having courage of my opinions, I stand to my
guns, and am prepared to hold my own against all comers. I will even go
so far as to back my opinion in 'the good old English way' (why
English?) to the extent of sixpence--beyond which I never go. Stay,
though, I am speaking hastily. I did once back a horse for the Derby to
the extent of a guinea. When I say that the horse was 'Maskelyne, by
Magic--Mystery' (I believe that was the formula given by the sporting
papers), perhaps I may be forgiven the extravagance for once. I have
less compunction in mentioning the circumstance because the horse was
'scratched.' 'Maskelyne' was a rank outsider, and I did not even have 'a
run for my money.'

But to return. I have said that gambling is essentially dishonest. This
is no new statement, I am aware; but it is one upon which too much
stress cannot be laid. A bet is almost universally considered to be a
fair bargain. But is it? A _fair_ bargain is one in which each person
receives something which is of more value to him than that with which he
has parted, or, at any rate, something which is of equal value. If
either receives less value than he gives, that person has been swindled,
and the fact of winning a bet signifies that one has deprived another of
money for which no due consideration has been given. The gambler, of
course, will argue that he _does_ give an equivalent return for what he
wins, in that he allows his opponent an equal chance of depriving him of
a similar amount; that is to say, he purchases the right to cheat
another by giving his opponent an equal chance of depriving him of a
similar amount. In short, a bet is simply a mutual agreement to compound
a felony. The fact that both parties to the transaction are equally in
the wrong cannot possibly justify either. But it may be argued that no
loser of a bet ever considers that he has been unjustly deprived of his
money. That again is quite a mistaken notion. No man ever lost a bet who
did not consider that he had every right to win it, otherwise he would
never have made it. Therefore he is just as much robbed as though he had
had his pocket picked. Because another will cheat me if he has the
chance, that does not justify me in cheating him if I can. If a man
seeks to take my life, I may be justified in killing him, as a last
resource, in order to protect myself; but, in a transaction involving
merely pounds, shillings and pence, there is no necessity to fight a man
with his own weapons. The act of cheating is not the weapon with which
to combat the desire to cheat; yet this is what actually takes place
even in so-called fair gambling.

It must be obvious to any one who will take the trouble to think over
the matter, that chances which are fair and equal are a question of
proportion rather than of actual amounts and odds. At first sight,
however, it would appear that if a man stands an equal chance of winning
or losing a certain amount, nothing fairer could possibly be imagined,
from whatever point of view one may regard it. I venture to say,
nevertheless, that this is not so. Suppose for the moment that you are a
poor man, and that you meet a rich acquaintance who insists upon your
spending the day with him, and having what the Americans call 'a large
time.' At the end of the day he says to you, 'I will toss you whether
you or I pay this day's expenses.' Such a proposition is by no means
uncommon, and suppose you win, what is the loss to him? Comparatively
nothing. He may never miss the amount he has to pay; but if you lose,
your day's outing may have to be purchased by many weeks of

A bet of a hundred pounds is a mere bagatelle to a rich man, but it may
be everything to a poor one. In the one case the loss entails no
inconvenience, in the other it means absolute ruin. It must be granted,
then, in matters of this kind, that proportion is the chief factor, not
the actual figures. If you are with me so far, you are already a step
nearer to my way of thinking.

Let us proceed a step further, and see how it is that a bet is
necessarily unfair to both parties. The simple fact is that no two men
can make a wager, however seemingly fair, or however obviously unfair,
without at once reducing the actual value to them of their joint
possessions. This can be proved to a demonstration. We will take a case
in which the chances of winning are exactly equal, both in amount and in
proportion to the wealth of two bettors. Suppose that your possessions
are precisely equal in amount to those of a friend, and that your
circumstances are similar in every respect. There can be, then, no
disparity arising from the fact of a bet being made between you, where
the chances of winning or losing a certain amount are the same to each.
To present the problem in its simplest form, we will say that you each
stake one-half of your possessions upon the turn of a coin. If it turns
up head you win, if it falls 'tail up' your friend wins. Nothing could
possibly be fairer than this from a gambler's point of view. You have
each an equal chance of winning, you both stake an equal amount, you
both stand to lose as much as you can win, and, above all, the amount
staked bears the same value, proportionately, to the wealth of each
person. One cannot imagine a bet being made under fairer conditions, yet
how does it work out in actual fact? You may smile when you read the
words, but _you both stand to lose more than you can possibly win_! You
doubt it! Well, we shall see if it cannot be made clear to you.

Suppose the turn of the coin is against you, and therefore you lose half
your property; what is the result? To-morrow you will say, 'What a fool
I was to bet! I was a hundred per cent. better off yesterday than I am
to-day.' That is precisely the state of the case; you were exactly a
hundred per cent. better off. Now, the most feeble intellect will at
once perceive that a hundred per cent. can only be balanced by a hundred
per cent. If you stood a chance of being that much better off yesterday
than you are to-day, to make the chances equal you should have had an
equal probability of being a hundred per cent. better off to-day than
you were yesterday. That is obvious upon the face of it, since we agree
that these questions are, beyond dispute, matters of proportion, and not
of actual amounts.

Then we will suppose you win the toss, and thus acquire half your
friend's property; what happens then? When the morrow arrives you can
only say, 'I am fifty per cent. better off to-day than I was
yesterday.' That is just it. If you lose, your losses have amounted to
as much as you still possess, whilst, if you win, your gains amount only
to one-third of what you possess. The plain facts of the case, then, are
simply that the moment you and your friend have made the bet referred
to, you have considerably reduced the value of your joint possessions.
Not in actual amount, it is true, but in actual fact, nevertheless; for
whichever way the bet may go, the loss sustained by one represents a
future deprivation to that one far greater than the future proportional
advantage gained by the other. The mere fact of one having gained
precisely as much as the other has lost does not affect the ultimate
result in the least. The inconvenience arising from any loss is always
greater than the convenience resulting from an equal gain.

No man in his senses can be excused for making a bet of this kind, even
if one merely considers the injustice inflicted upon himself; whilst in
the case of a man who has others dependent upon him, such a proceeding
could be nothing short of criminal. If by this time you do not see that
gambling, in any form, means a possible loss of more than can be gained,
all I can say is that you should turn socialist, being totally unable to
protect or even recognise your individual interests. Civilisation is
wasted upon you. Properly speaking, if you gamble fairly you are a flat;
if you gamble unfairly you are a sharp: one or the other you must be.
To be a wise man, and an honest man, you cannot gamble at all.

Some of course will meet me half-way, and admitting the truth of all I
have put forward, will say, 'Yes, that is all very well, but no gambler
ever does stake half his possessions upon a single bet; therefore the
proportion which any individual wager bears to his entire property is
infinitesimal.' That, again, is perfectly true; but I cannot see nor
have I ever met with any one who could show me what difference can
possibly exist between a small number of bets for a large amount, and a
large number of bets for small amounts. Then comes in the third fallacy
I have mentioned. 'The chances,' some will say, 'are bound to equalise
themselves in the long run, and then one can neither win nor lose.'
Dear, good, simple-minded souls! The _proportion_ of gains to losses, I
grant, will become more equalised in an infinite number of bets where
the probabilities are always equal; but the amount which may be lost,
and the proportion it bears to the belongings of the bettor, may ever
_increase_ with the infinity of the bets.

Suppose, for instance, two men toss up a coin ten times, and stake a
pound upon the result of each toss. We will say that one of them loses
nine times, and wins only once. He has lost four-fifths of the amount he
has staked in the aggregate; but what does it amount to? Merely eight
pounds. But suppose they go on tossing for ten thousand times, and that
the same player loses only a hundredth part of the amount he has staked
during the whole time, he wins ninety-nine times for every hundred
losses. The proportion lost is infinitely less than in the former case,
yet the actual amount is one hundred pounds. Let the throws be continued
to a million times, and suppose the player loses only a thousandth part
of what he has staked from beginning to end, his losses will amount to
exactly _one thousand pounds_.

To talk of an infinite number of bets equalising the chances is sheer
nonsense; it simply equalises the _ratio_ of the gains to the losses.
The actual amounts won or lost may increase indefinitely. At the same
time the player's original wealth does not vary; and the man who
has a thousand pounds may as well lose it in one throw as in a
million--better, in fact, as he will waste less time over it.

I have tried to make this point somewhat clear, because it is one upon
which even the most scientific gamblers--if one may use the term--are
more or less befogged. They all think that, if they only keep on long
enough, they are sure to win, or at any rate to recoup their losses: but
the life of any man is too short to be certain of any such result, even
in fair gambling--and most gambling is not fair. The punter, of course,
after the manner of his kind, will differ from me in this last
statement. He is of opinion that the odds in ordinary betting _are_
fair. Well, if that is so, I should like to know who keeps the
bookmakers. I know _I_ don't, and I know the punter _does_. If he is
satisfied, so are the 'bookies'; and certainly other people have no
cause to complain. The bookmaker, above all people, makes an infinite
number of bets, and therefore, theoretically, he should neither win nor
lose; but somehow he contrives to 'live and move and have his being.'
Those who assist in maintaining him should best know how he manages it,
but they don't seem to realise it.

The absolute immorality of gambling--the desire to obtain money to which
one has no right--in any form is beyond dispute; and the sooner this
fact is generally recognised, the better it will be for the world at
large. There are some, of course, in whom the passion is ingrained, and
from whose natures it can never be wholly eradicated. But everyone
should clearly understand that the vice is as reprehensible in
proportion to its magnitude as that, for instance, of either lying or

In an earlier chapter of this book I have said that directly a man
becomes a gambler he also becomes a person whose honesty is open to
suspicion. This may appear to be a somewhat harsh and sweeping
assertion, but I maintain that it is absolutely justified by the facts
which come under my notice almost daily. As an example of the laxity (to
use no stronger term) which gradually undermines the moral nature of the
gambler, however conscientious he may originally have been, I may quote
the following instance.

A few days ago a friend of mine, who belongs to a West End Club, was
discussing the subject of gambling with a fellow member. In course of
conversation he put the query, 'If you detected a man in cheating at the
Club, what should you do?' To this the other replied. 'I should back his
play; and then, after the game was over, I should make him give me half
his winnings.' This is what gambling had done for a presumably honest
'Club man.'

With reference to the numberless systems of which one hears now and
then, which are supposed to provide a certain means of enabling any
gambler to win, despite the chances and changes of fortune, it may be as
well to say a few words. These 'martingales,' as they are called, are
always intended for use, more especially in the great gambling-houses of
Monte Carlo and elsewhere.[12] Some of them, I should say, are as old as
gambling itself; others are of comparatively recent invention; but, one
and all, they are systems by means of which any amount of money may be
won, and any number of banks may be broken--on paper. There is the
trouble, they are useless in practice. They really look so promising,
however, that it is very difficult to convince some people of their
futility. But the fact remains that these systems have been in operation
for generations, and never yet has a gaming establishment been ruined by
their aid. This ounce of experimental proof is worth many pounds of
reasoning. Sometimes, of course, the martingale will answer its purpose
splendidly for a while; but, sooner or later, the inevitable crash
comes, when the system breaks down, and the gambler is ruined. The great
defect of all these devices is that, although they may promise a
constant succession of comparatively small gains, there is always the
chance of making a very heavy loss. This chance, of course, appears to
the gambler to be so remote as to be unworthy of consideration; but,
alas! that apparently remote chance is the rock upon which generations
of punters have split. It always turns up eventually, and then the bank
recovers all it has lost, and in all probability a great deal more.

The simplest form of martingale, and one which is typical of them all,
however much more complicated or 'improved' they may be, is the one
which consists of the practice of doubling the stake after every loss.
For instance, at rouge-et-noir the gambler may stake a sovereign and
lose it. The next time he stakes two sovereigns, and, if he loses, his
third stake will be four sovereigns. By pursuing this system it is
obvious that, whenever he does win, he will gain a sovereign over and
above his losses. Having won he will begin again with a sovereign and
double his bets each time, until he wins as before. It would seem, then,
that there must be a constant influx of sovereigns to the gambler; and
so there may be for a time, but it will not last. In fact, he may be
ruined at the very first sitting. This is how it happens. The success of
the system depends upon the assumption that the chances must, sooner or
later, turn in favour of the player; they cannot be against him for
ever, so he must win in the end. That is what he thinks. But what he
loses sight of is the fact that long spells of ill-luck are particularly
common. It is quite an ordinary thing for a player to lose twenty times
in succession; and meanwhile the amount of the stakes has been
increasing after the manner of the familiar problem in arithmetic,
wherein the nails in a horse's shoes play so prominent a part. The fact
is, if the player has lost eleven times, his twelfth stake will amount
to £2,048. Obviously, then, a very short run of bad fortune will either
cause the player to lose all his available money, or bring the stake up
to the amount beyond which the bank will not allow any single bet to be
made. What becomes of the martingale then? Ask of the winds.

And thus it is with all these systems. Their inventors fully believe in
them, until they learn from bitter experience that they have overlooked
the one weak point, the fallacy underlying the whole operation. Wherever
there is a chance of making a number of small gains, there is always a
chance of sustaining one great loss, which will swallow up many hundred
times the value of any single stake. From this unfortunate circumstance
there is no escape, no matter how ingenious the system may be, and
notwithstanding any amount of infallibility it may appear to possess. A
mathematician would demonstrate the folly of relying upon any
martingale, and lay his finger upon the weak points in a few minutes. In
short, these things one and all provide a means of winning which is just
about as reliable as the advice given by the 'Old Pard' in 'My
Sweetheart,' whose dying words were, 'Always copper the Queen on the
last turn.' This, of course, was intended to refer to the game of faro.
One may suppose that when the Queen remained in the dealing-box until
the last turn, his experience had been that it always turned up for the
bank, and hence his advice to 'copper.' Another person's experience
might have been just the opposite, and in that case the advice would be
quite the contrary. Everything of this kind hinges upon superstition,
and a belief in good and bad luck. When a 'lucky' gambler wins, his
acquaintances express no surprise; they consider his good-fortune to be
part and parcel of his nature. When he begins to lose, they suffer not a
whit more astonishment, because such luck as his could not possibly
last. The theories in each case are utterly at variance with one
another, but the absurdity of the position never seems to reveal itself
to the gambling intellect. The ultimate fate of the confirmed gambler,
however fortunate he may be for a time, has always been, without
exception, ruin and destitution. That is the only result ever achieved
by the punter in the end.

So much, then, for 'fair gambling.' As to the blacker side of the
question, as revealed in this book, what can be said of it, or what need
be said of it? The reader may draw his own conclusions, which will
doubtless vary according to the fact of his being either a sharp or a
flat. The sharps will, unquestionably, be among those who are most
anxious to see what disclosures are made herein; let us hope they will
be satisfied with the thoroughness of the revelations. It would be a
pity to disappoint them. On the other hand, the flats will find much
food for thought in these pages. They must not run away with the
impression that by mastering the details thus put before them they will
render themselves proof against sharping. If they imagine anything of
the kind they will become simply 'fly flats,' and that will not improve
their chances very much if they fall into the hands of an expert. Apart
from the impossibility of giving every device employed by all the sharps
in existence, it must be remembered that fresh trickeries are
continually being invented, though it may be many years before new means
of cheating can be devised which will prove so effective as those
enjoyed by the sharp at the present day. He is generally equal to the
occasion, however, and has his own individual methods of working; very
often methods of which even his brother-sharps are ignorant, and which
die with him. We can only hope that this book will be the means of
opening the eyes of his dupes, and of rendering the chances of success
in cheating less than they have been hitherto.

But we cannot hope that the sharp will find _no_ dupes in the future;
that is altogether too much to expect. As long as the world is
principally composed of rogues and fools, so long will there be 'sharps
and flats.' 'Surely the pleasure is as great in being cheated as to
cheat,' but the profit does not apportion itself in the same manner. The
sharp continually profits by his experience, but the flat--never.

At any rate, I have done the best I can to put forward a clear account
of the methods of swindling at games of chance and skill which are
adopted at the present day. At the same time I have tried to indicate
the best means of avoiding being cheated. It only remains for the reader
to make the best use of the information given. I have no fear that, in
writing what I have, I shall be accused by sensible people of assisting
those sharps who may not know all that is here published. The resources
of these men are always equal to their necessities; they can only cheat,
at the worst, and the sharp will always find means of cheating so long
as he can find dupes. Besides, this book will tend to make his dupes as
wise as himself, and should have the effect of rendering them scarce.

Having published such information as I have been able to acquire, I have
no intention of relaxing my vigilance in keeping a look-out for fresh
developments and new devices. Having put my hand to the plough I shall
not turn back; and, after me, I have every reason to believe that my son
will continue the work. He has taken the liveliest interest in the
production of this book; and, indeed, the whole of the illustrations are
by him, with the exception of the frontispiece, which is by my esteemed
and talented friend, Alfred Bryan.

Here, then, I will leave the work for the present, trusting that I have,
in some measure, succeeded in metaphorically flattening the 'sharps' and
sharpening the 'flats.'


[12] A friend of mine, who has just recently paid a visit to Monte
Carlo, describes a method of cheating the bank which came under his
notice during his stay in that hallowed spot. He observed, one evening,
a man standing by a roulette-table, who persistently put down a
five-franc piece upon the winning number, after it had been declared. Of
course, the 'croupier' never failed to detect the manoeuvre, and
removed the stake. The fact which passed unnoticed, however, was that a
gold coin, value twenty francs, lay hidden beneath the silver one as it
was put down. Being commanded to take up the five-franc piece, the man
did so without hesitation; but the gold piece remained on the table
among the other stakes. When the winnings were paid by the bank, that
particular coin was claimed by a confederate as being his stake, and was
paid accordingly. In roulette, the winning number receives 35 times the
amount staked; therefore the conspirators netted 700 francs each time
they succeeded in this little operation. I should think the bank would
not be long in discovering a robbery of this kind, if it were very
frequently perpetrated.


Whilst this book is still in the press, an article on 'Science and Monte
Carlo,' by Professor Karl Pearson, has appeared in the (monthly)
'Fortnightly Review.' This article deals with the game of roulette, and
is one which may be commended to the perusal of all who may have any pet
theories in connection with chance and luck. It constitutes, in fact, a
very serious impeachment of the validity of all accepted theories of
chance; so serious, indeed, that one stands amazed at the discrepancies
which are revealed, and their having remained so long unnoticed. There
appears to be no way out of the difficulty. Either roulette is not a
game of chance, or the doctrines of chance are utterly wrong.

It appears from Professor Pearson's investigations, that in a given
number of throws the results shown by the "even-money" chances are
fairly in accord with the theory as a whole. That is to say, the odd and
even numbers, the red and black, turn up respectively in very nearly
equal proportions. Also the 'runs' or sequences of odd or even are such
as would not give rise to any conflict between theory and practice. But
the astounding fact is that the 'runs' or successions of red or black
occur in a manner which is utterly at variance with theory. Why this
should be so, and why 'red and black' should thus prove to be an
exception to the theory, whilst 'odd and even' is not, passes the wit of
man to comprehend.

In one of the cases quoted by Professor Pearson, 8,178 throws of the
roulette-ball are compared with a similar number of tosses of a coin,
and both results are checked against the theoretical probabilities. In
tossing a coin or throwing a roulette-ball 8,178 times, theory demands
that the number of throws which do not result in sequences--that is to
say, throws in which head is followed by tail, or red by black-should be
2,044. Those are the probabilities of the case. But the actual results
were as follows:--

        Theory       2,044
        Roulette     2,462
        Tossing      2,168

There are too many single throws in each case, but the results given by
tossing were much nearer the theoretical proportion than in the case of
the roulette. Proceeding a step further, we find that the sequences of
two work out thus:--

        Theory       1,022
        Roulette       945
        Tossing      1,056

Here the figures given by roulette are far too small. This is found to
be the case with sequences of three and four also. When we come to
sequences of five, however, the numbers stand:--

        Theory        128
        Roulette      135
        Tossing       120

In this case, the roulette is nearer the mark than the tossing; and from
this point onward through the higher sequences, roulette gives numbers
which are far too high. For instance, in sequences of eight, theory says
that there should be 16, but roulette gives 30. In sequences of eleven
theory says 2, but roulette gives 5. Arriving at sequences of twelve,
the figures are:--

        Theory         1
        Roulette       1
        Tossing        1

Here all the results are in accord.

This is only one instance out of several recorded by Professor Pearson;
in every case the results being similar. That only one instance of such
abnormal variation should occur is, theoretically, well nigh impossible;
but that there should be three or four such cases in the course of a
single twelvemonth is nothing short of miraculous. The chances against
the occurrence of such events are enormous; and yet every case
investigated shows the same kind of result. Truly this must be another
example of the malignity of matter.

The practical outcome of these investigations is to emphasise the utter
futility of any scheme of winning at roulette based upon the law of
averages or the doctrines of chance. It is more than likely, in my
opinion, that further analysis of the records of Monte Carlo would
reveal similar discrepancies in other departments of the game.

Personally, I fail to see how the devotees of the 'Higher Statistics'
will contrive to meet the difficulty here presented. Why roulette should
obey the laws of chance in some respects and not in others, is
incomprehensible from any point of view whatever. One is driven to the
conclusion that human experience and human statistics are upon too
limited a scale to form a sufficient basis upon which to found either
the proof or disproof of any universal theory. The only refuge appears
to be that, given eternity, all events, however improbable, are

It is to be hoped that Professor Pearson will find an opportunity of
continuing his researches in this direction, for the subject promises to
be one of exceeding interest. Of course, it may be objected that the few
instances given are insufficient to affect the theory materially; but,
as the Professor says of one of his instances, had roulette been played
constantly on this earth, from the earliest geological times to the
present day, such an event might be expected to happen only once. Those
who believe that an infinite number of bets, where the chances are fair
and equal, can result in neither loss nor gain, should ponder this
carefully. If the doctrines of chance can fail in one case, they can
fail in others. At best, they are but a broken reed, and those who trust
to them should beware the risk that is thereby entailed. Above all, the
punter should bear in mind that, whatever theory may say or practice
apparently demonstrate, the fact that any given event has happened so
many times in succession makes not the slightest particle of difference
to its chances of happening again. If one tossed a coin a hundred times,
and it turned up 'head' every time, that would not in any way lessen its
chance of turning up the same way at the next throw. The figures given
in the article above referred to are neither more nor less than an
illustration of this very palpable truth, extraordinary as they
undoubtedly are when viewed in the light of theory.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Author quoted some pamphlets and deliberately kept their spelling and
punctuation errors; those have not been changed here.

Other punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling inconsistencies have been
standardized when a clear preference was used in this book, and left
unchanged otherwise.

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