Sharps and Flats: The Secrets of Cheating
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foreword to the online edition


I. introductory

II. common sharpers and their tricks

III. marked cards and the manner of their employment

IV. reflectors

V. holdouts

VI. manipulation

VII. collusion and conspiracy

VIII. the game of faro

IX. prepared cards

X. dice

XI. high ball poker

XII. roulette and allied games

XIII. sporting houses

XIV. sharps and flats










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The London Club Incident

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 favorite game was écarté, played generally 'ŕ 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.

For rules of écarté (and other card games) please visit the Rules of Card Games page on Playing Cards Online.

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 favorite 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 favorably 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 ŕ 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.

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