foreword to the online edition
II. common sharpers and their tricks
III. marked cards and the manner
of their employment
VII. collusion and conspiracy
VIII. the game of faro
IX. prepared cards
XI. high ball poker
XII. roulette and allied games
XIII. sporting houses
XIV. sharps and flats
SHARPS AND FLATS
COLLUSION and CONSPIRACY
The Baccarat Incident
Baccarat is a casino game that is usually played
for high stakes. The object of the game is to place a wager on one
of the two hands that the player thinks will be closer to a total
of 9. In recent years casinos have introduced additional betting
options in the game of baccarat; all of those new bets are designed
specifically to increase the house edge in baccarat.
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.
For complete rules of baccarat (and other card
games) please visit the Rules
of Card Games page on Playing
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
favored. 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 manœuvre, 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
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 signaled 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 stigmatized as wholesale robbery, it is difficult to see how they are to be described.