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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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:

Cheating with dice

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 favor. 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 equalize 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 [sic] professional way of conducting the game, all others are spurious imitations, and cannot be recognized 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 favor. 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 favor of the bank with this method of playing.

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