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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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 caliber 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.'

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