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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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 set-money.

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.

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