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
Before concluding the present chapter, it behoves us to attend,
for a moment, to the methods of falsification connected with that
well-known little device, the 'dice-top' or 'teetotum.' It deserves
just a slight mention, although the fact that it is not of great
importance is evidenced by the very terse reference made to it in
the various catalogues. This is what one of them says upon the subject:
'Dice Tops. For high
and low. Sure thing. Made of best ivory, $4. Black walnut, just
as good, $1.25.'
From even this scanty information, however, we may gather two things.
Firstly, that the top can be made to fall either high or low, as
required consequently there is some trick in it; and, secondly,
that the trick, whatever it may be, does not depend upon the material
of which the top is made, since black walnut is just as good as
ivory. Better, in fact, because cheaper. The little instrument itself
is shown in the adjoining illustration.
Here then we have a little hexagonal top, with dice-spots upon
its sides. It is spun with the thumb and ringer, and the number
of spots which fall uppermost in the genuine article, at the time
of its funning down, depends entirely upon chance. Not so, however,
with the tops advertised as above. They can be made to fall in any
desired manner. The spindle, instead of being fixed, as it should
be, can be turned round within the body of the top. Attached to
one side of the spindle, within the top, and revolving when the
spindle is turned, there is a small weight which can be set to face
either of the sides. The side opposite which the weight is allowed
to remain is the one which will lie upon the table when the top
comes to rest.
These teetotums are largely used in the States to 'spin for drinks,'
and a very favorite way of working them is as follows. A man will
enter some bar whilst the barkeeper is alone, custom being slack.
He produces one of the little articles referred to, and having initiated
the bar-keeper into its capabilities, induces him to purchase it.
In all probability the bar-keeper sets to work with his new toy,
and wins many a drink in the course of the next few weeks. After
awhile, however, two accomplices of the man who 'traded' the top
will present themselves at the bar, pretending to be more or less
intoxicated. Naturally, the bar-keeper thinks he has a safe thing,
and tries the dice-top upon them. They lose a few bets, then pretend
to lose their temper, and want to bet heavily upon the results given
by the top. To this, of course, their dupe has not the least objection;
he is only too ready to fall in with their views. But in the meantime,
one of them, under pretence of examining the top slightly, contrives
to ring in another of exactly similar appearance, but which is set
to fall low when the spindle is turned to face in the same direction
as that given to the other when intended to throw high. The bar-keeper
thus falls an easy victim to the snare. Turn the spindle as he may,
the top absolutely refuses to fall in the direction he requires.
This, then, exhausts all we have to consider with reference to dice and their manipulation. If we have not learnt very much in this branch
of the art of cheating, it is because there is not very much to learn. Simple as the devices are in this kind of sharping, they are largely
utilized, even at the present day, and notwithstanding the fact that 'palming' and kindred methods of concealing small articles are so generally
understood. The great point in the sharp's favor, in this as in all other manipulations, is that his dupes are not expecting trickery, and
consequently do not look for it. It is highly probable that as much money has changed hands over games of dice as in connection with any other
form of gambling, horse-racing, perhaps, excepted. Years ago, of course, the dice-box was a much more familiar object than at the present
day; still even now it flourishes with undiminished vitality in many parts of the world. Well, those who deal with the dice will always pay
dearly for experience, which may be bought too dearly sometimes. Caveat emptor.