Sharps and Flats: The Secrets of Cheating
home introduction book content links advertising contact


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










Bookmark and Share

Cheating at Faro

The swindling which is practiced in connection with this game, and for which it affords ample scope, may be divided into two kinds. Firstly, where the players cheat the bank; and secondly, where the bank cheats the players. This latter class may again be considered under two heads, viz. cheating with fair cards and fair boxes, and cheating by means of prepared cards and mechanical arrangements connected with the faro-box and other appliances of the game.

We will take, first of all, the methods employed by the players to cheat the bank. This is done where the players are professional sharps who have contrived to 'put up a mug' (i.e. to persuade a dupe) to take the bank. The general practice is for one of the conspirators to have a room of his own laid out for the game, and into this very private room the victim is decoyed. In a case of this kind the 'rig is worked,' or in other words the swindle is perpetrated, by means of a dealing-box, so constructed as to enable the players to know what cards will win for them, and what will win for the bank. With this knowledge they run no risk of staking their money on the wrong cards. The contrivances for effecting this desirable result are known as 'tell-boxes.' Broadly speaking, these are of two kinds, the 'sand-tell' and the 'needle-tell.'

The sand-tell box is so called because it is used in conjunction with prepared cards, which have been 'sanded' or roughened on one side, or both sides, as the case may be.1 The cards which are intended to 'tell' are left smooth on their faces; all the others are slightly roughened on both sides. The effect of this mode of preparation is that, whilst the cards which are roughened on both sides will tend to cling together, any card which lies immediately upon the smooth face of a 'tell-card' will slip easily.

*1 -- See Chapter IX. 'Prepared Cards,'

It has been said, many times, that the faro box is the predecessor of the dealing shoe, now used in blackjack and baccarat. It is debatable whether the faro box is a predecessor of the casino dealing shoe, or just a close cousin, but we would like to point out the fact that there is yet another gambling accessory that is closely related to the dealing shoe; that is the "marble block" that used to be used in casinos, in games of baccara en banque. This gaming accessory is described in the 1905 book The Stealing Machine, by Eugene Villiod. With the continuing advancements in gaming technology, nowadays, casinos around the world are replacing their dealing shoes with automatic shuffling machines. The leading manufacturer of automatic shufflers for the casino industry is ShuffleMaster.

Dealing boxes have supposedly been invented to make the game of faro safe, so that the dealer would not be able to manipulate the cards, during the deal. Interestingly, these dealing boxes actually made it easier for the dealers to cheat, because instead of spending countless hours (and days, and weeks, and months, and years) practicing and perfecting sleight-of-hand techniques, now anyone could just purchase a gaffed faro box that would do the dirty work, with minimal skill requirements from the part of the user.

Images of antique faro boxes can be found in the Virtual Museum of Crooked Gambling page, on CARDSHARK Online.

Bookmark and Share


« the game of faro (the rules) the game of faro (sand-tell box) »

home | introduction | book content | links | advertising | contact