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
Beating the Cut
We now come to the consideration of methods employed by the sharp
in manipulating the cards to his own advantage during the process
of shuffling, and of preventing the overthrow of his plans by the
disarrangement introduced into the result of his efforts in the
fact of the cards having to be cut by an opponent. However carefully
he may contrive to arrange the order of the cards, the cut would
obviously upset his calculations. Therefore, in addition to some
method of placing the cards in order, he must also have a ready
means of rendering the cut inoperative. We have already seen how
the bottom dealer dodges it; and now we will look into one or two
other systems, most of them equally simple, and all of them equally
We will suppose for the moment that the cards have been arranged
in, or at any rate not disarranged by, the shuffle. The sharp lays
the pack upon the table; his opponent lifts up the top half and
lays it down near the bottom half. In the natural course of things
the sharp should now take up the bottom half, place it upon the
top half that was, close the cards together, and commence to deal.
If this were done, the cards which he required to have on top would
now be in the middle of the pack, and all the trouble he had devoted
to their disposition would be wasted. So he is compelled to adopt
some means of restoring the cards to their former position. In accomplishing
this there are several courses open to him. The simplest and most
barefaced method, and yet one which will escape detection nine times
out of ten, is the following. The cards having been cut, and the
two halves of the pack having been placed side by side in the usual
manner, the sharp picks up the bottom half with the right hand,
as though he were about to place it upon the other; but instead
of so doing, he deliberately puts it into his left hand. Then picking
up the top half, he adds it to the other, in the position it originally
occupied. There is absolutely nothing in this but impudence, and
yet the dodge will nearly always pass muster. Try it the; next time
you are playing cards, and you will find that nobody will notice
it if it is done with apparent carelessness. Even though someone
did perceive that the cards were in the same order as formerly,
the sharp could always apologize for his inadvertence and suffer
them to be cut again.
Another very simple method is to cross the hands, picking up the
right half of the pack with the left hand, and the left half with
the right hand. Then uncrossing the hands, the two halves are put
together in their former order. The crossing of the hands tends
to confuse the mind of an onlooker, so that he really does not know
which hand contains the half that should be placed on top.
The reader must distinctly understand that such open and palpable
deceptions as these two last would only be practiced by the very
lowest class of sharps. A good man would scorn the action.1
With regard to the methods resorted to at any time very much depends
upon the class of sharp and the intelligence of the company in which
he happens to find himself. The employment of simple trickeries
like these in a card party of 'smart' players could only be attended
with modified success, very modified indeed. If the players were
smart, the sharp would smart. This joke is not copyright, but it
is logical nevertheless.
The maneuver that Maskelyne calls the "pass"
is also commonly known as the "shift" or the "hop."
The 'pass,' which is the essence of so many card tricks, is another
means of restoring the order of the cards after they have been cut.
Since it is explained in every book on conjuring, however, we will
only just glance at it. For a fuller description the reader may
be referred to Professor Hoffman's admirable treatises.
In making the pass the two halves of the pack are picked up in
the order they should rightly assume after being cut, care being
taken however that there is a slight division maintained between
them. For instance, the bottom half is placed upon the top one as
it lies upon the table perfectly level sideways, but projecting
over one end about a quarter of an inch. The pack is now put into
the left hand, and in the act of leveling up the two halves the
little finger s inserted between them. Meanwhile the sharp engages
the other players in an animated conversation. Then just before
dealing, apparently with the object of again leveling the cards,
he covers the pack with his right hand. In an instant the cards
appear to pass through one another, and the half which was uppermost
before cutting is in that position now. The action is simply this.
The little finger of the left hand being between the two halves
of the pack, that which is above for the moment is held by the little
finger and the other three. The lower half is gripped by the thumb
and fingers of the right hand. Then by slightly opening the left
hand and closing the right, the two halves are drawn asunder. Immediately
reversing the motion the two halves come together again with their
respective positions reversed. The movement necessary to effect
this operation is covered by a slight dropping of the hands at the!
critical moment. This is called the 'double-handed pass,' as both
hands are used to effect it.
There are also various single-handed passes available to the expert,
but these are more difficult to accomplish neatly, and cannot be
so readily disguised. If used at all they are accompanied by a movement
of the hand from the operator, as in pointing at something or in
shaking the wrist clear of the cuff to give freedom of arm during
dealing. The simplest of these passes is made by holding the cards
between the thumb and the last three fingers of the left hand, a
slight division between the two halves of the pack being maintained
at the thumb side. The lower half is now dropped into the palm,
and with the I forefinger it is turned up towards the thumb. The
upper half is now released and allowed to fall upon the fingers
which are extended for its reception. Finally, the lower half is
dropped upon the upper one and the original order is restored. Much
practice, of course, is required to perform this operation with
ease and dispatch.
Another form of pass may be accomplished in putting the cards from
the right hand into the left. The pack is held in the right hand,
with the upper half slightly advanced, and the lower nipped in the
thumb-joint. The left hand, instead of taking the whole pack, merely
takes the upper half. The right, in leveling the cards, deposits
the lower half upon the upper.
It must be forcibly impressed upon the reader that under no circumstances
whatever is it possible to make the pass without that device being
detected by an expert who is looking for it. Even half a glance
at the operator's movements would arouse suspicions which could
not be easily allayed. It is therefore a dangerous proceeding at
any time for a sharp to indulge in. It is possible that through
inattention the expert may not actually see the pass made; but the
accompanying movements are sufficient indication of what is going
on to anyone who 'knows his way about.' In days gone by, the pass
was a power in the hands of the sharp; but now, alas, it is only
of occasional use, and the risk it involves is very, very great.
Another method of dodging the cut is to take the half of the pack
which should finally be on the top, but which the sharp desires
to be underneath, holding it by the thumb and three last fingers
of the right hand, with the forefinger bent, and its back resting
upon the back of the top card. The cards, being thus removed from
the table, are now held entirely by the forefinger and the other
three, the thumb being taken away. The second half of the pack is
now taken up between the thumb and forefinger; at the same instant,
the other cards being slipped underneath instead of on top as they
should be. Skillfully and quickly done, this plan is very deceptive,
as such things go.
Rather than resort to any method of restoring the order of the
cards after they have been cut, it is far preferable for the sharp
to so arrange matters, if possible, that the act of cutting should
bring those cards uppermost which are required to be at the top.
In a single handed game, by keeping strict watch upon the direction
of his opponent's gaze, he may be enabled to find an opportunity
of making the pass; but in a round game, someone is sure to be looking
at the cards, and the pass becomes much too risky to be attempted.
Therefore, in a case of this kind, the sharp will endeavor to manipulate
the cards in such a way that the cut merely serves the purpose of
removing certain cards, which are placed above those he needs, uppermost.
The commonest plan in use for this purpose is the device known
as the 'Bridge.' This architectural contrivance consists of either
bending the two halves of the pack in opposite directions, or bending
one half, and leaving the other straight (fig. 36). The trick derives
its name from the curvature thus produced.1 In the illustration,
the cards which are required to be on top are the straight ones
now lying underneath. An unsuspicious player, being called upon
to cut the pack, will undoubtedly lift off the bent half, owing
to the division existing between it and the other. Then there is
no need of the pass, or anything of the kind. The sharp has 'forced
the cut.' Considering how well-known the bridge is, it is extraordinary
how often it is successful. The fact is, the players are not looking
for it; they assume that they are playing with honest men, and upon
that assumption the sharp in great measure relies.
The bridge is specially useful in cases where a confederate is
available to cut the cards. Then the bridge need not be so much
arched. The very slightest bend is sufficient, as the 'confed.'
will be careful to cut at the right place. The 'end-bridge' is a
variety we shall have to touch upon later on, and other dodges for
attaining the same end as this one will be described in the chapter
on 'Prepared Cards.'
FIG. 36 -- The Bridge