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

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 effective.

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.

*1 -- The terms 'good man' and 'cunning cheat' must here be considered as synonymous.

The Pass

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 Bridge

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.

*1 -- The curve of the upper cards, as shown in the figure, is much exaggerated. It is, really, very slight.

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.'

Poker Cheating

FIG. 36 -- The Bridge


Bookmark and Share


« manipulation (crooked deals) manipulation (crooked shuffles) »

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