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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False Shuffles

Working backwards, then, from the end to the means, we arrive by a natural transition to the methods of manipulation employed in securing an advantageous disposition of the cards. Among these, a prominent place is occupied by what are known as 'false shuffles.' These are of three kinds. The first is the shuffle which leaves undisturbed the previous arrangement of the entire pack. The second is that which affects only part of the pack, allowing the rest to retain its original order. The third is the variety which effects the systematic disposition of the cards in a manner which will bring good hands to the sharp and his accomplices, if such there be, or at any rate either to the sharp himself or to an accomplice.

By way of familiarizing the reader with these processes, we will just glance through the older forms of all three kinds. It must be distinctly borne in mind, however, that the modern methods of shuffling have rendered most of these obsolete. They have been replaced by improved manipulations, as we shall see later.

Of the first kind of these shuffles there is a great variety. They are simply manipulations which appear to be shuffles, but in reality are not so. We will investigate one of them. The pack is taken in two halves, one of which is held in each hand. From the right hand half about half a dozen cards are pushed off and placed beneath those in the left hand. Then, from the left hand, three cards say are pushed off and placed beneath those in the right hand. This process is continued, always putting more cards from right to left than vice versa, until the whole pack appears to have been shuffled into the left hand. This looks exactly like a genuine shuffle. In fact, most persons upon having it explained to them will say that the cards really are shuffled, but it is not so. The effect produced is that of a simple cut. If the bridge is made before commencing, the process can be continued until the top card has resumed its former place. Then it will be found that there has been absolutely no disarrangement of the cards whatever.

This shuffle is particularly useful at the beginning of a game when the sharp contrives to get the deal, or upon the introduction of a fresh pack of cards. Gamblers are superstitious as a rule, and when their 'luck is out,' which is generally the case when they happen to be playing with a sharp, they will sometimes seek to improve it by changing the cards. Now, even a new pack can be opened for the purpose of arranging the contents, and sealed up again so neatly that there is no evidence of its ever having been tampered with. Then, supposing- the sharp to be a member of a club, the person who purchases the club cards may be a confederate, and thus the cards which are apparently fresh from the maker may have been falsified in any desired manner.1 Whatever method may have been adopted to arrange the pack, the foregoing shuffle will not disturb it. The cut is rendered inefficient by either of the methods given, and all is happiness and prosperity.

1 -- See Chapter VII. 'Collusion and Conspiracy,' p. 173 et seq.

The second form of false shuffle is quite as easy to accomplish as the first. All that is necessary is to take care that the part of the pack which is required to be kept intact should not be disturbed. The rest of the cards may he shuffled to one's heart's content. The sharp, having noted certain cards among those which have been played that would be of service to him in some way or another, in picking them up contrives to place them all together at the top or bottom of the pack. Then in shuffling he avoids all interference with those cards. A good plan is to put the cards on top and lay the pack upon the table. Then with the right hand lift up the top cards, and, with the left, cut the remainder in two and shuffle one portion into the other. This will pass for a genuine shuffle almost anywhere. Selected cards, placed above or below the pack, are called 'top-stock' or 'bottom-stock,' as the case may be. They are useful for a variety of purposes, as will be readily understood. The effect of the holdout when used in the game of Poker, as described in the last chapter, is to work the top-stock for draught. The shuffle just dealt with would work the top-stock for deal.

The last of the three kinds of false shuffles enumerated is of course the most generally useful in almost any game. Take whist for example. How pleasant would it be to be able to deal oneself, or one's partner, a hand containing nearly all the trumps. Well, that is a thing which is quite possible of accomplishment and by no means difficult. The cards are simply arranged during the shuffle. It is what is called 'putting up' a hand, and this is how it is done.

As the tricks are played in the previous hand you notice those which contain a preponderance of the best cards of 'one suit, say diamonds. You keep an eye particularly upon the four tricks which would make the best hand, viz., those which contain the highest cards. It is your turn to deal. You pick up the tricks as they lie upon the table or are passed to you, keeping those you require slightly separate from the rest as you gather them up, and finally place them at the bottom of the pack, with the little finger of your right hand inserted between them and the cards which are above. You now proceed to shuffle. The first operation is to put all the cards above your little finger into the right hand. Thus you hold the cards you require in your left hand, but there are sixteen of them, and you only want thirteen. Therefore you push off three of them into the right hand. Now you are ready to make your final arrangements. With the thumb of your left hand slip off one card from that hand on to those in the right. Then with the thumb of your right hand slip that card together with the three immediately below it under the cards in the left. Again you slip one from the left on top of those in the right, and again place that card with the three next to it under the left hand cards.

This action is repeated until only three cards remain in the right hand. Arriving at this point care must be observed. You have of course borne in mind the necessity of having the bottom card, which will be the trump, of the same suit as that which preponderates in the number selected, and have arranged matters accordingly. Now, with only three cards in the right hand, there remain two of the selected cards above those in the left which have not been handled. The second of these two will be the one required for the trump card, in this case a diamond. Therefore you put the first one on top of the three remaining in the right, and the second one below them. Then the whole five are put at the bottom of the pack and the shuffle is complete. You evade the cut by whichever method suits your opportunities best, and upon dealing, all the selected cards fall to yourself. The above is a shuffle which is easily acquired, and when done neatly and quickly, the effect isvery good. It looks exactly like a genuine shuffle. The only difficult part of the manipulation is placing the four cards from right to left. There is not much time to count them. With a little practice however, the operator can feel that the right number of cards go into the other hand. The best practice is to pick out all the cards of one suit, and shuffle them into the others in the manner described. Then when the cards are dealt out, it will be seen at once whether the shuffle has been correctly performed or not. The passing of the cards from side to side must be quickly done, and without pausing between the movements, if the trick is to escape detection.

This one instance will serve to give the reader the basis of all the other shuffles in which the cards are arranged. They all consist in the main principle of placing certain cards all together in some convenient position in the pack, and then arranging them with a proper number of indifferent cards between each one and the next. The nature of the game of course decides the manner of their arrangement.

The reader may very possibly find some difficulty in quite grasping the details of these explanations, but if he will take a pack of cards and follow the instructions step by step they will all become clear. If these older forms of shuffling are thoroughly understood, it will be a great help towards arriving at the full significance of the more modern manipulations which are about to be described.

At the present day the foregoing trickeries would be inadmissible owing to the fact that only the most juvenile card players would ever use the form of shuffles they involve. No player would ever think of taking the two halves of the pack, one in either hand, when about to shuffle. That style of thing is quite out of date. Indeed in a smart game the dealer would not be even allowed to raise the cards from the table when shuffling, although in the ordinary way they are more often than not simply shuffled from one hand into the other.

The principal shuffles of modern times are three in number:

1. The 'Over-hand Shuffle.'

2. The 'Riffle' or 'Butt-in Shuffle.'

3. The 'Écarté Shuffle.'


The over-hand shuffle is that in which the cards are taken in the left hand and shuffled, a few at a time, into the right. It is familiar to all , and requires no more than the mere mention of it to recall it to the reader's mind.

The riffle, or butt-in, as it is called in America, is the shuffle in which the pack is laid upon the table, the top half is taken off with the right hand and laid near it. The fingers of either hand then press upon the cards of the respective halves of the pack, whilst the thumbs 'riffle' or bend up the corners of the cards, allowing them to spring down, one or two at a time, from right to left alternately, those of one side falling between those of the other. Finally the cards are leveled up and the shuffle is complete.

The écarté shuffle is one in which the cards are laid on the table with one side of the pack facing the operator. The top half of the pack, or rather less, is taken off with the right hand and shuffled into the remainder of the cards held by the left as they lie upon the table.

In those cases where the dealer is not allowed to shuffle the cards in his hands, the riffle or the écarté shuffle is used. A variety of the riffle called the French shuffle is sometimes adopted in which a half of the pack is taken in either hand, the two halves resting upon the table at one end and inclined towards each other, a few cards at a time being allowed to fall from either side alternately.

With these higher class shuffles then, it is evident that more improved methods of manipulation must be adopted to render them amenable to the purposes of cheating. We have therefore to examine the means employed by the sharp (1) to keep intact a prearrangement of the cards, (2) to leave undisturbed a certain portion of the pack which has been 'put up' or 'stocked,' and (3) to put up hands or arrange the cards to suit his own purposes. The corollary to these manipulations is necessarily the means of nullifying the effect of the cut which follows as an inevitable consequence upon the shuffle; except, of course, in those cases where a player is content to 'knock' instead of cutting. This 'knock' is an American institution, and consists of merely rapping the top of the pack with the knuckles. It signifies that the player does not wish to cut, and is frequently practiced by the sharp's accomplice, when he has one, to avoid disturbing the order of the cards.

To retain the original order or pre-arrangement of a whole pack, the riffle is the shuffle that is generally used; the modification referred to in the last paragraph but one being the most convenient form for the purpose. The top half of the pack being taken in the right hand, and those of the bottom half in the left, the cards are riffled together upon the table. If the pack were leveled up, the shuffle would of course be effectual; but it is in the act of leveling that the trickery is introduced. As the cards rest in front of the operator, those of one side alternating with those of the other, they are covered by his hands, the thumbs being towards him, the three first fingers of each hand on the opposite side of the pack, and the little fingers pressing upon the ends of the right and left halves respectively. In this way the cards are just straightened merely, but not closed up. A turn of the hands, from the little fingers outwards, throws the two packets of cards at an angle one to the other, the thumbs now resting upon the corners nearest the operator. The little fingers are then closed in towards the thumbs. This has the effect of pushing the cards of each packet diagonally across those of the other. Those of the right half pass against the thumb of the left hand, whilst those of the left half pass in a similar manner across the right thumb. Thus the cards simply pass from either hand into the other. The top half of the pack is now held by the fingers and thumb of the left hand and vice versa. The two packets are now quickly separated, and that in the left hand is placed above that in the right. The whole of the cards are therefore in their original positions, although they appear to have been perfectly shuffled. The passing of the cards across is to give the appearance of closing them together; whereas they really pass right through into the opposite hands. Quickly done, this shuffle is most deceptive, but the whole operation should not occupy more than a couple of seconds. It can always be detected by one who knows it, on account of the necessity of turning the two halves at an angle; otherwise it is perfect. It cannot be very successfully performed with a full pack, but with an écarté pack of 32 cards it is very simple.

To allow a certain number of cards to remain undisturbed is a comparatively simple matter in any shuffle. It is only necessary to see that they are undisturbed. In the over-hand shuffle they may be placed either at the top or bottom of the pack, passing them all together from the left hand into the right. When they are at the top, the approved method is to slip off at once, into the right hand, as many of the top cards as may be necessary to insure that the whole of the selected cards are together. This packet is held by pressing the cards endwise between the forefinger and the root of the thumb. The remaining cards are then shuffled on to the forefinger, thus maintaining a slight division above those which have been put up. The final movement of the shuffle is to part the pack at this division, and return the top cards to their original position.

In the riffle shuffle it is quite as easy to retain the position of any cards which may require to be kept in view. If they are at the bottom of the pack, they are simply riffled down upon the table before any others are allowed to fall, and the rest of the cards are shuffled above them. If they are at the top, they are held back until all the other cards have fallen. In either case, the cards of one half are simply let down sooner or more slowly than those of the other, according to whether the stocked cards are at the top or the bottom.

In the écarté shuffle, the proceedings are a little more complex. It would never do to coolly ignore a certain portion of the pack in shuffling; therefore the observers have to be thrown off the scent. This is done by means of the manipulation known as 'the French card-sharper's shuffle,' which is accomplished in the following manner. The pack lies upon the table before the operator, with the stocked cards on top. With the thumb and second finger of the right hand, he seizes a sufficient number of the top cards to be sure of having the selected ones all together, and lifts them up, at the same time moving his hand away from him so as to leave the pack unobstructed by the cards just raised. Then with the thumb and first finger of the left hand, he takes up a similar packet of cards from the pack, leaving probably about a third of the pack still remaining on the table. Now comes the trick. The right hand packet is placed under the cards just raised by the left thumb and forefinger, and is immediately gripped by the middle finger and thumb of that hand. Meanwhile, the left-hand packet is taken by the right thumb and forefinger, and moved aside. The two packets have thus changed hands, the top cards being now in the left. In this position they are held by the left finger and thumb, whilst the right hand shuffles the second packet into the cards remaining on the table. This process is gone through several times and the cards appear to be thoroughly well shuffled. Nevertheless, it is evident that the top cards have remained intact throughout.

Before passing on to the third form of false shuffle, by means of which cards are put up or stocked, it is necessary at this point to refer to the device known as the 'end-bridge,' a thing which is commonly used at the present time to force the cut at a given point in the pack. Any false shuffle is manifestly useless without some resource of this kind. As the reader is doubtless aware, it is a common practice among card players, at the conclusion of the shuffle and before giving the pack to be cut, to part it at about the middle and place the lower half above the upper. This seems to have become quite the orthodox termination of any shuffle; just a final cut as it were to finish. It is in this final cut that the end-bridge is generally made. We will suppose that the stocked cards are at the top of the pack. The top half is taken by the thumb and second finger of the right hand and drawn off; the cards being held near the corners at one end, the forefinger meanwhile resting upon them between the second finger and thumb. In the act of drawing off the cards they are pressed between the thumb and finger, so as to bend them slightly concave at the back between the corners by which they are held. The bottom half of the pack is then placed above the upper one, the curvature of which produces a slight division between the two halves at one end. The other end not having been tampered with it can be turned towards the players with impunity. The cards being leveled, they are laid on the table in such a position that the player who is to cut will take them by the ends; and it is almost certain that he will cut at the bridge.

By way of example, then, the French card-sharper's shuffle in its entirety would consist of the following movements, (1) The top cards are lifted by the right hand, and the second packet raised by the left. (2) The top packet is placed under the second one, and gripped by the left hand. (3) The right hand seizes the second packet, and takes it from above the top one, which remains held by the left thumb and finger. (4) The second packet is shuffled into the cards remaining on the table, and the top packet is dropped upon the whole. (5) The pack is parted by drawing off the upper half with the thumb and second finger of the right hand; at the same moment the bridge is made, the upper half is put under the lower, and the cards are given to be cut.

Thus, both the shuffle and the bridge are included in one complete operation.

We now come to the modern methods of 'stocking,' or 'putting-up' hands. This, of course, includes the third form of false shuffle. The simplest method of stocking is accomplished in the act of picking up the cards from the table preparatory to shuffling, and is very useful in a game such as Nap. The player who is about to deal notes among the cards lying upon the table those which would provide him with a good hand. With each hand he seizes one of them and immediately after takes up as many indifferent cards as there are players besides himself. He has then two cards 'put up.' Again he picks up two more good cards in the same way, and follows up with the proper number of indifferent ones, as before. He has now four cards out of the five he requires. With one hand therefore he picks up the remaining card, with three others, and puts all the cards thus taken up into one hand. The rest of the pack may be picked up anyhow, care being taken to keep the arranged cards on top. Then comes the shuffle. The first thing to be done is to put on the top of the selected card, which is uppermost, a similar number of indifferent cards to that which is between each of the selected ones, viz., as many as there are players besides himself. Thus the cards he wants will come to him on the deal. The rest of the shuffle is immaterial, so long as the 'stock' is not interfered with. The end-bridge may be worked for the cut, and all being well, he will have the hand he prepared for himself. Some men can do this picking-up with incredible rapidity and without exciting the least suspicion on the part of their opponents.

Where the over-hand shuffle is used, the best way of putting up a hand is by means of the process which is called 'milking-down.' This is a manipulation which is both simple and effective. The cards required to be put up are placed all together at the bottom of the pack, which is then taken endways between the thumb and fingers of the left hand ready for shuffling, and the 'milking' commences. We will suppose the game to be Nap, and that three are playing. The dealer having put the selected cards at the bottom in the course of gathering the pack together, prepares to perform the over-hand shuffle as above indicated. With the thumb of his right hand he takes off one card from the top of the pack, whilst at the same moment and in the same movement the middle finger draws off one of the selected cards from the bottom. At this point then he has two cards in his right hand; one of those he has chosen, and an indifferent one from the top of the pack above it. But there are three players, so he must have two cards between each of his own and the next, therefore he draws off another from the top, over the two he already has in the right hand. Again he draws off together a card from the top and bottom, and over these places another from the top. This is repeated until all the hand is put up, and then the remainder of the pack is shuffled on to his forefinger in the manner previously described in connection with the over-hand shuffle. The stock is brought to the top, the pack is parted, the bridge made, and the cards are given to be cut.

Milking-down was originally used by Faro-dealers for the purpose of putting up the high and low cards alternately. The high ones being put all together at the top of the pack, for instance, and the low ones at the bottom, they were drawn down in pairs with great rapidity and thus alternated. Nowadays, however, the process is used for putting up hands for most games.

It is in connection with the riffle that the most skilful putting-up is accomplished, but much practice and experience are required to enable the manipulation to be performed with certainty. In theory, however, the process is simple. It consists of riffling between the selected cards the proper number of indifferent ones. Suppose that in a game of Nap the required cards have been put at the top of the pack. The cards are divided and riffled, taking care that none are allowed to go between the selected ones except the first and second, which must have the proper number between them. If there are three players, this number will, of course, be two. All that is necessary to effect this is to hold up the top card with one thumb, and the last two cards of the other half with the other thumb. The two cards are allowed to fall upon the second of the selected cards, and the top one is dropped over them. It is with the second and following rifles, however, that the difficulty comes in. In the second riffle, four cards have to be held up and two dropped under them. In the third riffle, seven cards have to be held up, and in the fourth, ten. The fifth riffle merely puts two cards above the top selected card, and the shuffle is complete. The great difficulty is to know that the right number of cards is held up each time, and that the right number is put between them. It seems almost impossible that it can be done with certainty, but there are plenty of sharps who can do it readily enough without any mistake whatever. In fact, some are so skilful with this shuffle that they can find any cards they please by looking at the turned-up corners, and place them in any position they please within the pack.

In the game of Poker, when the pack has been stocked for draft, either at the top or the bottom, after the cut the sharp will place the two halves together in the proper manner, but leaving a little break between them. Thus he is enabled to know when the stocked cards are being given off and who has them. Or he may manage to hold back any that would be of use to him. If the cards are held inclined slightly upwards, he may frequently be enabled to draw back the top card as in the 'second-deal,' and give off the next ones.

There is a single-handed pass sometimes used to bring the stock to the top, which is performed under cover of the right arm whilst reaching to the left. The cards are held upon a level with the table-top, and as the arm passes over them, those which are above the stock are pressed with the fingers of the left hand against the right elbow. Thus they are held for the moment whilst the others are drawn from beneath, and as the right arm returns, the stocked cards are brought to the top. In this way the entire operation is performed under cover of the arm, and is therefore indiscernible.

Where a confederate is available to cut the pack, there is a form of false cut which appears to pass muster in America pretty well. It consists of merely grasping the pack in both hands, lifting it off the table, and pulling it apart, so to speak. The half which comes from the bottom is drawn upwards, thus appearing to come from the top, in the same manner as the cards in the bottom deal. At the same time, the top half is drawn downwards, appearing to come from the bottom. Then, when the two halves are put together in their original position, it looks as though the lower half had been put upon the upper. Quickly done, this ruse is fairly successful.

Another form of false cut is somewhat similar in effect to the French card-sharper's shuffle, and is used to retain a 'top stock' in its place. A third of the pack, or thereabouts, is taken off with the right hand, and the remainder is cut in two with the left. The top cards are now placed upon those which remain on the table, the second lot are thrown down beside them, and upon these the other two packets are placed as one, bringing the top cards into their original position. Thus, whilst the pack is really cut into three, the only effect of the cut is to bring the bottom cards into the middle; a result which is of no consequence where only a top stock is concerned.

We may conclude the present chapter with a description of the system of cheating known as 'Counting-down.' This is a method which is not by any means so familiar to the masses as those with which we have just been dealing. It is one of those devices which seem to lie within the borderland between honesty and dishonesty; although, when one understands its real nature, there is no question as to the fact that it really is cheating, and nothing else. It is the most scientific mode of swindling, in games where only a few cards constitute a hand, that has ever been devised, and it is so good that it almost defies detection, even at the hands of an expert. It is just that one word 'almost,' however, which qualifies its absolute perfection. There is always some weak point in a trick, however good.

Counting down is one of those operations which depend more on memory than sleight of hand. It requires long practice and much skill, but the skill is rather mental than manipulative. It is necessary that the sharp who practices it should be able to memorize instantly as many cards as possible. Comparatively few persons can remember more than five cards at a glance. Not one in a thousand can remember ten. There are some, however, who can remember the order of a whole pack of fifty- two cards, after seeing them dealt out rather slowly. Needless to say there are not many individuals of the latter class. All, however, use some system of artificial memory. Without something of the kind, counting-down would be impracticable.

The object of this system, of course, is to enable the sharp to know the sequence of a certain number of cards which are to be introduced into the play, and thus to be certain of their value, and also of the hands in which they are to be found. The possession of this knowledge is of the utmost importance sometimes.

As a readily understood and familiar example, let us suppose that the sharp is engaged in a single-handed game of Nap, and that he can remember twelve cards, together with the order in which they occur. His first duty will be to note the manner in which his opponent usually cuts, whether near the middle of the pack, near the top or the bottom. Most people have some peculiarity in this way which may be relied on. Suppose then the sharp finds that the other man's cut is generally pretty well in the centre. When it is his turn to deal, in the act of shuffling he will place twelve cards in rapid succession at the bottom of the pack, at the same time holding the pack so that the faces of the cards are visible. He notes these twelve cards, and the order in which they occur. At the conclusion of the shuffle he leaves just so many cards over them as he thinks the other will take off in the cut; consequently, after cutting, those cards will be at the top or nearly so. If the sharp is fortunate the cut will come into the first one or two of them, and then when the cards are dealt, he knows by looking at his own hand precisely what cards his opponent holds. If his own hand will allow him to 'go more' than his opponent feels inclined to risk, he will do so, if not he allows his opponent to play. In either case he knows perfectly well what the result of the hand will be before a single card is put down. Of course if the case should be that he is playing against an unmistakable 'Nap' hand, and that he has no cards the skilful playing of which will prevent the other man from winning, he is bound to accept the inevitable. But it is obvious that the advantages he enjoys, compared with his antagonist, are enormous.

With a sharp who works the bottom deal, the memorizing of five cards only is sufficient. He notes the five cards and leaves them at the bottom of the pack which is given to be cut. After the cutting, he picks up the bottom half of the pack, leaving the other upon the table. If the five cards at the bottom are good ones he deals them to himself, but if, on the contrary, they are little ones, which would make a bad hand, he deals them to his opponent. He will always let the opponent have them unless they are exceptionally good, because it is worth more than half the game to know what cards one has to contend with.

It is in the game of 'Poker,' however, that counting down is of the greatest assistance. The cards are dealt round five to each player, and we will suppose it is the sharp's turn to deal next. He throws his hand, face downwards, on the table, and puts the rest of the pack on top of it. He therefore knows the five bottom cards of the pack, having memorized his hand. Even though some of the other players may understand counting-down, no one will suspect that any trickery is in progress, as the whole proceeding is quite usual and perfectly natural.

Having the whole of the cards in a heap in front of him, the sharp now takes them up to straighten or level them, somewhat ostentatiously keeping their faces turned well away from him, so that he cannot see a single card. He does not overdo this appearance of honesty however. That would be almost as fatal as an appearance of cheating.

The cards being straightened, the shuffle has now to be accomplished. In this case it will be one of the second, or partial order. The sharp takes good care, in riffling down or what not, to leave undisturbed the five cards he has memorized, and finally to have them in such a position within the pack, that the cut and deal will leave them at the top. His object, of course, is to have the choice of those five cards in the draft. If he has been fortunate in his manipulation, the card which comes to him on the last round of the deal will be one of those five. In that case he knows the value of the two or three top cards, and looking at his hand he can tell whether either of them will be of use to him when it comes to his turn to draw. If so, in giving off the draft to the other players, he may, if opportunity serves, hold back the card or cards he requires. Then the other hands being complete, he can throw away a corresponding number of indifferent cards from his hand and take the selected ones for himself. Generally speaking, this method will enable him to retain and utilize a card which, otherwise, he would have thrown away as being useless, and very often enable him to make 'two pair.'

It is manifest that however skillfully this may be done, there is a strong element of uncertainty attaching to the result. The player who cuts the pack may not divide it in the right place by a card or two, and therefore it might happen that the whole of the five cards may be distributed in the deal. But it is bound to come right sometimes, and then it is worth all the trouble and annoyance of the previous failures; but whether it is successful or not, it is done as a matter of routine, and if only for the sake of practice, every time the sharp has to deal. He cannot exercise himself too much in such a difficult operation. Still there is a good bit of chance work about it which is not at all acceptable to the sharp, and to obviate this two sharps will often work in secret partnership. The dealer, having memorized his own hand, which he has plenty of time to do thoroughly, waits until his partner's cards are done with. When that moment arrives, the accomplice passes his cards to the dealer in such a way that their faces can be seen. These must be remembered at a glance. The dealer has now ten cards to work with instead of five, and thus the chances are far more than proportionately greater. Some of the known cards are sure to be at the top of the pack, ready for the draft, and looking at the last card which has fallen to him on the deal, the sharp can tell what they are. If, in addition, it is the confederate who cuts the cards, of course the game becomes too strong to be beaten. He is sure to cut the pack at the right place.

If the sharp is a fine shuffler, with a good memory, well-trained in this class of work, he can dispense with an accomplice, and do quite as well without one. Supposing it to be his turn to deal next, he looks at his hand, and if the cards he holds are not of much consequence, he 'passes,' that is, he stands out of the game for the time being. Meanwhile he gathers up the pack and discards, and keeping the faces of the cards turned away from him he evens them up in readiness for the deal. Then he waits until the two or three hands that are being played are called or shown up. With a glance, he remembers as many of these cards as he conveniently can, places them either at the top or bottom of the pack and 'holds' them during the shuffle, arranging their position in the pack as in the former cases.

The last card which conies to him on the deal being one of these, he knows the sequence of several of the top cards which remain in the pack. Consequently he not only knows what he is giving off in the draft to others, but also what remains for him when it is his turn to draw. If, then, it suits him best to discard, as to which he does not stand in doubt as the other players do, he throws away according to the nature of the cards he will have to draw from the pack to replace his discards. It really is just the same thing as though he had two hands dealt to him instead of one. He has the opportunity of making his selection from at least twice as many cards as either of his opponents.

Unless the reader should happen to be himself a high class sharp, he can have no idea of how well this is done by some men who make it their specialty. It is a method which renders a good shuffler expressive term with a good system of artificial memory, well-nigh invincible at such a game as Poker. Counting-down is simple, when you can do it; it is impossible of detection by ordinary players, and best of all, even smart gamblers will stand the work. After that no more need be said about it.

From the contents of this chapter, the expert reader will see that in so far as manipulation pure and simple is concerned, the sharp of to-day is in a position very little better than that of his prototype of fifty years ago. If we except the improved methods of 'stocking' and so on, which have resulted from the introduction of new shuffles and certain methods of preparing the cards, there are hardly any new developments to record.

That this should be so, and indeed must of necessity be so, will be evident to anyone who has made a study of card-tricks. There are only certain manipulations possible in connection with fifty-two pieces of pasteboard. Generations of keen intellects have already made a study of their possibilities; and like the 'old poets, fostered under friendlier skies,' these have stolen all the best ideas from their unhappy successors. And the worst of it is the ideas have become more or less common property.

To invent a new deception in the way of the manipulation of cards is for all the world like trying to make a new proposition in 'Euclid.' That ancient humb -- philosopher I should say -- has covered the whole ground; much to the disgust of that hypothetical example of encyclopædic information known as 'any schoolboy.' In our time we have all of us tempered our regret that so great a philosopher should ever die, with the far greater regret that he should ever have lived. His loss would have been 'any schoolboy's' infinite gain. Well, man is born to Euclid as the sparks fly upward, and there is no dodging the difficulty.

It is just the same in the fraudulent manipulation of cards. All that can be done has been done. If it were not so the sharp would be the gainer, therefore it is better as it is.

Nowadays, however, it is quite possible to be a first-rate sharp without being capable of performing the simplest feat of dexterity. This sounds very much like saying that a man might be a thorough mathematician without knowing the multiplication-table, but the cases are not exactly upon all fours. It is quite possible to reason logically without having made the acquaintance of that maid of mystery 'Barbara'; and it is quite possible in like manner to be able to cheat without having recourse to manipulation. It is a thing which is not necessary, and more often than not it is attended with the risk of detection.

The sharp has gone further afield in the augmentation of his resources. He has pressed into his service every device that human ingenuity can conceive or rascality execute, every contrivance that skill can produce, and even the forces of Nature herself have been made to serve his ends.

Meanwhile the unfortunate dupe has been laying the flattering unction to his soul, that given the understanding of certain primitive forms of manipulation, he has nothing else to fear. Much he knows about it!

There is no fool like the fool who imagines himself wise, and there is no dupe like the 'fly flat,' -- the man who 'thinks he knows a thing or two.'

Well, it is not the fault of this book if he is not henceforth a wiser and a richer man.

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