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
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 They have been replaced
by improved manipulations, as we shall see later.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.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.