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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A -- General principles of marking

Whatever method of marking may be adopted in the preparation of 'faked' cards or 'readers,' however recondite that method may be, it is referable to one or other of two general principles. That is to say, either the cards have each a distinctive mark placed in some convenient position, or the mark is similar in every case, the indication being given by the position which it occupies. Some systems are based upon a combination of the two principles; but all are developments of either one or the other. When the mark, whatever it may be, is placed at one end of the card, it is of course necessary to mark both ends

The chief desideratum in marking, of course, is to produce work which is easily decipherable to the trained eye of the expert, but which nevertheless is invisible to others. How well this has been accomplished will be seen from the examples which follow. Many of the specimens given herein have been submitted to experts who have been allowed to retain them as long as they pleased, and have been returned with the statement that to all appearance the cards have not been tampered with, no mark being discoverable. This being the case, what chance has a player of detecting the falsification, in the very cursory examination which is possible during play? As the reader will perceive, there is no difficulty in marking cards in such a manner as will arouse no suspicion. Anyone could invent a system which no one but himself could decipher, and which would defy detection. The only difficulty is to read the marks with speed and accuracy. In many games it is only necessary to know which are high cards and which are low; then the matter is considerably simplified. In some games it is not even necessary to know the suit of the cards, and thus the case is simplified still further. It is rarely, indeed, that the sharp requires to know all the cards. Generally speaking, if all the picture-cards and the aces are marked, that will give him all the advantage he needs. The rest may be left to chance and good play. In fact, the sharp uses trickery as little as possible; he never overdoes the thing. Whilst he is winning, he is, as a rule, content to win fairly, for the most part. His subtle methods are reserved or should be, if he knows his business for occasions when chance is against him. The fewer are the cards which are marked, the less the chance of detection, and the less the marks are resorted to the better. Obviously, the man who has it in his power to stock his hand with high cards at will, need never be in a hurry to win. The game is in his hands. The sharp who uses marked cards will always contrive to 'work in' those he has prepared when possible, but failing this, he is generally in a position to mark all the cards he wishes to know during the course of the game, as we shall see further on.

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