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
When John Nevil Maskelyne wrote his book, in
1894, he could not have conceived of the fact that one day books
could be published in a new paperless format, through the internet.
Luckily, we do have this option nowadays and we are proud to present
the first electronic edition of the gambling classic, entitled,
Sharps and Flats: A Complete Revelation of the Secrets of Cheating
at Games of Chance and Skill.
In 1999, 105 years after the first publication
of Sharps and Flats, the world's first web site on the subject of
card cheating and crooked gambling, CARDSHARK
Online, was launched. Today, on the 10th anniversary of CARDSHARK
Online, and 115 years after the publication of Sharps and Flats,
the first online version of Sharps and Flats is finally launched
-also by the same publisher that brought you CARDSHARK Online- as
a celebration of the 10th year anniversary of our site.
The book Sharps and Flats was an instant success
and became an instant classic. But the book is more that that as
it undoubtedly stood the test of time. In honor of this great book
and its author we present to you Sharps and Flats Online.
New York City
IN presenting the following pages to the public, I have had in
view a very serious purpose. Here and there may be found a few words
spoken in jest; but throughout my aim has been particularly earnest.
This book, in fact, tends to point a moral, and present a problem.
The moral is obvious, the problem is ethical; which is, perhaps,
only another way of saying something different.
In the realm of Ethics, the two men who exert, probably, the greatest
influence upon the mass of humanity are the philosopher and the
politician. Yet, strange to say, there would appear to be little
that can be considered as common knowledge in either politics or
philosophy. Every politician and every philosopher holds opinions
which are diametrically opposed to those of some other politician
or philosopher; and there never yet existed, apparently, either
politician or philosopher who would admit even that his opponents
were acquainted with the fact of two and two making four. So much,
then, for dogmatism.
In the natural order of events, however, there must be things which
even a politician can understand. Not many things, perhaps; but
still some things. In like manner, there must be things which even
a philosopher can not understand and a great many things.
As an illustration, let us take the case of 'sharping.' Politician
and philosopher alike are interested in the origin of crime, its
development, and the means of its prevention. Now, even a politician
can understand that a man, having in view the acquisition of unearned
increment, may take to cheating as being a ready means of possessing
himself of the property of others, with but little effort upon his
own part. At the same time, I will venture to say that not even
a philosopher can render any adequate reason for the fact that some
men will devote an amount of energy, labour, perseverance and ingenuity
to the gaining of a precarious living in the paths of chicanery,
one-half of which, if directed into legitimate channels, would serve
to place them in a position commanding both affluence and respect.
To my mind, the only hypothesis which in any way covers the facts
of the case is that some men are born to crime. It is their destiny,
and they are bound to fulfill it.
Whether this hypothesis represents the solution of the problem
or not is a bone of contention over which I am content to allow
others to quarrel, without joining in the fray. I am only concerned
with the facts as we know them the plain and unmistakable facts
that cheating, upon a gigantic scale, does exist; that the resources
available for its advancement become every day more numerous, whilst
the means of its prevention become more and more inadequate.
A goodly portion of my life has been spent in battling with superstition,
credulity and chicanery in every form. It has been a labour of love
with me. At times I have, so to speak, cried from the house-top
truths so obvious that there hardly seemed any necessity for calling
attention to them, and yet have found some who could not believe
them. Again and again, Time, the prover [sic] of all things, has
without exception borne out my statements to the very letter; yet
even now there are some who will prefer to rely upon the word of
a charlatan an impostor rather than accept a plain statement of
palpable facts at my hands. It is curious, but nevertheless it is
true. It is magnificent, but it is not common sense. Fortunately,'
however, there are not many such, though some there are.
Experience has demonstrated that the ignorance of the public with
regard to the capabilities of trickery is the principal factor in
all problems connected with every kind of deception. If the public
only knew a little more in this respect, the thousand-and-one quackeries
which flourish in our midst could not exist. My self imposed task,
then, has ever been to endeavor to educate the public, just a little,
and to enlighten those who really seek for truth amid the noxious
and perennial weeds of humbug and pretence. In this, I am happy
to say, I have to some extent succeeded; but there is still much
to be done.
This book, then, is but another stone, as it were, in an edifice
raised for the purpose of showing to the world the real nature of
those things which are not really what they appear to be, and practices
with the very existence of which the average man is unacquainted.
Although the immediate practical outcome of this book may be nil,
I shall not be depressed upon that account. If it only has the effect
of opening the eyes of the authorities to some extent, and of hinting
a caution to gamblers generally, I shall be content; and, commending
it to the public with this reflection, and with the hope that this
much, at least, may be accomplished, I leave it to its fate.
J. N. MASKELYNE.
EGYPTIAN HALL, LONDON, W.