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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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
August 2009


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.


February 1894.

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