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
As we've already discussed, stripper decks can
be made on a card trimmer. However, serious cheats are not likely
to ever consider using strippers made on card trimmers. There are
other accessories used to make much better stripper decks. The most
advanced kind of stripper decks are called "N" strippers,
which can literally be handled and examined by almost anyone, and
the chances of discovery are next to zero, unless the person examining
knows exactly how the gaff works. Needless to day that it takes
a bit more than just reading instructions, to be able to use those
kinds of strippers in a live card game. By comparison, amateur stripper
decks are so easy to use that anyone can work the gaff after one
or two trials. Of course, being able to make a gaff work and being
able to effectively use a gaff in a live card game, when people
are gambling for money and not kidding around, are two different
Another form of card which at one time was largely used, but which
has become too well-known to be of much service, is the 'wedge.'
Wedges are cards which have been cut narrower at one end than the
other, the two long sides inclining towards each other at a slight
angle. The cards when cut in this way, and packed with all the broad
ends looking the same way, cannot be distinguished from those which
are perfectly square; but when some are placed one way and some
the other, there is no difficulty in telling 'which is which.' Before
these cards became commonly known, they must have proved very useful
to the sharp. If he wished to force the cut at any particular place,
he had only to place the two halves of the pack in opposite directions,
and the cut was pretty sure to be made at the right point. If he
wished to distinguish the court cards from the others, all he had
to do was to turn them round in the pack, so that their broad ends
faced the other way. If he wished to be sure of making the pass
at any card, by just turning the wide end of that card to the narrow
ends of the others he could always feel where it was, without looking
at it. In fact, the utility of such cards was immense, but it has
long been among the things that were. Now, the first thing a tiro
[sic] in sleight-of-hand will do, on being asked to examine a pack
of cards, is to cut them and turn the halves end for end, to see
if they are 'wedges.' Needless to say, they never are.
The only case in which it is at all possible to use cards of this
kind at the present day is in a very, very 'soft' game of faro,
where the players do not ask permission to examine the pack. The
dealer has the sole right of shuffling and cutting the cards; therefore
if he has the opportunity of using wedges, nothing is easier than
to have all the high cards put one way, and the low ones the other.
Then in shuffling he can put up the high cards to lose or win, and,
in fact, arrange the pack in any manner he likes. There is very
little safety, however, in the use of wedges at any time. Practical
men would laugh at the idea of employing them.
Wedge strippers are really not too useful for
cheating at cards. As Maskelyne put it, "Practical men would
laugh at the idea of employing them." Also, it is really difficult
to produce wedges with very light work, because if the work is light,
the wedges that are oriented in one direction don't really work
against the opposite direction, if the deck is not perfectly squared
up. But, by all means, it is not impossible to make very fine wedges,
it is just that they don't have much of a practical application
when it comes to cheating at cards.
The concave and convex cards cut by means of the stripper-plates,
described earlier in this chapter, are still in use to a limited
extent. The common English sharp employs them in connection with
a game called 'Banker.' He 'readies up the broads,' as he terms
it, by cutting all the high cards convex, and the low ones concave.
There is also another game known as 'Black and Red,' in which the
cards of one color are convex, and the other color concave.
The most commonly used form of cards, however, is that of the 'double-wedges'
or 'strippers,' cut by means of the trimming-shears, and which have
been already described. The name of 'strippers' is derived from
the operation which these cards are principally intended to facilitate,
and which consists of drawing off from the pack, or 'stripping.'
certain cards which are required for use in putting up hands. Suppose
the sharp is playing a game of poker, and, naturally, he wishes
to put up the aces for himself, or for a confederate. He cuts the
aces narrow at each end, and all the other cards of the same width
as the ends of the aces. This leaves the sides of the aces bulging
out slightly from the sides of the pack, and enables him to draw
them all out with one sweep of his fingers during the shuffle. Then
they are placed all together, at the bottom of the pack, and can
be put up for deal or draft, or they may be held out until required.
'End-strippers' are a variety of the same kind of thing, the only
difference being that they are trimmed up at the ends, instead of
at the sides.
While "conventional" strippers (those
that bear the work along the long edges) are more useful in games
where the players employ a table riffle shuffle, the end strippers
are more useful in games where the players use the overhand shuffle.
This is simply due to the fact that the cards are held by their
short ends, while shuffling overhand style.
It is only in England and other countries where the spread of knowledge in this direction has been limited to the sharps themselves, the
general public remaining in ignorance, that strippers are employed. They would be instantly detected among people who have learnt anything
at all of sharping.