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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Stripper Decks

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 things.

Wedge Strippers

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.

Belly Strippers

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

'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.

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