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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Roulette used to be one of the top casino games in Europe, throughout the 19th century. What captivates gamblers is the simplicity of the game. Of course, roulette is a pure game of luck, but that doesn't stop gamblers and dreamers to try to figure out strategies, or better say "systems," that will (supposedly) make them win. But casinos aren't in the business of donating money to winners. the truth is, all roulette systems are worthless. The reason is very simple: the house always shortchanges the winners, on every single winning bet. So in the long run, the "winners" donate a chunk of change to the house, every time they collect their winnings.

The most popular "winning system" used by roulette "system players" is the Martingale system. It creates the illusion that it is possible to win, by doubling the bet every time after a previous wager has been lost, but in the long run any gambler is sure to hit a losing streak; and when that happens, the entire bankroll is completely depleted in the matter of a few spins of the roulette wheel.

The best explanations of various roulette systems and why they don't work can be found on the Wizard of Odds web site.

ROULETTE, and the various modifications of the game, which have been introduced from time to time, have all had, to a greater or less extent, a fascination for the gambler. That roulette itself still maintains a prominent place among the multitudinous methods of dissipating wealth to which gamblers are addicted, can be fully vouched for by those who have visited the gaming-tables of such a place as Monte Carlo. Despite the efforts of civilization, 'the man that broke the bank,' or is said to have done so, is still prominent among us: but the bank that broke the man is, unfortunately, much more in evidence.

The methods of play adopted by the great gaming establishments of the world are unquestionably as fair as the nature of things will allow them to be. No man can run an establishment of any kind without profit, and the profits of these gaming-houses result from the apparently small chances in favor of the bank which are universally allowed. The fact that the apparently small chances against the players as a body are not generally recognized as being in reality great, cannot be said to be the fault of the bankers themselves. They build palatial edifices, lay out luxurious gardens, pay their crowds of retainers handsome salaries, and still have profits sufficient to bring them in princely incomes, the entire expenses of the whole being defrayed at the cost of the players, and through the medium of those insignificant chances in the bank's favor. It is strange that the players cannot see it, but they do not seem to realize that it is they themselves who pay for these things; or, if they do see it, they play with the wild hope of being among the few fortunate ones and sharing in the plunder. Taken as a whole, it may be estimated that the profits of these places amount to five per cent, or over of every pound that is staked upon the tables. That is to say, every player who places a sovereign upon the green cloth puts, definitely and unmistakably, at least a shilling into the pockets of the proprietors, who have, in the long run, absolutely no risk whatever. They have merely to furnish the accessories, and the players will provide all the rest, simply paying their money to the bank and taking all the risk themselves. No player can gain at the expense of the bank; if one should happen to make his fortune at play, he can only do so by the ruin of some other player. That is the plain state of the case, and there is no getting over it.

It is not, however, with the so-called genuine gambling concerns that we have now to deal, but with the little hole-and-corner dens which may be found in various parts of the world, and particularly in the two continents of America. In such as these the roulette-table is frequently a familiar object, and very often it is not quite such a genuine piece of apparatus as it appears. Those who may not happen to be acquainted with the arrangement should understand that it is an oblong table, having a circular cavity at one end, in which the roulette revolves. The roulette (literally 'little wheel') is simply a revolving disc surrounded by a number of cavities into which a ball is allowed to roll. These cavities are numbered, and those who have staked upon the number of the particular hole into which the ball finds its way receive their stakes back, together with an amount equivalent to the money they have staked multiplied by the number of holes remaining vacant in the roulette, minus a certain percentage which is reserved in favor of the bank. This is the essential principle of the game, though in reality it is played with many complications of chances, into which it is not necessary here to enter.

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