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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Cheating at Roulette

Cheating in connection with the roulette-table is accomplished by means of a 'faked' or falsified roulette. This is arranged so that the numbers around the periphery are not consecutive, but alternately high and low. Indeed, this is the usual arrangement, therefore there is nothing suspicious in that fact. The numbered divisions into one of which the ball eventually rolls are formed by equidistant copper bands, set radially [sic] from the centre of rotation; and, in the false roulette, the copper partitions are so constructed as to be movable in two sets, one moving one way, and the other in the opposite direction. Each alternate partition belongs to the opposite set to its two immediate neighbors, consequently the movement of the partitions alternately in opposite directions tends to widen one set of cavities and narrow the others. If, then, the original width of the cavities was only just sufficient to allow the ball to drop into either of them, a very slight movement in one direction or the other will serve to prevent the ball from falling into any cavity of one set, whilst allowing it readily to enter either of the other set. Before spinning the roulette, then, the man whose place it is to do so notes the disposition of the bets. If they are principally staked upon the high numbers, he just gives a little twist to the centre of the roulette, in the direction which slightly closes the high numbers and correspondingly opens the low ones. Then the high numbers are bound to lose. Should the bets, on the other hand, be principally upon the low numbers, the spindle is turned in the other direction, thus closing the low numbers and opening the high ones. In this way the bank can never lose by any possible chance. The movement given to the alternate partitions is, of course, very slight, one-sixteenth of an inch being ample for the purpose.

To enable the reader to better understand the principle involved in this system of cheating, we will investigate its application to a simple modification of the roulette which is sometimes used, and which affords great convenience for the method of falsification we have been considering. This is a wheel composed of a circular centre-piece, with two flat circular plates larger in diameter than the centre or 'hub,' one being fixed above and the other below it. Radially [sic] between these flanges, and at equal distances apart, are fixed partitions, which thus convert the periphery of the wheel into a number of chambers or divisions. A (fig. 62) represents the plan of a wheel of this kind, and B shows the same in elevation.


FIG. 62

Now, these radial partitions mentioned above are not all fixed to the wheel in the same manner. Each alternate one is attached to the centre or hub, and the others are fixed to the flanges or cheeks. C in the illustration represents the latter, and D the former. The two halves of the wheel C and D being put together, they appear to constitute a genuine wheel such as A. It is obvious, then, that if these two halves can be made to move just a little in opposite directions around their common centre, each alternate division will become slightly narrower or wider than its immediate neighbors, as the case may be. Then, if the divisions are numbered alternately high and low, it stands to reason that the high numbers can be closed and the low ones opened, or vice versa, at will. In the illustration, E represents the wheel after the two sections have been turned one upon the other in this way. It will be seen that n is a narrow division, and w a wide one; whilst right and left of these the divisions are alternately wide and narrow. A wheel of this kind would be mounted upon a spindle, in the centre of a circular depression in the table-top. After it has been set spinning, a ball is thrown into the circular hollow, down the sloping sides of which it rolls, and finally arrives in one of the divisions of the wheel, in this case entering by the periphery. In order to give the thing more the appearance of a game of skill, a wheel of this kind is sometimes mounted at one end of a sort of bagatelle-table, and, whilst it is spinning, the players are allowed to drive the ball into it with a cue from the far end of the table, each player in succession taking his turn at the ball. Needless to say, however this plan presents no particular advantage to the player. If he has backed a high number, and the high numbers are closed against him, it is evident that he cannot possibly cause the ball to enter the division he requires, do what he may.

It should also be noted that in the roulette the divisions, in addition to being numbered alternately high and low, are also alternately colored red and black, and the players have the option of betting upon either color. That is to say, if the ball rolls into a red division, irrespective of its number, those who have staked upon the red will receive the value of their stakes, whilst those who have wagered upon black will lose their money. Even in this case, however, the chances in favor of the bank will tell in the long run, because the 'zeros,' the numbers reserved for the bank, are neither red nor black, and if the ball enters a zero neither red nor black will win. The alternate arrangement of the red and black divisions will indicate, at once, that the same: device which controls the entrance of the ball into the high or low numbers can also be made to cause either red or black to win, at the pleasure of the bank. In that case there is not much need to trouble about the effect of 'zero' one way or the other.

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