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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An Account of a Roulette Swindle

A gentleman, well known in artistic circles, has favored me, through a mutual friend, with the following interesting account of a swindle perpetrated in connection with roulette here in London. He entitles it 'A True Gambling Experience'; and it is here given as nearly as possible in his own words.

   'Some time ago, a friend of mine wrote to me, asking if I would like to go to a gamble at the rooms of a Mr. X--, who had acquired a certain notoriety by gaining large sums at Monte Carlo. Indeed, his name was mentioned almost daily in the London Press. I went, and the game of roulette was played, the guests being regaled at about midnight with a most excellent supper and "Pol Roger" ad lib.

   'The company was mixed -- a few men from club-land, a well-known money-lender, and two fair ladies. One lady was our hostess, the other was the celebrated Baroness --. The game was played quite fairly, the board being one of those ordinarily used in England, with one "zero." The stakes were limited to 20l. upon the even money chances.

   'At the end of the evening, our host -- the much-talked-of gentleman of Monte Carlo -- who had won about 1,oool. during the sitting, appointed another evening, and asked me if I would mind taking the bank. I consented, provided that I might stop when I had lost as much as I cared to risk. This was acceded to, and I took the bank on the following week, when I arose a loser of some 300l., but had such consolation as was to be derived from partaking of a supper similar in character to the first, everything being absolutely en prince, A game of baccarat followed, and a friend of mine was fortunate enough to win some hundreds from our host. I myself, having settled up all my losings [sic] at roulette, was a gainer of fifty sovereigns or so. At the end of the evening, our host excused himself from payment, on the ground that he had had a very bad week racing, and had a very heavy settlement to make on the Monday, " I know," he said, " you and your friend will not mind waiting until next week, when we will have another evening." Of course we agreed to wait until the next meeting.

   'Some days after, I had a letter from Mr. X--, stating that he had much pleasure in sending me a cheque (enclosed), and remarking that he intended having an evening at the rooms of a friend of his, near Charing Cross. The evening arrived, and I duly wended my way to the address Mr. X had given me. I found about twenty people assembled, among them my friend and another man I knew. I went up to the former and asked him if Mr. X had paid up the money he owed him. "Oh yes," he said, "he has paid me in those," pointing to a heap of counters in front of him. The game had commenced when I arrived, and I noticed that the limit of the stakes was double that of the former occasions, viz. 40!. upon the even money chances. I further noticed that a Frenchman (who could not speak a word of English) was turning the wheel, and Mr. X-- was acting as "croupier." The board was not similar to that used on former occasions.

   'The game proceeded, the Frenchman rolling the ball, and Mr. X raking in the losing and paying out the winning stakes. Every now and then a man would retire hard hit, whilst others were constantly arriving. Business was brisk, a good trade was being carried on, but nobody knew how certain the bank was of winning. A Rothschild could not have stood against that board, as I afterwards discovered.

   'Presently, one of the players got up and said, "I think that is seven hundred I owe you, X--," and proceeded to try and write a cheque for the amount upon a blank sheet of paper; but finding he could not write distinctly, he called to the money-lender, who filled in the body of the cheque, and then the half-tipsy punter signed it and left. Several large cheques were paid to X-- upon various players taking their departure; and I, having lost 10l. punting in sovereigns, wrote a cheque for that amount. In the meantime, my friend who had been paid by X-- some hundreds in counters, as before mentioned, had lost them all, and had a debit of about 400l. against him. He was staking the maximum each time on either red or black. Sometimes he had a maximum on one of the other chances. The luck (?) was dead against him, and he only won once in every three or four coups. He came into the next room with me and had a brandy and soda. "My luck is terrible," he said, "awful! but I am going to sit it out. The chances must average up presently." Such, however, was not the case. He lost more and more, whilst beads of perspiration stood upon his forehead.

   'Relaxing for a moment my attention from my friend and his play, and glancing at the roulette revolving, I noticed the ball roll into division No. 3, red. Strange to say, however, when the roulette came to rest, the winning number proved to be No. 26, black. Even then the thought did not occur to me that there was anything wrong; but shortly afterwards a similar event occurred, and then I felt sure there was a swindle somewhere. I went into the cloak-room where we had left our outer apparel, and putting on my opera hat and cape, returned to the scene. I pulled my hat well over my eyes and watched the board. Having a quick eye, and being used to roulette, I soon fathomed what is possibly the most beautiful swindle ever invented. The partitions which form the divisions into which the ball runs were constructed in one piece and movable, altogether apart from the numbers between which they were situated. In pressing upon the roulette to stop its motion in the usual manner, a sort of ratchet movement could be actuated which would turn the whole of the divisions round, carrying the ball with them, from one number to the next. Thus red could be turned into black, manque into passe, or pair into impair, according to the manner in which the stakes were placed.

   'I was so completely upset by my discovery of this colossal swindle that I unfortunately committed a faux pas which enabled the gang to escape punishment. After I was thoroughly certain of the modus operandi, I looked round the room to see what help was at hand in the event of a tussle; but, not liking the look of the crowd, I decided to obtain assistance from the outside. Before doing so, I felt that my clear duty was to speak to the host, who had lent his rooms to Mr. X--. I motioned him apart, and on telling him that I wished to speak to him privately, he took me into his bedroom. "Mr. Z--," I said, "I think it my duty to tell you that this game is a gigantic swindle. The men who have lost have been cheated out of their money," and I described the process to him. "It cannot be true," said he, "I have known X for years, and have been engaged in several large financial transactions with him, and I would stake my life upon his integrity." "Well," I said, "that may be so, but I am certain of what I say, and I shall prevent all the payment I can. As for my cheque of 10l., I shall stop it at the bank." (That cheque has never been presented from that day to this).

   'I went out into the passage, leaving Z-- in his bedroom, and at that moment the well-known Mr --, F.R.C.S. was admitted at the door. I whispered to him, "Play small and watch it," and went off for a detective. I was afterwards informed by my "sawbones" friend that play was stopped directly I left.

   'The rest of the tale is soon told. I met my unfortunate friend outside his house, and found he had ended in losing 1,300l. His state was truly pitiable, and his relief was great when I told him that he need not pay a penny, as he had been duped.

   'The next day private detectives were busy; but, unfortunately, the mechanical board had escaped them, and Mr. X and his confederates had cleared out of London.

   'Would you believe it? X-- went to a well-known firm of solicitors, and wanted to commence an action against me; but they advised him to refrain from so doing.

   'I traced many of the punters who had lost money that evening, and stopped the payment of very much that would otherwise have found its way into the pockets of the swindlers. The men whose interests I thus protected never thanked me. All I contrived to do for myself was to make many enemies. For the future I intend to leave the exposure of swindlers to those who are accustomed to that kind of work.'

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