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
COMMON SHARPERS AND THEIR TRICKS
Professional card cheating is a serious, and
lucreative, business. Most people are completely unaware of the
fact that professional card cheaters are part of an entire subculture
that coexists as a "parallel universe" right alongside
of the world that the "squares" (or as Maskelyne calls
them "flats") live in. This subculture has always existed
and is not likely to disappear any time soon. Some early written
descriptions of this subculture can be found in a few old books,
such as An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling, by Jonathan
Harrington Greene and A Manifest Detection of Diceplay, by Gilbert
Walker, from the victorian publication Rogues,
Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars. There are a few other old text
on the subject, but perhaps the most interesting details of ancient
crooked gamblers were not captured by writers, but rather by painters.
For further detail please visit the Art
History of Cheating page on CARDSHARK
IN dealing with a subject of so wide a character as that upon which we are engaged, the difficulty of beginning at the beginning is greater than may appear to a casual reader. There are so many points from which it may be attacked. As to treating of all that is known in reference to it, or tracing it back to the earliest records, that, of course, is out of the question in the limited space at our disposal. Even were one historically inclined, who can say where the beginning begins. Doubtless, one would have to search the geological formations at great depth in order to discover remains of that man who first conceived the idea of correcting fickle fortune at the expense of his fellows. If science ever achieves this discovery, we shall certainly have reasonable grounds for believing that we have found a very near relative of Adam.
Although the general public have so little acquaintance with the higher developments of cheating, still, a great deal has been written concerning some of the more elementary methods. This being so, the question of what ought to be left out at what point we ought to take up the thread of our discourse becomes of paramount importance. Obviously, it is useless to repeat what is well-known.
Many of these primitive methods, however, are still so frequently practiced, that this book would be incomplete without some reference at
least being made to the more important among them. Therefore, with a view to clearing the ground for what is to follow, and for the benefit
of the general reader, this chapter will be devoted to the more familiar systems of 'sharping.'