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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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 Online.

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.'

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