foreword to the online edition
II. common sharpers and their tricks
III. marked cards and the manner of
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
On our way home in the train we may, perhaps, encounter a party playing 'Nap.' It may be a friendly game, fairly played or it may not. If it is not, we shall undoubtedly find that one of the players loses heavily. It is only penny Nap, he is told. Yes, but one can lose a good deal, in a small way, even at penny Nap. Especially if the other players know the best and quickest way of winning.
The most ordinary way of cheating at this game consists of 'putting
up' hands for the dupe and one of the other players. The methods
of accomplishing this manúuvre will be fully detailed in the chapter
on 'Manipulation.' For the present,
it is sufficient to say that the cards are so manipulated that the
dupe has always a good hand. So far, this looks as though matters
should prove very favorable to the dupe; therefore, he frequently
goes 'Nap.' It always happens, however, that one of the other players
holds a hand which is slightly better. The dupe may even hold the
ace, king, queen, and knave of one suit, and the ace of another.
By every law of the game he is bound to go 'Nap,' and win. So he
makes his long suit trumps, feeling that he has a 'certainty.' But
when the cards are played, it turns out that one of his opponents
holds five small trumps against his four big ones, and he loses
on the last round.
An incident of this kind is reported, where the dupe, in a two-handed game, being rendered suspicious by the eagerness of those about him to wager that he would not make his Nap, instead of leading out his long suit, made his odd ace the trump, and thereby won. In a game of mere than two players, this could be prevented by one of the others holding two cards of the same suit as the ace. Moral Don't gamble with strangers. It is never safe; particularly in a railway train.
The foregoing being sufficient to give the reader a general idea of the common sharp and his methods, no more need be said with regard to this elementary branch of our subject. It will be sufficient to point out that the sharp usually devotes his entire energies to perfecting himself in some particular game. Having found his victim, he feigns indifferent play, and encourages the dupe to 'take him on.' No matter how skilful he may be, he never allows any evidence of the fact to escape him. One does not find a card-sharper, for instance, entertaining his chance acquaintances with card-tricks at least, not to their knowledge. To use the language which he would probably adopt, such a proceeding would be 'giving himself away with a pound of tea.' The sharp's motto is, 'Art is to conceal art;' and his success in life depends very greatly upon the strict observation of this maxim.
Skill, however, is not the only qualification necessary to the
successful sharp. He must have unbounded self-confidence if his
wiles are to be of any avail. In addition, he must also possess
tact and address, for upon theses two qualities will depend the
grade of society into which he will be enabled to carry his operations.
Given a liberal endowment of these two attributes, there is no circle,
however high or however select, into which the sharp will not ultimately
penetrate. The public have occasionally an opportunity of peeping
behind the scenes, but the cases of cheating which come to light
bear a very small proportion to those which are condoned or hushed
up, and the number of these again is nothing when compared with
the infinity of cases which are never discovered.
All the comparatively insignificant matters dealt with so far are of course common knowledge to many. As before mentioned, however, the general public
know very little of them, otherwise the numbers who gain a living by such means could not exist. It is for this reason only that they have
been even referred to here. Other and far more ingenious trickeries call for our attention, and to these we will now pass on.