Sharps and Flats: The Secrets of Cheating
home introduction book content links advertising contact


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









Bookmark and Share


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.

Bookmark and Share


« commons sharpers... (the purse trick) marked cards... »

home | introduction | book content | links | advertising | contact