How to Cheat at Cards and Catch Your Friends Doing It by AD Livingston (1974).pdf

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How to Cheat at Cards
And Catch Your Friends Doing It
A. D. Livingston
The Cardsharps by Valentin de Boulogne
my book
Poker Strategy and Winning Play,
I decided to
include a chapter about cheating. My reasoning was that no amount of strategy,
fancy footwork, and oddsmanship will enable a player to win at poker, or any
other card game, if he is up against a stacked deck. A reviewer said, "It's good
reading, but you may never again wholly trust your poker-night companions after
being advised of all the foul play that is possible."
I fear that the reviewer put his finger on an unfortunate consequence of reading a
book like
Dealing with Cheats.
It tends to rob one of the pleasures of the game. It
tends to muddle one's concentration on the proper way to play a hand with nagging
questions about how it was dealt. It tends to make one overly suspicious of his
fellows. I don't have to look very far to find grounds for my apprehensions in this
matter. Ever since word got out that I was studying the ways of sharpers and
learning a trick or two with the deck, some of my poker buddies have begun to
look at each other with a certain puzzled expression whenever I fill a swing hand in
high-low split; and the more I learn of all the foul play that is possible, the more
The thing strikes even closer home. Ever since I started
asking my wife to proofread various chapters of this book, she has begun to take a
close look at my dealing whenever I'm lucky enough to get ahead of her in our
weekly bouts of pinochle or klabberjass. Ever since I started acquiring a drawerful
of marked cards for the illustrations in this book, my five-year-old son has begun
to take more than a passing interest in the deck when I connect too often in
concentration or slapjack. It is therefore with some misgiving that I publish this
My doubts lift, however, when I do a little arithmetic. If a sucker is born every
minute, 525,600 are brought into the world annually, plus an additional 1,440 on
leap year. I feel that this book can save some of them a lot of money, if they happen
to read it. Yet I'm not offering any guarantees, and I'm not naive enough to believe
that I can save all the suckers and rid the world of sharks. The best I can hope for
with this book is that after reading it the skilled player will be a little better
prepared to assure himself that he is not bluffing a cold deck at the poker table,
laying even money the wrong way on first-flop dice, or bucking a Kentucky step-
up at blackjack.
Never play with a man who looks intently at the pack and shuffles the cards
slowly. If he is not locating the cards for the ensuing deal he is wasting time, and
should be hurried a little.
Peeking, Spying, and Signaling
Marked Cards and Belly Strippers
Slick Dealing
False Shuffles, Shifty Cuts, and Haymaker Stacks
Palming, Holding Out, and Ringing In
Copping and Counterfeiting
Gin Rummy
High Card And High Spade
Other Card Games
Roulette And Other Casino Games
Heads Or Tails
Another Man’s Game
The Edge And The Ice
Welshers, Paperhangers And Bad Losers
Con Games Played On Gamblers
The Ultimate Gaff
How To Shuffle
How To Cut
How To Deal
1. Peeking, Spying, and Signaling
at the top card,” my old gambling buddy said,
giving me the lowdown on a crooked stud game just across the river from New
Orleans. "If the top card was a dud, he dealt it to me fair and square. But if it was an
ace or a picture card, he saved it for himself or his partner and then swished me out
a second. That's hard to beat in stud poker."
It's hard to beat in most other card games, too. Merely knowing the identity of the
top card gives the sharper a decided advantage, and knowing how to control its
distribution by some sort of slick dealing gives him a sure thing, unless he suddenly
finds himself bucking a different sort of sharper who doesn't always play the hand
that's dealt to him!
There are several methods of peeking. In Figure 1, the stud dealer is pretending to
check his hole card prior to the next round of dealing. But he already knows what
he has in the hole and he's really more interested now in what's on top of the deck.
Figure 1
The peek is set up by bulging the top card by pressure from his left thumb so that
he can see the index. Feigning a more or less natural effort to shield his hole card
from the players sitting next to him he has moved the deck in close and has
completely turned it over: but he is really positioning the deck so that no player at
the table can see what he sees.
If properly done, the front peek, as the move is sometimes called, cannot be
detected conclusively from across the table. But it's a good idea to be suspicious of
any dealer who holds the deck in this manner while checking his down cards. (In
fact, be suspicious of anyone who has cause to check his down cards frequently
while dealing such games as stud poker or blackjack; a good player usually
remembers what he has in the hole, and he makes a point of
looking.) Also,
watch the dealer's eyes. Does he really look at his hole card, or does his eye dart
toward the deck? Eye movements toward a suspiciously held deck do not prove that
a dealer is peeking, but they do give you grounds enough either to stop playing
with the guy or to ask him to leave the deck flat on the table while he is dealing!
In Figure 2, a left-handed dealer is holding the deck in his right hand. It is very
easy for him to peek at both the top and the bottom cards because the index
numbers are in the top left corner and he merely has to pull the top card over a bit
with his thumb. It is, however, more difficult for the left-handed dealer to peek
without being detected, especially in a game like poker.
Figure 2
In Figure 3, the dealer is using a slightly different method, called the back peek.
Pressure from his index finger on one corner of the deck, along with a lifting action
from the muscles at the base of his left thumb, causes the top card to spread a bit
from the rest of the deck. This method is sometimes used while the dealer pretends
to check his hole card, but it is more often used when there is any sort of interrup-
tion in the deal, as when a player is trying to decide whether or not he wants a hit
in blackjack. Although the dealer does not have to turn the deck completely over
for the back peek, he does have to tilt it to an awkward angle. (But the angle is
more natural if the dealer is standing up.) Again, watch the dealer's eyes if you
suspect peeking.
Card detective Michael MacDougall apparently perfected a variation of the back
Figure 3
peek to a high degree. While dealing out one card, he is peeking at the next! The
May 1939 issue of
Reader's Digest
carried an article on how MacDougall put on a
demonstration of slick dealing while being watched closely by 100 luminaries of
the bridge world. Before the first hand, he bid six no-trump, dealt the cards, and
made it! The deck had been shuffled by Howard Schenken and had been cut by B.
Jay Becker. Here's a related quote from the May 1950 Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Sciences:
Michael MacDougall . . . is among the most skilful practitioners of all cheating
methods with cards. He can, for example, take an honestly shuffled and cut pack of
cards and deal a hand of bridge in which all the high cards fall to himself and his
partner. He does this by "flashing" each card before it is dealt, and giving it to an
opponent if it is a low card or saving it (by slick dealing) for himself or his partner
if it is a high card. He "flashes" the card by holding it slightly apart—not more than
a thirty-second of an inch—from the rest of the pack and catching a glimpse only of
its corner. The unpracticed eye could not identify the card at this angle if given
unlimited time; MacDougall must do it in a minor fraction of a second. It is an
impressive and nearly incredible display, described here only as an extreme
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