Because of my interest in Erdnase, I read the earlier books on card sharping that I could find. I found one in German, Mysterien des Kartenspiel
, and feel it is a blueprint for other works, but then I read Maskelyne's book Sharps and Flats
, which I felt was very well written. Next, I read this one, by Houdin and translated by Prof. Hoffman, which I now feel came before the Maskelyne book, and which is even more well written. It starts with some storytelling about the world of the crooked gamblers and swindlers, and then tells some info I never read before about details on thimble rigging.
But then, it segues into the telling of the life story of the man who served as Houdin's source of information about cheating at cards. The entire subculture of the gangs of crooked gamblers is explored in great detail. A whole event is set up with crooks acting out the roles of other players, police, foreign dignitaries, ladies who watch and kibitz on the games and people who mingle and give signals, all to wipe out one sitting duck by what would be seen as a play put on in real life. This is very interestingly written about. Many examples of variations on the theme of setting up a patsy are described. This could be considered what is probably the best explanation of what happens long before the actual game begins that I have read. Again, a whole crew with costumes and roles to play are involved.
Then, the second main part of the book goes into technical details of cheating techniques and "moves" as well as marked cards, and crimps and trimmed cards such as strippers are described. Various shuffles and palming methods and passes are described.
A comparison could be made that Erdnase is better technically at describing cheating methods. Houdin's is better at the storytelling nature of the cheater subculture of that time in France. If you believe that Erdnase also wrote Jack Pots under a different pseudonym, that book could be compared to the first part of the Houdin book and is made up of stories about and the life of traveling gamblers in America.
It should be pointed out that poker was not played in France at the time of Houdin.
All in all this book goes deeper into how all the people at a gambling venue may be involved in the scam, and how they coordinate. Remember the line, "If you don't know who is the patsy in a poker game, YOU are the patsy" but applied to whist, piquet, Baccarat, etc. I enjoyed the read.