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Card Sharping Exposed by Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin & Professor Hoffmann

A translation of Les Trickeries des Grecs by M. Robert-Houdin, one of the most valuable and interesting works on the subject of card sharping.

Excerpt from the preface:

Meanwhile, the march of science has continued, and the arts of deception, like other arts, have received many new developments. There are fashions in fraud, as in more innocent matters. I have endeavoured in the present pages not only to offer a faithful translation of Robert-Houdin's text, but by the aid of notes to bring down his work, so to speak, to present date. In so doing I have to acknowledge special obligation to the admirable Filouteries du Jeu of M. Cavaillé, and Les Tricheurs of M. Alfred de Caston. The information obtained from these and other literary sources has been supplemented by personal demonstration at the hands of a gentleman whose knowledge of the ways of modern Greece (how acquired I will not venture to speculate) is (like Mr. Samuel Weller's knowledge of London) at once "extensive and peculiar," and who has kindly placed that knowledge at my disposal.

This work was first translated in 1863 under the title The Sharper Detected and Exposed. In 1881 Prof. Hoffman published his translation with additions and updates. It is unclear why in 1903 Hilliar would do a new translation under the title Card Sharpers. Perhaps he felt he could ride Erdnase's coattails after his groundbreaking The Expert at the Card Table published in 1902. Hoffmann's translation is the best version due to his additional comments and updates.

  • Editor's Preface
  • Author's Preface
  • An Anecdote By Way Of Introduction. A Dangerous Instructor
  • CHAPTER I. Modern Greeks
  • CHAPTER II. The Greek Of Fashionable Life
  • CHAPTER III. The Greek Of The Middle Classes
  • CHAPTER IV. The Sharper Of The Low Gaming-House
  • CHAPTER V. A Greek Caught In The Fact
  • CHAPTER VI. The Gambler Raymond And His Infallible System
    • Advice To Players
  • CHAPTER VII. The True Story Of A Greek
  • CHAPTER VIII. Secret Gaming-Houses
  • CHAPTER IX. A Private Hell
    • The Secret Telegraph
  • CHAPTER X. "Doing" The Doctor
  • CHAPTER XI. The Paste Ring
  • CHAPTER XII. An Infamous Piece Of Treachery
    • General Principles
  • CHAPTER I. To Neutralize The Cut
    • § I. The Saut De Coupe, Or "Pass"
    • § II. The Passe-Coupe. Or "Cut Replaced"
    • § III. The Enjambage, Or "Cross-Over"
    • § IV. The Carte Large, Or "Wide Card"
    • § V. The Pont, Or "Bridge"
  • CHAPTER II. Filer La Carte (To Change A Card, Or "Deal Second")
  • CHAPTER III. "Palming" Cards
  • CHAPTER IV. Replacing Cards
  • CHAPTER V. The Carte A L'oeil, Or Card Seen By A Glance
    • § I. Exchanging Packs
    • § II. The Box In The Sleeve
  • CHAPTER VII. False Shuffles
    • § I. The Classifying Or Arranging Shuffle
    • § II. The Partial Shuffle
    • § III. The Fan Shuffle
    • § IV. The "Dove-Tail" Shuffle
  • CHAPTER VIII. Doctored Cards
    • § I. "Clipped" Or Biseauté Cards
    • § II. Tinted Cards
    • § III. Cards That Do, Or Do Not, Slip In Dealing
    • § IV. Cards "Out Of Square"
    • § V. Pricked Cards
    • § VI. Cartes "Morfilées," Or Cards With Indented Edges
    • § VII. Cartes "Ondulées," Or Bent Cards
    • § VIII. Cartes "Tarotées," Or Fancy-Backed Cards
    • § IX. Marked Cards
  • CHAPTER IX. Cards Arranged "En Chapelet"
  • CHAPTER X. The Ring For Marking
  • CHAPTER XI. The Reflecting Snuff-Box
  • CHAPTER XII. Application Of The Preceding Principles. Arrangement Of The Pack
    • § I. A Game At Piquet
    • § II. A Game At Piquet
    • § III. Another Game At Piquet
    • § IV. A Game At Écarté
    • § V. Another Game At Écarté
    • § VI. Lansquenet
    • § VII. On Games With Four Players
  • CHAPTER XIII. Illustrative Tricks
    • § I. Écarté
    • § II. Continuation Of The Game
    • § III. A Game At Écarté
    • § IV. A Game At Écarté
    • § V. Baccarat
    • § VI. Impériale
    • § VII. Whist
    • § VIII. A Game At Whist
    • § IX. Bouillotte
    • § X. A Game At Bouillotte
    • § XI. Bézique
    • § XII. A "Coup De Piquet"
    • §.XIII. A Clever "Coup De Piquet"
  • CHAPTER XIV. Minor Frauds Allowable By Custom
  • CHAPTER XV. The Wilful Blindness Of Card-Players

1st edition 1881, 316 pages; in 1882 the cover title was expanded to "Card Sharping Detected and Exposed" but the contents was unchanged; PDF 167 pages.
word count: 63890 which is equivalent to 255 standard pages of text

Reviewed by Gregg Webb (confirmed purchase)
★★★★★   Date Added: Sunday 21 January, 2024

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.

This product is listed under the following topics:

Magic & Conjuring / Cards

Gambling / Cheating, Cons, Scams & Protection

Magic & Conjuring / Published 1800-1899