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Sharps and Flats is probably the most important early book on cheating devices and methods. Sharps being the cheaters and flats being the cheated, the mark. Maskelyne details among others, marked cards, holdouts (Kepplinger holdout), reflectors and manipulation. He describes not just cheating at the card table but also cheating with dice, cheating at Sporting houses, and at Roulette. The book is very thorough with many wonderful illustrations.
1st edition, 1894, Longmans, Green and Co., New York and London; reprinted, Gamblers Book Club, Las Vegas; 335 pages.
word count: 80209 which is equivalent to 320 standard pages of text
- Preface to the Second Edition
- II.Common Sharpers and Their Tricks
- III.Marked Cards and the Manner of Their Employment
- VII.Collusion and Conspiracy
- VIII.The Game of Faro
- IX.Prepared Cards
- XI.High Ball Poker
- XII.Roulette and Allied Games
- XIV.Sharps and Flats
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss
★★★★★ Date Added: Monday 05 September, 2005
John Nevil Maskelyne was a fighter for truth, justice, and the American—uh, sorry, make that British—way from virtually the beginning of his career. As an early opponent of spiritualism, he built early fame on his duplication of the Davenport Brothers' spirit cabinet act. Maskelyne's achievements were plentiful and varied, including his work with David Devant at the Egyptian Hall, and of course, his co-authorship with Devant of Our Magic, one of the greatest conjuring texts of all time. He also wrote books on spiritualism—one early in the battle, one late—which still make for remarkably good reading. And he wrote this classic treatise on crooked gambling, the "sharps" and "flats" in the title referring to the cheaters and their uninformed victims.
There is an elaborate segment on hold-outs, including an illustrative plate depicting an anecdote in which the famous Kepplinger hold-out was first uncovered by some of the inventor's fellow sharpers and, apparently in this case, victims. Later in the book there is a reproduction of a then-current catalog of crooked gambling devices from an American mail-order house, which includes a Kepplinger hold-out for a price of $75.00 (the complete outfit could run as much as a hundred). Today, if you could actually locate the remaining individual or two that still makes a quality Kepplinger, you would likely have to pay between twelve and fourteen hundred dollars for it. Those were the days!