...by those in the know, there are literally dozens of different methods of marking cards, and numerous versions for sale. In my opinion, unless you’re playing poker with Forrest Gump, I think it’s pretty stupid to sit at the table with readers anyone can buy in the stores. What if one of the other players is as familiar with your “new deck” as you are?
I think any self-respecting cheat marks his own cards!
Why? Because he’s less likely to get caught and it’s a lot easier to read cards with a system he’s invented himself. But before we look at the methods let’s cover some of the basics:
Most readers are typically marked in the outer left or right corner of the card (depending on which hand our dishonest dealer favors). This position allows the cheat to draw back the top card slightly to identify the second and even third card. Whether the “work” is in the right or left corner, a reader is always marked at both ends so that it can be easily read no matter which way the deck is oriented.
Quite often, they aren’t marked in great detail; in fact, it’s regularly just cards of a high value that are marked, with no consideration for suits or anything numerically lower than a ten.
When you tell this to a layman who fancies himself proficient with his $5 novelty deck, he thinks it’s ridiculous, but the advantages it offers a competent hustler are staggering.
So let’s have a look at just a few of the mostly commonly used methods that have stood the test of time.
With the aid of a surgical blade or an acid based solvent, a small segment of design is removed from the card without lifting the glaze. Have a close look at the circled area in fig. 2 and you can see where the ink between two of the decorative triangular designs has been removed, effectively indicating that this particular card is a jack. If it had been the two designs above, it would be a queen, and so on.
Irons & Splashes
Cheats have even been known to iron cards to remove the glazed finish, making them immediately distinguishable to those who know what they’re looking for. Another method is to spill water on the high cards, which, when wiped away after a minute or two, leaves a slightly dulled area on the back design.
Block-out work is exactly the opposite of cutout work; ink isn’t removed from the card, but added. A dye is diluted until it exactly matches the color of the card and is then used to fill in small portions of the white space amongst the back design. See fig. 3.
The high value cards are placed in strong sunlight, bleaching the backs a very slightly lighter tone. I fairly cooked the ones in fig. 4 sothat the camera would pick up the difference.
No two batches of playing cards are exactly the same; often slight imperfections occur as they’re manufactured. For instance, the cut of the card may be somewhat rough, or the back design may be printed slightly off center (see fig 5). Most of these are imperceptible, except to the trained eye of the cheat, who knows exactly how to take advantage of the situation. He’ll mix two decks together, replacing all the high cards with those from the imperfect pack, leaving him with paperwork that, if discovered, could be blamed on the card manufacturer.
The next consideration is how to get the deck into the game
breathes a subconscious sigh of relief as the seal is broken and cellophane removed from a brand new deck of cards. Of course, the sharp has devised methods of opening, marking and resealing a deck, making it look like it just rolled out of the factory. (If you want to see this being done, check out my DVD, details of which are at the bottom of
It’s customary in a casual game for the host to provide the cards, chips etc., which is great for the hospitable hustler. Great, that is, until he unwittingly invites a savvy player who not only spots his game but blows his cover. The finger of blame will be the least of his concern. It’s the fists I’d be worrying about.
And what about when our larcenous friend is invited to a game?
Well, he’s got to track down a matching deck to that being used, put the “work” into it, and then switch in the pack during the game – a business requiring not just huge skill but nerves of steel.
So how does the smarter sharp overcome these concerns?
He’ll actually mark the cards during the game! A topic so delectable that I’m saving it for a future article, but until then, here’s a quick and casual way to check the deck during your next game with your friends. Just for fun.
Remember drawing a matchstick man on each corner of your school copybook and then flicking the pages to animate the drawing? Try it with the deck. Hold it in dealing position and, with the thumb of your other hand, buckle the pack and release the cards one at a time. As they riffle
past, look carefully at the backs. If you see anything moving – dancing petals in the floral designs – anything at all, find yourself some new friends.
Till next time
Keep your cards up
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