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Cagliostro
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Comments on Gamblers’ Sleights by Rufus Steele

In 1969, Gamblers Book club reprinted the original Eddie McGuire manuscript entitled, The Phantom of the Card Table., in book form about Walter Scott and his "legendary" ability with a deck of cards.

While the original McGuire book had an abundance of hyperbole and unsubstantiated statements regarding Scott, his "master method" second deal and his "victories" over all other gamblers, there were a number of a very interesting articles and additional information included in the reprint editions.

One article by W.F.(Rufus) Steele made some very astute observations about Scott, second dealing, gamblers, magicians and gamblers' sleights. I will quote some of his comments below which are completely on point, very astute and pretty much stand-alone, but I will also make some observations myself.

For those who have a serious interest in the subject matter discussed on this forum and have not read the GBC reprint of The Phantom at the Card Table, I would recommend you obtain a copy of the book. It is quite excellent, a fascinating read and can be obtained from Gamblers General Store, www.gamblersgeneralstore.com, in Las Vegas for a nominal sum.

Steele's comments are in quote format in the next post.
Cagliostro
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Here are some excerpts from Steels article as mentioned:

Quote:
As has been related by Frances Ireland, both in The Linking Ring and in her last book, I was employed during my early life in a Boston gambling club, where I was taught many gambling sleights by men who knew their way around in gambling. I have followed up this interest in gambling all my life and believe that I am in a position to say that a magician is poorly equipped to judge a gambler.

Interestingly enough, none of those gamblers I knew in the Boston days ever used his sleights in the True Blue Club. He would go out into the open spaces and do his cheating, then bring his spoils back into the Club and lose them in a straight game—where the percentage take will break any constant card player.


So Rufus Steele had a fairly good background regarding hustling and gambling on a professional level and learned much from pros at this game.

I should also add, the percentage take referred to, or rake, will bust most players in the long run. It is usually not taken seriously by the average player but is almost impossible to overcome.

As far as hustlers losing their "spoils" in another game, when I was a young man I learned dice switches and control shots from a highly respected old time bust out man. He told me that after making a score busting out the suckers on the dice tables, he would go down the street and lose it all betting the "Don't Side" on the craps at a competitor's joint. I could never understand why anyone would do that but a hustler losing his ill-gotten gains at Faro, Craps or whatever his poison was, evidently was not uncommon.

Steele then tells an interesting story about Dr. Elliot, a well-known magician of a previous era.

Quote:
...Dr. Elliott was renowned among the old-time magicians as a card expert. I was invited to have lunch with him and later went to his room and played a number of checker games with him. He at that time showed me a great many card tricks and flourishes. When I informed him I was working in a gambling house, he became very much interested and wished to know about the sleights the gamblers used. I told him I could not explain them because "I didn't know any," but offered to find out whether I could invite him to the Club.

Later, when he was invited to visit the Club, he was asked to perform some of his pet tricks, which were very wonderful. However, he suggested that he knew several gambling sleights, such as second and basement deals. This was his mistake. Dr. Elliott performed these sleights in true magician style, and I remember very well the comments of a gambler called Monk White. "That card work may be fine for the magicians," he said, "but before you try to use it in a game for money, you had best look up the closest mortuary."

Monk White then demonstrated his "second" with 10 cards of a suit on top of the deck, and using his peek he dealt any of the 10 cards called for to himself. When this and several other sleights had been shown by White, Dr. Elliott abandoned his gambling routine and never returned to it. Sam Bailey once told me the doctor cried when he thought of the hours wasted on a gambling sleight that was not even a good magician's trick.


Many magicians and demonstrators, while sometimes quite skillful at what they do, are smart to stick with doing demos and magic tricks and forget about trying to use these moves in "serious" gambling games. Most demos I have seen are performed "magician" style and most magicians and demonstrators don't really understand what is meant by that term or what the difference is.

Quote:
In my lifetime, I have met many truly great gamblers, and I am frank to admit that the better class gamblers do not resort to sleights like second dealing or basement dealing. But they do understand these methods. A gambler who resorts to a second deal in his games belongs in the cheap honky-tonk places where the riff raff gather. I venture to say no cheat in a poker game can get by with 30 minutes of cheating in any gambling house that is run on the up and up.

Although we may admire skill, I can't for the life of me figure why you should make a hero out of a character who deals a perfect second. There is no half-way mark for a cheater: He is a common thief from his feet up. I never found one of them who had a penny saved for a rainy day…

Please don't misunderstand me when I speak of a second dealer in a gambling game. I am not including the magician who uses his second in performing some card trick. I know magicians who use a second deal in many of their tricks and do a very fine job of it. Yet these magicians would be suckers in a poker game - they are not gamblers.


When he says these magicians (and I would include demonstrators here), are not gamblers, what he means is they don't gamble for a living and are not hustlers. It doesn't mean they don't gamble from time to time on the square.

Quote:
The Phantom of the Card Table states there is only one master method of dealing the second card. With this I cannot agree. I am convinced that the type or shape of a man's hand has a great deal to do with how he deals. In my time, I have met a great many people who have fooled the public with their second dealing, and about all of them used different grips for their second - so why say "there is only one perfect way"...Dai Vernon said in his lecture, "A lot of nonsense has been written and circulated about the second deal."


McGuire's book stresses that Scott used a very small brief and that is the correct way to deal a second. However, Dai Vernon maintained the great lie about second dealing was that you needed a small brief for a deceptive second. He said the size of the brief was not that important. The real trick with a strike second was not to move the top card until the right thumb was moving down to strike the second card.

Quote:
One of the main reasons the "Phantom" article does not carry conviction for me is the general mixture of references to gambling and magicians. They just do not mix, and I do not think there is any basis of comparison between one and the other...

...I have met many gamblers and magicians in my time, and among the magicians, very few gambled for money for a living. The late Manuel (his real name was Thomas) was regarded among the magicians as the greatest of gamblers, but among the gamblers he was a "dud," or classed as a chump or sucker. He lacked the nerve to try his gambling sleights during a real poker game, and he confided to me the reason was fear. I have talked with many good gamblers who knew Manuel and watched him perform his sleights in private and had nothing but praise for him as a demonstrator. Yet as a player he lacked nerve and had a heart about as big as a mustard seed .


Magicians gambling style sleights and demos for the most part are in a different world from the methods of professional gambling.

Here is another interesting observation and addresses those that claim to be cheaters but then demonstrate what they do:

Quote:
If a man can make his living through his ability as a cheater, why would he advertise his secrets to the public whose wool he is trying to clip?


Duh!!...Steele is referring to people who actually make their living at cheating and to whom secrecy is paramount to their continued success and income.

Quote:
For years I have read in the magical magazines about this man called Walter Scott and have asked a great many gamblers if they had ever met or heard of him. Up to the present time, the only persons who acknowledge hearing of or knowing him are a few of the New York magicians. I have no reason to doubt Mr. Scott's ability or to question the fact that he impressed Mr. McGuire. But I do question the statement that Mr. Scott is the greatest of them all...

...If an outsider, like Mr. McGuire, could watch and catch his friend Scott do some cheating, then the clever card players just cheated must have been asleep or blindfolded. A consistent winner in a poker game will always be regarded with a great deal of suspicion, even though he wins through scientific playing.


Walter Scott's reputation was developed and promulgated by magicians, not gamblers. While Scott probably hustled from time to time, it is my understanding he was primarily a traveling musician.

Quote:
The Scott article gives us to understand that Cardini says, "Scott is 500 years ahead of Erdnase" (whose book was put out over 50 years ago). Well, I did not know that Erdnase was ever considered an authority on the game of Poker nor of the correct way to deal a "second," but I have read The Expert at the Card Table and consider it a very wonderful book on card sleights, and I believe it had a great deal to do with the way several of the better magicians handle a deck of cards.

I have not read Mr. Scott's full donation to the gambling or magical profession, but in my mind Erdnase offers some very helpful advice. All I can say regarding it is: If your ambition is to become a card cheat - one of the lowest forms of human endeavor - study the first part of The Expert at the Card Table. And it will take daily practice if you want to master these sleights. If, however, you wish to become a good magician and entertainer, devote your time to the second part of the book entitled "legerdemain." Disregard the statement that Scott is 500 years ahead. That is a lot of years, and I am afraid Poker was not even born in this country that many years ago.


Of course, Cardini was simply giving his opinion that Scott's methods were superior to the Erdnase methodology. However, there are many ways to skin a cat and both the Erdnase and Scott techniques are only a small part of the entire spectrum of card table chicanery.

Steele was a knowledgeable man when it came to gambling and card sharping. Even though his article was written years ago, to me it stands high in the literature of gambling/hustling articles. There is so much BS promulgated nowadays by magicians and demonstrators about the supposed "Real Work," who profess to know what they are talking about or demonstrating but in many cases really don't really have clue.

But that is the nature of the beast. Since magicians and demonstrators are first and foremost performers showing their wares and not cardsharps, a certain amount of self-aggrandizement and hyperbole is necessary to enhance their credibility as gambling "experts" and in many cases a necessarily adjunct to the performance of their moves and demonstrations.

While I never saw Scott perform, I would surmise he was extremely skillful at the specific moves he demonstrated and his second and punch dealing were executed superbly well. In fact, the explanation of Scott's techniques in McGuire's book are among the best I have seen for dealing a "dead thumb" second and punch deal type manipulation.
Peterson
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Very interesting Cag, thank you for sharing your thoughts in a detailed manner.

I have one small remark to add:

"If a man can make his living through his ability as a cheater, why would he advertise his secrets to the public whose wool he is trying to clip?"

And people usually will refer to this topic with a statement that goes something like this: "Cheater will never share his secrets and if he does he was/is not a cheater/hustler"

The problem with this one: it states that something is certain and static and there is no gradation or deviation, which in real world is impossible.
Cagliostro
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Quote:
On Jan 25, 2017, Peterson wrote:

"If a man can make his living through his ability as a cheater, why would he advertise his secrets to the public whose wool he is trying to clip?"

And people usually will refer to this topic with a statement that goes something like this: "Cheater will never share his secrets and if he does he was/is not a cheater/hustler"

The problem with this one: it states that something is certain and static and there is no gradation or deviation, which in real world is impossible.


I agree and I don't like using absolutes on anything, because there are always exceptions, nuances and deviations from the norm, so in a theoretical sense you would be correct.

However, in the real world, someone who cheats for a living professionally, not a demonstrator or amateur part timer, but someone whose bread and butter depends on not being known as a cheater, to remain successful and not get physically injured, killed or incarcerated, on a practical basis has to be secretive in that area of his life. Of course, he has close confidants that may know of what his true vocation is, but they are probably part of that endeavor with him.

Anyone who makes it know he is a cheater to the outside world, will have very limited opportunities and encounter serious problems. Judiciously keeping one's mouth shut it that regard woudl seem to be the more sensible approach. Smile
TH10111
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Given that both Steele and yourself agree that it is not uncommon to see a cheat win a lot of money from a game in which they have an advantage, only to then go and loose it playing on the square, it would seem that cheaters don't always adhere to the most sensible course of action.
So whilst 'coming out' as a cheat, or worse, talking about the techniques you use, would be a terrible idea, I can imagine that the ego of a gambler combined with the relative anonymity of an online forum could entice them to talk...
TH10111
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Admittedly there is perhaps more at risk in revealing yourself than there is in loosing your winnings...
tommy
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Some of these ex casino staff make me laugh.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

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Rufus Steele, One Of Nation's Leading Card Sharps, 'Acts Like A Crook To Catch Crooks; Exposes Gambling Tricks By EVELYN BOYD Avalanche-Journal Staff Writer
"It takes a crook to catch a crook," so W. V. "Rufus" Steele possibly has "crooked more crooked men into thinking he is crooked" than has any other playing card expert in the United States. For more than 35 years Steele has been experimenting with sleight of hand and "magic," mainly in connection with cards, and during that long period he has piled up a lot of distinctions for himself. Right now he ranks top in the field of magic, being the only magician who ever played 14 successive months on Broadway. He ranks top in the field of bridge, having since March won the' International Cup in London, having been one of the first authors of bridge instruction and having been associated with Ely Culbertson for many years in expounding the intricacies of the popular game. All that, however, has little to do with his crooking and catching of crooks, hence we'll take a peek into the clever gentleman's past:

Studied Engineering Back in 1902 or '3 he was studying electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, finding his $3-a-week allowance inadequate, he found employment as case-keeper for the faro bank game in a gambling house run, near the college, by Dave Dishler, one of the most noted gamblers of his day. Steele's salary was the silver left over after a day's play. The silver was known as "sandwich money" because it was the last a player tossed into a game after he had lost all his other funds. It was used to feed hungry players, and its purpose, where Steele was concerned, was to make him hungry for money.

PLAYING CARDS had never been known in Steele's family — ministers for several generations back—and so it was in Dishler's establishment that he found himself fascinated by the tricks of the cards. He studied the cards, talked to gamblers, learned their tricks first hand and to them applied the tricks of magic that already were a hobby with him. Dave Dishler's clientele included Gold Brick O'Brien, Monk White and Skinney the Kid, each noted for winning money with hIs own peculiar shady tactics. When O'Brien later was convicted for selling "gold bricks" and placed on Devil's Island, his good friend, Dishler, went to great expense to fit up a boat to rescue the gambler. Within two miles of success, the boat was spotted by a French man- of-war. Man Fed To Sharks O'Brien, whose physical condition was so poor that probably he would have died anyway, prevailed upon Dishler to save himself. "Forget gambling houses all over the country" he begged, "the sharks are better than Devil's Island." And so it was that Gold Brick O'Brien was fed to the sharks four miles off the Island. After graduation from M.I.T., Steele had a chance to play professional baseball at a salary of $3800 a year or to enter training with any of three electric companies. He chose the General Electric company which paid him $8.60 a week to start and $19.40 a week by the time he finished his course. He then served apprenticeship at Spier Falls on a $10,000,000 Hudson river project. By the time he was transferred to the Chicago Edison company at a salary of $90 a week, his sleight of hand and magic performances had become so well known that he was invited to appear on a musicians' convention program. The tricks were so well received that the musicians asked him io appear at their New York convention, and it was not long until he was making $375 a week in a Broadway theater, the World War having interrupted his theatrical career, Steele's next job was a detective for a card company that was having complaints all over the country as to "factory marked cards." As there is no such thing as "factory marked cards," it was one of Steele's Jobs to catch the crooks who were marking the cards and selling them as legitimate cards through unsuspecting wholesale houses.

Poses as Gambler
In this type of work he visited towns, posed as a gambler, gained the respect of the leading professionals, and learned their secrets. He found his "factory markers" in Oklahoma. Probably he has done more to hurt the sale of crooked cards than any other man in the country. How can one tell whether or not a new deck of cards has been tampered with? It's very simple. Feel the deck between thumb and forefinger. Does it give? , Is there air between the cards? If so, someone has been fooling with the cards. In the factory, a hydraulic press trims the cards and presses them together, so that no air is left between the cards. SUCH "tinhorn" tricks as those employed by the second dealer, the "basement dealer," the "runup man' and the "check stealing man" are unknown to the legitimate gamblers. The "tinhorn" gambler uses a deck switching device known as a gem holdout or "cooler." The spare deck is placed in a bag beneath his vest (which has been split in the back). Attached to the bag is a small wire by which the player manipulates the deck with his foot. To use this device, the gambler has to keep his foot under the chair lest too much moving around produce the deck at an obvious moment. Another trick is the "holdout" card held back of a necktie by a paper clip. It is a natural movement, taking a card from behind one's necktie.

Gamblers Pumice Fingers
Gamblers pumice their forefingers, This gives a sure grip on individual cards. Another trick is to pepper the cards. At once, when the peppered card touches the pimiiced forefinger, the gambler detects it. The professional uses psychology. If he wants his opponent to bet more, he puts his chips not into the pot but close to him. If he wants to run a bluff or to stop the betting, he sets his chips down in front of his opponent, or tosses the chips across the table, making a big fuss. If the professional puts his chips down timidly, the opponent thinks he doesn't have a very good hand. But if he puts them down directly in front of the opponent so that the opponent looks down at a large pile of chips, the latter thinks the gambler has a good hand. When two professional gamblers are playing, both often leave the table and go someplace to concentrate. Each is trying to figure out how they are fooling the other fellow, and what the other fellow is doing. They Like "Fresh Decks" A gambler likes to work with a fresh deck of cards. 'They aren't so likely to get stuck, and cause him trouble. Do gamblers still use marked cards? Yes, but not so much as in former days. One can tell if the cards are marked if he remembers the old thumb movie cards where characters acted if the pages were flipped rapidly. The same thing applies to a marked deck. Thumb the cards real fast and the figures will dance. Red-backed cards often are shaded rubbing them almost to the quick, slightly with rouge and blue-backed cards with stove black. The smudges, invisible of course, may be detected if the suspecting person flings the card on the table, takes a quick glance, then looks away. One can never- see the marking if he stares at the card.

NICKING a card with the thumb nail is a common trick. Crimping a card is another trick used by professionals. One of the newer ideas in crimping is to crimp off the corner, not the index, or lower right hand corner, of the card. The innocent player crimps the index corner as he looks at the hole card, and so the gambler, to be accurate, crimps another corner. There is a device known as the "sleeve holdout" which works off the knee and throws a high card into the palm of the hand from the sleeve. In gambling vernacular, a "basement man" deals off the bottom of the deck, a "second man" uses marked cards and keeps up a running conversation, and a "run- up man" is forever fooling with the cards trying to get a run in a suit. The "glimpse man" sees the cards before he deals them by holding them up from the back of the deck with his thumb. Glimpse men also have little mirrors, about the size of the end of a lead pencil. Sometimes they are glued to the end of the second finger of the dealing hand and sometimes they are put on cigaret cases and laid in front of the gambler. The "glimpse" and "crimp" are most commonly used by gamblers in the United States today. "Outside Man" Is Tip-Off An "outside man" is the fellow who stands around just looking. By shifting a cigarette or a toothpick or a cigar in his mouth he signals to the playing gambler what the sucker has. Days of gamblers working on trains and boats are practically a thing of the past. If, however, a gambler gets into a game on a train or a boat the play usually starts for fun, the gambler trying not to appear clever or smooth, losing a big pot once in a while and talking about his losses. THERE is a syndicate in the United States which sends out gamblers. First an "office" man is sent out to establish a legitimate office in a city. He joins the 'social clubs, makes contacts, spends money freely, and loses at poker. Soon along comes the syndicate traveling representative. The "office" man introduces him around and gives him all the dope on the card players. They get up a friendly little game and the traveling representative wins all the money, and leaves town. The gambler often is a cultured fellow, says Steele. He makes friends easily and is a fellow you want to meet. But it's a funny thing, Steele declares, he can go all over the country fleecing suckers, then land in a legitimate house and lose all his winnings. Steele represented the Bridge Congress in conducting a bridge school in Lubbock last week under auspices of the American Legion and The Avalanche-Journal.

Sunday, November 6, 1938



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Cagliostro
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I think it is “W.F” for William Francis and not” W.V.” (Rufus) Steele.

According to MagicPedia, Rufus Steele (1881-1955) started out as a professional gambler and became a well-known card expert. He also wrote several books on magic.

Card Tricks You Will Do (1928)
Card Tricks That are Easy To Learn (1935)
50 Tricks You Can Do, You Will Do, Easy to Do (1946)
52 Amazing Card Tricks (1949)
Paul Rosini's Magical Gems (1950)
The Last Word On Cards (1952)

Actually this article posted by tommy was quite interesting. I copied it into word format to break it into paragraphs and make it more readable. Good insight as to how card cheating was done back at that time.
tommy
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By his own dubious accounts, a pro gambler.

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Fascinating, thank you for sharing.

I couldn't find the "Phantom" book at the Gambler's General Store. Maybe you have the specific link?
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I was able to lay my hands on a copy of Phantom last year and it is a marvelous read. Interesting work to be sure.

Thanks for sharing this Cag. It's been interesting reading this morning.
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