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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » For the record » » Erdnase and Three Card Monte (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Bill Hallahan
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It's true that Erdnase didn't mention about using a mob in conjunction with Three Card Monte. But George Devol ran a Three Card Monte scam as a loner, although he usually had one or two partners.

Also, gamblers are often broke. Erdnase and George Devol alluded to this in their writings.

S.W. Erdnase wrote:
Quote:
Hazard at play carries sensations that once enjoyed are rarely forgotten. The winnings are known as "pretty money," and it is generally spent as freely as water.

However, I'm not saying Erdnase wasn't a magician. He clearly did perform magic at times. But his his attitude is similar to George Devol and S. James Weldon. To me, he seems to fit the pattern of a cheat better than that of a profesional magician.

Glen Bishop wrote:
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The street con man is only interested in getting the money.

S. W. Erdnase wrote:
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The average professional who is successful at his own game will, with the sublimest unconcern, stake his money on that of another's, though fully aware the odds are against him. He knows little of the real value of money, and as a rule is generous, careless and improvident. He loves the hazard rather than the stakes. As a matter of fact the principal difference between the professional gambler and the occasional gambler, is that the former is actuated by his love of the game and the latter by cupidity. A professional rarely "squeals" when he gets the worst of it; the man who has other means of livelihood is the hardest loser.


S. W. Erdnase also wrote:
Quote:
In offering this book to the public the writer uses no sophistry as an excuse for its existence. The hypocritical cant of reformed (?) gamblers, or whining, mealymouthed pretensions of piety, are not foisted as a justification for imparting the knowledge it contains.

This seems like the writing of someone who is used to rationalizing dishonesty, particularly since he use the adjective, "mealymouthed."

Finally, being a public magician and being a cheating gambler seem incompatible, at least in the same town. It would raise too much suspicion. Erdnase actually counsels against being showy.

If I had to bet, I'd guess S. W. Erdnase was a gambler, at least most of the time. But you could be correct. So little is know about him that he could have run a bakery for a living! If he wasn't a gambler, he was a very imaginative writer.
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bishthemagish
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Yes Bill but Erdnase wrote up three card monte in Expert at the card table as a demonstration. Not as a way to con people. In fact most of the routines in his book are written from a demonstration point of view.

I think that Erdnase was a gambler because he lost money with someone and a short deck. But being a gambler doesn't make him a card cheat.

And I still ask the question why would Erdnase write a book in the first place if he was a card shark?

The story of George Devol was a STORY - Erdnase gave us METHODS not a story...

A Big Difference!
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Bill Hallahan
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Quote:
The story of George Devol was a STORY - Erdnase gave us METHODS not a story...

The story is an autobiography by a real cheating gambler. That makes it a valid source of information about how a real cheating gambler might relate his experiences.

And while George Devol did not give detailed methods, he was unquestionably a cheat.

When the young Dai Vernon wanted to learn more about card methods he didn’t look for other magicians, he looked for, and found, men involved in gambling!

Quote:
And I still ask the question why would Erdnase write a book in the first place if he was a card shark?

Erdnase tells us in his own words, well, perhaps a ghostwriter’s words, that he wrote the books because he needed money. (The first quote in my first post in this topic has the Erdnase quotation where he refers to how he quickly he went through money).

The reason I initially mentioned George Devol was to support the position that cheating gamblers are often broke. Big games that supported their lifestyle do not happen every day. They have to wait for a high roller to come around.

This is one of the reasons that George Devol spent much of his time on riverboats. There were plenty of marks with money there. But George Devol still had dry spells.

After most men are taken for huge sums, they’re not as likely to play the same person again. And, of course, cheating is risky, and winning all the time invites suspicion. And some people don’t like to part with their money, so even legitimate gambling can be dangerous. George Devol moved around a lot between riverboat lines to avoid suspicion and to find new marks. He was in fights many times.

Perhaps Erdnase was tired of moving around.

I don’t know if Erdnase was primarily a card cheat or a magician, but if he was a card cheat, his story about needing money is very credible.

If Erdnase was primarily a magician, then was lying when he implied that he was primarily a cheat!
Humans make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to create boredom. Quite astonishing.
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bishthemagish
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Quote:
On 2005-03-01 22:58, Bill Hallahan wrote:
The story is an autobiography by a real cheating gambler. That makes it a valid source of information about how a real cheating gambler might relate his experiences.

And while George Devol did not give detailed methods, he was unquestionably a cheat.

I can't speak for every autobiography but most of them have little to do with facts. This was just a story and has nothing to do with Vernon or Erdnase. How true a story is depends on the person telling it or in this case - writing it. This story was written to sell. Not to present facts of the time!

It reminds me of many stories like the old western dime books.
Quote:
On 2005-03-01 22:58, Bill Hallahan wrote:
When the young Dai Vernon wanted to learn more about card methods he didn’t look for other magicians, he looked for, and found, men involved in gambling!

Yes that was Vernons quest but I see little of what Wernons quest and his gifts to magic has to do with the Dime book of George Devol.
Quote:
On 2005-03-01 22:58, Bill Hallahan wrote:
The reason I initially mentioned George Devol was to support the position that cheating gamblers are often broke. Big games that supported their lifestyle do not happen every day. They have to wait for a high roller to come around.

I don’t know if Erdnase was primarily a card cheat or a magician, but if he was a card cheat, his story about needing money is very credible.

If Erdnase was primarily a magician, then was lying when he implied that he was primarily a cheat!

If you were to study the lives of both Vernon and Charlie Miller you would find that there were times that they needed the money. Most magicians are not rich. Many times during a magicians life they need the money.

If Erdanse was a magician he did close up magic and at the time of the book there was no market for a close up magician to make a living. I would say that there is a better chance that Erdnase was a magician that was out of work.

And as magicians out of work - speaking as a magician that has been out of work - there were times that we need the money!

Erdnase also wrote the book that inspired both Dai Vernon and Ed Marlo. I am sure that if he was a card shark and he needed the money he could have found a backer and play for the house of many of the saloons that had card games at the time.

In other words with his SKILL and in the day he lived cheating would have been money in the bank for him. And if he played with partners that would have made cheating even easier!

But I feel he was an out of work magician not an out of work card cheat. Because in his day it is easy to find a game. And just as easy to find backers!
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Bill Hallahan
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Glen Bishop wrote:
Quote:
Quote:
On 2005-03-01 22:58, Bill Hallahan wrote:
When the young Dai Vernon wanted to learn more about card methods he didn’t look for other magicians, he looked for, and found, men involved in gambling!

Yes that was Vernons quest but I see little of what Wernons quest and his gifts to magic has to do with the Dime book of George Devol.

Nothing. I was moving on past the book. That statement has to do with the type of person methods often come from, which is the word you made stand out in the post I was responding to. Vernon was looking for people like Erdnase.

But let me make it clear why that book, and others, are important in this discussion. Since Erdnase claims to be a gambler in his work, it’s useful to know how a real gambler thinks and feels.

Prior to reading several books like these, if I were to pretend I was a gambler, I wouldn’t have known to think that the marks deserved what happened to them. This is a rationalization that comes from the experience of fleecing people. I haven’t done that. Both Erdnase and Devol allude to that thought.

And as to the credibility of George Devol, he list many facts in his book that can be corroborated. He brags throughout the book, and there is no reason to believe that when he writes he was broke at times that it’s a lie. And it’s not just him. Other books by cheats, such as “20 Years a Fakir”, a book about a con man (not a card man), describe similar attitudes expressed by both Erdnase and Devol.

I understand that recently clues about a man named Erdnase have surfaced, and another person who might be Erdnase, but there is still no corroboration for any of this yet. Without that, all we have is his book to go by. So one is left with the questions about the credibility of what he writes. Does what he writes make sense? Do the facts all fit?

Knowing what a real cheating gambler is like can help evaluate if Erdnase has the same type of personality.

While the writing is markedly superior in Erdnase’s book as compared to George Devol’s book, there are many ideas that match throughout both works. I read Mr. Devol’s book before I came into this debate, and I was struck with the numerous passages that reminded me of “The Expert at the Card Table”. Devol has a quote about going through money rapidly as does Erdnase. Devol regards marks the same way, as deserving of their fate. Devol writes the same type of disclaimer near the start of the book as Erdnase writes, making no apology for his actions, and then later in the book expresses some regret, just as Erdnase does.

But you’re right, it’s another book and it doesn’t prove anything, well, except that Erdnase knows how to express the same thoughts and feelings as a real cheating gambler. Perhaps Erdnase was able to get into a gambler’s head, to realize how they think and feel. Perhaps he knew someone who was a cheat. Perhaps he read an article about one, maybe even George Devol’s book.

Or maybe he was one.
Humans make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to create boredom. Quite astonishing.
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bishthemagish
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Quote:
On 2005-03-02 21:35, Bill Hallahan wrote:
Since Erdnase claims to be a gambler in his work,

Erdnase makes no such claim as to be a gambler by profession. His hint at being a player comes when he talks about a streak of bad luck with a short deck.

One book was a story book and the other was a book of methods. I do not think a real card cheat would write a book of card cheating methods and then try to sell it to the general public.

Most of the gambling section is written as a demo not as methods on card cheating. Why would a card cheat write it up all the material as demo's and why would he put a magic section in the book?

He talks about the spotters that are employed by saloons to spot cheating. I think Erdnase was one of those people and wrote a book as promo for perhaps a lecture tour on card cheating.

Hey that is what Scarne, Micky McDoogle, Darwin Ortiz and Steve Forte do.

Write books and lecture on card cheating.

I feel that Erdnase most likely would have been the first to do this kind of a market!
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pasharabbit
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http://illusionata.com/mpt/view.php?id=194&type=articles has discussion on whom Erdnase may have been. Reading Erdnase you would superficially believe that it was written to teach how to cheat at cards. But a real card cheat has far more going for him than sleights or marked cards. There is a psychology besides a predatory one to playing a game and not wind up in a ditch or alley. If you read Poker A Guaranteed Income for Life, the author deals with the psychology of being a card sharp, which involves reading people, developing a playing group etc.
Oddly there is little discussion of cheating except as a threat to one's regular income. I have a coworker who worked as a professional gambler for 15 years and he said he made his income playing against weaker wealthy players in regular games not by cheating. If one picked up this book to learn how to cheat at cards as a professional they would be very disappointed. It is curious that I believe the second edition has a section on card magic, which is not what you would expect from a card cheat. As for the character of the man, I think he was not above cheating at cards but I don't get the feel of a professional cheat. So much is left unsaid in this book on how to successfully do it. The link by the way shows that the book could never have made money for the author.
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2005-03-02 23:46, bishthemagish wrote:...Write books and lecture on card cheating.

I feel that Erdnase most likely would have been the first to do this kind of a market!


Are there known copies of the book annotated by other sharks, in sections or diary records of such a lecture?

I agree in that the text appears to have some unclear motivations in content and language.
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panlives
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Quote:
On 2005-08-07 02:10, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Quote:
On 2005-03-02 23:46, bishthemagish wrote:...Write books and lecture on card cheating.

I feel that Erdnase most likely would have been the first to do this kind of a market!


Are there known copies of the book annotated by other sharks, in sections or diary records of such a lecture?

I agree in that the text appears to have some unclear motivations in content and language.


Was this great question ever answered?
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According to Wild About Houdini the answers are coming soon.
Bill Palmer
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Erdnase probably never did a lecture. He concealed his identity quite successfully until after his death. To understand why some of this thread is very amusing, check the current issue of Genii magazine. I think Alexander and Demarest put the whole thing to an end.
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