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Inner Circle
Posts: 138
Reply with quote  #1 
Hi all,

During a session last night, we were discussing old books, and Trini asked me to post a list of some of my favorites.

This list is not complete, but I think it contains some interesting older gambling references.



Puzzlers' Tribute: A Feast for the Mind (2002) edited by David Wolfe and Tom Rogers
The chapter "Sleight of Hand with Playing Cards prior to Scot's Discoverie" by William Kalush describes many interesting ancient texts, including the earliest known deception with playing cards, which is a confidence game related to Three Card Monte.

Rogues, Vagabonds & Sturdy Beggars (1990) edited by Arthur F. Kinney
This book contains reprints of several fascinating pamphlets from the 16th and 17th century. The language and spelling have been updated, so it is easier to read than the originals.

Two of the best pamphlets in the book can be found in their original form at:

Cardano the Gambling Scholar (1953) by Oystein Ore
Contains a translation of The Book on Games of Chance, written in the 16th century, but not published until 1663. It contains a very brief but interesting chapter called "On Frauds in Games of This Kind."

Crambrook's Catalog of Magical Curiosities and Deceptions (1843)
This is a magic shop catalog but almost half of it is a gambling exposé.

A Grand Exposé of the Science of Gambling (1860) by An Adept
This book contains fascinating discussions of confidence games and cheating.

The Sharper Detected and Exposed (1863) by Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin
This book contains detailed (for the time) descriptions of many cheating techniques.

How Gamblers Win or The Secrets of Advantage Playing Exposed (1865)
First edition
Second edition
Additional commentary by Bart Whaley
This is one of the most important pre-Erdnase books. It covers a broad range of techniques, and anticipates the amoral perspective of Erdnase.

Forty Years A Gambler on the Mississippi (1887) by George Devol
This is an autobiography of a gambler and con artist. It has many entertaining stories. It does not explain actual cheating techniques.

Fools of Fortune (1890) by John Philip Quinn
A large book covering many games.

Sharp and Flats (1894) by John Nevil Maskelyne
A gambling exposé covering many games and techniques.

Crooks, Con Men, and Cheats (1905) by Eugene Villiod
Eugene Villiod was a police officer in Paris in the early 20th century. This book describes various swindles and con games worked in France in the early 20th century.

The Stealing Machine (1906) by Eugene Villiod
This book describes the setup and operation of a crooked gambling club.

How They Cheat You at Cards (1909) by Eugene Villiod
This book describes how traveling cheaters worked in France in the early 20th century.

Knights of the Green Cloth: The Saga of the Frontier Gamblers (1982) by Robert K. DeArment
This is a book of stories about gambling in the old west. It does not explain cheating techniques.

Sucker's Progress: An Informal History of Gambling in America from the Colonies to Canfield (1938) by Herbert Asbury
This book is a history of gambling. It does not cover cheating techniques.

The Green Felt Jungle (1963) by Ed Reid and Ovid Damaris
This book is about the founding of Vegas and the role of organized crime in running Vegas in the early days.

Here are some other books about which I have heard good things, but I have not read them yet.

Years ago, Whit Haydn ran a forum called the Scoundrels Forum, and a wiki called the Scoundrels Wiki. One of the pages on this wiki was the Scoundrels Bibliography. Unfortunately, this wiki is long gone, but thankfully the Internet Archive Wayback Machine still has a copy. This bibliography mostly covers confidence games, but it may still be of some interest.


Honored Member
Posts: 307
Reply with quote  #2 
Wow what a comprehensive list. Thank you for this. I purchased The Green Felt Jungle. I will look at the others as well, but want to read one at a time.

Thank you again,

Inner Circle
Posts: 138
Reply with quote  #3 
FYI, I found that Google has a PDF of How Gamblers Win, 2nd edition.


Tom G

Honored Member
Posts: 1,284
Reply with quote  #4 
A very good book I just finished, a bio, not instruction, is Titanic Thompson by Kevin Cook.  What a bold character.
Lucas Maillard

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Inner Circle
Posts: 150
Reply with quote  #5 
Hey Andru,

This is quite an exhaustive list. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Mike Powers

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Honored Member
Posts: 2,545
Reply with quote  #6 
Wow! The only one I was familiar with is "Sharps and Flats." 

When I think of "old" books, I generally end up in the first half of the 20th century. 

Magic Harry

Inner Circle
Posts: 409
Reply with quote  #7 
The Change Raisers (August 1992) by W.M.Tucker
Keeping Carnies Honest A Police Officer's Guide to Carnival Game Inspections (second printing April,1994)
by Lindsay Smith and Bruce Walstad
Sting Shift A Street - Smart Cop's Handbook of Cons and Swindles (third printing, August 1993) by 
Lindsay E. Smith and Bruce A. Walstad
The Bunko Book (1976) by Walter B. Gibson
Then there are the various Betcha Books out there.

Harry Damareck

Posts: 3
Reply with quote  #8 
luvisi, great list.
I hadn't come across the Crambrook catalogue or the Cardano book before!

Of the major pre-Erdnase books on cheating techniques that are in english, I think there are only a couple that I would add:
- 'The Compleat Gamester' by Cotton from 1674
- 'The Whole Art and Mystery of Modern Gaming Fully Expos'd and Detected', from 1726
(The Seymour version of 'The Compleat Gamester', from 1734, borrows heavily from those previous two items, but in my opinion isn't as good as the two read separately.)
- 'The St James Guide', from 1825, of which the mysterious 4th and final part has never been found...
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