The Art Of Cheating

Cardsharping, said the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences in 1950, “carries a greater stigma than the seduction of a friend’s wife.” Nevertheless, it has enjoyed a long, vigorous life. Here are two tools of the cheater’s trade.

Jacob’s Ladder Holdout

The hand below is equipped with an 1890s device that could produce a good card or remove a poor one, unbelievably without the other players noticing.

Marked Cards Read more »

What Beats What

The H. T. Webster cartoon comes from Webster’s Poker Book, published in 1925, when the game was enjoying one of its more vigorous revivals. In his text, which is nearly as amusing as Webster’s cartoons, the writer George F. Worts gives advice on everything from how to keep one’s wife from interrupting a poker party to when to draw four cards to an ace or king high (never) and goes on to spell out the order in which cards and hands take precedence.

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Politics And Poker

What one game of cards tells us about two famous statesmen

Poker (or its equivalent) has been popular among the political classes right from the beginning of American history. George Washington furnished Mount Vernon with a card table, multiple decks of playing cards, and two sets of “counters.” With military precision, he also kept careful track of his successes and failures, noting that he won slightly more than £72 during the years 1772–74, while losing about £78 during the same period, for a net loss of £6. Read more »


The very American career of the card game you can learn in
10 minutes and work on for the rest of your life


In 1875 a writer for the New York Times was “forced to the conclusion that the national game is not baseball, but poker.”

“Rich and poor, high and low, good and bad, male and female yield to the fascinations of Poker,” another observer wrote in 1889.

Playing Texas Hold ’Em in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1968. Life magazine commissioned the photo to introduce its readers to the game.
bob peterson/time life pictures/getty images.2006_6_38
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The 18-hole Hustle

During the golden age of golf, many of the sport’s greatest players never went pro. They couldn’t afford the pay cut.


It was a short putt, about three feet or so, and the stakes were only $5,000—pocket change for a guy like the poker champion John “Professor” Moss, even in 1939 dollars, not that Moss was prone to choking anyway.

The Town That Took A Chance

From its first boom during America’s biggest gold rush to its current gamble on gambling, Deadwood, South Dakota, has managed to keep itself very much alive

Maybe I was fated to take a trip to Deadwood. Back in 1952 I was living under the high white Hollywood sign while my father played small parts in big movies, such as Popilius Lena in Julius Caesar , the version that starred Marion Brando. That year Paramount was making two Westerns on adjoining sound stages. One was Shane ; the other was Son of Paleface , starring Bob Hope, Jane Russell, and Roy Rogers.

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The Magician And The Cardsharp

After 20 years of looking for someone who could perform the “middle deal,” Dai Vernon had pretty much decided this supreme piece of sleight of hand was a fable. Then, one night in a Wichita jail, a prisoner told Vernon he’d seen a man do it…

One rainy afternoon in January 1932, Dai Vernon, the greatest sleight-of-hand artist in the world, sat in the Innes Department Store in Wichita, Kansas, bored out of his mind. The 37-year-old Vernon had come to Kansas with his wife, Jeanne, and their young son, Ted, for the new year, lured by invitations from his friend and fellow magician Faucett Ross and the promise of work cutting silhouette portraits of customers at the store. Ross had helped the Vernons get settled, and the two men did nothing for several days but practice and talk magic.

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Nation Of Gamblers

Once seen as a vice and now as a public panacea, the national passion that got Thomas Jefferson in trouble has been expanding for two centuries

“I’m dad-gum disgusted at trying to police every half-square and every half-house,” Sen. Huey Long told a radio audience in Louisiana in May 1935. “You can’t close gambling nowhere where the people want to gamble.”

Dozens of casinos in St. Bernard and Jefferson parishes reopened the next day, after a nearly five-month hiatus. Read more »