Cheating in Poker

The movement of poker from New Orleans casino to the paddle wheelers of the Mississippi River at the onset of the nineteenth century provided a fresh avenue for the professional gambler. The steamboats were elegantly chosen floating palaces which caters to the elite and wealthy people, filled with wine, women and singing and even gambling. A lot of the passengers on these boats were managing Southern plantations and with a lot of money due largely to the introduction of the railroads connecting the cotton fields to the great river. These passengers are searching for leisure and willing to gamble their money for the sake of having a good time.

During that time, the game of poker was very far from the way it is currently being played. Twenty card decks were utilized and the number of players at a table was limited to four because the whole deck is utilized, with every player receiving five cards. Bets were made and increased after the distribution of the cards. The cards are then revealed, and the highest hand was awarded the pot. This was a perfect game for card sharks because there was no draw and the hands could be easily fixed by different methods so that in the end the card shark will have the highest number of winnings.

One of these different methods of tricking were sleight-of-hand methods and specially designed mechanical tools often used by corrupt gamblers, and majority of the professional gamblers during those times were really corrupt. For example, a card-holding device known as sleeve card-holdout was introduced by Will and Finck. This device was tied into the inner forearm of the sleeves of the gambler, which was tailor-made to fit the device, had a clip made from metal connected to a leather band that could hold a required card that a gambler could shift uncaught into his palm with a skillful wrist action.

Because these were not ante games involving pennies, it was not unusual for corrupt gamblers to enlist more than one of officers as accomplish with a certain percentage being received by said officer for the help. The accomplice would most often push the so-called "marks," who were commonly highly drunk over to the gambler that would greatly help the card shark by set signals that conveyed the card given to the "mark".

As a matter of fact, cheating in poker had become so dishonorable that by the turn of the 1840's several books were printed exposing the risks of playing poker with the experts. By this time, Jonathan H. Green, an American writer, wrote a well-accepted book on poker cheating entitled "The Exposures of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling". In the book, the author called gambling as a "game of cheating." Eventually, poker become complicated and tougher for the card shark the moment the fifty-two card deck was introduced, and new versions of the game of poker were originated.

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