Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 9, 1961

Beware Friendly, Card Games

Ward Cannel

NEW YORK — (NEA) — it is obviously dumb to ask whether your best friends cheat at cards. But according to a gent who should know, the answer is yes — and you're a real pigeon if you don't start protecting yourself in those friendly old games.

The expert is Frank Garcia, a professional card sharp who has been decorated by police departments and paid handsomely by clubs, resorts and ship lines for protecting the little fish from the big at the gaming tables.

"You certainly don't need to be an expert," Garcia says, "to figure out what's going on at those Saturday night penny-ante poker games, Tuesday afternoon bridge games, college dorm card sessions.

"The minute you start playing for money — any kind of money — friendship is suspended, even the oldest friendship. I'd guarantee that everybody has peeked at his opponents' cards at some time or other when the opportunity has presented itself.

"And I wouldn't be a bit surprised at what other kinds of cheating they do — from palming to bottom dealing, from cop-checking to daubing."

There are today, Garcia says, at least 15 national mail-order houses doing big business in amaze-your friends card trick supplies that can make a buyer a consistent winner.

In addition, Garcia estimates, there are some 250,000 gaffed or fixed card decks in use throughout the nation. There are about 7,500 youngsters gaffing their way through college, and who knows how many housewives are helping the family budget, or how many husbands adding spice to their lives by a little fancy paper work with the deck.

To teach what he has learned, Garcia has written a book ("Marked Cards and Loaded Dice") and lectures widely to social and professional organizations, demonstrating the plain and fancy card swindles.

"And when I finish," he reports, "I am usually asked only if the games in Las Vegas are fixed. We Americans can't believe it might happen to us among our friends.

Well, what can you do to protect yourself?

After watching Garcia's fast fingers illustrate what anyone can learn and buy from a mail-order house, this reporter can pass along five simple rules to follow for safety's sake.

In the first place, cheating in a friendly game doesn't require magnificent skill as nobody feels the need to watch very closely, so:

1. Never take your eyes off the deck, the dealer's hands, each player's cards, the discards, the pot, the score pad, or-if it's a catered game — the waiter.

The most common ways of cheating are switching decks (which requires a momentary distraction); dealing off both top and bottom (which requires a rhythm); palming cards (or dropping them into the lap); or glimmering (looking down on a reflective surface over which the cards are passed). So:

2. Never play cards with a dealer who tells Jokes, whistles, sits, stands, or puts a mirror on the table before dealing.

Other ways of cheating don't even involve handling the cards. One way is cop-checking — using an adhesive on the palm so that chips or coins stick when you help a winner rake in a pot. Another way is pre-daubing the cards with a paint visible only through special contact lenses which cost $180 via mail order. So:

3. Be leery of players who seem to have difficulty taking their hands out of their pockets or off the table. Also, try not to play with people who blink more than 23 times per minute.

Garcia also says it does not require inordinate skill to plant a certain few cards in the deck and bring them to the surface during the shuffle.

Garcia says that many friendly game cheaters can make their wiles appear to be accidents if they are uncovered. A palmed card can easily be dropped on the floor in an emergency. One man, for example, ate his as the snacks were being brought in at the time. So:

4. Always look under the table before trying a finesse.

5. Riffle through the sandwiches before raising the bet.