The Odds Are Fixed

A startling expose of the crooked truth about gambling equipment

THOMAS PERCY June 1 1937

The Odds Are Fixed

A startling expose of the crooked truth about gambling equipment

THOMAS PERCY June 1 1937

The Odds Are Fixed

A startling expose of the crooked truth about gambling equipment


CROOKED DICE, marked cards, magnetic gambling tables, ingenious machines to place up your sleeve or in your trouser leg, punchboards with a key to all the winning numbers, slot machines “fixed” so the operator can take as much as he wants—all these and more are faithfully described in a catalogue entitled “The Secret Blue Book,” published by a United States gambling equipment manufacturer. I have a copy.

The “secrets” revealed are eye-openers. Here they are, given to the public for the first time secrets known to gamblers for years.

In a preface to the “Secret Blue Book,” the company apparently takes great pride in the fact that it “lias led all others” in selling gambling equipment, both crooked and otherwise, for a period of forty years.

It was a careless gambling casino operator in Northern Ontario who let the cat out of the bag. He allowed his “catalogue” of gambling equipment out of his sight—and as a result, enough “secrets” can be revealed to indicate that the professional gambler has equipment at his command which enables him to fix the odds in all dice games, in any card game, and in many other games of chance currently popular.

We probably all know that dice can be, and often are, loaded. But we undoubtedly have all felt, if we thought of it at all, that we were smart enough to detect anything “phony” in short order. What most of us didn’t know is that dice can so be “fixed” and cards can so be marked that the deception can’t be detected.

Percentage Dice and Marked Cards

SO LET US delve deeper into the “Secret Blue Book” to see what interesting facts it gives. The first thirty pages are devoted to the game of craps—a favorite dice game in Canada from Halifax to Vancouver. Every possible angle of the game which will give the “house” an advantage is detailed, from elementary crooked dice through to electrically controlled magnetic tables.

On one of the early pages we find offered “Percentage Dice” to match the company’s “Perfect Dice.” Oh yes, there are honest dice made, too. Here’s what the secret book has to say about percentage dice.

“Percentage dice are a recognized necessity, and we offer several new ideas that have been thoroughly tested and proved for this special purpose. These dice assure the operator a legitimate house percentage and a satisfactory increase in the weekly take.”

Such dice may be a “recognized necessity” as far as the gambling joint operator is concerned, but thousands of Canadians who gamble will hardly recognize their necessity—not if they can help it !

But let’s continue. We read from the book:

“We carry at all times in stock an assortment of the most popular playing cards in handmarked readers. Our card work has always been recognized as the most perfect ever produced, and all our card work is done by artists. These are men specially trained in this work. It is never trusted to inexperienced young girls or careless boys. We never use pens for card work, all marking, however fine, being done with a brush, using special ink that produces perfect results without flash or variation in color. We have been leaders for thirty years.”

Maclean's Magazine, June I, 1937

From this point, the book goes on to describe a long list of marked cards available. They offer to match any set of cards which you might care to send them, it doesn’t matter who may be the manufacturer, with a set of marked cards which cannot be detected from the real thing. They will mark these legitimate cards, then repack them in such a way that even the manufacturer would be unable to discern that they had been tampered with. States the book :

“When it is desired to have both the size and suit show, be sure and mention it when ordering. We can produce a combination on ANY BACK you may require—simply send a sample back when ordering. We can also reproduce any private combination if samples are submitted, also work out SPECIAL COMBINATIONS on any back.”

From there the catalogue goes on to describe, with illustrations, just how these various decks of cards are marked. In some, certain diamonds on the backs are enlarged; in others, “art” work is done along the edges. Some of the comments in the catalogue, listed beneath the illustrations, are like this: Number xxx, “An old favorite;” Number xyz, “The choice of many;” Number abc, “Plain and not easily detected;” Number def, “Cannot be beat for stud poker.”

Farther on we find another deck of cards listed with which it is possible to cut to an ace every time. The item insists that others have tried to imitate the fluid used on the ace cards, but without success. And, as an afterthought, it seems, they mention that, “When preferred, we also make this work to cut to any other card you may desire.” So it seems advisable to be careful when you meet someone who wants you to cut cards; he may have one of these slick ace decks!

Ring Mirrors

pERHAPS IT would be a good idea to look up your poker companions’ sleeves the next time you sit in at a game with strangers. The “Blue Book” lists a variety of card hold-out machines, varying in price from $25 to $125. These, it may be explained, are machines fitted up the crooked gambler’s sleeve, inside his vest or down his trouser leg. But wherever the gambler has one placed, you may be assured that it’s there for no good— except to himself.

With these machines, a gambler can hold out one or more cards and then reintroduce them to the game when it suits his convenience—and usually his convenience is suited when there’s a big pot on the table. Some of these machines even pick up a whole deck of honest cards and introduce a marked or stacked deck of cards which look the same as the ones which have already been in the game from the commencement.

“We recommend that in ordering, a loosefitting pair of pants be sent us so we can have the machine fitted to them by our experienced tailors,” the book declares in an ultra-effort at satisfaction for use of the pant-leg machine. There is no extra charge for this, it is carefully pointed out.

Another of their cute little gewgaws with which the shark can take the sucker is a ring shiner, described as follows:

“A popular and practical shiner in the form of a seal ring. Nothing to put on or take off, always ready for use. With this ring you can read cards as you deal, the reflector surface being specially treated, and gives a very clear reading.”

In plain words, this is a ring with a mirror where the stone ordinarily is placed. Placed on the finger in a certain way, it reflects the image of the card being dealt, so that the dealer knows exactly what cards have been given to the other players in the game. The idea, it is hardly worth explaining, is that, knowing what cards the others are holding, and what he himself holds, he can make his bets accordingly.

Sundry other “shiners” embodying the same idea as the reflecting ring, are offered in a match-box to be laid on the table where the reflection will show the cards being dealt, but these are less emphasized.

Continued on page 26

Continued from page 14

It seems that the “ring shiner” is the most popular with the cardsharp.

Crooked Dice

"DUT TO GET back to the dice. Here is one instance of the dice-maker’s art of which, perhaps, you may not have been aware. They describe it thus:

“Tapping Dice. These are the ONLY practical shifting load dice ever produced, and are a pocket set every sporting man. cross-roader and hustler should own. Always ready for action and never failing to produce results, tapping dice can be changed INSTANTLY from fair dice to percentage dice and back again to fair. Do not confuse these dice with the many imitations and substitutes being offered. Tapping dice do not contain mercury or other fluid substance, do not rattle, have a perfectly natural roll and sound, and a half-hour’s practice, following our simple instructions for changing, will make you lightning fast.”

If it needs more explanation, here it is: These dice, if tapped on the table in a

certain way, are “fair” .or honest dice. But if they are given even so much as a single tap in another way, they become crooked dice, with monetary benefits to the one who has the secret of their control.

The gambling equipment gentlemen who got this “Secret Blue Book” together, really let themselves go when they came to the section devoted to magnets and electrically controlled dice. Apparently they regard this success as their crowning achievement. But for brazen effrontery— for sheer unadulterated, unequivocal crookedness such as is almost unbelievable —the game of craps played on an electrically controlled magnetic table is transcendental “tops.” Almost with a feeling of awe, we quote:

“At last, a magnet that is 100 per cent perfect for craps. The SuperDynamic Magnet shown is the most powerful dice magnet ever produced, a magnet that has never before been offered, but which has successfully been used by a select few for several years. Designed and built by a leading elec-

trical engineer, this magnet is so powerful that a transparent electric dice placed over "the plate can be turned over by pressing the control. In play the action is so natural that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DETECT whether the current is on or off. These magnets have sold for as high as $1,500.”

The idea, of course, is to use dice so manufactured that they respond to electricity in the same way that an electromagnet does. With the current turned off, these dice are fair. But when a crucial stage of the game is reached and any large sum of money may be lost by the “house” if the player makes the point he is shooting for, the “juice” is turned on and the dice must come up in such a way that the player loses. He, all unknowing, figures it is just hard luck that he didn’t get “over the hump” and into the big money. But it is more than hard luck— it is an electric magnet !

The electromagnet is attached to the under side of the table on which the dice are to be rolled. Included in the equip-

ment are the necessary batteries, a “floor push” or squeeze button, and any number of electrically treated dice required. The magnetic field to be covered varies from eight square inches to three square feet, depending on the amount of money you might wish to spend. In their sales talk, they go on to state:

“This is an all-round, practical magnet, and while many have imitated it, it has never been improved upon. There has probably been more bunk and pure hokum circulated regarding the manufacture of Electromagnets than any one other item, but as every student of electricity knows, simple electricity is the ABC of electromagnetics. The dice will show the numbers they are made for every time the button is pressed.”

Another electromagnet is described as follows:

“No batteries, simply plug into any light socket and go to work. Swift, Sure and SILENT. No batteries to give out at the critical moment. The/nagnet will pull through one inch of wood, glass, or other material.”

Continued on page 30

Continued from page 26

“Plenty of Percentage”

T3UT LET US get back to the dice games

for a moment. Here we find such items listed as this:

“The necessity of protecting the take is acknowledged, and to meet this requirement we offer our Perfect Dice, very mildly shaped. They cannot be detected without the use of instruments, and are a favorite with the banker. Include these dice and receive the profits you deserve.”

From the above, it would seem that gamblers insist on a form of insurance; that is, they recognize the necessity of protecting their money. So if a player gets “hot” the dice are changed, and “shaped” or crooked dice soon ax>l him off. The “profits you deserve” quotation needs no comment.

Then follow a couple of pages describing “dice-measuring tools’’—-micrometers and calipers measuring up to one-thousandth of an inch. Here is what the book reveals —and note the righteousness of the seller’s use of the word “unscrupulous.”

"Precision instruments are a necessity for every operator of a dice game. No matter how careful you may be in selecting your dice, there is always a possibility of an unscrupulous employee or customer substituting imperfect dice which will change the percentage of the game and give the outside a decided advantage.”

It is plain to be seen that the “outside” —meaning the player—isn’t going to get any advantage, much less a decided one, if the operator can help it. He doesn’t mind using crooked dice of his own selection, but let somebody else try that little game and out come the micrometers and calipers! The “bum’s rush” for the “unscrupulous” nasty fellow !

Another two or three pages are devoted to “missouts” and “passers”—dice which will miss making the desired point and ones which will make it more often than not. It is interesting to note that dice fixed to “miss” or “pass” cost $8 a pair, but the fair dice which are to be used with them cost only $1.25. The comment of the book on these dice is revealing, to say the least :

“These dice are strong enough for anyone’s bankroll, and have plenty of percentage. A word to the wise. Enough.”

But if that isn’t enough to convince even the most sceptical that dice games are operated only as benefits for the gamblers, we read on to find that there are such things as trip dice. These are dice manufactured of special material, with one or more sides made so that they “slip” and other sides made so they do not. These dice operate best on a smooth, clothcovered surface, where they roll over and over until they land on a smooth side and slide to a stop—usually to the discomfiture of the player and the inward amusement of the house operator who has put these crooked dice into the game at the opportune moment.

Why Gamblers Wear Glasses

NEXT WE COME to a section devoted to “luminous reader playing cards.” The matter-of-fact salesbook discusses these cheating inventions openly as follows:

“Luminous readers have been introduced all over the continent very successfully. These cards do not bear any mark that is visible to the naked eye, but when viewed through our special

ruby ray visor or eyeglasses, the mark is large and distinct. Luminous readers are supplied in any back, but can be used in red cards only, and will stand the closest inspection.”

What chance has the player against cards like those? A certain kind of invisible ink is used which can be seen only when looked at through a certain kind of glass. Then the cards might just as well be turned face upward, for the markings on the back can be read just as easily. And if the cards are not already marked, it can

easily be done, either with this luminous ink ($2.50 per bottle) or a luminous pencil ($2.50 also). The luminous cards cost $1.50 per deck, and the ruby ray glasses sell for $1 a pair.

Other equipment for the cardsharp includes a deck which, when cut from the centre but on the side, will always bring up a low card; but which, when cut from the end of the deck, will always bring up a high card. Then there are several kinds of daub which are used to mark cards during play and which, in the words of the “Secret Blue Book,” “have met with a

great deal of success;” small shading boxes which can be sewed to the vest and which hold the daub described above; ink for marking the cards yourself in your spare time, if you prefer, as well as bookmakers’ invisible ink, “guaranteed invisible, can be used on any color paper and will come up clear and distinct in twelve minutes without the use of heat or chemicals.” This ink, they proudly proclaim, is successfully used by poolroom runners, and is the only successful ink of its kind ever produced.

“Real Gold Mines”

AND SO we come to punchboards,

probably one of the biggest moneymakers for the smart “hustler.” Without mincing words, the “Blue Book” tells the prospective customer, who is usually a bowling-alley proprietor, a poolroom operator, or even a store owner, that these are real gold mines. The salesman supplies the punchboard and, just for the operator’s protection, also supplies a key to the winning numbers. So, with a setup like that, it is little wonder that a punchboard, any punchboard, would be a gold mine to the operator, for what’s to stop him punching all the winning numbers himself and selling the rest of the board to the unsuspecting public?

There is a note of warning sounded in this connection, however. Apparently some of the operators who had the key to the winning numbers punched out too many of them, for the book warns, almost virtuously:

“Do not try to beat the customer by punching out ALL the winning numbers. Many a good profit has been lost by the merchant being too greedy and not giving his customers a fair play.”

A curious anomaly is found on another page, where slot machine slugs are advertised, “5-cent size, $1.25 per hundred; 25-cent size, $1.75 a hundred.” The funny part of the whole thing is that the same company which advertises these slugs sells slot machines, and urges storekeepers to buy their own machines and reap big profits. We wonder if some of these profits might not come in the shape of some of the company’s own slugs.

Speaking of these slot machines, here is the sales patter:

“Why split your profits? Do you want dollars instead of dimes? Own your own slot machine and collect 100 per cent, and if you have not already learned the PROFITS of slot machines, you are in for a pleasant surprise. One of these machines will catch the big end of the small change being handed out.”

Then, they go on to describe other slot machines, including one very small one which they describe as follows:

“For many years alert operators have been hoping for a small size, positive and fast-playing automatic slot machine. This machine weighs only 29 pounds, is easy to lift and EVEN A CHILD CAN QUICKLY PLACE IT UNDER THE COUNTER.”

In the same connection, the company becomes benevolent as it urges churches, lodges, clubs and societies of various kinds about to engage in a campaign to raise funds to use their new and different push cards. Apparently it doesn’t matter how the objective is reached, w'hether it be a church organization or a gambling joint— this company almost guarantees to sell a game of some kind which will raise money.

So, it seems that, if you w'ork at it hard enough, even the simplest game can be made crooked. The moral is, of course, don’t gamble with strangers. And even if you gamble with friends, keep a sharp watch on your cards, your dice, your punchboards, or what have you.