As part of an effort to lesson gambling in the city, the Deputy Commissioner tried to educate the public on the fact that they are likely dealing with crooked dealers when they go gambling, and have even less of a chance to win than they realize.
Several kinds of devices are used to swindle the player at poker, but the marked cards are the simplest. These cards are marked, of course, so that the dealer can easily tell the king from the ace, or the deuce from the trey. Seldom, however, is the ce card marked. It is the one card on which even a greenhorn will look for a mark. The marks are made with needle pricks so fine that the ordinary fingers cannot feel them. The cheater, however, files the cuticle of his thumb to such a fine edge that he can feel the marks which others cannot.
I’m reminded of Damon Runyon, whose stories of New York City gamblers were turned into the musical Guys and Dolls. He had only been in New York for a year by this time, and his most famous stories wouldn’t be written for another twenty years, but this famous quote is what comes to mind:
One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to come up to you and show you a nice brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the Jack of Spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not bet this man, for as sure as you are standing there, you are going to end up with an earful of cider.
HOW GAMBLERS FLEECE VICTIMS BY CROOKED DEVICES: Clever Schemes to Prevent Big Winnings — Judge Rosalsky’s Parole Plan and Flynn’s Secret Methods Arouse Consternation in “the Fraternity.” (PDF)
From April 23, 1911