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The Amazing World of John Scarne

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About John Scarne

John Scarne photoClick on the photo to the left for the full sized version. This photo was Scarne's favorite publicity photo, which became his trademark to millions of servicemen in World War II. It shows Scarne holding a perfect card fan.

John Scarne used to be the world's foremost authority on gambling, and particularly cheating at gambling, but he was not a gambler himself. He was one of the best sleight-of-hand performers in the world, particularly with a deck of cards. He achieved his fame through hard work from a very early age. He travelled throughout the military during World War II, teaching the soldiers how to keep from getting cheated at card and dice games. Scarne was a brilliant mathematician as well.

Do you remember the movie The Sting with Robert Redford? There is a fancy card-dealing sequence in the movie, for just a few seconds. It's John Scarne doing the dealing.

While several of his books on games and gambling are still in print, his autobiography, The Amazing World of John Scarne, is not -- the only copy I can find on the web is part of a "collection of unique and rare material relating to Houdini... The price is $310,000." (See my Links Page for more about the Houdini collection.)

Click on any photo
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the full size version
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My own copy is the Second Printing, dating from December 1956. Since he tells so many fascinating stories, and the book is so hard to find, I decided to type up my favorite excerpts for you to enjoy. This site, then, is John Scarne's story, in his own words. One thing I enjoy about the book is how he ties other pieces of American History together. Sure, he's name-dropping, but that's part of the fun!

Except for the links page, the remainder of this site is Scarne's story in his own words -- that is, excerpts from his autobiograpy. The boldface headings are the actual chapter titles. Let's begin with the Publisher's introduction, and then we'll move right along to the stories...

Publisher's Note

This is an autobiographical narrative, and as so often happens in such cases, the author has not defined precisely his own eminence in his field. Therefore, this statement is made to introduce John Scarne to the reader.

John Scarne's reputation as the world's Number One expert on gambling is well established. What is not recognized sufficiently is his virtual genius for calculations, which is a key factor in his unique supremacy. His facility with figures, his ability to compute the odds, the favorable, and unfavorable percentages in complicated gambling situations is unmatched. Life, Look, Collier's, Newsweek and other leading publications have at one time or another called on him to verify calculations, and in the gambling casinos of the world John Scarne is known as The Professor because of his mathematical wizardry. Scarne's figures and percentage tables are The Law in gambling -- professional as well as amateur...

It is perhaps typical of the fantastic world of gambling that its foremost expert and authority, its unofficial "Judge Landis," is not a gambler. The reason for that -- well, that's part of the story that Scarne tells.

On To
Better Than Lucky


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