The Amazing World of John Scarne

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Taken For A Sucker


6. Charlatans and Fakirs, and the Houdini-Rahman Bey Rivalry

7. Hypnotism, Extra-Sensory Perception, and Psychokinesis are Fakes

8. Show Business--Boxing and Gambling-- The World's Heavyweight Championship

With the invention of talking pictures and the depression years of 1930, 1931, and 1932 a dark cloud began casting ominous shadows over The Amazing World of John Scarne. The country was gripped by a business recession, but the movie industry, with the introduction of sound, continued to move ahead. A combination of these factors took their toll of club dates and vaudeville bookings from me.

...

The next day I walked down to the Safe Drug Store in Fairview and handed Doc Reiter a dollar bill, asking for twenty nickels in change. Doc counted out the nickels and said, "What are you going to do with so many nickels, play the slot machine across the street?"

I pocketed the twenty nickels and replied, "You should know me better than that, Doc. The only gambling I do is on Friday night at the Fairview Athletic and Social Club, where the boys and I play a little quarter-limit stud poker."

Doc grinned as he handed me the nickels and said, "So I hear. I also understand that when the deal comes to you, you must pass the cards and are not permitted to deal. Isn't that right?"

"That's only half of it, Doc," I replied. "They've cooked up a special set of house rules to take care of me. John Mahoney even went so far as to have the rules printed and he passed the printed slips around to the club members. Would you like to see one?"

"I sure would," Doc answered, and I reached into my pocket and handed him the printed set of rules the boys had composed. This is it:

Stud Poker Rules Pertaining to John Scarne The World's Greatest Card Manipulator
  1. Due to his liking for practical jokes and because his ability to deal himself the winning poker hand is so highly developed that he often deals same unintentionally, Scarne must pass the deal when it is his turn to deal out the cards. The above rule also holds true when it is his turn to cut the cards.
  2. Due to the fact that Scarne can change a deuce into an ace simply by passing the card from hand to hand, he shall not be permitted to pick up any of the cards dealt to him. He can only look at his hole card (face-down card) by lifting its corner slightly with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand.
  3. Due to Scarne's highly developed skill in palming cards without being detected, he shall not be permitted to touch the deck, the discards, or for that matter any card other than his hole card.
  4. Any infraction of these rules automatically results in a misdeal and a new deck of cards shall be put into play.

I watched Doc reading and I couldn't help but notice he was struggling to keep from bursting out laughing. I said, "If you think that's funny, you should have been at the club last Friday night when the boys decided to waive those rules."

"What happened?" Doc asked.

"Well, when it came my turn to deal the first time, I gave the deck a couple of dove-tail shuffles, two riffle shuffles, and an overhand shuffle just to convince the boys that everything was on the up and up. George Brown cut the deck about three times, and then I picked up the cards and dealt each player a down card and the first up card. The boys started betting like mad. I'd dealt Erwin De Cresengo a pair of tens back to back, Dan Pesce had a pair of Jacks, John Boylan a pair of eights, Alfred Massaro a pair of nines, and George Brown a pair of aces."

The Doc then said in a quizzical tone, "And what did you deal yourself?"

"Doc, I had a small deuce in the hole and another showing face up. I dealt each player his third, fourth, and fifth card, and what do you know, Doc? No one bettered his hand except me. I was lucky. I caught the third deuce."

"What happened then?" Doc asked.

"The boys simply called the hand a misdeal, and the Scarne house rules were instantly put back into effect."

As I walked over to the telephone book rack, I thought I could hear a chuckle coming from behind the prescription counter.

[We skip forward to just after Scarne's friend Jim Braddock wins the world heavyweight boxing championship...]

A few days later Jim and I were watching the races at Hialeah when two gentlemen in Broadway sombreros approached Jim and said, "Hello, Champ. Say, that was a terrific shallacking you gave Max Baer. Me and my pal here were at ringside that night."

In no time at all the boys were inviting Braddock and me, whom they had mistaken for Joe Gould, Jim's manager, up to their hotel room for a little game of cards. Jim readily accepted the invitation as Jim liked nothing better than to see me sit in at a poker game and deal him the winning hand. That evening the Champ and I entered a luxurious suite at the Roney Plaza in Miami Beach. As we walked in we observed that there were in the room three good-looking blondes, our friends from Hialeah, and three other prosperous-looking men whom Jim and I spotted instantly as shills. After Jim and I had had a drink and a little chat with the girls, the boys motioned to us that the card game was already in progress in the next room.

Jim and I sat opposite each other at the poker table. The boys started to go to work on us in a hurry. They stacked a couple of hands, palmed cards out of the deck, and signalled each other when to play and when not to play. A blonde was constantly offering us a drink as an excuse to come close and see our poker hands, in order to give signals to the boys. Jim was starting to get impatient as he shot me a glance which I knew meant, "Get going, I'm out a hundred bucks already." I nodded my head and went to town with the deck of cards. Those characters never saw so many four of a kinds and full houses in all their poker-playing days. By now Jim was all smiles as he'd got back his hundred bucks and was winning eight hundred dollars of the boys' money.

I had just dealt Jim four aces and one of those characters four kings, and Jim was just scooping in a two-hundred-dollar pot, when the door opened to admit a portly gentleman named Trigger McGurn, formerly Scarface Al Capone's chief triggerman and then the racket boss of Miami. McGurn was accompanied by two sinister-looking henchmen who were well-heeled with automatics. He took one look at the gathering and after flashing a smile and saying Hello to the Champ, he turned to the two characters we had met at the race track and pointing a finger at them he said in a loud voice, "Out of the twenty thousand suckers in Hialeah you dopes have to pick out John Scarne to clip in a poker game!"

The boys chirped out, "John Scarne, the guy who fooled Arnold Rothstein and The Hiker? We thought he was Joe Gould. No wonder we were dealt such good poker hands."

Jim shot back at them, "So you muggs thought I was a sucker! The last time that happened was when Maxie Baer signed to fight me thinking I was a sucker for him. I ought to belt you. But why should I? We won a thousand bucks for being taken for suckers!"

Trigger McGurn then hollered, "That's the same Scarne, all right. The guy who made Rothstein and his gang blow their lids!"

Trigger then turned to me and said, "Scarne, would you do me a favor?"

"What is it?" I said.

"I'd like to call some of of the boys from the casinos around Miami to come up here to see you handle a deck of cards. Will you do it?"

I looked at Jim and before I had a chance to say anything he said, "Call up all the wise guys you want. John will fool them all." Immediately the phones were busy and an hour later every top card mechanic, dice cheater, croupier, confidence man and top mobster of Miami was in the hotel suite. Trigger introduced me by saying, "Boys, this is Scarne. You've all heard about him, and you all know the champeen, Jimmy Braddock." The group all said hello to the champ and nodded to me as Trigger went on, saying, "Scarne is going to show you lugs how to really cheat at cards. Are you ready, Scarne?"

"O.K. All ready," I replied, and for the next hour I did tricks for about sixty of the toughest hoodlums that ever infested Miami. Braddock got a real kick out of my exhibition, especially when he saw all the thugs and wise guys looking so amazed.

When I'd finished mystifying this gang, McGurn reached into his pocket and pulled out a large roll of bills and said, "Scarne, what do you get for a show of this kind?"

Jim, quick as a flash, popped up, "He usually gets a thousand bucks for this type of show."

McGurn peeled off ten hundred-dollar bills and looked at Jim and laughed, saying, "You're not his manager, are you?"

"Sure I am," Jim said. "I'm Scarne's manager!"

McGurn then handed the thousand dollars to Jim, who added this to the thousand he had won, making a total of two thousand dollars for the night's outing.

On To
World War II Crusade

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