Monday, November 21, 2016

An Introduction to Gaming Cheats from the Wild West to the 21st Century: The Magic Kingdom of Terry Roses

Writers need to be careful not to overuse words like astonishing and amazing and awesome. The reason being that one day you will encounter something that really is astonishing, amazing and awesome. This is what I experienced Saturday in the presence of Terry Roses.

Saturday I had the privilege of viewing a portion of Terry Roses' "laboratory of magic" and his various collections of rare books, cool geological items and remarkable (rare) gambling cheats. In addition I became a one-man audience to what are probably a few of his favorite, mind-blowing card tricks. Space and time will not permit me a full discourse on this visit, so I will save a portion for later this week.

Besides being a first-class professional magician, Roses is a collector and an inventor; his inventions are the result of an inquiring mind that never ceases from asking questions and delving deeper into the mysteries of perception.

But let's start with the cheating devices. As everyone knows, magic is all about deception. Magicians fool your eyes and your minds, and audiences love it. They know they are being deceived, but they don't really care.

On the other hand, no one wants to be deceived and cheated, whether playing poker with friends or gambling at a casino. Modern casinos make their fortunes by being above board, by creating honest gaming. True, the odds are always in their favor, but they tell you up front what the odds are and you play at your own risk. Nevertheless not everyone is so transparent, and it's not surprising to discover how many and varied are the ways people have cheated to win. A portion of Roses' collection is devoted to a variety of such items. In fact, Roses has a whole display case of such items.

For example, here is a roulette wheel that at one time was in operation at a private establishment. And here are a variety of dice cheats, including cheats for some of the popular Chinese games. In addition to his array of rigged dice, Roses owns some of the equipment for rigging dice.

There were contraptions from the Old West that show you how wild the Wild West really was. Check out this device for delivering a card you need from under your sleeve. It's one of the "holy grails" of cheating devices, produced by the Will & Finck Co.



Many of the cheats Roses discussed pertain to card games. Here, for example, is a pipe into which a mirror has been affixed to what appears to be a plug of tobacco. When the card sharp deals, the mirror enables him to see the cards everyone is receiving. This is but one of many clever devices designed to discover what your opponents have in their hands before you put money on the table.

Of course the most efficient way to know what your opponents have in their hands is to have marked cards that enable you to "read" what you're not supposed to see. This is one of Roses' specialties. 
Methods for marking cards fall into various categories and I get the impression this master has seen them all. I myself own a couple decks with markings coded into the artwork designs on the back, but Roses has seen batches of other systems. Some involve invisible printing that you can only see with special lenses or under UV light or polarized glasses. According to Rosen there's been a huge influx of marked cards like these from China over the past six years. I was shown examples in Roses' Invention Lab.
Various tools of the trade. Even the pretzel is a fake.
In addition to cards marked on their backs, I also saw cards marked on their edges with invisible infra red ink. Intriguing. And then I was shown a deck of cards with RFID sensors inside the individual cards. When dealt, an analyzing device voice would dictate into a miniature hearing device in the dealer's ear the value of each card being dealt. An insurmountable advantage for the cheater. 

No kidding. New technologies have raised the bar on what cheaters are capable of. When high stakes power games take place, and real money is on the line, you can bet that somebody is going to try to find a new way to shift the odds in their favor. 

Throughout the afternoon Roses kept asking, "Are you ready for the good stuff?" From the start it was all good stuff.

I never knew there were so many ways to rig dice. 
His stage name at one time had been The Honest Cheat, and he was good. He demonstrated numerous tricks that showed his abilities to be nearly supernatural. For example, he said pick a number. I said 12. He then cut the cards and handed me the smaller portion of the deck. I counted out the cards one at a time. There were twelve. He then said to pick a number between 1 and 52. I said 21. He cut the deck, handed a group of cards to me and I dealt them out, counting 1-2-3-4 etc. There were 21.

He showed me various ways to force the four aces to the top or bottom of the deck, and other ways to cause an audience to marvel. One trick went like this. He had me look at the deck and mentally select a card, which neither of us touched. He then spread the cards on the table and had me point while he was holding my wrist. He said that the muscles on my wrist would telegraph to him what card it was and, sure enough, when he stopped my hand my finger was pointing at my card. It had the feeling of something akin to a ouija board.

Terry Roses challenged the leading card sharks around the world to defeat him in a duel at the gaming table. You can see that his mind is perpetually inquisitive and his skills fine-tuned, so it's not surprising to learn that. One thing that he has going for him that is especially valuable. He has a conscience. Cheating is not his game. Rather, as a public speaker and consultant, he's the guy helping the good buys bust the cheats.

It's fun to be entertained by magic and and fun to guess how the tricks are done. But it's also fun to see how the cheating is done, too, and in this area Terry Roses clearly enjoys sharing his knowledge.

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