Whenever cards are played there is always an opportunity for cheating. There is, however, a difference between a card shark and a card cheat. A shark is definitely a cheat, but a cheat is not necessarily a shark. A cheat may be someone who just happens to take advantage of a situation. Or it may be someone who just likes to gain advantage by cheating, but doesn't really know how to cheat. Eventually both of these kinds of cheats will get caught, simply because they are not good strategists.
A "shark" is a different animal. He not only cheats at the game because there is an opportunity. He is a strategist, an expert in the art of cheating and the average player does not stand a chance against guys like this. Comparing common cheats with sharks is like comparing impulse shoplifters with members of an organized crime gang. A real card shark is a seasoned "black belt" expert. Average players will never know what hit them - if they even realize they got stung.
It is not to say that every card shark is of the same caliber, nor is it true that they all know everything about cheating at cards. On the contrary, most sharks specialize in just a few strategies that work well for them. They may be familiar with other cheating methods or even not, in fact they may even be misinformed about cheating methods outside their field and even fall victims of other sharks. Most sharks are in it for the money, they are not lecturers nor professors. If one thing works for them, they do it well and look for another "client".
Sharks come in all shapes and colors. For example, take the three card monte guy. He is a smelly street guy in worn out clothes, who probably lives in a dump (or at least it looks that way). There is not much appeal in this guy. In fact from his appearance you would not be surprised if you found out, that he has a criminal record and never did anything decent in his life.
Now take the other extreme. In the Hollywood film The Sting Paul Newman and Robert Redford played the roles of two con men. In one scene Paul Newman even demonstrates a second deal. He is obviously a card shark, but this type of shark you like. He is your hero and you do not care much that he is also a criminal. This is how Hollywood portrays card sharks. In real life there may be a handful of charismatic sharks who look like movie stars, but the real-time sharks look a lot more like average guys, from any background.
So lets talk about cheats in general. What makes them tick? Why do they cheat?
A cheat doesn't necessarily have to cheat. In fact, the best cheats will only cheat when it is absolutely necessary to do so. This way they decrease the odds at getting caught. Even if they play a square game from beginning to end, they are still cheats, simply because they entered the game with the intention to do so.
All a smart cheat wants is an edge other players don't have. This edge translates into a profit over a long term play. It is like a tank full of water with a miniature hole on the bottom. If you put a container under it, all the water will eventually end up inside it. The same kind of edge brings millions of Dollars into casinos every year. Except casinos, don't have to cheat, the rules of the games are set up so that they have a mathematical edge. Some people would consider this not fair play and they may argue that this is a form of cheating, other people may disagree with that. Those are just different points of view.
When a cheat loses a hand he thinks of this as an investment - not a loss. He knows that he has to keep his victims motivated if he wants to keep them playing and raising bets. If his victims are regular customers he must even let them go home as winners some time. How else could he keep their spirits up and not make them suspicious? After all he just lets them keep some of their own money on temporary basis. Next time he will collect dividends, capital gains and his initial investment and at the end of the month, he will balance out his client's accounts so that he keeps the profit. It is like any other business, you have to keep your clients happy, get them Christmas cards etc. This is not like some of the giant corporate financial institutions, where they only promise to you that "the right relationship is everything", these guys actually make it the "right relationship" - if they know their business. Those cheats who do not get caught are not in it for a fast game - they do not have any intention in biting off the hand that feeds them.
Three card monte mobs operate at a totally apposite principle. They take your cash and run. After that you never see them again. You eventually figure out that you were cheated but there is very little you can do. Plus you kind of get over the twenty Dollar loss. They don't want to establish a relationship with you - all they want is your cash, they want it fast and then they want to deal with another sucker (all right, let's call him a customer). You will never get a Christmas card from any one of them and they don't give a damn if your feelings are hurt. Sure, if you are dumb enough to come back, they will be willing to take more cash from you, but if you make too much noise, they will walk away from you or even push you away.
Those are the two extremely different approaches in cheating. One is "white" the other is "black" -- in-between you will find all possible "shades of gray".
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