Phantoms of the Card Table
by David Britland and Gazzo
Published by High Stakes Publishing 2003
16cm x 24cm, Hardback, 250 pages
20 photographs, 27 drawings
From the dust jacket: "Walter Irving Scott was the greatest man ever with a pack of cards, so said Max Holden, writing in The Sphinx magazine, an exclusive journal for magicians. This was in 1930 after Scott had bamboozled a room full of New York's finest card manipulators by dealing himself winning poker hands from a shuffled deck. He liked to say of himself that he "cheated the cheats." His skill with cards was extraordinary. He was elusive too, and soon became known as The Phantom of the Card Table.
We all have a sneaking admiration for the man who can deal from the bottom of the deck and get away with it. That's why New York's finest magicians gathered to watch Walter Scott and later paid generously to learn his methods. And that's why Gazzo Macee, a magician from England, decided to track him down some sixty years later. To his utter surprise, he found him, living in a retirement home in Rhode Island. The two became friends and Scott openly discussed his work with a view to it finally being published. "I don't care what you say," said Scott, "as long as you tell the truth."
And here it is, the truth, about Walter Irving Scott and other 'phantoms' who mastered the art of card manipulation - to cheat at cards. As the book unfolds it becomes apparent that this is very much a real life adventure, or collection of adventures, brought about by Gazzo's quest to find "his master." Gazzo's interest in magic started with a box of tricks, followed by a book, McGuire's The Phantom of the Card Table, bought by his grandfather from Davenports in Great Russell Street. The book talked of the greatest card cheat ever, Walter Scott, who passed on his secrets to Gazzo...
David Britland's writing style flows - it's full of fascinating detail but never becomes laborious and he hooks you in right from the start. Chapter 15 The Phantom of the Card Table Revisited takes McGuire's original manuscript as its starting block and adds newer material from letters of the day, Gazzo's vast experience, and Walter Scott himself (who was never happy with the original). This is where you'll learn the actual techniques used by the phantoms: Master Second Dealing, Top Card Peek, Bottom Card Peek, The Sniff Peek, The Scott Bottom Deal, Scott's Punch, The Blindfold Deal, Slick Ace Formula, The Bug, Edge Work, and more.
But I enjoyed it for the stories, the tales and the characters. Thoroughly researched this book was clearly a work of love, and you will love it too. Excellent.
(I know, it's only May - so I cheated)
© Duncan Trillo, May 2003
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