Definitions

card sharper

Lansquenet

[lans-kuh-net]
Lansquenet (derived from the German landsknecht ('servant of the land or country'), applied to a mercenary soldier) is a card game.

Game play

The dealer or banker stakes a certain sum, and this must be met by the nearest to the dealer first, and so on. When the stake is met, the dealer turns up two cards, one to the right, -- the latter for himself, the former for the table or the players. He then keeps on turning up the cards until either of the cards is matched, which constitutes the winning, -- as, for instance, suppose the five of diamonds is his card, then should the five of any other suit turn up, he wins. If he loses, then the next player on the left becomes banker and proceeds in the same way.

When the dealer's card turns up, he may take the stake and pass the bank; or he may allow the stake to remain, whereat of course it becomes doubled if met. He can continue thus as long as the cards turn up in his favour -- having the option at any moment of giving up the bank and retiring for that time. If he does that, the player to whom he passes the bank has the option of continuing it at the same amount at which it was left. The pool may be made up by contributions of all the players in certain proportions. The terms used respecting the standing of the stake are, 'I'll see' (à moi le tout) and Je tiens. When jumelle (twins), or the turning up of similar cards on both sides, occurs, then the dealer takes half the stake.

Sometimes there is a run of several consecutive winnings; but on one occasion, on board one of the Cunard steamers, a banker at the game turned up in his own favour I think no less than eighteen times. The original stake was only six pence; but had each stake been met as won, the final doubling would have amounted to the immense sum of L3,236 16s.! This will appear by the following scheme: --

            L   s.  d.                  L       s.    d.
1st turn up 0   0   6     10th turn up  12      16    0
2nd   ,,    0   1   0     11th  ,,      25      12    0
3rd   ,,    0   2   0     12th  ,,      51      4     0
4th   ,,    0   4   0     13th  ,,      102     8     0
5th   ,,    0   8   0     14th  ,,      204     16    0
6th   ,,    0   16  0     15th  ,,      409     12    0
7th   ,,    1   12  0     16th  ,,      819     4     0
8th   ,,    3   4   0     17th  ,,      1,618   8     0
9th   ,,    6   8   0     18th  ,,      3,236   16    0

In fair play, as this is represented to have been, such a long sequence of matches must be considered very remarkable, although six or seven is not unfrequent.

Unfortunately, however, there is a very easy means by which card sharpers manage the thing to perfection. They prepare beforehand a series of a dozen cards arranged as follows: --

1st Queen     6th  Nine
2nd Queen     7th  Nine
3rd Ten       8th  Ace
4th Seven     9th  Eight
5th Ten       10th Ace

Series thus arranged are placed in side pockets outside the waistcoat, just under the left breast. When the sharper becomes banker he leans negligently over the table, and in this position his fingers are as close as possible to the prepared cards, termed portees. At the proper moment he seizes the cards and places them on the pack. The trick is rendered very easy by the fact that the card-sharper has his coat buttoned at the top, so that the lower part of it lies open and permits the introduction of the hand, which is completely masked.

Some sharpers are skilful enough to take up some of the matches already dealt, which they place in their costieres, or side-pockets above described, in readiness for their next operation; others keep them skillfully hidden in their hand, to lay them, at the convenient moment, upon the pack of cards. By this means, the pack is not augmented [Robert Houdin, Les Tricheries des Grecs dévoilées].

Popular Culture

Lansquenet is played by D'Artagnan in the Alexandre Dumas novel Twenty Years After.

Lansquenet is also played by various characters in the Pierre Choderlos de Laclos novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Lansquenet-sous-Tannes is a fictional village in Joanne Harris' novel Chocolat

Mentioned briefly in the novel The General in his Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

References

Steinmetz, Andrew. The Gaming Table: Its Votaries and Victims, In All Times and Countries, especially in England and France. Tinsley Brothers, 1870. ISBN 978-0875850962

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