Advantage Card Playing and Draw Poker
Advantage Card Playing and Draw Poker, by F. R. Ritter. Combined Treatise on Advantage Card Playing and Draw Poker by F.R. Ritter. This book has over 130 pages and is a hardbound limited to 350 editions and 600 softbound reduced size copies. Included in the Addendum is an essay by Bill Mullins, Fred Ritter: Mail Order Card Sharp, and some special material from Ritter that includes two letters about his book and some Confidential Poker Tips. This reprint is one of the most scarce of all gambling books. There are no more than 10 copies in existence known to the world of book collectors. The last copy sold at public auction for over $15,000.
According to David Ben's biography of Dai Vernon (Part 1), this is the book on card cheating that Vernon's father described over dinner, and which Vernon thought to be Erdnase's book when the lad purchased it six weeks later. There are marked differences: Ritter was illustrated with photos, Erdnase with line drawings, for example. But also marked similarities. Despite Ritter's prospectus assertion that he had thoroughly investigated every book and treatise on draw poker and advantage card play and found 'all of them of little or no value,' he had clearly read Erdnase and found, if not content, then at least language of value.
The opening line of Ritter's Introduction reads, 'The passion for play is probably as old and will be as enduring as the race of man.' Erdnase students will recognize the exact same sentence (with the addition of a couple of commas) as the opening line to Erdnase's Introduction. Ritter's Dedication contends, 'It will not make the novice a cheater, nor transform the pastime player into a professional.' Compare this to the phrasing in Erdnase's Preface: 'But it will not make the innocent vicious, or transform the pastime player into a professional.' And both gentlemen have their tongue in cheek (my opinion here; some Erdnase hunters strongly disagree) when it comes to the financial motivation for writing: Erdnase ('... if it sells, it will accomplish the primary motive of the author, as he needs the money.') vs. Ritter ('It is my object in writing these treatises ... to make some money for the Author.').
The bulk of the original text plays out in three treatises. The first deals with marked cards, which Ritter broke down into scroll work, line work, shade work, and blot-out work. It provides 71 pages of photographic examples as applied to popular back designs of the day. The second treatise covers physical and mechanical examples of advantage play. It's a brief section (12 pages) on false deals, false cuts, and holdouts along with one excellent page on strategies. The third treatise is on old and new hands (new, maverick rules for poker games) and an ample supply of lists of numbered Don'ts, Tips, Rules, and Strong Plays. The new games, new to me at least, include such hands as Skips (2,4,6,8,10 of mixed suits, with a Skip beating an ordinary Straight). It might be fun to return to the gaming table with my friends and try these out. The various lists are interesting, ranging from sensible wagering advice to etiquette to common sense (Don't play more than eight hours at a stretch) to math-based advice. My sixth sense says to take that last category with a grain of salt. The new edition also includes a nicely researched biographical article from Bill Mullins ('Fred Ritter: Mail-Order Card Sharp'), a letter from Ritter to a prospective customer (he is anything but modest), and 'Confidential Tips' on the game that he marketed separately.