Changes of styles in betting
Community up and down professional gamblers purged — sometimes quite violently as in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the vigilantes lynched five blacklegs in 1835.
Such actions, raw as they were, seemed a required step towards prosperity and stability and marked the end of another phase in the development of an American gambling culture.
The newly created betting styles, however, survived the attack on the sharpers who first cultivated them.
They made their way over to riverboats, later they grew popular throughout the country and continued to influence American gambling as early as the 20th century.
A traveler’s guide to the new territories ranked “gambling adventurers, black legs, & c;” as “the lower class of people” in the Mississippi Valley and the emigrants recommended to clearly direct these nefarious plots of these men of confidentiality.
While the Mississippi Valley gamblers indicated the arrival of another profession in the United States, they were little more than a new world manifestation of an old European problem.
The British had worried about the sharpers from the seventeenth century, when Charles Cotton had set out the large number of career “gamesters” fated to hang on like precious jewels in Tyburn’s ear, the English gallows.
The professional gamblers naturally accompanied the marketing of sport and recreation in Tudor-Stuart Britain.
Now, as American society has also become increasingly commercial in character during the early nineteenth century, professional gamblers have appeared in the West to make the most of a new line of business.
They have adopted the entrepreneurial method to bet and from Europe have borrowed the most suitable games to make money. They then adapted the practices of the old world to meet the American frontier.
Riverfront districts in such western cities as Louisville, St. Louis, Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez and New Orleans have formed an ideal spawning – ground for the new class of professional gamblers and helped shape the emerging styles to bet American.
Professional gamblers have preferred to trade in games that have promised safer profit.
These included both the percentage and banking games that the English colonists had not established in America, such as the favorite lighthouse, roulette and French vingt-et-un where the dealer had the odds on his side, as pure card games such as Poker and the three-card Monte where traders could easily win handling the platform.
By establishing percentages, gamblers made sure they would make money. Then they increased their profits by not increasing the stakes and regularizing cheating. Sharpers also organized into groups like the threesome that sheared William C. Hall in Natchez-under-Hill.
While a Confederate dealt with the cards, others found victims willing and advised them to stake more money. Most operators had at least one partner who helped in the games of confidence and shared the income.
The professional who plays was generally not an individualistic enterprise.