Playing the Advantages.

One night, during the late extreme cold weather, at one of the places known as “ catfish hotels,” for which our levee is so celebrated, and which are generally frequented by that class of persons who come under the heads of “ loafers” and “ wharf-rats”—there sat “ solitary and alone,” an individual, whose manner betokened that he was not accustomed to enjoying his own society. The atmosphere of the bar room was redolent of the fumes of that nectar of groggeries, yclept Tom-and-Jerry, and the candles shed a mellow light through the smoke that had been caused by the number of “ long nines” which had been consumed by former visitors. Our friend, though indifferently well dressed, bore about him that indescribable air which impresses every observer—with the idea of a fellow who would stoop to any low trick to entrap the unwary. He had been in the habit for some time back, by his “ science,” of winning whatever dimes or half-dimes any one could be induced to stake. On this night, he had had no customers—funds were low—the night was wearing away—and he was about to depart, when there entered a long, dangling looking fellow, with straight flax locks, an old wool hat set far back on his head, and a mouth which, though capacious enough, had, by accident or a freak of nature, been placed more on the side of his face than in front. He was dressed in linsey dyed of a dirty yellow color, and his “ trowserloons,” whose lower extremities only reached the top of his socks, gave him the appearance of being taller than he really was, although he stood full six feet in his stockings. After warming himself, he called for some liquor, in a voice which, coming through his nose, sounded like the tones of a toy harmonicon. His whole appearance was that of a “ green ‘un.”

The Thimblerigger set him down for a “ soft snap,” and after some conversation, remarked—

“ Well, stranger, it’s cold and dark out ; suppose we play some small game to pass away the time ;” at the same time fingering carelessly a dirty pack of cards that lay on the table at which he was sitting. Linsey replied—

“ I can’t say, stranger ; I’m all the way from Bullitt, and I’ve hearn tell you folks in town are as keen as briars, [1] and I’m only a ‘cider nag ;’ howsomever, I don’t keer if I do play, purvided I understands all about it beforehand.”

“ That’s right,” says Thimblerig, “ we play fair, with all the ‘ advantages’ in, and if you beat me, why, well and good, and there’s no more of it.”

“ Well, them terms is fair enough, and I aint the feller to cavort or make a fuss when I agrees to a thing from the start,” says Linsey ; “ what’ll you play ?”

“ What do you say to ‘ seven up’ at a dollar a game ?” replied Thimblerig, his eyes glistening with the certainty of making his expenses.

“ A word of the sort’s enough, old hoss ! put up your money,” says Linsey, at the same time lugging at a long leather purse which he had in his pocket. Thimblerig laid down a dollar, which he had no sooner done than Linsey coolly put it in his pocket, saying, “ Well, that game’s done, what’ll you play next ?”

“ But,” says Thimblerig, “ we’ve not played for the dollar yet !”

“ Yes we have ; I played the advantages, the first lead, stealins was in, you know.”
The gambler was beat at his own game ; and not liking the looks of the “ bitter water” chap, quietly submitted to his loss.


Louisville Courier.


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 15.49 (31 January 1846): 575. (University of Virginia Alderman Library).

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Original text reads “ briars,’ ”

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