R. Paul Wilson On: The “Seven Out” Con Game
A little-known gambling joint that’s been played all over the world is the game of “Seven Out”.
It’s a simple proposition bet dressed up as a gambling game that can be both compelling and addicting to players, while offering the operator an enormous edge.
How The Game Works
Closely related to Three-card Monte, top-of-the-barrel and the Shell Game, “Seven Out” was popular around racetracks, fairs and crowded tourist districts.
The game is deceptively simple and could be made up easily with a little arts and crafts action or built into an attractive game box that would be easy to deconstruct or hide from curious officers of the law.
Unlike Monte and the Shell game, Seven Out has faded away but is ripe for a comeback given its ease of operation as an “honest” game and the many ways it can be manipulated as an outright scam.
The game consists of two dice, a leather cup and a gaming board that might be contained in a box, or painted on a piece of wood, or even printed onto canvas.
On the playing surface is printed two squares, one containing the numbers 2,3,4,5 and 6; the other containing 8,9,10,11 and 12.
Players are invited to bet on either the high numbers or the low numbers and paid even odds if the dice land in their favour.
The number seven is a win for the dealer only, who collects all bets from both sides of the layout and since seven is the most common number rolled with two legitimate dice, the odds are entirely in favour of the dealer.
In fact, this represents a 16.67% advantage to the operator of the game for every roll of the dice and if the dealer is talented at balancing the bets before each roll, winning rolls are paid almost entirely by the losing players.
When using shills (confederates) the dealer can easily work either side of the board, draw suckers to the game and manipulate their decisions exactly as they would in the “game” of Three-Card Monte.
Bending The Rules
Naturally, having the best of it in terms of odds is never enough so crooked operators had several ploys to clean out players once the game was underway.
Sleight of hand was a common option where a die would be controlled as the cup was shaken, and its number retained so that it “held up” when thrown, guaranteeing a high number or a seven.
By retaining sixes or aces the dealer could make sure the dice favoured the side with fewer bets and cream profits from the heavier end of the layout.
A simpler method was used by expert dealers who would shake the dice, upend the cup and glimpse the outcome in the process thanks to a simple gaff.
I’ve seen illustrations of a hinged surface that drops to show the dice, a prism inside the cup and even a hole in the seam of the cup that would open when the cup was squeezed.
Knowing the outcome, the dealer and his shills could guide bets to the losing side of the layout before revealing the bad news.
Magnetic or loaded dice are another option and could easily make this game impossible to lose for hustlers with access to a large magnet and a maker of crooked dice, but in its heyday, such solutions were hard to come by so most crooked joints were simple, low-tech and designed to grind out a profit over hours of play.
An interesting ploy was to encourage players on one side of the game to always bet low and players on the other side to always bet high numbers, and this is how the game was described to me in the early eighties.
This version of the game creates a team atmosphere so when working with shills, it offers a very simple solution to cheating with mis-spotted dice (also known as “tops”).
By duplicating the sixes on one die and the aces on another, the odds of hitting a seven are increased and lower numbers become less common than higher numbers thanks to the extra six on one die (which replaces the ace on that die).
These dice would be swapped into the game and might be in play for hours so long as the shills are on the high side of the table, making the majority of winning bets.
In most joints, the dealer alone handles the dice but even when thrown by innocent players, mis-spotted dice can go unnoticed for days before being swapped out!
The beauty of this game is that while the dealer collects on any seven that’s rolled, he also pays out on every other round. So unless someone is paying attention and keeping count, the game seems to be both simple and fair.
Playing The Crowd
Given the many ways that a Seven Out operator has to increase their odds or rip off the players, it’s easy for them to work the suckers up to a scam.
By that, I mean they can offer an honest game until they figure out who is the ripest mark or use an honest playing session to convince players to come back with more money when the game is rigged.
Some scammers use games like this to rope a mark into being the take-off man, explaining how the game is fixed and why they will always win if they either play on the winning side or follow instructions secretly sent by the dealer.
These patsies win a little over time so when the opportunity to match a big bet from another player comes along, they are eager to play, assured that the dealer will make sure they win that roll.
Naturally, “luck” takes a bad turn, and the sucker loses.
In this type of con, everyone else at the table is part of the scam which is designed to force the mark into over-betting thanks to over confidence in a rigged game he doesn’t actually control.
Such trap games are rare today, but the principles are often applied to bigger scams where the opportunity appears to offer a certain outcome that in hindsight was obviously “too good to be true”.
While Seven Out may be a dead game, the methods used have graduated to other games and scams and I’ve successfully demonstrated a crooked Seven Out scam to clients, only to be asked afterwards if they can keep playing with “honest dice!”