When watching a magician perform some card tricks, it's a legitimate question to ask: "Would you be able to cheat at a card game?" Most performers will smirk and wink, implying they could. Truth is: they probably can't. Sleight-of-hand with cards for conjuring and entertainment purposes is one thing; gambling techniques to cheat at cards is a whole other story. Sometimes these two domains overlap, in that liminal zone of the so called "gambling demonstrations." However, the gamblers' "real work" entails a very different skillset from that of a magician—while true gambling techniques are among the most fascinating and difficult to master.
The gambling expert
In the realm of gambling techniques with cards, one name immediately commands undivided admiration and respect. That name is Steve Forte. It's no hyperbole to say that what Forte can do with a pack of cards borders the unbelievable; his skillful handling is the closest thing to perfection in terms of technique. Here is a taste of his smooth and classy dexterity:
Steve Forte's career spans over 40 years within the gambling industry. After dealing all casino games and serving in all casino executive capacities, he shifted gears to a spectacularly successful career as a professional high-stakes Black Jack and Poker player; shifting gears again, he later became a top consultant in the casino security field. To dig deeper into Forte's adventurous and shapeshifting life, the go-to place is the enduring profile penned by R. Paul Wilson for the October 2005 issue of Genii Magazine.
Although Forte spent his whole professional career in the gambling world, in the early '90s he became widely known in the magic community after releasing his famous Gambling Protection Video Series. These tapes turned him into an almost mythical figure, someone with a uniquely vast repertoire of gambling moves, and the remarkable ability to execute these moves—all of them—flawlessly. These tapes still remain the gold standard for any serious gambling enthusiast.
In 2009, the Academy of Magical Arts honored Steve Forte with a Special Fellowship Award, in recognition of his outstanding creative contribution.
Forte Years of Research
Steve Forte just released his magnum opus, Gambling Sleight of Hand – Forte Years of Research: the most ambitious compilation of gambling sleight-of-hand and cutting-edge card techniques published to date. Forte offers his encyclopedic research from the privileged perspective of someone who has been around card games for his entire life, gambled professionally, met all kinds of cheaters and hustlers, and been a lifelong fan of magic. Separating the wheat from the chaff with his elegant prose, Forte shares the "real work." This book it's about "the pursuit of technical excellence for magicians and sleight-of-hand hobbyists, a modern starting point for cardmen and cardwomen to continue an exploratory journey where dedicated research, practice, and passion will forge ahead and advance the art."
Gambling Sleight of Hand – Forte Years of Research is already a classic, a must have for collectors and anyone interested in gambling sleight-of-hand.
The man behind the expert
In any art and craft, there are experts, heroes, role models. Sometimes these people are friendly and accessible, other times they are plain abstractions or disappointing idealizations. In this weird domain of gambling techniques, Steve Forte unintentionally became a mentor to many—myself included. What strikes everyone meeting Steve is his kindness, his modesty, his unbound generosity. Besides his exceptional expertise and mastery, worldwide fame and success, he remains a laid back and unassuming guy. What're the odds that one of the brightest minds in your field of interest, someone whom you'd dream to hang out with, is also one of the nicest human beings you could hope to meet? Steve Forte is a total mensch.