Cards, chips and crooked dice heading sale of gambling cheating devices

CHICAGO – The secrets of a Cicero mob-run casino are going up for auction.
On June 23, 2012, Potter & Potter Auctions will conduct its second annual auction of gambling memorabilia. A highlight of the sale will be a recently discovered set of duplicate books from El Patio, an illegal mob-run casino from Cicero, Ill. Louis Campagna, one of Al Capone’s closest bodyguards, owned a piece of the action at El Patio.

antique gambling devices

These chips are an assortment from illegal casinos in the Newport, Ky., area, which was the pre-Vegas hotbed of gambling activity.

The books – uncovered in the rafters of the club by a construction worker who helped demolish the building in the 1960s – lays out exactly what illegal gambling was going on there in the heyday of the mob in the Chicago ’burbs, and how the house almost always won. They recall the era of Prohibition and illegal gambling dens of the 1930s, depicted in movies like “The Godfather.” One of the books even “names names,” cataloging the identities of all the employees at the club. The books have never, until now, seen the light of day.

The auction will also feature relics of another dark side of gambling: cheating devices.
These devices make winning games of chance a sure thing. Among them will be two holdout tables – pieces of furniture that secretly add or remove cards from the hands of the gambler, and another table that allows the operator to literally see through the backs of playing cards in his opponent’s hands.

gambling memorabiliaLot 107 offers up five ledgers recording the wins and losses at the illegal gaming tables operated at El Patio in Cicero, Ill., from 1936-1940. Among the games played away from the prying eyes of the law were Blackjack and what is referred to in the ledgers as the “wheel,” most likely roulette. Additionally, a key component of the casino’s profit was its illegal sports book, the profits and losses from which are recorded in these books.

These will be complemented by many rare and early books on how to cheat at various table games. Among them are the true first edition of “How Gamblers Win,” of which only five examples are known; a possibly unique book on cheating at Baccarat, “Le Guide du Jouer;” and a first edition of S.W. Erdnase’s “The Expert at the Card Table.”

Rounding out the sale will be an assortment of decorative items, ephemera, punch boards, roulette wheels, faro dealing boxes, layouts, case keepers, corner rounders and trimmer, trade stimulators, associated gambling and gaming items and rare books on poker, dice and trade catalogs.

An illustrated catalog is available from Potter & Potter or can be viewed online at, which will carry the online bidding.

For more information on the June 23 Gambling Auction: Cards, Chips & Crooked Dice, contact Gabe Fajuri of Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

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