THE WORLD BEATERS OF THE CASBAH by Farook Khan

Farook KhanPart 1: The Casbah’s King of Chance – Zorro Khan

He was lean, smartly dressed in a freshly ironed shirt, trousers and a pair of shining shoes – all in black. Not a man of many words, certainly no smile and his face showed no emotion. His eyes were like flames from a blowtorch, searing, penetrating and intimidating.

A pack of Playing Cards in his hands was like a money-minting machine. He shuffled it with speed and often taunted his opponents by asking them to call any move they wanted as if he was giving them a fighting chance. The Caller would watch the slick hand movements, as Zorro performed his magic.

He would then hold the pack in the palm of his left hand. If the Caller tapped the top card, it meant that he was satisfied and made his call. If not he could ask for a thick centre or a thin bottom or whatever top. Zorro would do as instructed.

It was now that the Caller put down his money on the table and name the card of his choice. Let us assume it was the King of Diamonds. Zorro would flip the first card for the Caller, the second for himself. By the time the first 10 cards were flipped open, the master craftsman would collect his winnings.
According to the rules of the game, the winner keeps the shuffle. Once Zorro had it in his possession, it was almost impossible top get it away from him. There was no greater card wizard than this icon of a man, who walked the streets of the Casbah. He frequented one gambling school after another, often busting the banks in the process. This was the Man of Chance of the 1950s.

Zorro’s specialty was Cut Card, a simple card game that always carried a wager from the battlers to the big time hustlers. It was regarded to be the game in the gambling schools in the Casbah. It had the highest turnover and where fortunes were won or lost on a flip of a card.

Cut Card was simple. There was a dealer who shuffled the pack while the antagonist was the Caller.

The top card brand of the day was the Bicycle, which contained four nations/suits of 13 “members” each. There was a blue set and a red one. The choice of colour was up to the players.
The resident authority at each gambling school kept sealed packs of cards under lock and key. He would gladly oblige if the players called for a new pack. He would break the seal, Then he would “break” the cards, give it a one-two shuffle and leave it on the table for the adversaries to do the honors.
The two players would make a call and each one would flip open the pack, one card at a time. The winner gets to shuffle and deal/flip the cards.

Zorro was just like the legendary character made famous by Hollywood. He was smart, slick and was a wizard when it came to his game. The gamblers of the Casbah, many of whom made their living at the card tables were hardy men. But they could not sustain such a losing streak against Zorro.

Eventually a number of gambling schools in the Casbah banned him from their rooms. While some allowed him to take side bets, they still refused to allow him from shuffling the pack.
Yet, there was no proof that he cheated and none of the hardest men of chance could prove deception. They simply could not appreciate a card artiste who was a world beater.

I have often wondered, if he was still doing the rounds, how the casinos would have reacted to him, currently. I am sure that they are relieved that he is no longer doing his rounds of their tables.

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