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Over The Top Arthur Guy Empey

On His Own

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Of course Tommy cannot always be producing plays under fire but while in rest billets he has numerous other ways of amusing himself. He is a great gambler, but never plays for large stakes. Generally, in each Company, you will find a regular Canfield. This man banks nearly all the games of chance and is an undisputed authority on the rules of gambling. Whenever there is an argument among the Tommies about some uncertain point as to whether Houghton is entitled to "Watkins" sixpence, the matter is taken to the recognized authority and his decision is final.

The two most popular games are "Crown and Anchor" and "House."

The paraphernalia used in "Crown and Anchor" consists of a piece of canvas two feet by three feet. This is divided into six equal squares. In these squares are painted a club, diamond, heart, spade, crown, and an anchor, one device to a square. There are three dice used, each dice marked the same as the canvas. The banker sets up his gambling outfit in the corner of a billet and starts bally-hooing until a crowd of Tommies gather around; then the game starts.

The Tommies place bets on the squares, the crown or anchor being played the most. The banker then rolls his three dice and collects or pays out as the case may be. If you play the crown and one shows up on the dice, you get even money, if two show up, you receive two to one, and if three, three to one. If the crown does not appear and you have bet on it, you lose, and so on. The percentage for the banker is large if every square is played, but if the crowd is partial to, say, two squares, he has to trust to luck. The banker generally wins.

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The game of "House" is very popular also. It takes two men to run it. This game consists of numerous squares of cardboard containing three rows of numbers, five numbers to a row. The numbers run from one to ninety. Each card has a different combination.

The French estaminets in the villages are open from eleven in the morning until one in the afternoon in accordance with army orders.

After dinner the Tommies congregate at these places to drink French beer at a penny a glass and play "House."

As soon as the estaminet is sufficiently crowded the proprietors of the "House Game" get busy and as they term it "form a school." This consists of going around and selling cards at a franc each. If they have ten in the school, the backers of the game deduct two francs for their trouble and the winner gets eight francs.

Then the game starts. Each buyer places his card before him on the table, first breaking up matches into fifteen pieces.

One of the backers of the game has a small cloth bag in which are ninety cardboard squares, each with a number printed thereon, from one to ninety. He raps on the table and cries out, "Eyes down, my lucky lads."

All noise ceases and everyone is attention.

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Over The Top
Arthur Guy Empey

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