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Canada Bill Jones was a legendary card cheater who became famous (if that word is correct) as the most outstanding player at the three-card monte on the Mississippi cruise boats in the nineteenth century. If you find it inappropriate to tell about old times and almost forgotten card games, we can add that Canada Bill is also known for his quotes, many of which went down in history and even become proverbial. But more about that later.

Canada Bill's Biography

Canada's real name was William Jones. He was not born in Canada, as one might think, because of his nickname, but in a gypsy tent in Yorkshire, UK, in the early nineteenth century (the exact date was not preserved). He got his first skills of card cheating at home and went to Canada at the age of twenty years. His goal was to find new victims for cheating.

There he mastered the three-card monte. This simple card game was almost specially created to deceive simpletons.

  1. The dealer showed players three cards.
  2. Then he shuffled them and dealt face down.
  3. The player had to choose one card, trying to find the winning one.

The cheaters usually worked with partners who acted like other players. They simulated wins, luring new victims. Of course, the swindler's deft hands never let real players win.

Cheating on Cruise Boats

His mentor was Dick Cady, a renowned gambler and card cheater. They traveled together to Canada, but Jones soon left him in this country because he felt that he could earn much more. In the end, they parted, and Billy went to the Mississippi River, where there were big money games on cruise boats.

He teamed up with George Devol, Holly Chappell, and Tom Brown to work on passenger steamers. Later, he successfully worked only with Devol until the Civil War. The cause of their quarrel was Devol's attempt to deceive Canada.

After the war, when cheating on the ships was impossible, Jones went to Kansas City, where with the Dutch Charlie, he won more than $200,000 (a considerable amount for those times !). Subsequently, they chated train passengers in Omaha, Nebraska, and Kansas, and even unsuccessfully tried to cheat the head of the railroad, but he closed his eyes to their portfolio.

Successful Career

So Billy's artistic inclinations contributed to his success. He perfectly knew how to pretend to be a simpleton. You could even say it was one of the first professionally mastered similar tactics for cheating victims. He had kind blue eyes, a big smile, a funny pace, and the appearance of a complete idiot. For some reason, he always wore clothes several sizes too big. The boy's voice added to his ridiculous image.

It was hard to believe that this clown could deceive someone, and it worked on thousands of people.

[Jones'] personal appearance, which was most ludicrous, undeniably had much to do with his success. He was the veritable country gawky, the ridiculous, ignorant, absurd creature that has been so imperfectly imitated on and off the stage for years, and whose true description can scarcely be written. He was fully six feet high, with dark eyes and hair, and always had a smooth-shaven face, full of seams and wrinkles, that were put to all manner of difficult expressions with a marvelous facility and ease. All this coupled with long, loose-jointed arms, long, thin, and apparently a trifle unsteady legs, a shambling, shuffling, awkward gait, and this remarkable face and head bent forward and turned a little to one side, like an inquiring and wise owl, and then an outfit of Granger clothing, the entire cost of which never exceeded fifteen dollars—made a combination that never failed to call a smile to a stranger’s face, or awaken a feeling of curiosity and interest wherever he might be seen. One striking difference between Canada Bill and all the other sharpers of his ilk lay in the fact that he was the thing he seemed to be…. [T]hose who knew him, as far as it was possible to know the wandering vagabond that he was, assert that he was the most unaffected, innocent, and really simple-hearted of human beings. - Allan Pinkerton

Eventually, Jones moved to Chicago, where he worked with various renowned cheaters. He opened four underground gambling houses. Canada earned so much money during his career that he could quickly retire and live comfortably. But he was too gamble by nature to afford it.

Ironically, he became a victim of very professional gamblers in his old age. He often lost in a famous Wild West card game, faro.

The End

Canada Bill Jones died in 1880 at Charity Hospital of Reading, Pennsylvania, without a penny in his pocket. Money for the funeral was collected from card players from Chicago. In his book "Fools' Fate," John Quinn wrote that at the funeral, when the coffin was lowered into the grave, one of Billy's friends offered to bet $1,000 versus $500 that Canada was not in the box. But nobody supported him, as one of his friends noticed that Billy had ever slipped through more narrow slits.

As we said at the beginning of this article, Canada Jones is the author of several well-known sayings. His most popular expressions are:

  • "It is morally wrong to allow suckers to keep their money."
  • "Smith and Wesson beat four aces."
  • "I know they cheat here, but there is no other place to play in this town."

Frequently asked Questions

😏 What was Canada Bill Jones famous for?

Canada Bill Jones was a famous card player who successfully cheated simpletons on Mississippi, Kansas City, and other places.

🤠 Was Canada Bill Jones in jail?

Although he was a professional card cheater, Canada Bill Jones avoided jail.

💸 Was Canada Bill Jones wealthy?

He was wealthy at some point but later lost all his money and died in a charity hospital. 

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