"Trust me, son. When I play cards, it ain't gambling."Quick hands. The prestidigitator member of a con team, who sometimes works alone. Frequently, the tricks he pulls have to do with manipulating playing cards, hence the name, but a team will sometimes call on a card sharp to make a tricky switch, "dip" a pocket, or put up a fancy misdirection. May or may not be a Death Dealer. Compare Professional Gambler. Has a good chance of being hit with Tar and Feathers. "Card Shark" is a variant of the term which doesn't always imply cheating, just a penchant for playing cards.
— Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell, Prison Break
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Anime and Manga
- Protagonist Allen Walker from D.Gray-Man is an expert at cheating in cards due to the horrible experiences with debt he had from being with General Cross.
- Faye from Cowboy Bebop is highly skilled in conning people in a game of cards (also dice, though then she just flat-out cheats with rigged dice).
- Spike's no slouch either and was able to spot Faye's con a mile away.
- In Liar Game, the 17-Card Poker game becomes a battle of dueling card sharps: Akiyama uses skill and strategy, while his opponent uses superhuman reflexes honed from an aborted career in boxing to track the cards.
- Unsurprisingly, comes up frequently in both Kaiji and Akagi.
- Gojyo in Saiyuki frequently cheats at cards. Hakkai can still beat him though, so one wonders if his playing style is completely orthodox.
- Nearly every major character in The Legend of Koizumi is able to cheat at Mahjong in some way.
- Both Firo and Keith Gandor from Baccano!. Firo's picked up enough tricks from managing an underground casino that not only can he slip cards in and out with the best of them, but can pick marks well enough that he can nearly sweep a casino without cheating at all. Keith, on the other hand, cheats so much and so blatantly that he has a deck of cards composed entirely of jokers.
- In No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, the socially awkward protagonist Tomoko cheats at a trading card game. Against kids. And she's a high-schooler. Her cousin is not impressed.
- Jojos Bizarre Adventure: Daniel J. D'Arby, one of the villains in Part 3, is a gambler who specializes in this. He considers cheating just part of the game, fully expecting his opponents to cheat as well. Unlike most, however, he prefers rigging the entire game well before any cards are dealt. Jotaro defeats him by bluffing so perfectly that what's actually in their hands doesn't matter... which is good, because Jotaro had crap.
- Though it rarely comes up as a plot point, the lead G.I. Joe pilot, Capt. Brad Armbruster, didn't get his codename Ace from being a top pilot, but rather from his love of cutthroat poker. His superiors look the other way regarding his gambling habit, since he's not only that good a pilot, he's not really "gambling" at poker since he never loses.
- In Fables Jack has the ability to draw into four Jacks anytime he wishes during a poker game. The trick is to only do so only with a very large pot since it only works with four Jacks and his opponents would catch on if he tries it a second time during a game.
- A recurring character type in Lucky Luke, either seen at the poker table or being escorted out of town on a rail after the Tar and Feathers.
- Matt Damon's character facilitates this role in the Oceans trilogy. Also, Brad Pitt and George Clooney clean out a poker school of celebrities in the first movie.
Ocean: Cause yesterday I walked out of the joint after losing four years of my life and you're cold-decking "Teen Beat" cover-boys.
- Edward Norton's character, "Worm," is a card-sharp, or "mechanic", in Rounders. His more honest gambling buddy, played by Matt Damon, warns him against utilizing his tricks against players with sharp eyes who might turn violent if they catch him at it. Worm doesn't listen, and a group of cops beat the everloving piss out of them both and confiscate tens of thousands in winnings before kicking them to the curb.
- Quite a few sharps in Maverick got caught cheating during the big riverboat poker tournament (the penalty for which was being tossed overboard). The dealer at the final table was also one, surreptitiously dealing from the bottom of the deck (this is known as "dealing seconds", by the by).
- Paul Newman's character in The Sting demonstrates his skill against Lonnegan as the setup for the big con. (The card manipulations in the film are actually performed by John Scarne.)
- "Shooter" (Karl Malden) in The Cincinnati Kid — a tragic case, as he is a psychologically broken honest player who is blackmailed into using his "mechanic" skills.
- Rotten Luck Willie in Paint Your Wagon.
- In Within Our Gates, the dealer at a card game has a mirror that he uses to see who is getting which cards. This precipitates a shootout.
- The Lady Eve: Jean is a card sharp from a family of card sharps; her part of the con is to lure gullible and smitten young men into a game where they can be cleaned out by her father. It goes wrong when she falls In Love with the Mark.
- Clark Gable's character Babe in No Man of Her Own (1932).
- The Way of Kings (first book of The Stormlight Archive): Yelb, a sailor from Shallan's ship. He plays against cops, and he mentioned that the game isn't who will win, the game is will he cheat them out of their money or will they prove he was cheating, take all of his money and throw him in jail for the night to boot?
- Locke Lamora. He cheats in the safest gambling place in the world, where the mere act of cheating carries the death penalty.
- In Time Scout, Skeeter's as much a master at cheating with cards as he is with any other cheat. Picking pockets is just another part of the game.
- Fisk from the Knight and Rogue Series is rather good at card tricks, though he usually sticks to cons that he can get more money out of and sneak away from easier. Unfortunately this skill doesn't see a whole lot of use. For Michael's sake, he'll usually stick to betting on whether or not he can do a trick than actually tricking people.
- From The Crystal there's Saern, a sorcerer, who apparently cheats using both magical means and mundane. Don't bother catching him at it, he'll act offended and fireball you.
- In Witches Abroad, the witches run into some, but Granny manages to beat them without cheating or using magic, and supposedly without having played the game (the incredibly complicated Cripple Mr. Onion) before. She'd actually played it quite a bit while caring for a sick witch, but used her newcomer image for an advantage.
- Moist von Lipwig created an alter ego to be this. Subverted in that the character was quite awful at being a card sharp, fumbling and missing golden opportunities to cheat. And when the mark left away, gleeful at having conned such a pathetic charlatan, they'd find that the few coins they'd swiped didn't make up for the wallets and watches they were now missing. And to add insult to injury, the coins are fake.
- The Lacework Kid, from Damon Runyon's story of the same name. ("Lacework" refers to his artistry with cards.)
- Subverted in River of Teeth. Cal Hotchkiss is introduced as a potential member of the Caper Crew Houndstooth is about to assemble and as someone who makes his living at the cards table. He then quickly proceeds to have his left ear cut off for being caught cheating and eventually is thrown to the feral hippos to die because he never learns his lesson. As it turns out, Houndstooth didn't want him for his nimble fingers but for his connections.
Live Action TV
- A G-rated version appears in an episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, in which a little girl scams Maddie out of all of her candy by getting her obsessed with trying to pick the right card. Then again, aforementioned little girl's father was pretending to be injured in order to get a free hotel room, so yeah.
- T-Bag in Prison Break. Claims that maybe 5 people in the country can do what he can with cards. It's only significant in one episode, however.
- Heroes: Hiro tries this with his time-altering super-powers at one point. Unfortunately for him, someone notices the switch.
- Because he switched the cards after his opponent had already seen them.
- Londo tries this once on Babylon 5 using his, ummm...attributes. It doesn't work out to well.
- Person of Interest: The number that The Machine spits out in "All In" points to an old "Mechanic" from the mobbed-up Atlantic City days. He used his skill at switching cards to win enough money at a casino to pay for his wife's cancer treatments, only to end up being forced to work as a money launderer for the casino's owner. It ends up being a Chekhov's Skill when during the climax of the episode he is forced to play Russian Roulette and is able to take the bullet out of the gun without anyone noticing.
- Magnificent Bastard Arnold Rothstein from Boardwalk Empire gets his Establishing Character Moment by showing that he's a first rate poker player... and more than capable of cheating and getting away with it due to his connections on the occasions when that alone isn't enough. Keep that in mind, it sums up a lot about Rothstein's character.
- Face from The A-Team has been shown cheating at cards.
- Porthos from The Musketeers is introduced cheating at cards in a tavern or inn.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: When necessary, Data has shown that he can stack the deck (though in that case it was to send a subliminal message), squeeze a set of loaded dice hard enough to rebalance them, and count cards. When he needed money after being trapped in 19th Century San Francisco, he hustled another group of sharps using his abilities.
- Sneaky Pete has Eddie and Marius both very good at playing cards and conning people. Tate is also good at playing cards.
- The hucksters of Deadlands find their lives last longer if they minor in sleight o' hand, as a little legerdemain goes a long way in convincing the Torches and Pitchforks crowd that, no, you didn't just summon spectral cards into your hand and use them to channel a stream of ghostly-white energy at your opponent. It was a trick of the light and nothing more. Some "hexes", like trinkets, even go so far as to allow a huckster to summon small objects literally from thin air into his hands, furthering the use of one as a Card Sharp con man.
- In Carousel, Jigger plays blackjack with Billy and draws twenty-one every time, cheating him of all the money he would have obtained had the robbery they were about to attempt been successful.
- Left 4 Dead's Nick is stated as being a con man. He was down in Savannah trying to hit up the riverboat circuit when the infection hit.
- The first case of Apollo Justice has a witness who is a professional Card Sharp, hired to plant evidence to falsely accuse Phoenix Wright of being a Card Sharp.
- The Elegant Suit in Red Dead Redemption gives Marston the ability to do this, pocketing a single card to discreetly swap out at any time whenever it's his deal. Failing at the minigame causes him to lose his ante and initiates a duel with the player who caught him.
- Twisted Fate and Graves of League of Legends fame met in a card game where they both showed four aces for their final hand. Twisted Fate in particular embodies this trope, as he uses Death Dealer abilities in battle and has a repertoire of quotes related to gambling.
- Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist: The first baddie to show up in the last act.