[Ads-l] Slang: booster - confederate who is part of a confidence game (February 13, 1887)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 22 12:10:28 UTC 2022

The slang term "booster" appears in a motto I recently examined:
"Never blame the booster for what the sucker does".

JL included an entry for "booster" in  the Random House Historical
Dictionary of American Slang with the following pertinent definition:

booster n. Gambling 1. SHILL; CAPPER.
JL gave a 1906 citation.

Jonathon Green also included an entry in Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Two pertinent senses were listed:
1 (US) a house player in a casino who entices genuine players to bet
(and usu. lose) their money.
2 (US) any form of confederate working with a confidence trickster.

A 1901 citation was given for sense 1, and a 1905 citation was given
for sense 2.

Below is an 1887 antedating. This citation discusses a card game
played in San Francisco called "Hokey-Pokey", and the strategies used
to cheat the players. The "boosters" are cappers, i.e., confederates
working with the gambling house to fleece the suckers. The excerpts
shown below are only part of the discussion. The link above leads to
the full article.

[ref] 1887 February 13, The San Francisco Examiner, "Hokey Pokey": A
Gambling Game that Has Spread Like Wildfire, Quote Page 8, Column 1
and 2, San Francisco, California. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]


[Begin excerpt – double-check check for typos]
Ten hours of that work, or more if the players hold out, usually
brings in enough to clear a handsome profit to the house after paying
out $20 for dealers, $7 50 for "boosters," or cappers that are
generally employed about the game, and about $10 for drinks and cards.
[End excerpts]

[Begin excerpt – double-check check for typos]
The coin that the "booster" wagers at the game belongs to the house,
and whether he wins or loses it does not affect his financial
condition. That being the case he remains perfectly cool and thereby
has a valuable advantage over any opponent in the game.

Then again, the "booster" is not chosen by a dealer unless he has a
very good knowledge of the game, and there again he has a big
advantage over the ordinary run of players.

Another advantage which must not be overlooked is that the dealer is a
pretty neat shuffler and can frequently deal to the "booster" a
hurried card which gives his hand a superiority over the others at the
very outset of the game.
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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